In order to better understand the I Ching text it would be fitting to go over a few of the symbols and terms used throughout the I Ching text.
The dragon is a mythical creature originating from Heaven. Its characteristics cover creativity, inspiration, imagination, and the world of the spirits. It is not to be mistaken for the evil dragons of the European middle ages mythology.
The horse is a creature born to the earth. It is acutely aware of its surroundings and the changes occurring around it. It is cognizant of the dangers and opportunities the world has to offer.
Water is a substance which, although it will take the form of its container, will never lose its own true nature. It moves in its natural direction regardless of any obstacle confronting it. Water is an element of the earth that flows downward with the forces of gravity. It brings life and fertility when gentle but can also bring destruction and chaos such as floods when angered. The cycles found in nature are also of great importance in the I Ching. Cycles are simply succeeding phases of growth and development that eventually return to origin and repeat. The cycle of the seasons, the cycle of birth, growth and death, the cycle of the migration of animals, the cycle of the earth orbiting the sun, day and night, are all examples of natural cycles the I Ching tends to use in its imagery. Birth can be considered as the emergence of a life force into the world of the visible. Growth is the maintaining and nurturing of this life force, in order to bring it to maturity. Death is the return of the life force into the world of the unseen. It does not see birth and death as an absolute beginning or end. The completion of one cycle only serves to announce the beginning of another. The seasons are also used extensively in the text of the I Ching. The cyclical nature of the change in seasons is also a very prominent image used by the creators of the original text.
Each trigram can be described as a point in time during the seasons of a year
Chen, The Arousing, is spring. It is nature returning to life after the long rest of the cold winter months. It is the germinal phase of creation. It is the season where the electric energy of thunder rises out of the ground.
Sun, The Gentle, is early summer. Life begins to let its warm winds blow over the earth, penetrating into every little nook and cranny. The flora renews itself. Plants leave the comfort of the bud to come into being and start growing into their natural forms.
Li, The Clinging, is the summer. This is the season where vegetation reaches its first phase of maturity and come into psychic consciousness. In more human terms, this represents the opening of the human mind to the greater consciousness of the forces of light.
K’un, The Receptive, is early autumn. It is a time when vegetation ripens into consumable products. It is now time to begin reaping the harvest that was sowed in spring. The earth replenishes its inhabitants by providing them the nourishment they will need for the following winter months.
T’ui, The Joyous, is autumn. It is a time to prepare for the winter. This should be a joyful occasion, since one should be thankful for the abundance that the soil has granted them. It is now time to celebrate the harvest, and to give thanks for the fruit of our labour.
Ch’ien, The Creative, is early winter. Cold begins to set in and the vegetation returns to its dormant state within mother earth. It is a time when expressions of one’s achievements here on earth return up towards the heavens. It is the austere season. This is a time when a person must judge themselves according to the deeds they have accomplished in the past.
K’an, The Abysmal, is winter. It is a cold and barren period. This is the period for which one should be prepared during the times of abundance. One must nourish himself from crops collected during the autumn season. This is a time when a person must concentrate and give thought to the fruits of their labour.
Ken, Keeping Still, is early spring. This is a time of great importance for life is about to renew. The seeds which still lie in the dark stillness of the cold barren earth are in fact about to renew the life cycle for another year. New beginnings are at hand. This is a time for contemplating the meaning of life and death. In the dark stillness of the earth, life awaits for the proper time to sprout.
The cycles of the seasons close and the circle is completed. The changes brought about by the seasons return to their origin and the process begins anew. Life and death are considered to be similar to the transformation of the seasons in the way that it represents a certain process of growth, maturity and decay followed by the preparation for a new beginning.
Other symbols are also important to the understanding of how a trigram will influence the interpretation of the hexagrams. We will briefly discuss some of the more important symbolism behind each of the 8 trigrams.
Chen, The Arousing, is thunder and movement. Its color is orange which depicts the lit up sky during a thunder storm. It is the rapid growth of spring, with its blossoming of life. Its element is grass, the first vegetative growth to take root in th espring. The arousing is an important road that represents the proper path of life. Chen is the dragon. It rises fearlessly out of the earth and ascends to the turbulent clouds above. The arousing is in the foot which is well grounded and serves in setting the body in motion. It is the eldest son representing the begining of movement. Its direction is the East.
Sun, The Gentle, is wood and wind. Sun is the gentle penetration of the wind. It is an omnipotent presence. The color white, which represents the yin principle, is its symbol. It is lofty places because wood (trees) will eventually grow to great heights. The wind also blows in the lofty heights of the sky. Air is its element since it permeates everything it comes in contact with. It is adaptable. The wind can change direction without a moments notice and can at times go around obstacles. This trigram also stans for wavering determination which can be a sign of impassioned greed or vanity. This trigrams animal is the cock. It voice penetrates the early morning stillness to awake us to a new dawn. The Gentle is in the thighs, which branch out downward and unite upward. This trigram represents the eldest daughter. This depicts the gentle penetration of the yielding open mind. Its direction is the South East.
Li, The Clinging, is fire. It stands for clarity and light. It represents heat and radiance. It is also dependable. It is arid. It is weapons. Its color is yellow like the sun. It is a symbol of the golden mean, intersection between heaven and earth. Li is the pheasant, its tail shines with radiant colors. The Clinging is in the eyeswhich transmit the radiance from the outer world to the inner self. It is the middle daughter and depicts clarity, conformity and dependability. Its direction is the South.
K’un, The Receptive, is the earth, sphere of life. It represents the world of concrete matter and physical action. It is yielding, always following the path of least resistance. It is the mother, sign of devotion. It is simple. It is the soil which contains the elements needed for the support of life. It is an awareness that there are obstacles intrinsic to working from below, upward.It os a pot used for cooking the food that nourishes us. It is a large vessel carrying with it all the worlds living creatures. It is concern for detail, which empowers the prospect of perfection. It is manifest form as opposed to the unmanifested world of ideas and thoughts.It is the masses, as opposed to the oneness of the Creative. It is the trunk of a tree, from which life spreads through its branches. It is the darkness of the color black. K’un is the cow, a creature representing the gentleness of the earth, a symbol of docility and fertility. The Receptive is in the belly which serves to store and process nourishment for or bodies. Its direction is the South West.
T’ui, The Joyous, is the lake. It is a symbol of joy produces from simple pleasures. It is flesh which represents the pleasures of human passions. It is a sorceress. It is related to the concept of the destruction of self. Its color is blue like the deep blue water of a clear lake. Tui is the sheep, inwardly obstinate and outwardly powerless. The joyous is in the mouth which opens to communicate thoughts. It is the youngest daughter which represents joyful serenity. Its direction is the West.
Ch’ien, The Creative, is heaven. It is the world of the invisible, the spirit and time. It is easy and effortless. It is strength and certainty. It is the circle. It is a never ending line. It is sincere and genuine. It is an awareness that there is risks implicated when working from above, downward. It is embodied in jade which is a symbol of perfection and determination, as is metal. Cold is one of its attributes. Its color is violet which represents the heightened principle of light. It is bliss rising from the heart.It is an all encompassing view of the world. It is content as opposed to form. It is ideas as opposed to the manifest. Ch’ien is the horse because it is fast and untiring. It is a horse or power, tenacity, stability and fortitude. The Creative is in the head which rules over the entire body. It is the father, ruler of the house. Its direction is the North West.
K’an, The Abysmal, is water. It takes the form of its container without losing the nature of its character. It is sadness and sorrow. It is also related to conflict and turmoil. It is the depth of the abyss. Its color is red, a sign of danger and also the color of blood which flows from the body. It is the moon. It is the roots of a tree reaching deep within the earth for its nourishment. It is concealed motives. It is most of all danger and risk. K’an is the pig which lives in muddy waters. The Abysmal is in the ear which listens to the outer world. It is the middle son and represents danger in movement. Its direction is North.
Ken, Keeping Still, is the mountain. It is inertia and the state of rest. Its color is green which symbolizes the first germination of early spring. It is a stone. It is a crossroad. It is a gateway or junction between a beginning and ending. It is the custodian of order. Ken is the dog that remains forever the faithful guard. Keeping Still is the hand which holds steady. It is the youngest son and represents rest. Its direction is the North East.