There are eight trigrams – eight possibilities to combine tree lines which are either solid (yang) or broken (yin). When interpreting a hexagram it is not only important to know the meaning of a single trigram, but it is also to consider its context, were it comes from and where it goes to so-to-speak.
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 and the teachings of the five elements (five-element-theory) and the meridian system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This linkage is called the King Wen’s 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 five-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.
Here is a summary page of all trigrams: Trigrams
- I Ching Study Guide – Table of Content
- Using the I Ching for Divination
- Structure of a Hexagram
- Trigrams and their Meaning