...life can be translucent

Trigrams in the Sequence IV

*** Warning – highly speculative post coming up ***

In a previous post, ‘Looking at hexagram pairs’, I mentioned Carrin Dunne’s names for two distinctive kinds of Pair. The four pairs that are complementary and not inverse she calls Dragon Gates. And the four pairs that are both inverted and complementary she calls River Crossings. Those are:


|||:::      :::|||


|::||:      :||::|


::|:||      ||:|::


|:|:|:      :|:|:|

You can see how each hexagram is both the inverse of its pair (the same pattern upside-down) and also its opposite (change every line from yin to yang and vice-versa).

In the movements of trigrams between the pairs in the King Wen sequence, there is one particular kind of movement that only happens at the entrance to these River Crossing pairs. (I’m only taking account of movement between Pairs, as the same trigram is automatically present in both hexagrams of an inverted pair whenever that trigram itself is symmetrical – qian, kun, li or kan.)

What kinds of trigram ‘movement’ are there, in the Yijing as a whole?

Frequently, there’s a new inner trigram while the outer trigram remains the same (as in the shift from Hexagram 12 to 13, for instance.) Sometimes the inner trigram remains constant while outer forces change – as in the shift from 6 to 7, the waters raging against heaven, and then the waters flowing under the earth. (Perhaps the difference between looking outward/upward and perceiving an authority opposed to your inner ‘currents’, and looking out to see an open field for their action?)

What about the same trigram occurring from one hexagram to the next, but in a different position? That is, moving from the inside outward, or the outside in?

Someone correct me if I get this wrong, but I believe that there is only one place where an inner trigram is externalised between Pairs: kan is the inner trigram of Hexagram 4, the outer trigram of Hexagram 5. Food for thought in itself.

The movement that occurs only on the way into a River Crossing pair is the passage of a trigram from outer to inner. Qian moves inward from 10 into 11; zhen moves inward from 16 to 17; gen does the same, in a sense, from 52 to 53. (The pattern doesn’t occur on the way into 63-64.)

Why might this be?

These four ‘River Crossings’ are unique in that they represent both a change in attitude or perspective (an inversion) and also a complete change, where nothing remains the same (they’re complementary). This makes them radically challenging places – a very different perspective, a personal 180 degree turn, that is somehow vitally necessary to complete the experience. This is esepcially true if you receive the second hexagram in one of these pairs – 12, 18, 54 or 64. It seems that you have to engage with the opposites in order to have a complete awareness of what it means to be creative, or to be guided by the flow, or to ‘marry’, or to complete a change.

Why should this be an especially good place to ‘internalise’ a trigram?
After some time spent puzzling over this, I asked Yi what was being done to the trigrams here, and received Hexagram 6, Conflict, changing to Hexagram 45, Gathering Together. (Just mentioning that so you know where the following ideas come from.)

I would suggest that qian, zhen and gen might be embraced by these Pairs in order to handle conflicts about each trigram, bringing to bear the focused energy of the River Crossings’ particular brand of change. In the spirit of Hexagram 45, it sets them in a bigger context and makes them part of a longer story.

Moving into the first hexagram (11, 17, 54), the trigram ‘comes home’. There is no struggle to cloud the issue, and you get a much clearer perspective on how this particular trigram is ‘meant’ to work. Only then are you ready to ‘cross the river’ with it (there’s ‘no harvest in crossing the great river’ while you are still in Conflict).

So perhaps…

… if you are grappling with questions of creativity and drive, of how to get the benefits of these big forces without getting burned (or bitten) … then you might need to experience the full glories of creative fulfilment in Hexagram 11. Then you’ll be as ready as you can be to handle, and ultimately transform, the stasis of Hexagram 12.

… if you are struggling with change beyond your control taking your security from you, or with the strength and volatility of your own motivations… then you might need to experience trustworthy guidance, even beyond your understanding or control, in Hexagram 17. (And then be ready to delve into those hidden forces in 18.)

… if you are working to balance personal firmness, knowing your own unchanging essence, with a need to connect to others… then you might be glad to grow gradually, steadily towards union, like the tree grows on the mountain. (And then experience the challenge of relationship as complete, uncontrollable change as the Marrying Maiden.)

Clearly, this isn’t going to be the final word about qian, zhen or gen: nothing is permanently ‘fixed’ here. And another lesson from Hexagram 6, line 6 (part of my reading about the trigrams): there’s no solid, lasting achievement in these ideas. They’re something to play with and explore, not something to mount on the wall as a trophy. So I have hedged this post about with as many ‘maybe’s, ‘might’s and ‘perhaps’s as I could, and fully anticipate that there will be comments to reveal its inadequacy within hours. 🙂

I Ching, trigrams, hexagrams

One response to Trigrams in the Sequence IV

  1. I lke this very much – those River Crossings have been on my mind for quite some time – I feel they are important – but I could not get a handle on them… this may well be the door – thanks


Leave a reply

Office 17622,
PO Box 6945,
United Kingdom

Phone/ Voicemail:
+44 (0)20 3287 3053 (UK)
+1 (561) 459-4758 (US).