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(8 pages total)

Page 4 - The Eight Trigrams of the I-Ching (Yijing)

Hexagram Pattern

The Trigrams

The trigrams were said to have been instituted by the sages through their observation of the Szu-Hsiang. They represent the maximum number of combinations of the Yin-I and the Yang-I in sets of three. Their names are Ch'ien, Tui, Li, Chen, Sun, K'an, Ken, and K'un.

The trigrams are frequently associated with natural objects (Heaven, Lake, Fire, Thunder, Wind, Water, Mountain, and Earth respectively), as well as animals, members of the family, numbers, parts of the body, directions on the compass, seasons of the year, etc.

Although the trigrams have many names associated with them, one should not attach too much importance to the name or association. Though the components of transformation share some characteristics with the natural object for which it is named, the trigrams represent transformations that cannot be tied adequately to a given name in the literal sense. The concepts represented by the trigrams are dynamic and associating them too closely with physical objects or concrete ideas will undermine and limit the symbology.

Just as the trigrams should not be limited in use by associating them too closely with specific ideas or objects, they should also not be thought of as mystical symbols having powers of their own. Although some Feng Shui will hang the trigrams on walls to "ward off evil spirits" or balance the "energy" of a room and there are religious factions in China which believe these symbols hold mystical powers, one should keep in mind that the trigrams are simply codifications of natural processes. It is the movement and change that they represent that we seek to understand through the use of the trigrams.

While I do believe that archetypical images can hold certain powers, I have often seen esoteria turn into misinterpretation, illusion, and fantasy. Unless one has been fully initiated into a religious discipline that believes in and understands these powers, it is probably best to avoid these attachments.

Also, it should be said that the trigrams and hexagram symbols provide far more than a basis for an oracle used for fortune telling, prophecy, or divination. Although it is frequently used as such, many books that have been published on the I-Ching over-emphasize this aspect and thus students loose sight of the underlying system and structure which profoundly expresses patterns of movement and change. The trigrams and hexagrams have been used widely in the fields of philosophy, astrology, medicine, geomancy, numerology, emblemology, martial arts and mathematics.

Of great significance is the fact that the Chinese took symbols such as the Yin-I and the Yang-I, which are representations of dynamic concepts, and used them as building blocks to represent and allude to other ideas. In this sense, the combinations of the Yin-I and Yang-I, especially as they are used in the areas of numerology and emblemology, are algorithmic.

An algorithm is a recursive mathematical rule or procedure. Modern day computers perform almost all of their functions based on algorithms and the only language computers understand is the binary language. Everything the computer does--mathematical calculations, word processing, graphics, you name it--is performed using binary arithmetic and binary representation.

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