In class today, talking about the YIjing, I found myself suggesting that using the text as a divination manual, as it was designed to be used, confronts us with randomness and chance. We throw the coins to generate a hexagram that captures our moment in Way. If one coin fell differently, we would get a different reading, the description of the moment and the advice for how to act would be altered. The text thus demands that we subject ourselves to a kind of random procedure to gain access to its description of our circumstances. It defies reason. It is something akin to ziran, which I like to translate, following Hinton, as "occurrence appearing of itself." Way reveals itself to us on its own terms, not according to our prior expectations or theories. Thus, a random process is a better method for peeking into Way than any rationally calculated method, or so believe the practitioners of the Yi.
One student pressed back a bit, wondering about "randomness." It suggests disorder, and thus may at times have a mildly negative connotation in English, something beyond our ability to control or predict. Of course, in the social sciences there is an understanding that randomness will fall into a regular patter, a standard distribution. But that is not the randomness of the Yijing.
Even though the text of the Yijing is derived from careful observation of the regular patterns of nature, the randomness employed to gain access to the text - throwing the coins - is meant to exist as a unique and singular event. It is not one in a series of events that can be measured but, rather, it happens in a moment and it belongs only to that moment. Indeed, it identifies a discreet moment of Way, which by definition (because of the randomly generated coin tosses) cannot be replicated (each moment of Way has some element that is different than any other moment of Way).
Thus it is a randomness merged with singularity. And it is a randomness that creates a self-reflexivity. The person throwing the coins and consulting the oracle is participating in the fortuitous definition of a moment of Way. It is his or her randomness, his or her experience and question that are drawn into that precise moment and that act upon his or her vision and understanding of that moment.
So, it's not quite what we mean when we say "randomness." And maybe that's what makes it something closer to ziran.