h Phoenix Qi: I Ching (Yijing) throughout the year – the Tidal Gua (aka the Monthly Hexagrams)

Friday, February 29, 2008

I Ching (Yijing) throughout the year – the Tidal Gua (aka the Monthly Hexagrams)

There are twelve special hexagrams in the Yijing (I Ching) that are often called the Tidal Gua. They each represent a solar month and are symbolic of the rise and fall of yang and yin throughout the course of the year, starting with the Chinese Solar New Year in February.

The equinoxes and solstices are also each represented by a hexagram which will be described in the appropriate month.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 11, Tai, Advance, or Peace, Harmony, Good Opportunity. The element is Earth, and the chakra is the Solar Plexus. This is the first month in the Chinese solar calendar ~ Happy New Year ~ !

This is an especially favorable time...the beginning of a new year...and as all beginnings, notice that it starts in balance with the lower yang lines and upper yin lines. The active energies are strengthening and moving upward and outward. The passive energies are decreasing, resting on and meeting with the active. Since the trigrams move toward each other, the lower moving upward, and the upper moving downward, this symbolizes the combining or co-mingling of opposites thereby establishing a state of balance and harmony of the natural energies. In the trigram family, the upper yin lines represent the Mother, the lower yang lines represent the Father. When Mother and Father come together, all things may be conceived, may be born, grow and prosper.

Also, this is a reminder to us to work toward the balance of inner strength, virtue and correct conduct, with outer softness, showing mercy and compassion to others. Personal spiritual growth and self-cultivation is a good thing to work on at this time. The days are a little longer and a little warmer, allowing us to get outside and back into Nature. That, in turn, gives us the opportunity to mingle with others (we all get out more when the weather is nicer!) and share some of that rising, positive energy.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 34, Da Zhuang, Great Strength, thunder over sky or heaven. The phase is wood, the chakra is the Heart. With the coming of the Spring Equinox this month, we see that growing yang has overbalanced receding yin. Being of the wood phase, the energies are outward moving, but sideways, like a tree sprouting spring buds, rather than straight upward. Eventually the leaves will reach for the sun, but not yet. Likewise, we are coming out of a hibernation of sorts, re-exploring our newborn surroundings after the sleep of winter. The Great Strength we see is the inner strength of Virtue; outwardly, we should still reach with the gentle, soft touch of the heart when dealing with others. An astral journey may be indicated with the feet (thunder) over the head (heaven); this reversed body position could be symbolic of climbing the upside-down World Tree sometimes depicted in Northern Asia as having roots in heaven and branches touching the earth...the paradox of going up (toward heaven) and down (toward the roots) at the same time. Thunder in the sky represents the spring rains that will nourish the crops, the food to sustain Life and bring future prosperity, both physical and spiritual. Thunder, the eldest son, above Heaven, the father, reminds me of the scene in the movie "The Lion King" where King Mufasa, standing on the cliff above the other citizens of the African plains, holds aloft his eldest cub Simba, his great promise for the future. That scene always gives me goosebumps, much like an approaching thunderstorm!

Spring Equinox is symbolized by hexagram number 51, The Arousing, Shocking, thunder over thunder. This is quite a lively month with all the thunder symbolism! Doubled thunder represents a blast of energy, doubled feet a lot of movement. There is great potential for creativity and new beginnings, but much disruption, too. Like the warning of the Tarot Tower card, caution must be taken that any "shock" be met with inner firmness and outer flexibility, be weathered creatively but not allowed to push us from our path.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 43, Guai, Eliminating, or Resolution (equivalent to "eliminating" obstacles or hesitation), lake over heaven/sky. The phase is metal, and the chakra is the throat. As coincidence has it, this chakra attribute coincides favorably with the upper trigram which also represents the mouth, and the advice of the I includes "Declaring," "howling," and to "notify," all voice related activities. This is a time when the five strong lines below are one step away from eliminating the weak yin line at the top. The image speaks of water from the lake accumulating high above. There is the tension as of a coming storm. (You may be reminded, as I am, of the little poem "April showers/bring May flowers.") As it happens, it's raining even as I write this!

The lower trigram of three yang lines is the Father. Of the metal element, this is indicative of great inner strength and wisdom. The upper three lines, two yang and one yin, the lake, is the youngest daughter in the trigram family. She is named "The Joyful" or "The Joyous." Her elemental correspondence is metal also, making this a very strong combination indeed. The strength of the yang lines pushing upward and finally bursting through the one yin line shows that we can overcome any lingering inferior yin forces. It is definitely a time for overcoming obstacles (within ourselves, or in our external environment), for action and support for worthy causes! However, rushing into action recklessly would be a mistake.

It is worth noting that our youngest, joyful daughter also represents the metal of weapons -- and we can't help be wary of having "sharp tongues." Speaking out sharply would only cause further strife when we are trying to relieve tensions. Rather, we should take the time to consider and choose our words carefully, use our Voices, yet resolve to speak out against negative influences with thought, clarity, and virtue.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 1, Qian, The Creative, or Initiating, heaven/ sky over heaven/sky. The phase is metal, and the chakra is the third eye.

Heavenly, yang energies are at their peak this month just as the longest days of the year occur during this month. Sometimes people wonder why this is the May hexagram instead of June, as we usually think of June as being the Summer, very yang, month. The reason is the Solstice; Just as the hours of daylight were (finally!) longer than the hours of darkness with the coming of the Equinox in March, the hours of daylight begin to wane again with the coming of the Solstice in June. Therefore, May is really the month with the most hours of sunlight each day.

This hexagram is one of the few which contain all four of the most auspicious Judgments in the I Ching: sublime initiation (yuan), prosperous and smooth (heng), favorable and successful (li), and steadfast and upright (zhen). It contains the full circle of sprouting, growing, blooming, and bearing fruit. Ancient oracle bones tell us that this sequence once may have represented the proper way to conduct a divination. Heng and zhen meant "sacrificial offerings" (to Heaven, Earth, and ancestors) and "divination" respectively. Master Huang, in The Complete I Ching, says "From the ancient pictographs of yuan, heng, li, and zhen we comprehend that one needs to prepare for divination by aligning with the spirit of Heaven and Earth and presenting sincerity and reverence as sacrificial offerings; then one will reap the harvest of the divination to obtain guidance for favorable actions and to avoid misconduct that invites misfortune." (p.23)

This information, combined with the third eye chakra (Second Sight!) correspondence, not to mention the real & symbolic "light" of this month, it seems that divinations are especially favored! You may want to ask at this time what the next year will bring. Good luck!


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 44, Gou, Encountering, or Meeting Together, heaven/sky over wind/wood. The phase is metal, and the chakra is the crown. Following the Summer Solstice, the yin, dark energies begin their yearly return as we see in the bottom line of this hexagram; the darkness beginning to encroach on and displace the bright yang lines.

Because of the single yin line at the bottom, which is advancing, this hexagram is considered an unfavorable omen; dark forces or unworthy persons are approaching. The wind in the sky penetrates everywhere; one must be vigilant lest negative influences try to worm their way into one's life. Competition between the yang lines (men) for the single yin line (woman) is another symbol associated with this sign: beware of entering into competition with people or the Self; arguments and disruptions will surely occur if you do. Also, take care to not regress into bad habits.

The summer solstice is marked by hexagram number 30, Li, Radiance, or Brightness, fire doubled. Fire is the symbol of the sun. It is also the symbol of the middle daughter, and of the eye; the middle daughter is the diviner, the clairvoyant who sees clearly and can interpret well the advice received through an I Ching divination. Fire is also sometimes referred to as "the clinging" because it clings to that which is burning. When one "clings" to brightness, that which is virtuous and correct, one is able to avoid darkness and danger. However, one should not attach to too much brightness, or one will burn oneself out!


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 33, Dun, Retreat, heaven/sky over mountain. The phase is metal, and the chakra is the Third Eye; having reached the crown last month, qi is now moving down the front of the body as the Microcosmic Orbit, as it is known in qi gong, continues.

The dark, yin forces are advancing. Retreat tells us that now is not the time to oppose them. Just the opposite, we are advised to draw back and regroup. How does one draw back? In an orderly fashion. This is not a turn-tail-and-run sort of withdrawal, but rather we should acknowledge the strengthening of dark forces without becoming involved with them. The two trigrams, heaven and mountain, do not move toward each other; the favorable energy of heaven moves upward, but the mountain stands still. Allow yourself to look upward, beyond the negativity; rise above it and stand fast in your virtue.

The top trigram also represents the father, and the sage, the repository of creativity and wisdom. The lower mountain trigram represents the youngest son. In other cultures, when the youngest son goes to his father for a lesson, he seldom fires off questions; he sits quietly and observes keenly. These are his lessons; patience, looking beyond the trivial, and paying attention to the higher, important happenings. An appropriate proverb might be "Good things come to those who wait."

When we seek creativity and wisdom, we should emulate the youngest son, assume the stillness of a mountain (better yet, find a place to sit on top of one) quietly in meditation, retreat to an inner place, and watch what unfolds from the heavens, for, assuredly, something will!


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 12, Pi, Hindrance or Misfortune, heaven/sky over earth. The phase is metal, and the chakra is the throat; qi continues to move down the front of the body as the Microcosmic Orbit of circulating energy continues.

There is no integration of yin and yang energy here; worse, the yang energy above, following its natural course, continues to move upward and farther away while the yin energy below continues to sink further downward foretelling the continuation of imbalance and disharmony. Master Hua Ching Ni, in The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth, tells us: "Much is given; little is received." (p. 282) All our energy is being poured outward; our inner energy is in danger of being completely depleted if we continue to give without remembering to rejuvenate ourselves.

Perhaps we have, during these longer and balmy summer days, spent more of our time out and about enjoying Nature than we have spent practicing the cultivation of inner energy or our spiritual selves. We may have gotten "carried away" with all the outdoor activity of the season, and may now be experiencing a decline in our reserves. (It's somewhat amazing to notice the number of people who are relieved by the arrival of Labor Day in September...they get to slow down a little!

Of course, everything cycles over time, so while we should certainly be careful at a time like this which calls to our attention the prevailing state of imbalance and disharmony, we know that this is not a lasting condition; we need only to return to the practice of cultivating our inner selves and spiritual energy.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 20, Guan, Watching, Contemplation or Point of View, wind/wood over earth. The phase is wood, and the chakra is the heart.

With the equinox fast approaching, the dark hours will soon overtake the daylight hours; so begins the seasonal strength of the annual yin cycle. Guan is sometimes spelled Kuan, and this hexagram may belong to Kuan Shih Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The trigrams of wind and earth represent the eldest daughter and the mother; the hexagram itself resembles the doorway to the temple, or an altar. The advice for this symbol is to prepare oneself to make a sacrifice. Perhaps the mother and her daughter come together to celebrate a ceremony of thanks for an abundant harvest, or perhaps they prepare for meditative practice where the offering is made to "show one's sincerity," (Huang, p 186) remembering it is as important to maintain spiritual practice at one's inner altar as to visit the temple or shrine.

It is also a time for looking back over the year to ponder your accomplishments. Did you do what you set out to do? Do you need to continue efforts in any area?

Also, in actually looking downward (from the "high" yang lines at the top), which implies that you, as a person in a "high" place, are looking "down" upon your followers, you have the opportunity as a leader to make sure you are leading in a correct and virtuous manner. Do not watch just your followers; more importantly, watch yourself as well so that inner negative forces do not overcome the positive. Keep in mind, a person in a "high" place is always being watched by someone! As Master Ni says, "Just as a penetrating wind pervades everywhere, a good way of life and good teachings influence everyone they touch." (Ni, p. 328)

The autumnal equinox.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 23, Bo, Falling Away, Erosion or Decline, mountain over earth. The phase is earth, and the chakra is the solar plexus.

This hexagram is often spoken of as depicting a landslide; the single yang line at the top of the mountain cannot be supported properly by the advancing yin lines of the earth, and therefore yang energy will soon disintegrate. The youngest son (the mountain) may want to advance or stand alone away from his mother (the three yin lines at the bottom), but his strength has been vastly reduced; he has no other recourse but to accept the darkness of the time and await the turning of the seasons. As Master Ni succinctly says, "Now is not a good time to go anywhere." (p. 344)

We see here a reminder of two things. First, stay grounded and be prepared; the mountain also indicates thoughtfulness and steadiness. We know that winter will soon be upon us; plan for the season. Be sure the pantry is well stocked, and the firewood is close at hand. Don't even try to rush around at the last minute, or you may feel as though you are caught in the middle of a landslide! Second, this is not a time to depend on others - remember, the yin lines cannot offer proper support to our actions. Depending too much on others could mean lack of preparedness just when it's most needed.

This hexagram looks too much like a doorway to not comment upon that symbolism. This is definitely a time to "go inside," go within yourself. This is surely the time for meditation (mountain), and calmness and transformation (earth). Hopefully, your transformation won't be of the "landslide" variety. But even the fall of a mountain opens new vistas and new paths to tread, though the going may at first be rocky.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 2, Kun, Responding or Receptiveness, earth over earth. The phase is earth, and the chakra is the sacral.

Due to the reintroduction of yang energy at the Winter Solstice, November is the most yin month of the year, hence the hexagram of six yin lines. This is the hexagram of Mother Earth, just as the trigram of three yin lines represents the Mother in the trigram family.

She is both the receptive and the responsive for that is the interaction of her strength, and yet she contains the potential to manifest all creative possibilities. At this time we are like the seed in its furrow of earth waiting patiently (for how else does a seed wait?) for the warmth of spring to stir us to virtuous deeds. It is a time to be completely grounded and know where you come from, a time to follow along with the seeming drowsiness of winter, and yet a time of great potential if one practices meditations and visualizations for the future.

Now is the time of gestation. Imagine yourself as the earth resting beneath her snowy blanket. Go within, Be quiet, Follow your dreams.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 24, Fu, Return or Turning Back, Earth (upper three lines) over Thunder (lower three lines). The element or phase is Earth, and the chakra is the Root Chakra. In the Chinese calendar, December is the eleventh month. It embraces the Winter Solstice which is marked by the single Yang line at the bottom of the hexagram; outward, active energies are just beginning to cycle in and upward but, as yet, remain buried deep within the stillness of earth like a seed awaiting the summons of spring. The symbolism of this hexagram is of a person turning homeward, or inward. Spiritually, it indicates a time of turning back to the source, our inner selves and our inner connections. This is a good month to sit by a warm fire with a cup of hot cocoa (with marshmallows!) and contemplate or meditate upon that inner spark of the lightening which accompanies Thunder, that tiny flame in the DanTien (our Spirit Energy Center) which connects us to the Higher Powers.

The Winter Solstice itself is governed by hexagram number 29, Kan, Darkness or Abyss, water over water. Here we see the yang energies, lines 2 and 5, trapped between yin energies just as the short winter days are trapped between long winter nights. (The lines that make the sign for water can be seen as the winter solstice day from midnight to midnight: 8 hours of darkness - bottom yin line, 8 hours of light - center yang line, and 8 hours of darkness - top yin line.) One way to interpret and apply the symbolism of this hexagram is to be like water: the water (the yang line) flows between the earthen banks (the yin lines). It remains steadfast on its course. Water has the ability to overcome the firmest of obstacles with its gentle persistence. (Consider its effect on the Grand Canyon!) When we meet obstacles with gentleness, remain flowing and letting the earth guide us along our course, we will usually find that the turning point toward a favorable outcome is nearer than we expected.


The I Ching hexagram governing this month is number 19, Lin, Approaching or Advancing, Earth (upper three lines) over Marsh or Lake (lower three lines). In the Chinese calendar, January is the twelfth month. The element or phase is Earth. Yang energy is increasing (note there are now two yang lines at the bottom) and moving upward and outward. Internally, this indicates energy moving upward along the spine to the Sacral Chakra. (Energy movement is upward following the yang Governing Vessel Meridian until June when it reaches the Crown. In July, it begins to descend along the yin Conception Vessel Meridian (front of the body), returning to the Root Chakra again in December. In Qi Gong, moving qi through your body along these channels is called the Small Heavenly Circuit.)

The trigram Earth represents the mother; the Lake represents the youngest daughter, and the mouth or voice. One of the written symbols for this hexagram indicates a person in a position of leadership; some suggest a teacher. The name of the hexagram implies the leader or teacher is growing toward greatness. Another part of the ancient writing for Lin shows three mouths, indicating "people." Perhaps the leader is moving toward greatness with her timely and correct advice or lessons to her followers.

Spiritually, it is a time to become more active, and yet be responsive to your inner voice. Perhaps dialoguing with your inner mother-self in a journal would be beneficial and help to clarify lessons you have learned that have led you on the correct path. It is also a time to be a good daughter/listener, to yourself and to others. As the Sacral is the chakra of partnerships, your inner dialogue may find an outward expression by your adopting the role of a big sister, leading or teaching others through the sharing of your experiences and insights.

For an excellent explanation of how these hexagrams came to represent the months of the year, see LiSe Heyboer's "From Gui to Gua" page on her website "Yi Jing, book of sun and moon."

No comments: