Ling Chi Ching

Ling qi Jing

Lingqijing (or Ling Ch’i Ching; 靈棋經 lit. “Classic of the Divine Chess”) is a Chinese book of divination. The first commented edition of the work appeared in the Jin Dynasty. Legend has it that the strategist Zhang Liang got it from Huang Shigong, a semi-mythological figure in Chinese history.

As the name of the work suggests, the work tells of how to divine with tokens like Chinese chess or xiangqi (象棋) pieces, instead of the traditional turtle shells or yarrow stalks [or coins] used in I Ching.

Twelve chess pieces are used; each is a disc with a character on one side, and unmarked on the other. Four have the character for “up” (上, pronounced shang), four have the character for “middle” (中, zhong), and four have the character for “down” (下, xia), representing the Three Realms: Heaven (天, tian), Humanity (人, ren), and Earth (地, di), respectively. The pieces are cast and the resulting combination is looked up in the text of the Lingqijing for what fortune the combination means.

The text of the Lingqijing has an entry for all 125 combinations (i.e., three kinds of pieces, times the five possibilities for each kind: one through four pieces landing face up, or none).


Ling Qi Jing
The Magical Chess Pieces Classic

Ling qi jing means ‘The Magical Chess Pieces Classic’, a Daoist oracle. Chinese chess pieces are flat disks like draughts pieces. The Ling qi jing has no relation to actual Chinese chess (Xiangqi), it is just that the ‘magical tokens’ used to consult it resemble Chinese chess pieces.

It seems there are several slightly different texts. It is often used by street diviners.

There are only two translations in English, the best being ‘Ling Ch’i Ching’ by Ralph D Sawyer and Mei-chün Lee Sawyer. The other is ‘Spirit Tokens of the Ling Qi Jing’ by Ivan Kashiwa.

From the foreword by Kashiwa:

From all sides signals come in, and it is impossible to see the subtle signs that tell you what is going to happen, or where the road is going to open. Kashiwa: “You need to concentrate. Paradoxically, nothing concentrates the mind so much as creating a new ‘event, a mini-event that will cast its own ripples out to interact with the waves of signals around you. Those that reflect your mini-event are the signals of events of importance to you, events with which you are on a collision course. It’s a little like radar. …”

17 Shen Hu
Spiritual Protection
The image of availing oneself of the spirits
Yin dwells in yang’s position
Tui (Metal) – True West

T’ai-i commands the soldiers, Jade Woman by his side.
Wu Hsien precedes them shaking a spirit-duster to clear away perversities.

Thin clouds obscure the moon’s light
Opened blossoms half destroyed by rain
Expelling evil, in the end one obtains blessings
Quietly retiring to seek tranquility

(T’ai-i is the most honored spirit in heaven, jade Woman and Wu Hsien act as his assistants.
Wu Hsien was a worthy minister in the Shang dynasty)

35 Tsun Kuei
Respected and honored
The image of spiritual assistance
Yang bright above and below
Ch’ien (heaven) – Northwest

Bright virtue exceedingly glorious, longevity unbounded.
The seven stars of the Dipper protect me.
There will be a transfer to a generously renumerated position.
Great good fortune for generations.

Before the carriage no ravines or obstacles,
The boat floats easily down the river.
Rain and dew descend from Heaven,
The outer courtyard is again renewed.

87 Fu Hui
Confluence of Blessings,
The image of respectful caution.
Three yang assist yin
Chen (Thunder) – True east

Virtuously pray for the elimination of the unpropitious;
Be respectfully cautious and appropriately reverent.
Today, although you may be hidden away and constrained,
Blessings and riches will come by themselves.

In autumn the osprey’s power turns fierce,
Riding the wind, spreading its wings, it reaches the toad’s palace.
As for glory and splendor, should you ask when they will come,
Sooner or later your fame will extend throughout the nine directions.

(The toad’s palace is the moon.)

38 Wu Nan
Without difficulty
The image of resting in agriculture
Yin does not oppose yang
Ken (Mountain) – Northeast

The land peaceful and tranquil, without hardship or difficulty.
It is highly appropriate to engage in sowing the fields
and is advantageous to go forth and return.

Above the vast sea, clouds part to reveal an expansive thoroughfare
The multi-hued phoenix carries a proclamation to the edges of Heaven
The common people take pleasure in their occupations, settled and secure
Officials advance, their achievements and fame praised throughout the realm

34 Tien Yu
Assistance of Heaven
The image of special prominence
Yin and yang mutually appropriate
Sun (Wind) – Southeast

Climbing high, peering out far, above I see the Milky Way.
The divine, exalted Jade Woman bestows a spiritual talisman on me.
It forever grants that it will be difficult for age to affect me
And thus preserves my body.

Although the rarities before my seat are expensive,
I must still await a buyer to sell them.
Fate is bringing prosperity and profit,
I will not trouble myself with planning ordinary affairs.

She being a beautiful person,
The perfected man seeks her.
Admirable virtue true,
She confers blessing on me.
Forever preserving the true,
Do not lose her counsel.

26 P’ing An
Peaceful contentment
The image of deciding doubts
Yin dwells above and below
Kan (water), True north

Above and below both settled, the mind does not give birth to perversity.
Contented, it has no worries. Do not believe rumors.

A pair of swallows return to the southern states,
Seeking out the families Wang and Hsieh.
Amid the carved halls of spring light serene,
They entrust their lives to fate.

36 I Tao
Praying for intercession
The image of heavenly bestowal
Accumulated yin conquers yang
Sun (Wind) – Southeast

When a number of unnatural oddities are seen
It becomes essential to engage shamans and wizards
To pray for the intercession of the spirits and seek good fortune.
The dissipation of disaster and mitigation of misfortune,
Gaining tranquility in great and minor affairs,
Will stem from the power of Heavenly and Earthly spirits.

When sorrow appears, truly it is the basis for harm,
When anxiety comes, guard against it in the darkness.
Only when you again encounter winter’s cold or summer’s heat,
Will you manage to dispel calamity and disaster.

Disasters and oddities stir grief within;
A cluster of yin looks to overcome yang.
But by beseeching Heaven to grant its protection,
Old and young gain peace and repose.

75 Shih Chün
Serving the ruler
The image of uniting with virtue
Two yang mutually productive
Ch’ien (Heaven) – Northwest

An enlightened ruler above, no perversity or evil below.
Those garbed in court attire are numerous and fine;
demotions and promotions have been brilliantly affected.

From low the dragon raises its horns on high, half breaking through the clouds,
Claws and teeth now complete, beyond hardship and suffering.
Henceforth it continually pursues thunder’s transformations,
Shortly to become a man of Heaven in the human realm.

When Yao and Shun governed the world,
Ruler and minister all excelled.
The chief of the four mountainous regions was accomplished and wise,
The prime ministers approved the plans.
For three years they effected promotions and demotions,
The vile and malevolent were forever forced aside.


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