The Ba Qua
In all societies, once a working construct for understanding nature was developed, the next step is to see how precise this understanding could be focused. Once again, the more fully one understands, the more predictable and the less frightening events are. Furthermore, the process can be made to work to the advantage of the one who knows. So it is no surprise that as the process of change was explored, it was further categorized. Through observation, the Chinese realized that events in nature or even in society were mixtures of Yin and Yang and not exclusively one force or another. It is a unique trait among the Chinese as a people that they did not dispose of the Yin/Yang theory as flawed when it did not fit every contingency. Instead, they accepted the theory of Yin/Yang as good for the task of categorizing the major influences. They then began research on a code interpret the degree of interplay between these two forces. This stands in stark contrast to the West where history is marked by inventors or scientists who overturned the prevailing world view with a single discovery, (such as Galileo).
In the West, when a theory was found to be flawed, it was discredited and discarded. This tendency comes from the Greek form of debate. In those discussions, if a theory was found to be based upon flawed premises, all conclusions were equally rejected and the holder of that theory discredited. In the East, new information was cause for modification of old theories but not discarding of them entirely.
In the new theory, Yang influences were represented by a solid line, while Yin was represented by a broken one. By placing these two codes on top of each other in varying sequences, the Chinese were able to describe the different degrees of influence. For example, the Seasons, expressed as mixtures of Yin and Yang came to be represented as follows:
Compass needles point North. This, to the Chinese, indicated that there was some kind of energy at work in the world, (more will be said about that later). As such, the degree of divergence away from the point of the compass, the direction of pull of energy, around and back to the point of the compass, could be represented by the different trigrams also. These groups of three lines or trigrams as they are called today are referred to as Kua in Chinese. With three lines, eight combinations are possible.
This was, as the Chinese figured it, just enough to classify events into major categories. Much was done with these trigrams and their applications can be viewed in everything from medicine to art. Eventually the eight (Ba) categories (Qua) became as significant as the Yin/ Yang cycle. Additionally they were also seen as an expression of the cyclic nature of the universe, thus confirming previously held theories.
Finally, the question was asked, "what if one of the Ba Qua major categories was found to be acting upon another in the cycle of Yin and Yang?” Being pragmatic, the Chinese did not create a new notation system. Instead they simply placed the one acting upon the other together to form a hexigram. (A six line diagram). With six lines being used in combination the results yielded a possibility of sixty four combinations or categories of change. This was considered by the Chinese to be sufficient for any event encountered in life and these too were assigned values over centuries of observation.
These values were grouped into a book called the I Ching. So significant was this book on Chinese society that even Confucius wrote his own commentary on the process of change and its interpretation. The student is encouraged to look into the Book of Changes or I Ching, (pronounced YEE Ching, please see the section in this book corresponding). The author was trained to use the book for a year and found its insights significant.
It is at this juncture that another viewpoint of the Chinese hold predominately should be raised, that of an interconnected universe. It is this theory that will explain much of the activities of the Chinese in what would appear to be “fortune telling”. There was within the Chinese culture, a variety of beliefs, customs and traditions. The one that we will examine here is a philosophical approach though myth and superstition abounded. In its philosophy, the Chinese believed in a closed universe where every action had impact upon all other events. Any action occuring in one section of the universe reverberated in all others rather like a pebble hitting a small pond. We are just beginning to approach this idea in the West with such subjects as climate change and weather forecasting. The impact of an action in one quarter appears indeed to have impact in all others.
The closest Western approximation to the Chinese version of this would be to consider the universe a hologram. In a hologram one sees a three dimensional picture. If the hologram is broken, every shard of the picture will not be a section of the entire photo or object. Instead, each shard, no matter how tiny, will have the entire picture in it. Instead of a thousand pieces of a photo, one would have a thousand complete images. Likewise, the Chinese believed that seemingly random and isolated events, when “correctly viewed” and categorized, (with such a system as the Ba Qua) would yield information on the larger scheme of things. Thousands of years ago, Chinese would heat up the shell of a tortoise and watch it as cracks formed, (a random event). These cracks were then viewed as Kua and interpreted accordingly. Though their attempts are now looked upon as primitive, the holographic universe theory, and its implications is now being debated as one of the most innovative and promising to date. (Though regretably the tortoise shell approach probably will never return).
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