Trigrams and their Meaning

There are eight trigrams – eight possibilities to combine tree lines which are either solid (yang) or broken (yin).
Here is a summary page of all trigrams with their traditional and modern images and meanings:

When trying to understand a trigram we must consider two aspects:

A Trigram’s Context

Every trigram within a hexagram has a particular context: it is embedded between a preceding and a following trigram. If we think back to our previous example: to properly assess Dui, the lake in hexagram 12 – peace, one should keep in mind that it has developed out of Qian, the heaven. And that later Zhen, the thunder will arise from Dui, the lake.

A Trigram’s Content

It is important to also understand that trigrams aren’t solid things (even though “the lake” or “the tree” might make us think so) but represent dynamic approaches to reality.

Dui is not a lake but rather behaves like a lake.

But what exactly does this mean?

This was one my major challenges when trying to understand the I Ching. Serendipitously I learnt about a linkage between trigrams – 5-element-theory and the meridian system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This linkage is called the Later Heaven…. I was thrilled. Meridians are working within my body – and this gives me first hand experience of… trigrams.

So far I did not find any literature using a similar approach. This is why I consider it innovative and so far it has turned out to be very helpful in uncovering meaning and dynamics of trigrams and deriving hexagrams.

This is why you will find extensive citations from TCM sources: just like trigrams meridians are not understood as “things” (or physical organs) but as functional circuits. And unlike I Ching literature which in my eyes tends to be rather theoretical, TCM is a living art where 5- element-theory and the meridian system are applied daily.

So please take your time to learn about trigrams – they are the key to understand hexagrams.

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