I Ching and the Year

23 June 2012

twos by two

the I Ching is a Chinese oracular system that has developed over the centuries into a rather elaborate system. It began as two options – yes or no, represented as a solid line, and a broken line, respectively. After serving its purpose in addressing yes/no questions, the lines were stacked vertically, such that there were now four options (lines are read from the bottom up): two solid lines, a broken line under a solid line, a solid line under a broken line, two broken lines. The next step created the eight trigrams of three lines. Finally, the trigrams were placed one over the other, which created the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching.

When using the I Ching as an oracle, the lines of the hexagram are determined using yarrow stalks or coins (or any of a number of online applications). However, in determining the six lines of the hexagram, one also determines how many of them, if any, change. So after determining the initial hexagram, the changing lines are switched to their opposite creating a second hexagram. The point of the oracle is to consider the change from one hexagram (or state) to another. It is quite an amazing system.

Nevertheless, despite the popularity of theAbysmal I Ching page, my interest in exploring it has always been primarily related to timekeeping (same with astrology, for what its worth). Some posters have asked that I attribute the hexagrams to theAbysmal Calendar. This is mathematically tricky, as the 64 hexagrams don’t fit evenly into 365, 364 or 360 days. I must admit that I enjoy this type of challenge.

Although I’ll be looking a bit at some of the symbolic associations with the trigrams and hexagrams, I won’t go too far down the rabbit hole of symbolism, as undoubtedly it will take me to places I’m not equipped to deal with in this context. The more I can deal with this at its most fundamental, the better the result.

and I apologize ahead of time for any missteps.


The cardinal directions play an important role in traditional timekeeping. The Winter is associated with the North (pardon the Northern Hemisphere bias). theAbysmal wheel of the Year already has particular dates set aside for these points of the Year. So we end up with

  • Kun – North – Winter Solstice (Dec 20-22)
  • Chen – NE – Feb 5
  • Li – East – Vernal Equinox (Mar 22-23)
  • Tui – SE – May 7
  • Chien – South – Summer Solstice (Jun 21-22)
  • Sun – SW – Aug 6
  • K’an (theAbysmal!) – West – Autumnal Equinox (Sep 20-21)
  • Ken – NW – Nov 5

The advantage to choosing these dates, although they may not fall precisely on the Solstices or Equinox, is that they are precisely 45 days apart.


there are traditional arrangements and associations of the hexagrams as well, however, their role in terms of timekeeping are multifaceted. First, the radial arrangement:

the Chinese lunar calendar also associates a hexagram with each of the 12 months as follows (note that I’ve changed the solid lines to white, the broken lines to black):

Image Hexagram Lunation Gregorian Equivalent
https://theabysmal.files.wordpress.com/2006/10/11-peace.jpg 11 – Tui – Peace


Feb – Mar
34-the-power-of-great 34 – Ta Chuang – Power of the Great


Mar – Apr
43-break-through-(resoluteness) 43 – Kuai – Breakthrough


Apr – May
01-the-creative 1 – Chien – the Creative


May – Jun
44-coming-to-meet 44 – Kou – Coming to Meet


Jun – Jul
33-retreat 33 – Tun – Retreat


Jul – Aug
12-standstill-(stagnation) 12 – P’i – Standstill


Aug – Sep
20-contemplation-(view) 20 – Kuan – Contemplation


Sep – Oct
23-splitting-apart 23 – Po – Splitting Apart


Oct – Nov
02-the-receptive 2 – K’un – the Receptive


Nov – Dec
24-return-(the-turning-point) 24 – Fu – Return


Dec – Jan
19-approach 19 – Lin – Approach


Jan – Feb

I honestly don’t remember what my source material was for these associations. It was 6 years ago that I had come across it. I only remember that it wasn’t explained in any detail. Make of it what you will. I will note that theAbysmal Lunations begin with Lunation 0 which contains the Solstice, which coincides with the Chinese 11th lunar month. Although the hexagram for K’un (the Receptive) is more appropriate for the Winter Solstice. I hope I haven’t mistaken this association.

Dale Bruder further extrapolates this (and it doesn’t look like I was mistaken after all – phew), such that the above hexagrams represent the first six days of the lunar month. So there are 60 hexagrams associated with the days of the 12 lunar months (nothing about the 13th month when it occurs), and the remaining four hexagrams represent the seasons.

Sergey Leonidovich Panphilov has an elaborate web page that covers the calendar of 28 days and the moon in the context of the I Ching, and the lunar calendar. There’s too much information to summarize here. Explore it and enjoy.

theAbysmal Calendar and the I Ching

I think that in the end, the 64 hexagrams fit best with the year as 60 hexagrams, each of which covers 6 days, and the remaining 4 hexagrams are associated with the cardinal points – i.e. the Equinoxes and Solstices, or alternatively, with the days midway between the cardinal points (i.e. Feb 5, May 7, Aug 6, Nov 5). I think I prefer this latter association with the annual year.

What to do about the lunar calendar? 12 Lunations work out to 354 days, which falls 11 days shy of the annual year. And there is some variety in this, such that the 12 Lunations may be 353 or 355 Days. There may be another way of looking at this. 13 Lunations work out to 384 days (+/- 1 Day). 384 = 6 x 64. There are 64 hexagrams, each made of 6 lines, such that there are the same number of lines in the 64 hexagrams as there are days in 13 lunations. The cycle of 13 Lunations wouldn’t line up with the annual Year, however, the cycles of the Moon are every capricious.

One last consideration: the Leap Year. The Leap Year Day is added every 4 Years, with an exception every 128 Years. 128 = 64 x 2. It would be possible to assign a hexagram to each Year of the Abysmal Calendar for two cycles. Or, it might be possible to use heptagrams, an image using seven lines, of which there would be 128. The extra line would take its place between the two trigrams. Considering theAbysmal Year is divisible by 7 (as a function of the 7-Day Week), this may be something to consider.

However, for the moment, it’s just a speculative exercise. I may develop an image to illustrate this in the next few days.

181 Days to Dec 21st 2012

I-Ching in Black & White

5 July 2007

Binary count.

The premise of the I Ching lies primarily in its role as an oracle, the black lines indicating “no,” and the white, “yes,” however, the cycles of light and darkness, as well as mitosis, lunations, the seasons, sunspot cycles & the precession of the equinoxes follow all find themselves reflected in the ever-shifting symmetries between the hexagrams.

the white represents the solid lines and the dark  represents the broken lines of the I Ching


The Power of the Myth of the Planets and the Week

8 November 2006

Calendar Reform and the 7 Weekdays.

Comparing symbol systems, as if their inherent form and position were intentional, perhaps to survive in dormancy through a period of widespread lethargic oblivion.

Regardless, the current Weekdays observed in English & the Reformed order of Weekdays (which switches Tuesday and Friday)

Notice how the Chinese System, when arranged vertically, moves from the Sun to the Earth, from the divine ideal conception to the material intentional manifestation, which reflects the structure of the I Ching.

Babylonian Symbols for the Planets & Zodiac & the 13-Month Calendar

In the Reformed Weekday Sequence, the Week begins with the Sun, then the Moon and Venus, both feminine symbols, then Hermaphroditic Mercury, then Jupiter and Mars, both males symbols, and finally Saturn.

More importantly, the Reformed Weekday Sequence progresses in the order of the relative brightness of the object as visible from Earth. Also the Reform places the 2 inner planets, Venus & Mercury, together with the Sun & Moon.

Chinese Symbols for Planets & Elements & Cycle of Creation

From the Sun, the Heavens, the Moon, then descends through the five elements, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. The progression from the ideal via the Creative arrangements of the elements, ending with Earth, the physical world.

Symbolically speaking, this relatively minor change would better suit the more widespread belief systems associated with these particular symbols.

However, this remains but a suggestion.

tao, i-ching, squares and pairs

7 November 2006

Terence & Dennis McKenna

Part 3: the I-Ching, and the King Wen Sequence

Quoting from The Invisible Landscape, by the McKenna brothers.

Chapter 8: The I-Ching as Lunar Calculator and Astronomical Calculator
Chapter 9: Time, Change and Becoming

the King Wen Sequence
(read from left to right, top to bottom)

“The earliest arrangement of the hexagrams of the I Ching is the King Wen sequence. It was this sequence that was chosen to be studied as a possible basis for a new model of the relationship of time to the ingression and conservation of novelty. In studying the kinds of order in the King Wen sequence of the I Ching a number of remarkable discoveries were made. It is well known that hexagrams in the King Wen sequence occur in pairs. The second member of each pair is obtained by inverting the first. In any sequence of the sixty-four hexagrams their are eight hexagrams that remain unchanged when inverted. In the King Wen sequence, these eight hexagrams are paired with hexagrams in which each line of the first hexagram has become its opposite (yang (—) changed to yin (- -) and vice versa)”

“No known basis exists for determining why pairs are arranged as they are or why one member of a pair precedes another.

First Order Transitions in the King Wen Sequence
“First order of difference refers to how many lines change as one moves through the King Wen sequence from one hexagram to the next. the first order of difference will always be an integer between one and six.”

“1. Order among the thirty-two pairs was determined by a wish to absolutely exclude transition situations with a value of five.
2. order among the thirty-two pairs was secondarily determined by a similar wish to absolutely exclude transition situations with a value of one. (5354 & 6162)
3. A three to one ratio of even to odd transitions was maintained.”

Franklin’s Magic Square
the sum of each column and row is 260 – equivalent to the number of days in human gestation, and the 260-Day Calendar.

Franklin’s Magic Square

16 50 9 55 11 53 14 52 = 260
1 63 8 58 6 60 3 61 = 260
64 2 57 7 59 5 62 4 = 260
59 15 56 10 54 12 51 13 = 260
48 18 41 23 43 21 46 20 = 260
33 31 40 26 38 28 35 29 = 260
32 34 25 29 27 37 30 36 = 260
17 47 24 42 22 44 19 45 = 260
= 260 = 260 = 260 = 260 = 260 = 260 = 260 = 260

Linear and Radial Symmetry in Light and Dark

5 November 2006

Part 2: Playing with the I-Ching

Part 1 – 2 lines, 4 images, 8 trigrams, 64 hexagrams

Setting aside the richness of imagery used in the Book of Changes, for oracular reasons as well as contemplation, the simple binary structure yields many symmetrical arrangements.

The linear binary sequence of the hexagrams assigns a value of 0 to the yielding line (- -) and a value of 1 to the firm line (—), counting from the bottom line upwards. This sequence is represented in the table of hexagrams in Part 1.

In terms of the radial arrangements of the hexagrams and trigrams, the simplest associations, with respect to the calendar:
*the yielding (- -) represents darkness, descending, North, Winter.
*the firm line (—) represents light, ascending, South, Summer.

Radial Symmetry in the I-Ching

Fu-Hsi’s Primal Arrangement of the 8 trigrams according to the time of year.

equivalence to:

the equivocation of 12 of the 64 hexagrams to the Lunations of a regular year.

64 Hexagrams

King Wen’s arrangement of the 64 Hexagrams

Here’s a radial I-Ching image from the Tortuga 13-Moon Calendar site.

The Change in the Book of Changes

The I-Ching or Book of Changes, refers ultimately to the process of the change of state from the idea represented in one hexagram to that of another. Traditionally, yarrow stalks have been used, although 3 coins proves more practical.

Toss the 3 coins, pennies or what-have-you, six times in succession. The result of the toss determines the line in constructing the hexagram from the bottom up. The results are translated most simply as follows:

Heads = H = yin (- -) = 2
Tails =T = Yang (—) = 3

T – T – T = Yang (—) = 9
T – T – H = yin (- -) = 8
H – H – T = Yang (—) = 7
H – H – H = yin (- -) = 6

The difference being that lines with the value of 6 and 9 change to their opposites, and lines with the value of 7 and 8 remain the same. Thus the six coin tosses determine an initial hexagram, and that into which it changes, and somewhere in between is the change, which is ours to consider.

This corresponds with the notion that the Primal Powers, the Ascending Dragon of Light and the Descending Dragon of Darkness. The I-Ching represents the dynamic between different polar forces, and the ebb and flow of their relationship, as visible in the play between the source of light, such as the Sun, and that which reflects it, such as the Earth, Moon, and Planets.

the tao, as simple as 1, 2, 4

3 November 2006

Part 1: 2 lines, 4 images, 8 trigrams, 64 hexagrams

Part 0: the tao, i-ching and time

from “the I-Ching or the Book of Changes.”

Book 2 Chapter XI

5. Therefore there is in the Changes the Great and Primal Beginning. This generates the two primary forces. The two primary forces generate the four images. The four images generate the eight trigrams.

“The Great Primal Beginning, t’ai chi, plays an important role in later Chinese natural philosophy. Originally chi is the ridgepole – a simple line symbolizing the positing of oneness (—). This positing of oneness implies also a positing of duality, an above and a below. The conditioning element is further designated as an undivided line, while the conditioned element is represented by means of a divided line (- -). These are the two polar primary forces later designated as yang, the bright principal, and yin, the dark. Then, through doubling, there arise four images.”

“These correspond with the four seasons of the year. Through addition of another line, there arise the eight trigrams.”

K’un North the Receptive Earth

Chen Northeast the Arousing Thunder

Li East the Clinging Fire

Tui Southeast the Joyous Lake

Ch’ien South the Creative Heaven
Sun Southwest the Gentle Wind
K’an West the Abysmal Water
Ken Northwest KeepingStill Mountain

When one trigram is placed above another, this creates the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching

Part 2: linear and radial symmetry in light and dark

The tao, the Dark Power and the Light Power

2 November 2006

Part 0 – tao, i-ching and time

Excerpts from the “I Ching or the Book of Changes” by Wilhelm/Baynes
Book II – Chapter V

Tao in Its Relation to the Light Power and to the Dark Power

1. That which lets now the dark, now the light appear is tao.

The light and the dark are the two primal powers, designated hitherto in the text as firm and yielding, or as day and night.

Firm (—) and yielding (- -) are the terms applied to the lines of the Book of Changes, while light and dark designate the two primal powers of nature.

The terms yin, the dark, and yang, the light, denote respectively the shadowed and the light side of a mountain or a river. Yang represents the south side of the mountain, because this side receives the sunlight, but it connotes the north side of the river, because the light of the river is reflected to that side. The reverse is true as regards yin. These terms are gradually extended to include the two polar forces of the universe. It may be that these designations, which emphasize the cycle of change more than change itself, led also to the representation in circular form of the Primal Beginning, [t’ai chi t’u], the symbol that was later to play such an important part in Chinese thought.

[t’ai chi t’u]

2. As continuer, it is good. As completer, it is the essence.

The primal powers never come to a standstill; the cycle of becoming continues uninterruptedly. The reason is that between the two primal powers there arises again and again a state of tension, a potential that keeps the powers in motion and causes them to unite, whereby they are constantly regenerated. Tao brings this about without ever becoming manifest. The power of tao to maintain the world by constant renewal of a state of tension between the polar forces, is designated as good. (cf. Lao-tse, chap. 8)

As the power that completes things, the power that lends them their individuality and gives them a center around which they organize, tao is called the essence, that with which things are endowed at their origin.

6. As begetter of all begetting, it is called change.

The dark begets the light and the light begets the dark in ceaseless alternation, but that which begets this alternation, that to which all life owes its existence, is tao with its law of change.

7. As that which completes the primal images, it is called the Creative; as that which imitates them, it is called the Receptive.

This is based on the view expressed likewise in the Tao te Ching, namely, that underlying reality there is a world of archetypes, and reproductions of these make up the real things in the material world. The world of archetypes is heaven, the world of reproductions is the earth: there energy, here matter; there the Creative, here the Receptive. but it is the same tao that is active both in the Creative and in the Receptive.

8. In that it serves for exploring the laws of number and thus for knowing the future, it is called revelation. In that it serves to infuse an organic coherence into the changes, it is called the work.

The future likewise develops in accordance with the fixed laws, according to calculable numbers. if these numbers are known, future events can be calculated with perfect certainty. This is the thought on which the Book of Changes is based. This world of the immutable is the daemonic world, in which there is no free choice, in which everything is fixed. it is the world of yin. But in addition to this rigid world of number, there are living trends. Things develop, consolidate in a given direction, grow rigid, then decline; a change sets in, coherence is established once more, and the world is one again. The secret of tao in this world of the mutable, the world of light – the realm of yang – is to keep the changes in motion in such a manner that no stasis occurs and an unbroken coherence is maintained. He who succeeds in endowing his work with this regenerative power crates something organic, and the thing so created is enduring.

9. That aspect of it which cannot be fathomed in terms of the light and the dark is called spirit.

In their alternation and reciprocal effect, the two fundamental forces serve to explain all the phenomena in the world. Nonetheless, there remains something that cannot be explained in terms of the interaction of these forces, a final why. This ultimate meaning of tao is the spirit, the divine, the unfathomable in it, that which must be revered in silence.

Part 1: the tao,  as simple as 1, 2, 4.