Xiang Shu and Zang

image26An introduction to Image and number. The study of “Changes” is a very tricky thing. The easiest way to approach it is that it is a tool, and a tool layered with dynasties of interpretation. So when it is stripped down to its essentials, historical chunks come off it in many interesting ways. It becomes quite a daunting task to digest, after a while. To start off, this image is a modern formation of the King Wen arrangement. It was arranged in a fascinating way by Joszef Drazny, it works perfectly with what we are seeing. If you are further interested in its arrangement check out his site or read how he assembled the organization of the relational guas. It works rather well.

Joszef Drazny

As you can see, it can easily be seen as the world and also as a 3d tai ji symbol. The dividing line between the yin and the yang sides are the tidal guas. These guas note the changing of the months of the year. Remember, the ancient Chinese were very determined to be attuned with nature,  in learning the changes of the year, the preparation of their culture revolved around rituals to preserve this accordance.  Just like the relations noted in the guas, as discussed in the previous post, the change heaven has on earth similarly affects man.

This brings us to Xiang and Shu. Which loosely translated means image and number. Xiang/Image has a very layered structure, since there is historical connotation as well as context. It is more than a word and more that just a character, it is qualitative and relational. It denotes space and time. It can be a moment, an event, a decision. It is what a poet works with to create meaning, or what a painter elaborates. It is the artistic endeavor to captivate, the inspiration that solidifies what you are thinking of. Joined with shu, number, connotation is derived, for when the Chinese counted they created mnemonics to carry with them on the palms of their hands, and on the bottoms of their feet. They wrote on the body, which was the intercourse of Heaven and Earth. They became a walking embodiment of what came to pass and what was to come. Shu, wasn’t just quantity but coordination, position, and prestige. It takes years to unravel the collective consciousness that became integral to their life-style in those periods. People tend to get lost in elaborate details of the metaphorical labyrinths of these Chinese gardens, but one has to simply remember that these were just tools that were used in those time to quickly adapt to the changes not just in nature, but also human society. This video by Andrew Nugent Head, lightens the humor, that our over-analytic western minds need to remember, that it is just a human invention, just like our science, trying to put everything in a nicely organized fashion.

Andrew Nugent Head

From these roots, of image and number, then comes Zang which is what becomes internalized in our bodies. Zang is storehouse, what we call our organs. It is what qualitatively and quantitatively gets stored in our extended faculties for existence. I say extended faculties because according to the ancient Chinese our faculties correspond to these vessels of containment, the organs of our body-  Heart, Lung, Spleen, Liver, and Kidney. Sight, hearing, speech, taste, and touch. Each one of our sense can receive Xiang and shu and interpret it in its own way, creating a relating experience that can be communicated not just to each other but to our bodies and our extended interdependent environment.