Monday, November 03, 2008

Magic Squares and Turtles

Chinese literature dating from as early as 2800 BC tells the legend of The "Lo Shu Magic Square" or "scroll of the river Lo".

Roughly three thousand years ago in ancient China, a great flood happened. The people, sensing that the river god ("Lo") was upset, tried to offer sacrifices to calm his anger. Each time they made an offering, a turtle would appear from the river.

It had a curious figure/pattern on its shell; there were circular dots of numbers that were arranged in a three by three nine-grid pattern such that the sum of the numbers in each row, column and diagonal was the same: 15. This number was also equal to the number of days in each of the 24 cycles of the Chinese solar year. This pattern, in a certain way, was used by the people to control the river.

After studying these markings the people realized the correct amount of sacrifices to make - 15 - and consequently, the river god was placated.This pattern is called a "magic square", in that each column and the two diagonals add up to the same number. The legend of the Lo Shu Turtle is told in The Book of Rites, one of the five classical texts of ancient China.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fu Xi - from Turtles to Trigrams

Fu Xi Fu Xi was the first of three noble emperors, the San-huang, in Chinese mythology. According to tradition he ruled from 2952 to 2836 B.C. (116 years). Fu Xi taught many arts, such as the use of fishing nets, the breeding of silk worms, and the taming of wild animals. He also proportedly invented music, and, most importantly, the eight Trigrams (BaGua), which is used as a template for Feng Shui.

Also attributed to him is the invention of casting oracles by the use of yarrow stalks. Furthermore, Fu Xi is said to have invented the one hundred Chinese family names and decreed that marriages may only take place between persons bearing different family names.

"In the beginning there was the one."
[Lao Zi (Lao Tse) the father of Taoism]

Fu Xi's most original invention is the development of the eight trigrams that order the world according to eight principles: the Sky, the Earth, the Thunder, the Mountain, the Water, the Fire, the Marsh and the Wind. These trigrams represent an abstract vision of the world and its changes. Each trigram results from another by the change of only one line, and the knowledge of the essence of these changes enables the user to learn more about themselves and the environment.

For more background on Trigrams and the Bagua, please refer to the "History" section, on our website.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The I Ching (or Yi-Jing)

Yi-Jing Wheel/I-Ching Wheel
The Book of Changes, or Yi Jing (known in the West as I-Ching), is China's oldest philosophical text. Its origins are lost in the mists of time, but scholars believe the first compilation was done early in the Zhou Dynasty (1022 BC to 256 BC). Based on a divination system using the eight trigrams (groups of solid and broken lines), permutations of 64 pairs of trigrams were worked out. Over the ages short, memorable commentaries were added. For example:

Lü / Treading [Conduct]

Treading upon the tail of the tiger. It does not bite the man. Success."

The Book of Changes charts the movements and developments (hence, 'changes') of all the phenomena in the universe. Many regard it as a complete system of philosophy in itself. Emperors, statesmen and generals throughout Chinese history consulted it.

Revered by Confucius, the Book of Changes was included in the five classic texts of Confucianism. It was one of the few books spared when Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210 B.C.) ordered the burning of previous dynasties' works. The Illustrated Book of Changes is a venerable classic made available to readers of modern Chinese and English. The 64 hexagrams and their traditional commentaries are explained with illustrations, and the Chinese text has been written by leading calligraphers.

These five classic texts have spawned not only Feng Shui, but Tai Chi, Chi-Gong, Acupuncture, and other philosophies and sciences.

The I Ching is one of the primary sources for the calculations of Feng Shui. If you look at a Chinese Luo Pan Compass, the I Ching characters appear to denote the Trigrams. The odd numbers are illustrated by white "sticks" and the even numbers by black "sticks".

For extensive background and detailed description of the I Ching, please see