Four Step Growth

There is evolving cycle to the Yi Ching, as observed through nature. It is the continual cycle of transformation and transmutation, 變 and 化. It is the change over time of hard and soft and that of dark and light. It becomes the cycle of yin and yang. As the ancients monitored the seasonal changes according to the circum-polar sky, four clear positions of transitional change became apparent. These were seen as the four seasons. Observing that they occurred at certain changes in the celestial skys, they were marked with the four cardinal directions. The stages of growth were then noted and put together in the the first Trigram of the Yi Ching, Qian.

Trigram 1, is called Qian, not Tian for a particular reason. Tian is the over head sky, but Qian is more than just the sky over head, it is the yearly sky. It is heaven over heaven. Heaven mirroring itself within and through out. It is translated as the creative impulse behind all. There are four parts to the pictogram of Qian according to Alfred Huang. The first upper left corner is the sun’s rising with a green sprout breaking the ground. The upper right is the Sun’s rays spreading out across the sky, then the lower right is the Sun’s rays falling on the ground, and then finally the lower left is that of a root sinking down into the ground. The light of Heaven penetrates all. Others hold that the left side of the pictogram is that of heaven’s banner, the big dipper, pointing out the directions of time with the right being that bound to earth. The four parts in the Huang description go with the description line of the Trigram.


Alfred Huang interprets it as

Initiating, Sublime and initiative, Prosperous and Smooth, Favourable and beneficial, Steadfast and upright.

Legge translates it as

Qian (represents) what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm.

The characters of the line are called, Yuan, Heng, Li, and Zhen.

Each one has an expression of heaven. Yuan is the original, it is the starting point, it is initiation. Heng, is the growth and completion, it is the best ripe fruits given up for sacrifice. Li is the harvest, the gathering, and the preservation. Finally, Zhen is consultation, it is asking for advice, and finding the best outcome. It becomes determination as the next cycle will then continue.

It is funny how these four, experience permutations through out Chinese History in different forms. The permutations take on correspondences in the cyclical dynamism in Chinese thought and medicine. The Four directions become the Four Seasons, the Four seasons become the four animals, the four animals become the four images.

Next The Four Images


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