The ‘sheng’ sacrifice at Qi Shan

(If you see tiny squares where Chinese characters should be you are probably using Internet Explorer. Switch to Firefox, it does a much better job.)

Most Yijing translations translate sheng 升, the name of hexagram 46, as ‘pushing upwards’, ‘advancing’ or ‘ascending’. ‘Pushing upwards’ and ‘advancing’ are not good translations to my taste, but ‘ascending’ is perfectly alright. But there is more to this character (as always), if we look at the etymology and the first uses of this character, we can get a picture of what is ascended and why. The text of the Yijing also helps getting this clear. Continue reading

Symmetry in the houtian bagua

(Click pictures to enlarge)

At first glance the houtian bagua 後天八卦trigram circle seems devoid of any symmetry. It seems as if the trigrams follow each other in a random order, and that there is no logic behind it. But if we look at the circle in the way we are taught in the Ten Wings, namely as an order linked with time, patterns start to emerge.

In the Ten Wings the trigrams are described in the sequence of the houtian circle, starting with Zhen and going clockwise, ending with Gen . The trigrams are supposed to follow each other in time – Zhen and Xun are linked with Spring and morning, Li and Kun with Summer and midday, Dui and Qian with Autumn and evening, and Kan and Gen with Winter and midnight. In time, the trigrams change in each other – Zhen changes in Xun, Xun changes in Li, etc.

We can mark these changes in every trigram. When Zhen changes in Xun, all three lines change. When Xun changes in Li, the lower and the middle line change, etc. We can mark the lines that are going to change in every trigram:

In Zhen 3 lines change to make Xun; in Xun 2 lines change to make Li; in Li 2 lines change to make Kun, etc. There is a balanced sequence in the amount of changing lines: 3 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 2 – 2. The major change takes place in Zhen: the start of a new year and a new day.

It seems as if the line created by the pair ZhenDui, the symbols of sunrise and sunset, divides the circle in half. The trigram pairs created in this way are each others pangtonggua 旁通卦 and fangua 反卦. A pangtonggua is the inverse of a trigram: a yin line becomes a yang line and vice-versa. A fangua is the trigram turned upside down.

Xun is the combined pangtonggua and fangua of Gen; Li is the ptg and fg of Kan (although the fg is not visible because the trigram is symmetrical); Kun is the ptg and fg of Qian; Dui is the ptg and fg of Zhen.

If I would switch the trigrams Zhen and Gen the circle would even be better: that way every trigram would be opposed to its ptg, and no fg would be necessary. Also the changing lines sequence would become more symmetrical: 1 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 2 – 2. It surely makes room for speculation…..

A Mulan in the Yijing

(If you see tiny squares where Chinese characters should be you are probably using Internet Explorer. Switch to Firefox, it does a much better job.)

Through several channels the character of hexagram 44, gou 姤, has been brought to my attention. On Hilary’s forum there has been some discussion about it, mainly stirred by the view of Margaret J. Pearson as expounded in her article Towards a new reading of hexagram 44 in The Oracle Vol. 2, no. 11 (September 2000). In this article she says,

“I suggest that this character be read as ‘queen’ , as did Karlgren (GSR 112) or, more precisely, ‘the bride of the ruler’ (king or duke) 王后, as in the Chunqiu (Spring and Autumn Annals)”.
(p. 25) Continue reading

National Palace Museum Taipei, Taiwan

One of my favourite sites is the site of the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. Beautiful pictures and a lot of information. Check for instance the section with past exhibitions. My favourite one is A Special Exhibition of Bronze Inscriptions from the Western Chou. The introduction is a good entry into the world of bronze inscriptions. Other ones are Ancient Writing from the Ruins of Yin (about oracle bones) or a Special Exhibition of Shang Period Ritual Bronzes.

I can spend hours on sites like this.