Last time I splashed out on books I bought not just the shiny new Ritsema/Sabbadini, but also Sarah Allan’s The Shape of the Turtle. And I am enjoying it no end. She writes about Shang myth, but there are many, many resonances in the Zhouyi. But finding one with the trigrams – much younger than these myths – was a surprise. Once again it seems they’re being used in the King Wen Sequence to tell a story.
We know that hexagram 8 alludes to the meeting Yu called after he conquered the floods – how he called lords and spirits together to create the new world, and Fang Feng came late, and was executed. And it is a small step back from there to imagine Yu’s severe self-discipline in Hexagram 7, the Army – and to see how the world is transformed into one of freely chosen relationships and delight in Hexagram 8 by his work of banishing demons. In the trigrams of Hexagram 8, rivers flow over the earth, and are associated with the foundation of the new world of ordered relationships after the chaos of the flood:
‘Above earth is the stream. Seeking union.
The ancient kings founded countless cities to connect those named as feudal lords.’
But before that (as the story was told between the 3rd and 1st century BC)…
Gong Gong contested with Zhuan Xu to become lord. In his rage he butted against Bu Zhou mountain and broke the connection of heaven and earth, so that they tilted. And he stirred up the flood waters and made them swell up towards heaven until they ’embraced the mountains and rose above the hills’. And Sarah Allan says that ‘it seems that those waters which surged to heaven and pressed the Hollow Mulberry in cosmic battle of sky and water were those which were later confined to the netherworld from which they watered the riverbeds.’
Hexagram 6: waters below heaven, Arguing
Hexagram 7: waters below the earth, the Army
Hexagram 8: waters flowing over the earth: Seeking Union