Feng Shui and I Ching


8 Triagrams of the I Ching and Feng Shui

Legend tells us that the sage Fuxi (fú xī, 伏羲), whilst sitting and meditating by the banks of the Yellow River, had a vision of a magic turtle rising from the water. This turtle was marked with an intricate pattern on the back of its shell.

In perfect clarity, Fuxi realised that this was the blueprint of all that existed. Later on he interpreted these round shapes as combinations of broken and unbroken lines (yin and yang) and devised from them the triple combinations which became known as the eight trigrams (bā guà, 八卦).

When these eight are combined in pairs in all combinations, they make up the sixty-four hexagrams.

These are described in the Book of Changes (I Ching, yì jīng, 易经), one of the great Chinese classics, which is widely used as a divination tool. Each of the sixty-four chapters of the Book of Changes describes a situation or a state of mind with a possible course of action. However, some are of the opinion that the book is so old and so traditionally Chinese that it is very difficult for a westerner to understand its symbolism and use it effectively as an oracle.

But as Carl J. Jung pointed out, these are symbols and metaphors and therefore timeless and universal. It is as valuable today as it was thousands of years ago. The Book of Changes existed in an oral tradition long before it was written down, probably around the year 1200 B.C.E., by King Wen and the Duke of Chou, who made some modifications.

Since then, many great Chinese philosophers have composed their own commentaries to the main text, and perhaps the best known of these are by Confucius and Cheng Yi. Laozi’s work was also much inspired by the I Ching.

The book was also very popular with the Chinese communist leaders and it is said that the I Ching was one of the last books to be banned during the cultural revolution.

The eight trigrams taken in pairs are Heaven-Earth, Fire-Water, Mountain-Lake, and Wind-Thunder. They correspond with the eight areas (or palaces) of the Eight Mansion School (bā zhái pài, 八宅派).

Heaven is associated with guides, mentors, travels and networking, representing man’s domain. Earth is connected with relationships and represents woman’s domain. Fire is associated with reputation and clarity. Water corresponds to the way of life, which also includes careers. Mountain is associated with study, reflection and meditation. Lake is concerned with creativity, productivity and joy. Wind is abundance and blessings, and Thunder represents ancestors and family. However, the practice of reinforcing these areas by using the corresponding or supporting elements of the Eight Mansion School yields rather limited benefit, if any at all, in my experience.