Ancient Chinese put their questions in pictograms on tortoise or ox bones, then the diviner would put holes in the bone.
After that, the diviner would apply so much pressure to the bone that it would crack.
The diviner would interpret the cracks and inscribe the result on the bone.
The underliying principle of this oracle is:
Every pictogram might have several meanings depending on context (place in the structured ‘text’), in other words a pictogram had not just one single meaning but several diverging possibilities.
Look at the overall relations between pictograms and ‘connect the dots’ (the pattern of the lines that are formed after the cracks).
This bare bones approach is also applicable in other forms of divination:
– Tasseography :tea-leaf, coffee grounds
The idea is just to look at the pictures, the relations between pictures.
Of course, there are many cultural variations on interpretations of the pictures: a wolf might mean something very different, depending on European or Native American outlook!
See also Debra Books article on Oracle Bones