Throughout the entire “Yi Jing”, four extremely important hexagrams reflect four phenomena in the natural world that play a decisive role in human life. These four Hexagrams are also the premise and basis for studying and analyzing all the other Three-Yao and Six-Yao Hexagrams.
In a brief description, these four phenomena are standing for the universe, the earth, the sun, and the moon.
- Qian – The universe:
It appears as an image of three lines, three Yang-Yao. It basically stands for the Yang energy for everything before it comes into being. In another explanation, the innate character, the destination of a thing. It symbolizes that all things are innately vigorous and have positive, upward, active, warm, and bright characteristics.
When mapping it to the universe, Qian also represents heaven, the sky. When we look up, the sky is always above us. When we get to the other side of the earth, or even into outer space, we still see the sky when we look up. The sky is always above us. From this original metaphor, Qian has the following extended meaning:
- When mapping it to human society, it represents the king, the president, the master, the God.
- When mapping it to humankind, it represents man, or the male, the husband.
- When mapping it to the human body, it represents the human spiritual soul, mind, and thoughts.
Qian is one of the most representative terms in Chinese culture. What’s special about it is that it represents the instinct of the universe and the source of everything. It represents a major feature of Chinese culture. Chinese culture does not have its own personalized God or Bodhisattva. It is neither materialistic nor idealistic, but talks about the instinct of the universe. The origin of Chinese culture is not religious, nor is it pure philosophy, but scientific.
2. Kun – The Earth:
The Kun Hexagram appears as an image of three broken lines, three Yin-Yao. It basically stands for the Yin energy for everything after it comes into being, the acquired character of everything. It symbolizes that everything has a restrained, quiet, tolerant, downward, cold, dark, and soft side.
When mapping it to the universe, Kun represents the earth, the moon. Human beings are the culture of the earth. The earth is always trampled under the feet of human beings. Imagine this scenario, by analogy, we get:
- When mapping it to human society, it represents the queen, the people, and the team.
- When using it to analyze animals, it always represents the females, like the mare or the cow.
- When mapping it to humankind, it represents a woman or a female.
The greatest thing in the world is maternal love. Every religion, in the end, worships women. The Catholic Virgin and the Buddhist Guanyin Bodhisattva are all women; because maternal love is the most compassionate and greatest. The Chinese culture has always believed that “the mother is strong”. This is true not only for humans but also for animals.
Kun also represents the moon and the earth. The light of the moon comes from the sun, and the earth rotates in the opposite direction around the sun.
All further analysis and research related to the Kun Hexagrams will take its basic knowledge as the starting point.
3. Li – The Sun:
Li is an image of the sun. The sun is the origin energy source for life and civilization on the earth, as well as the total driving force for human life and production to survive and develop. It carries all the characteristics of Qian Hexagram. The ancients respected the sky and took the universe as the greatest manifestos of the world.
But the ancient ancestors, with neither astronomical telescopes, nor computer processors and algorithms, discovered a black spot in the sun. We call those black spots sunspots now. Based on this characteristic, the ancestors replaced the middle Yang-Yao in the Qian Hexagram with a Yin-Yao to represent the black spots in the sun, thus obtaining the above three-painted hexagram of Li.
Take its energy and active characteristics from the universal Qian hexagram, and map the Li hexagram to the earth, it represents the fire.
4. Kan – The Moon:
Kan is an image of the moon. The ancients discovered that the moon does not emit light, but absorbs sunlight and reflects it. The moon itself is just a dark and cold star, which is bright because it reflects sunlight.
So, the ancestors replaced the middle Yin-Yao in the Kan Hexagram with a Yang-Yao to represent the reflected sunlight by the dark and cold moon, thus obtaining this three-painted hexagram of Kan. The moon reflects the sun’s rays and illuminates the dark areas of the earth. It is just like how the earth bears all the lives and creatures on it. Because of the moon’s feminine and low-profiled beauty, the ancients used the image of Kan to describe flowing water on the earth. This must be the reason how this Chinese character came into being. It not only contains philosophical meanings but also is a pictographic metaphor.