Online workshop The Mystery of the Text: Understanding the Words of the Book of Changes

Many users of the Yijing struggle with the text of the oracle: how can you read it in such a way that it always gives a meaningful and relevant answer to the question or situation that you address to the Book of Changes? This workshop will teach you that. We will explore the Chinese text, its origin and development, and will look at early usage and readings of this enigmatic yet fascinating oracle from early China. From there we will build a framework that will help you to understand the layout of the text, and how it conveys it messages in images. You will learn how to read the text, how to work with its images, and how to lift the veil of mystery from its words. After this workshop you know how the text can answer any question that you address to the oracle. You will be able to read the images and can practically apply them to any situation. Who’s afraid of the text? You won’t be after this workshop.

I made a short video in which I walk you through the contents of the course: Contents of the Mystery of the Text course ( (forget the date that I mention in the video – I made this video for an earlier instalment of the course.).

Detailed contents of the course

Chinese script

  • Written Chinese: a short history of the Chinese script
  • The composition of Chinese characters
  • Fooled ya!” When a character does not mean what you think it means (about loan characters and homonyms)
  • The value of etymology when studying the Yijing (and how it is often overrated)

The text of the Yijing

  • What do we know about the history of the text?
  • What does the text of the Yijing look like? (structure, layers, rhyme)
  • What is the contents of the text?
  • Recurring phrases and their (possible) background
  • Excavated Yijing versions and their value
  • Early manuscripts related to the Yijing (and what we can learn from them)

Reading the text

  • How was the text read and interpreted in early China (and what can we learn from it)
  • Images, images, images: symbols in the words, words as symbols
  • Why the text says what it says
  • How to read beyond the words
  • How to read the text without being prejudiced about its meaning
  • Discover your personal relationship with the images from the text

Interpreting the text

  • Seeing the images as an answer to your question (any question)
  • Reading multiple lines and how to prioritize them
  • What if lines seem to contradict (don’t panic)
  • How to go from “what does it mean!?” to “I understand what it says!
  • What are bad hexagrams and what are good hexagrams (there are no good or bad hexagrams)
  • Commentary? What commentary? (how to read the Yi and nothing but the Yi)


  • A short history of (mainly English) Yijing translations
  • Yijing versions: how to separate wheat from chaff
  • The difference between translations and interpretations (and why you should never use the latter)
  • How to find the version that fits you, and how to work with what you have
  • What to do if two versions contradict each other (don’t panic)
  • Book reviews (spicy!)
  • Recommended books for further study


  • How to start your own study of the Chinese text: tips and tools, resources
  • Cases, cases cases

Weekly lessons
Each weekly lesson consists of reading material and videos, assignments with feedback (often by video), and discussions of cases provided by the students and by the teacher, in which the theory is put to practice. There is a discussion forum, as well as a chat function to converse with your teacher and the other students, if you want. Not only that, when the course is finished you will still have an additional three months access to the online learning environment and its facilities.

The lessons are not live, so you can study at your own pace.

The hard data:

  • start date: January 8, 2024
  • 10 weekly lessons
  • registration fee: €250,– (±$270,–)
  • number of seats available: 20
  • full = full – no exceptions

In order to promote the practice of the Changes, I offer reasonably priced classes so that more people can attend. But because of the amount of personal attention I devote to each student, I cannot offer discounts.

To register fill in the form at the end of this post.

About Harmen
Harmen (1966) started his study of the Yijing in 1982 when he was sixteen years old. His main interests are the history and language of the Yi, as well as the oldest usage of the book in early China. He recently started a YouTube channel (called YiTube) that will show instructional videos on all aspects concerning the Yi. On his website he shares his latest projects as well as an ongoing research journal on the text of the Book of Changes. Harmen is frequently consulted to assist with the translation of old Chinese texts and had an advisory role in several Dutch translations of Daoist inner alchemy neidan 內丹 texts. His workshops cover all aspects of the Yijing – its early history, development, philosophy and usage as a tool for gaining insight in situations. Harmen also gives specialized workshops about the usage of the Yijing in Traditional Chinese Medicine, focusing on the application of the more than two-thousand-year-old Wenwang Gua system. His knowledge of (classical) Chinese enables him to keep up with the latest developments in the field of Yijing studies, and he is connected to the relevant names in the field of sinology. Harmen is co-founder of the Dutch Foundation for Yijing Studies.

“Although I have met Harmen only once, I have corresponded with him for over a decade concerning problems in the interpretation of the Yi jing. He is completely abreast of all of the latest discoveries and publications in this field, and is fully able to make his own contributions both to the history of the text and also to its current interpretation. In his reading of the text, he is able to make use of ancient bronze inscriptions, medieval medical texts, and contemporary practice. The only other scholar in the field that I know who is equally well versed in the entire history of the Yi jing is Richard Smith, George and Nancy Rupp Professor of Humanities Emeritus of Rice University. Although I have never visited Harmen in the Netherlands, I understand from colleagues there that he is a respected member of their Sinological community, often participating in the reading of diverse types of texts written in classical Chinese. I know from his work on the Yi jing that he is a very careful scholar, and I am sure that this carries over to all aspects of his professional life. I recommend him very highly.”
– Edward L. Shaughnessy, Creel Distinguished Service
Professor of Early China

“Harmen and I share a deep and abiding interest in the Yijing, and I have learned a great deal from him over the years. Harmen is a supremely gifted autodidact, with what I think of as a particularly Dutch gift for languages. He is well-versed in Classical Chinese (the language of the Yijing), and his English is excellent. He also has experience teaching about the Yijing in English, as one can see from his personal website and his cleverly conceived and executed YouTube channel called YiTube. YiTube has already shown, and it will continue to show, useful instructional videos on the history, theories and practices of the Yijing. Another example of Harmen’s useful English-language pedagogy is his “Translation Notes”. From our robust correspondence, and from reading his published and unpublished work in English, I can see that Harmen Mesker is a person of incisive intelligence, with a probing, inquisitive mind and an extremely generous intellectual spirit.”
– Richard J. Smith, George and Nancy Rupp Professor of Humanities Emeritus,
James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy Scholar, and former Director of the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Center for Asian Studies, and current Chao Center Research Fellow

“I have known Mr. Mesker over two decades, since he first contacted me with questions about the meaning of passages in the Yijing. Mr. Mesker is a rare example of the classical Chinese autodidact. In the years I have known him, his knowledge has grown from that of the neophyte to the level of accomplished scholar without the advantage of formal academic training. Such an achievement is unheard of in the contemporary scholarly world and is indisputable testimony of his intellect.
While Harmen Mesker has not published in traditional scholarly venues, he is well-known in the field of Yi studies, at the very least because of the intellectual dialogues he has maintained with leaders in the field. I personally cited him in my own recent translation of the Zhouyi (Harrassowitz, 2015), and consulted his work on Jing Fang’s bagong “Eight Palaces” system in my book on Ancient Chinese Divination (Hawaii, 2008). Mesker’s online “Translation Notes” are enlightening, and Yijing aficionados worldwide eagerly await additions to his website. We are fortunate that Harmen Mesker has chosen to share his substantial knowledge with practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in the West. I recommend him without qualification.”
– Stephen L. Field, J.K. and Ingrid Lee Endowed Professor of Chinese Language and Literature
Director, East Asian Studies at Trinity (EAST) Program Center for International Engagement, Trinity University, San Antonio

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