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):
|11 – Tui – Peace||
|Feb – Mar|
|34 – Ta Chuang – Power of the Great||
|Mar – Apr|
|43 – Kuai – Breakthrough||
|Apr – May|
|1 – Chien – the Creative||
|May – Jun|
|44 – Kou – Coming to Meet||
|Jun – Jul|
|33 – Tun – Retreat||
|Jul – Aug|
|12 – P’i – Standstill||
|Aug – Sep|
|20 – Kuan – Contemplation||
|Sep – Oct|
|23 – Po – Splitting Apart||
|Oct – Nov|
|2 – K’un – the Receptive||
|Nov – Dec|
|24 – Fu – Return||
|Dec – Jan|
|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