The history of trigram circles: facts, sources and their interpretation

A video about the distorted view that exists of the history of the two most important trigram circles.

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5 Responses to The history of trigram circles: facts, sources and their interpretation

  1. Simon Abbott says:

    Interesting stuff, Harmen. If, necessarily perhaps, a little laboured at times. A quick insight into the XianTian Bagua being developed out of Daoist nei dan can quickly be gained from the ‘Dragon Tiger Classic’ or ‘Cultivating Stillness’ both beautifully translated by Eva Wong and published by Shambala.

    These are thankfully less deliberately confusing or ridiculously esoteric than other works and describe the importance of the Moon’s cycle in the waxing and waning of yang and its relevance to nei dan practice. Xiantian is fundamentally grounded in the progression of yin and yang (and the represents the journey of the Sage back to perfect balance before what in the West we might call “The Fall’ – or the coming into the phenomenal and illusory world so beautifully portrayed by HouTian Bagua).

    The fact that the XianTian Bagua is so closely allied to Yin and Yang in itself an indication of it development as being later that HouTian, since yin and yang is a much later concept? Is it not? I cannot recall exactly when, to be frank.. But I believe Margaret Pearson’s work has revealed this..

    Anyway, enjoyable video. Thank you! It certainly produced some insights for me! I constantly regret not being a reader of Chinese…translating for me is an arduous task..

    • Thanks for your comment, Simon. Does Eva say anything about the history of the Xiantian Bagua? I would be interested to know her take on it. Regarding yin and yang: just like you I also thought that the concept of yin & yang arrived quite late – somewhere in the Han dynasty, or the Qin dynasty at the earliest. However, the Shifa manuscript already refers to this concept, so it isn’t *that* late. And the Shuogua, as well as other parts of the Ten Wings, also refer to it. I have to rethink my own ideas (and assumptions) about the value and usage of yin and yang in the history of the Yijing. In any case, the text of the Zhouyi, the core text of the Yijing, does not explicitly mention it.

  2. Simon Abbott says:

    Sorry to take some time to respond, but I needed to locate and consult both the Dragon Tiger Classic and Cultivating Stillness to answer you. Eva does not express an opinion about the dating of either bagua – except in Cultivating Stillness to repeat the legends that surround them and the diagrams Ho-To and Lo Shu. The general opinion as far as I understand it, is that Fu Shi (to whom the horse on whose flanks the pattern of the Ho-To appeared) was pretty much an invention of later Daoists who wanted to ascribe prior authority to the Xiantian bagua (and other stuff) and usurp the predominance of the actually pre-existing Houtian. Indeed, do we actually know that the Houtian was *called* the Houtian before the Xiantian bagua came along (as a product of perhaps centuries secret Daoist nei dan practices)? Or was this name given to it once the Xiantain bagua leaked out of the secret Daoist practises? It was common throught Chinese history, as we know, and still is to attempt to market something as much older than it really was/is. (A gigong master I studied with for a few years – a brilliant practitioner and teacher, and a successful actor/director but ultimately one specifically interested in developing a following similar in a way to Mantak Chia’s Healing Tao organisation – called his suite of exercises, supposedly channeled through him from Lao Tse, Jesus, Mohammed, Kuan Yin, Moses – you get the idea – he called his exercises Sheng Zhen Wuji Yuan Gong, the ‘yuan’ establishing its ‘original’ ie ancient authority. This is common…Actually his message of unconditional love is a good one, of course. He moved from Beijing via The Philippines to Austin, Texas where he teaches his message of love throughout the US. Which can only be a good thing, let’s face it….North Americans loving the idea of being the bringers of peace and harmony to the world…he has a smaller following in Europe and in Israel..(enough said, perhaps). And interestingly, after about 15 years he dropped the Wuji Yuan bit of the name…Beautifully flowing forms, mind. I still do some of them…
    Anyway, ‘yuan’ feaures heavily throughout the centuries, doesn’t it? One might even say millenia! All to add authority. All just marketing really. But as I say, I am not aware of any reference to the bagua’s at all in these Daoist classics, the earliest of which might conceivably been around in the Easter Han, so the very early CE..But was only ‘published’ with commentary from around 900 CE onwards..
    Finally, just to be clear. Li and K’an do not appear in that diagrame because they are the alchemical elements – the Fire and Water, the Green Dragon and the White Tiger, Lead and Mercury, their copulation being the process by which all the elements of the Houtian bagua transform into their positions of the XianTain bagua, the return to the primordial state. – the human body being a analogue of the universe… The yang of K’an moves to transform Li into Qian and the yin of Li transforms K’an into K’un.
    Similar transformations take place with the other trigrams (paired in opposing compass positions).
    Blimey… wasn’t supposed to be this long.. I’m sure Pregadio must throw more light…
    PS sorry again about the email attachment.

  3. At first glance this might appear to be an unimportant issue. Nevertheless, at least two important issues are discussed. Facts are essential to any pursuit of truth. Opinions should be informed by facts, Talk is cheap. The second issue is important because of the appearance of the later trigram cycle. The idea of personal belief and personal opinion in the context of religious faith is as important today as it was in ancient China, Thank you Harmen for another generous helping of important information.

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