These forces operate in both time and space – they change over time as does the direction from which they emanate; their impact waxes and wanes and moves in different directions. However, the most important thing to remember about these forces is that, though they change over time, they do so in a fixed and predictable pattern. This allows those who understand and have studied Feng Shui to forecast the arrival of good or bad influences and to accurately predict how and when changes will occur.
First, according to the ancient Chinese philosophy, there was nothing. Then came Yin and Yang (Tai Chi) which, by defining the positive and negative duality of matter, was the origin of the universe. Then….came the appearance of the five basic forces, represented by the five elements, which are constantly interacting with each other in cycles of birth and death. All matter and all changes to matter and life were formed from these elements, thus creating the world, the landscapes and natural phenomena.
The natural phenomena are symbolised by the eight Trigrams. The eight trigrams which originally were a method of recording information, are said to have been invented by Fu Hsi the first legendary emperor of China and from them, it is said may be traced the origin of Chinese writing. It could be said that these eight trigrams are the footprints of Chinese metaphysics.
The I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes, is one of the oldest philosophical works in the world, dating from about the eleventh century BC and it contains various combinations of these eight trigrams and their meanings. Each trigram is in the form of three broken or continuous lines. A broken line in the trigram is Yin – a continuous line, Yang. By placing the broken and continuous lines in combinations of three, the creator/s of the I Ching, produced eight different combinations called the Eight Trigrams.
To trace the development of the trigrams is a fascinating exercise. Firstly, there was Yang and Yin, represented by:
But as all things in the universe, according to Chinese philosophy, contain both Yang and Yin within them, then the presence of both Yang and Yin had to be shown in each symbol. Thus the four possible combinations of Yang and Yin, known as the Four symbols are
But as we are referring to trigrams, then there must be three lines in each individual trigram representing either Yang or Yin making a possible of eight combinations in all:
These eight trigrams are important in that, as diagrammatic symbols, they both denote and embrace the whole
universe and as such are also another form of the Tai Chi symbol. Every line has implications far beyond being merely a trigram of continuous and broken lines.
Each trigram represents a directional bearing, one of the five elements, a family relationship, a part of the body. This makes the trigram another of the basic tools of Feng Shui analysis. When a Feng Shui analysis is performed, the practitioner refers to these representations in order to analyse the situation within each room or area of a building.
The three-line matrix of each trigram is always viewed and interpreted from the bottom up. Each one of three trigrams represents a universal energy. The eight are:
heaven; lake; wind; fire; water; thunder; mountain and earth.
The Eight Trigrams are presented in two different ways, reflecting the progress of history.
In the original trigram configuration, they represented a universe where everything was ordered and perfectly balanced. This original composition of the trigrams was known as the “Former Heaven Arrangement” and was like a still-life photograph in that everything was is in its place. There was a fixed order to things and the ‘Former Heaven Arrangement represented the ideal. This composition of the eight trigrams represented the forces of nature therefore it is believed to carry an aspect of protection.
But, as interaction and change are fundamental aspects of life on earth (and fundamental aspects of Feng Shui) in time the ancient philosophers began to understand that their original worldview was not practical. Once living things appeared on earth and were factored into the equation, the picture altered.
A school of thought is that the event prompting the change, according to an interesting Chinese legend was the emergence of a giant tortoise out of the waters of the River Lo in central China about six thousand years ago. On the shell of the tortoise’s back the ancients discovered a pattern of markings which became known as the Lo Shu Diagram.
One of the many consequences of the Lo Shu Diagram was a better understanding of the dynamic interaction of living things in nature, which meant that the universal energies had to be illustrated in a more dynamic relationship with each other.
Consequently the eight trigrams were re-drawn into what is now called the Later Heaven Sequence.
The Later Heaven Arrangement (sometimes also called The Later Heaven Sequence) forms the basis of how to plot the movement of energy through any living or active environment – a house, office or garden.
The Former Heaven Arrangement, since it shows a world at rest, is the ideal – the permanent underlying reality. In fact it is used in the Lo Pan (Feng Shui compass) as the inner most ring to protect the magnetic needle from negative influences.
The Later Heaven Sequence symbolises a universe full of movement. Each energy symbolised by a trigram, not only interacts with its opposite but may also interact with both itself and with any of the other seven trigrams. This interaction of 8 X 8 gives rise to 64 possibilities which, when combined, produce 64 hexagrams – 64 six-line representations of differing combinations of energy.
The 64 hexagrams form the basis of the I Ching, which is regarded in China as the great oracle of wisdom and power. The I Ching is considered to offer sound advice in answer to specific questions and philosophers have worked over many centuries to interpret the imagery of the hexagrams, assigning intricate meanings to each line.
As one of the three branches of Chinese divination, the I Ching is said to be able to identify the laws that regulate natural phenomena as well as being able to predict change – central in a culture, such as the Chinese, based on the premise that nothing in the world remains static.
As the I Ching is regarded as one of the most important cultural treasures in history, it is not surprising that one can find an array of books, in a variety of languages, on the topic, though it is little known in the West that there are two ways of studying the I Ching. There is the academic method, presented around the time of Confucius, with its emphasis on philosophy, morality and politics. Then there is the more sophisticated system used widely by forecasters throughout China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. This system delivers accurate and detailed answers to specific questions enabling the inquirers to extinguish doubts and see clearly the path ahead. It isn’t any wonder then, that the footprints left by the ancient Chinese philosophers are still revered today.