Represent binary data using I Ching hexagrams
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Convert binary data to a string of I Ching hexagrams and back. Bits in the original data are represented visually as broken or unbroken lines in the resulting hexagram. For example, the binary sequence 0b00000000, 0b01010101, 0b11111111 becomes "䷁䷣䷄䷀".

This is essentially Base64 encoding, replacing alphanumeric characters with different code points which make the original bits visible. Each hexagram represents a single Base64 character (i.e. a binary number from 0 to 63 inclusive), with the most significant bit at the top. With analogy to electronic circuits, a broken line represents 0 and an unbroken line represents 1.


Base64 uses a 65th character for padding; here, we use U+262F YIN YANG, "☯". As with Base64, the presence of "☯" at the end of a hexagram-encoded string means "ignore the lowermost two broken lines in the final hexagram", and the presence of "☯☯" at the end means "ignore the lowermost four broken lines".

Clearly, this has negligible practical use. The resulting string is significantly larger than the original Base64 in UTF-8 (although the same size in UTF-16 or UTF-32), it does not render in most fonts, and the original 8-bit bytes are just as obfuscated by the 6-bit dicing as they are in Base64.

Apologies to those who use these code points for their intended purpose.


npm install hexagram-encode


var hexagramEncode = require("hexagram-encode");

var buf = new Buffer("ABCDEFGH456789+/", "base64");

var str = hexagramEncode.encode(buf); 
console.log(str); // "䷁䷗䷆䷒䷎䷣䷭䷊䷋䷘䷅䷉䷠䷌䷫䷀"

var buf2 = hexagramEncode.decode(str);
console.log(buf.equals(buf2)); // true


I Ching hexagrams appear in Unicode at code points U+4DC0 to U+4DFF inclusive.

Wikipedia presents this image which suggests the yin/yang symbol as "Hexagram 0", but gives no obvious rationale for this. Still, in the absence of a better idea it seemed a reasonable choice of padding character.

Relatively few fonts render I Ching hexagrams; I tend to use Segoe UI Symbol.

I have discovered at least one font which renders I Ching hexagrams incorrectly: Code2000. Compare the renderings of U+4DF4 HEXAGRAM FOR DEVELOPMENT and U+4DF5 HEXAGRAM FOR THE MARRYING MAIDEN in the Unicode chart (correct) and in the Code2000 chart (incorrect). They have been swapped; or, equivalently, flipped upside-down. Unfortunately it seems that Code2000 is no longer under active development, so it is unlikely that this will ever be corrected. This hurts the already-negligible practicality of this encoding.