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(8 pages total)

Page 5 - The Eight Trigrams of the I-Ching (Yijing)


If we let the Yang-I represent the number one and the Yin-I represent a zero, it is easy to see that the combinations that form the Szu-Hsiang and the Pa Kua follow the rules of binary arithmetic. In fact, in the well known hexagram circle of the Sung dynasty philosopher Shao Yung (1011-1077), the hexagrams are arranged in an exact representation of binary arithmetic (each hexagram in succession is a binary representation of the numbers from 0 to 63).

In the West, binary arithmetic was discovered by the German mathematician Gottfried Willhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716), who published his findings in 1679. In the field of mathematics, Leibnitz excelled in the areas of combinatorial analysis and symbolic reasoning. While he is noted as a pioneer in these fields, Shao Yung is the true trailblazer--he worked out his arrangement of the hexagrams in 1060.

Shao Yung combined "emblemology" and numerology derived from the teachings he received from Li Chih-Ts'ai (died 1045) to form his diagram. These teaching included explanation of the diagrams and emblems of the Ho T'u (River Chart), the Lo Shu (Lo Writing), the hexagrams of the I-Ching, and the Hsien T'ien T'u (trigram arrangement of Fu Hsi). According to Ch'eng Hao (1032-1085) in his "Epitaph to Shao Yung," Li had received these ideas through a line of Taoists which can be traced back to Ch'en T'uan (906-989). Shao Yung's biography is also recorded in the Sung Shih (History of the Sung Dynasty).

In his Kuan-wu P'ien (Treatise on the Observation of Things), Shao Yung states, "Although my diagrams have no writing, I can discourse the livelong day without departing from them. For in them the principles of Heaven, Earth, and all things are completely embodied."3 One of the diagrams Shao refers to in his work is the Hsien T'ien T'u or the "Early Heaven" arrangement of the trigrams. Early and Later Heaven Patterns

Early Heaven and Later Heaven

Before going any further with the discussion of the eight trigrams, a discussion of the terms "Early Heaven" and "Later Heaven" is appropriate. These concepts have very deep meaning in Chinese thought and I would be remiss if I did not address the subject before turning to a discussion of the Fu Hsi (Early Heaven) and King Wen (Later Heaven) trigram arrangements. (Note: The Chinese terms Hsien T'ien (Early Heaven or Pre-Heaven) and Hou T'ien (Later Heaven or Post-Heaven), which describe the two trigram arrangements, also have been translated conveniently to English as "prenatal" and "postnatal," respectively.)

In general terms, Early Heaven represents innate energies and Later Heaven represents acquired energies. Innate, or prenatal energy is genetic and hereditary in nature--it is life energy that represents life potentiality, or the possibility of life manifestation. The acquired, or postnatal energy is created by the prenatal energies after the manifestation of life. In the human, postnatal energies are formed upon conception.

Early Heaven energies are not strictly related to the human, but represent all environmental elements that are involved in conception of new life and these elements remain active in guiding the growth and maturation of that life. When the Early Heaven energy has been exhausted, life in its material form will typically end.

Movement launched by the Early Heaven energy is developed and nourished by Later Heaven energy. Later Heaven energy is manifest the moment life is conceived and is sustained by the Early Heaven force and nourished by the environment through the intake of food and air. The Early Heaven energies form a foundation for the Later Heaven energies to build upon.


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