|The Chinese Book of Changes The I Ching Yi Jing and the sequence of the Trigrams
The Chinese Book of Changes, I Ching, Yi Jing,
is one of the classics of Chinese Literature. It
consists of 64 stacks of six lines (hexagrams)
made of 8 possible three line parts (trigrams).
These lines are either unbroken (male and yang)
or broken into two parts (female and yin).
The oldest system for organizing these
Hexagrams is called the "Early Heaven"
sequence. It involves placing the eight trigrams
in a circle with Heaven at the top and Earth at the
bottom. The Heaven trigram is a stack of three
unbroken yang lines that symbolises "Father Sky."
The Earth trigram is a stack of three broken lines
that symbolises "Mother Earth." On the left side
of this circle is the trigram for the Sun, or for
flame, two long lines with a broken line in the
middle. On the opposite side is the opposite
trigram, Water Pit, or the Moon. One long line
with two broken lines on either side.
Heaven transitions through Wind to Water Pit and
Water Pit transitions through Mountain to Earth.
Earth transitions through the trigram Thunder to
Flame and Flame transitions through the trigram
Lake to Heaven. The sequence from Lake to
Heaven to Wind to Water Pit can be seen as a
circle around the Middle son Yang line pole and
the sequence from Mountain through Earth and
Thunder and Flame as a circle around the Middle
daughter Yin line pole.
The diagram above attempts to show how this
works as old yang turns to young yang and then
old yin and finally young yin. Each of these is
nothing more than one of Aristotle's causes in
new dress. You begin with the material cause,
old yang as the ground of all things. You give
purpose to the yang and make it young yang.
The result is structure and form, old yin. Finally
you process that old yin to refine it to your
purpose and now you convert it to young yin.
As you do this, you introduce new yin and yang
lines. The bottom lines are the oldest sons and
daughters of Heaven and Earth, the middle lines
are the middle sons and daughters, and the top
lines are the youngest sons and daughters.
Top young yang is the self and it is found as the
young son of Heaven in Mountain. Top young yin
is association and its is found as the young
daughter of Earth in Lake.
Middle yang is the whole and it is found as the
middle son of Heaven in Water Pit. Middle
daughter yin is the part and it is found as the
middle daughter of Earth in Flame.
Bottom yang is energy and it is found as the
eldest son of Heaven in Thunder. Bottom yin is
information and it is found as the eldest daughter
of Earth in Wind.
When the son and daughter relationships are
imposed on the trigrams, the result is the later
sequence of the trigrams.
Some of these relationships can be seen below.
The top yin line of Lake is young daughter yin out
of the distributed pole of the flattened octahedron
shown bellow. The yang lines of Lake come from
the bottom and middle yang pole seen below:
|Middle son Yang
|Middle son Yang
|Oldest son Yang
|Oldest son Yang
At the top we see a flatted octahedron, below we focus on the Water Pit and Lake
trigrams in the upper corner, and below that, their Flame and Mountain polar
opposites in the lower corner of the flattened octahedron of the Book of Changes.
The Flame Trigram is the polar opposite of the Water Pit Trigram and the Mountain Trigram is the polar
opposite of the Lake Trigram. Mountain is youngest son yang out of the concentrated self polarity.
In the flattened octahedron shown above, the Early Heaven sequence cycles from
Lake in the upper right hand corner, through an Old Yang transitions, that is the
Ground edge that separates Lake from Heaven in the three dimensional form of
the octahedron that this flattened octahedron is developed from. Lake is the gene
pool that Heaven mutates to generate new adaptive set points for the adaptive
peaks of the Transcendent edge between the Heaven and Wind face of the
flattened octahedron. Wind sweeps these peaks into the genetic set points that
are the New Yang of the Purpose edge between Wind and Water Pit. Water Pit
is the regulative feedback mechanisms, the river channels that carry the rain
dispersed by Wind, carry it down the Mountain peaks of the Mountain trigram.
Mountain isolates these genes on the separate peaks of separate species. From
these genetic set point peaks swept by Wind, Water Pit carries the water, the
blood of homeostatic regulation to the phenotypes of Earth. Here they manifest
as the Old Yin of structure and morphology and emerge as the Thunder of
maladaptive and adaptive expression.
Thunder generates the New Yin of action and competition and initiates the fire and
Flame of the Flame Trigram. This is the trigram of extinction and natural selection
that sweeps away and destroys the maladaptive phenotypes and leaves only the
adaptive phenotypes. The heat of natural selection warms the gene pool of Lake
and causes it to evaporate, to return to the Old Yang that generates the clouds,
the ground substance of the water, the material of life, and the mutant forms, the
genetic drift of Heaven that will be the father, the source of new peaks of genetic
adaptation and thus renew this endless cycle of Early Heaven.
All of the above is based on the old Early Heaven sequence of the trigrams, the
"bagua" of Fu Xi (see The Living I Ching, Deng Ming-Dao, 2006, p. 26). There is
another way of looking at the trigrams, this is the Later Heaven sequence of King
Wen (see Deng Ming-Dao, op. cit., pp. 55 to 73, and 393 to 396. The Early
Heaven sequence cuts the octahedron of the changes at its deep one and two
dimensional roots. King Wen's Later Heaven takes a more complex three and four
dimensional approach to the changes of the trigrams and imposes them on a two
dimensional relationship like that of the Early Heaven sequence of Fu Xi.
The Later Heaven sequence treats Water Pit, Mountain, and Thunder as sons of
father Heaven. In doing this it cuts back and forth across the deep tetrahedral
roots of the flattened octahedron exposed in the Early Heaven sequence. Then it
does the same for the daughters of mother Earth, generating Wind, Fire, Earth,
and Lake. This sequence is actually the primitive tetrahedron of the Greek
elemental qualities: Air (Wind, or blowing air), Fire (Flame or billowing fire), Earth,
and Water (Lake, or accumulated water). Father Heaven and his sons are the
opposite of this sequence: Heaven opposite of Earth, Water Pit of Flame (Flame
causes fire and water from the pit, the well, puts out the fire), Mountain of Lake
(Mountain goes up and Lake is depressed down), Wind of Thunder (Wind pushes
the air and Thunder makes vibrations that pass through it).
The Later Heaven sequence moves through the sequence of the two intertwined
tetrahedra in a way that accents the five phases of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and
Water. We need to make it clear that the Water phase is not the same as the
Water element, just as the Water element is not the same as the Water Pit
trigram. Confusion in using these symbols has made it difficulty to clarify the
relationships between them and the trigrams and hexagrams associated with them.
Fire as a phase is heat and growth, and thus the pure bottom line yang that unites
Thunder, Flame, Lake, and Heaven. Metal as a phase is reaping and grief and is
thus the pure bottom line regulative yin that unites Mountain, Wind, Water Pit, and
Earth. Water as a phase is the cold and black of winter cloud that unites Water
Pit, Lake, Heaven, and Wind in the wetness of rain and snow and stores that
water in ponds and the clouds of heaven, in storms blown by the wind and deep
wells. Wood as a phase is the germination of things that brings Flame and Wind
and Heaven and Mountain together as things that pierce, grow upwards, and start
new things. Finally, Earth as a phase is the low point where the fruits of Earth and
Thunder appear and can be seen at the middle of all associated visible things.
So Wind carries Wood to Flame and Fire which leaves ashes on Earth and heats
up Lakes that send vapors to Heaven and heats up the Metal at the deep roots of
Mountain. Water cools as it passes over the peaks of Mountains which generates
rain collected as Water in rivers that run to Water Pits on the sides of the
Mountains where the streams roar with the Thunder of their torrential movements
that give water to the growing Wood of trees that are blown by the Wind and their
leaves carried to the Flames of Fires.
Thus, the cycle of Thunder to Wind to Flame to Earth to Lake to Heaven to Water
Pit to Mountain to Thunder is also a cycle of Wood (Wind) to Fire (Flame) to Earth
to Metal (movement from Earth to Mountain) to Water (movement from Heaven to
Water Pit). Thunder and Wind help the germination of Wood and Flame is the Fire
of its growth and Earth is the manifestation of its development and Mountains
generate the Metal of the rocks that take the Water from Heaven that will fall in
the Water stored in the rivers of Water Pit that will supply the sounds of Mountain
Thunder of the Water that nurtures the growing Wood of leaves blown by the
This is much more complex and less simple than the Early Heaven arrangement of
the trigrams because these manifestation are taking place at a much higher and
more complex level of development of the basic forms manifest in the flattened
octahedron of the Early Heaven arrangement. The Yi Jing, I Ching, is based on
the simple notion of the binomial, of Pascal's triangle, of zero to one to two to
three. Any attempt to get five points, or even multiples of two and four, generates
new levels of complexity that inevitable obscure the simple relationships that
underly the trigrams and hexagrams, relationships that are rooted in simple
notions like one plus one is two.
Underlying the trigrams is the notion of eldest son yang as energy and eldest
daughter yin as information, of middle son yang as wholeness and boundlessness
and middle daughter yin as the particular and the bound, of youngest son yang as
the self and private and youngest daughter yin as the social and the public.
This boundless whole that is middle son yang is also the boundless whole that is
known in daoism (taoism) as the Dao (Tao). The eldest son yang is the pure
energy that is principle of change, the power to change, the Yi itself. The
youngest son yang is the pure Yang of the youngest self, ego in its primeval
The bound part that is middle daughter yin is the Ch'i that gives particular form,
becomes the local tao, dao, of named things. The eldest daughter yin is the Li,
the rules, the patterns that shape all things. The youngest daughter yin is the Jen,
the associative rules that bring all private things together into the public world.
Further notions on this topic may be found on other pages of this site, particularly
page PagodaFiftyone, where the five elements, five phases, wood as germination,
fire as growth, earth as expression, metal as reproductive harvest, and water as
accumulation are taken as polar opposites. Thus, if wood is germination, river is
orderly follow through, if fire is growth, rain links that growth to the larger water
cycle, if earth is expression, then the sky is its ultimate source, if metal is harvest
of reproduction, electricity is the generation of novel patterns, if water is mixture
and accumulation, then salt is purification and crystal formation. The first five
cycle around thunder and noise and the second around its polar opposite,
atmosphere and gas. Together, these make a 12 sided dodecahedron that can
be imposed on the octahedron of the 8 trigrams. See PagodaFiftyone for more
details. Link to Page PagodaFiftyone Click Here