Originally the world contained nothing but emptiness. It all commenced with the appearance of day and night, and then that of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Afterwards, the eight elementary substances, heaven and earth, fire and water, wind and thunder, as well as mountain and marsh, were formed. With their development the world was at last full of variety.

 

A spaceless and timeless world (wu2ji2, no ridgepole, in Yi’s terminology, which means no boundary, like that of an inexistent house or world owing to lack of a ridgepole for its roof or dome)

In the beginning there was neither space nor time; the matrix of the cosmos existed in a form of invisible energy, wherein the positive and the negative ones were equal and integrated. Later on the two energies started circling and polarities, i.e. the origin of the whole creation, were created.

 

The polarities (liang3yi2, two regulated categories, like two semi-domes of the heavens which are divided and sustained by a ridgepole)

The polarities are composed of Yang and Yin which emerged from the heavens in the form of brightness and darkness, like day and night. These two are opposites but symbiotic as shown on Tai4 Ji2 Tu2 (太極圖, i.e. a drawing of the great ridgepole); one is white while the other is black; white has black in its centre and black has white in its centre. When one increases, the other will decrease; and when one decreases, the other will increase.

Yang is converted into things of masculinity and expresses itself on the earth in the form of largeness, firmness (or rigidity) and strength, as well as the male, and presents itself in terms of hexagram as the masculine line ; the masculine tends to move.

 Yin is converted into things of femininity and expresses itself on the earth in the form of smallness, softness (or tenderness) and weakness, as well as the female, and presents itself in terms of hexagram as the feminine line ; the feminine tends to remain still.

In Chinese culture, Yang and Yin additionally refer to opposites in some other respects, for instance, good and evil (in terms of personality, a gentleman and a villain), existence (expressed in various different forms, such as solidness, fullness, etc.) and inexistence (such as hollowness, void or emptiness, etc.), this world and the realm of the dead, warmness (created by sunlight) and coldness.

 

Four dualities (si4xiang4, four phenomena, like those of dawn, midday, dusk and midnight created by the revolution of the heavens)

Once Yang (in the form of brightness) and Yin (darkness) start to interplay, time comes into existence as darkness changes to brightness at dawn, and then brightness starts to develop; after brightness reaches its peak at midday, it will decline; at dusk brightness changes to darkness.

 

The young Yang (masculine): Yang (brightness) appears, and Yin (darkness) will retreat and disappears.

The old Yang (masculine): all Yangs (brightness) appear, and Yang entity forms but it is going to change to Yin.

The young Yin (feminine): Yin (darkness) appears, and Yang (brightness) will retreat and disappears.

The old Yin (feminine): all Yins (darkness) appear, and Yin entity forms but it is going to change to Yang.

 

With the reciprocal increase and decrease between Yang and Yin in the form of warmness and coldness, spring, summer, autumn and winter are created. The revolution of day and night, as well as four seasons makes the Qi () of the world move. Qi is an invisible power which is permeating the human body and the world.

 

Eight trigrams (bagua4, i.e. eight symbolic signs for the eight elementary substances in the world)

Qi circulates and the world is created. The world is basically composed of heaven, earth, and life. Hereby the trigram is borne in the form of those three essences (san3cai4, i.e. three sprouting plants which are teeming with abilities to flourish): earth, humanity and heaven.

Heaven and earth are positioned; the mountain and the marsh are shaped; the thunder arouses all life; the wind starts blowing; fire is ignited and water condenses; the eight elementary substances of the world are created.

The polarities give birth to four dualities, and the four dualities create eight trigrams; hence Qian, Kun, Zhen, Xun, Kan, Li, Gen and Dui are formed, respectively.

Thus the eight elementary substances are represented by eight trigrams, respectively, in accordance with the image of each trigram and its relevant characteristics.

 

Qian2 features creativeness and perseverance, and denotes heaven. It is composed entirely of the masculine lines. As the masculine is strong and firm, the three masculine lines act together signifying perseverance like the heavens persisting with their revolving day and night, season after season. Therefore it represents heaven, and its dignity is like that of Heaven. As Heaven originates the world, it is symbolic of creativeness.

 

Kun1 features submissiveness and denotes earth. It is composed entirely of the feminine (tender) lines; therefore it is submissive as earth faithfully sustains the heavens. It also features receptiveness and expansiveness as earth accommodates the whole of creation and expands endlessly to the horizon. In ancient times people didn't know that the Earth exists in the form of a planet; therefore earth in the I Ching stands for the land on which humans live.
 

Zhen4 features move and denotes the thunder. The masculine tends to move upward while the feminine remains still; therefore it quakes like thundering. The thunder booms arousing all life, like its masculine line driving the feminine lines; therefore it is signified as 'to move'. 

 

Xun4 features entrance and denotes the wind. The feminine line makes its way into the masculine (heavy) lines and remains tame beneath. Therefore, in addition to entrance, it also features prostration. On some occasions it is signified as modesty and obedience. It represents the wind, as the wind can penetrate everywhere.

 

Kan3 features the abyss and denotes water. It looks like earth sinking in the middle where a masculine line is trapped by two feminine lines like plunged in an abyss. It also shows a river running though rapids; therefore it denotes water (, the oracle bone scrip of water).

 

Li2 features clinging and denotes fire. It is a trigram wherein two masculine lines cling to one feminine line, like a flame with brightness (masculine) outside and darkness (feminine) in the middle; therefore it represents fire. Fire must cling to wood to burn.

 

Gen4 features keeping still and denotes the mountain. The feminine lines remain still internally and the masculine line outside reaches the end; therefore it features keeping still, i.e. a stop due to self-restraint and external restriction. The rigid masculine creates a barrier on earth resembling a mountain which stands still and restrains people from travelling; therefore it represents the mountain.

 

Dui4 features joy and denotes the marsh. The tender (feminine) line appears outside the rigid (masculine) lines showing a pleasant countenance; therefore it features joy. Differing from the water depicted by trigram Kan, it has water only at the top; therefore it represents the marsh. It also looks like a mouth; therefore it is signified as ‘to speak’ and 'to convince' as well.

 

64 Hexagrams

Hereafter the eight trigrams intermingle with one another forming 64 hexagrams. The image of each hexagram, created by the paired trigrams, and looking as if hanging up-side-down from the heavens, illustrates the oracle. Each hexagram has a particular subject and its 6 lines present six different space and time manifestations in the era or world of this subject. The lines perform according their positions and statuses, as well as their virtue and abilities. Thus, the whole complex variety of life is covered and displayed through the 64 hexagrams and their 384 lines.