I Ching in ML

In which I write yet another implementation of the book of changes (this time in ocaml)

I decided to rewrite my python I Ching in ocaml. This is interesting to do in some respects as it's not really a traditional functional programming task.

First we define the two basic oracles, the coin oracle and the yarrow stalk oracle. Obviously on a computer we are actually sampling the same probability distribution as the oracle, not simulating the process itself. How I do this is to just make a static array of all the outcomes and then choose from them with uniform probability. This is a lot easier to write (and understand) than trying to make a multifaceted biased coin and is equivalent from a probability point of view.

let (consult_coin, consult_yarrow) = 
  (** choose one item from a given array with uniform probability *)
  let choose arr =
    let size = Array.length arr in
    let idx = Random.int(size) in
    arr.(idx) 
  in
  (* ...use this to consult the coin oracle... *)
  let consult_coin () =
    let outcomes = [| 
      9; 9;               (* Moving Yang --- x --- *)
      7; 7; 7; 7; 7; 7;   (* Stable Yang --------- *)
      8; 8; 8; 8; 8; 8;   (* Stable Yin  ---   --- *)
      6; 6                (* Moving Yin  --- o --- *)
    |] 
    in
      choose outcomes
  in
  (* ...and the yarrow oracle also. *)
  let consult_yarrow () =
    let outcomes = [| 
      9; 9; 9;             (* Moving Yang --- x --- *)
      7; 7; 7; 7; 7;       (* Stable Yang --------- *)
      8; 8; 8; 8; 8; 8; 8; (* Stable Yin  ---   --- *)
      6;                   (* Moving Yin  --- o --- *)
    |] 
    in
      choose outcomes
  in
    (consult_coin, consult_yarrow)

This is an example of how you define let binding which is private, yet shared by more than one function. In this case it's "choose", a helper function which just picks an element from an array. So we just define two public functions:

val consult_coin : unit -> int = <fun>
val consult_yarrow : unit -> int = <fun>

Given those two functions, it's easy to return a hexagram using a given oracle.

let get_hexagram ?(oracle=consult_yarrow) () =
  let rec pick lis =
    let len = List.length lis in
    if(len==6) then lis else pick ((oracle ())::lis)
  in
    pick []

A single divination actually derives two hexagrams, representing a change from one state to another. The original single hexagram contains "moving" lines which are inverted in the second one.

let get_hexagram_pair ?(oracle=consult_yarrow) ?(lines=[]) () =
  let lines = if(lines==[]) then (get_hexagram ~oracle ()) else lines in
  (* Given a hexagram, return a version with no moving lines by  
   * simply disregarding their moving statement.  Moving yang becomes 
   * yang, moving yin becomes yin *)
  let rec ignore_moving = 
    function
        [] -> []
      | 9::res -> 7::(ignore_moving res)
      | 6::res -> 8::(ignore_moving res)
      | hd::res -> hd::(ignore_moving res)
  in
  (* Given a hexagram, return a version with no moving lines by
   * inverting moving lines.  Moving yang becomes yin, moving yin 
   * becomes yang *)
  let rec invert_moving = 
    function
        [] -> []
      | 9::res -> 8::(invert_moving res)
      | 6::res -> 7::(invert_moving res)
      | hd::res -> hd::(invert_moving res)
  in
    (ignore_moving lines),(invert_moving lines)

Now you have the guts of a working I Ching. Full text of the code is here.


Unless otherwise specified the contents of this page are copyright © 2015 Sean Hunter. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.