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Category Archives: Connecting hexagrams

Speculations on relations between hexagrams: the Sequence, patterns of trigrams, nuclear hexagrams, etc

Complementary hexagrams and direction

Complementary hexagrams and direction

I hope this post will make sense. It’s something I thought of in the small hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep, and started counting complementary hexagrams instead of sheep (as you do…) –

Here’s a picture of the Sequence of Hexagrams:

representing the hexagram pairs in a line (see text!)

Hm… maybe that could do with some explanation:

  • Each complementary pair (including the ones that are inverse pairs as well) is represented with ( ).
  • Every other pair is represented by an arrow: facing forward if that pair’s complement is ahead of it in the Sequence, facing backward if it’s behind it. You can think of it as which way the hexagrams are ‘looking’ to find the patterns that complement them.
  • The curly brackets don’t represent hexagrams – they just enclose groups of hexagrams that are one another’s complements. The big, orange brackets enclose the Vessel Casting group, 3-50; the others enclose hexagrams 7-16, 37-40 and 51-60. (I could have added more brackets around 51-64, but I thought we’d got enough to be going on with.) If you’re a Change Circle member, you may already be aware of a lot of very lovely – and very meaningful – patterns and reflections created inside those curly brackets that I described in the Exploring the Sequence book last year.
  • The little blue letters identify some interesting moments.

Now of course, you’d expect more of the hexagrams in the first half of the book to be looking forward to find their complements, and most of those in the second half to be looking back. The fun starts when you look at the exceptions: the moments when the expected flow forward or backward changes direction.

At ‘a’, you get the first hexagrams to look back to find their complement. Since we entered the Vessel Casting set, each pair has been looking forward – until you reach Hexagram 12, Blocked:


That turns us around to look back. I’ve written about this structure, and the historical moment I think it encodes, in Exploring the Sequence – but even without that level of detail, isn’t it interesting that Hexagram 12 should be the one to compel us to look back?

We start looking forward again at ‘b’. That’s Hexagram 19, Nearing:


We go past the complementary pairs at the end of the Upper Canon – 27/28, 29/30 – and into the Lower Canon, where (at ‘c’) we find the first backward-looking arrow for a while – at Hexagram 33, Retreat,


…which as you see is the complement of 19. 19 is about going forward, and 33 is about going back. (Also, from hexagrams 19/20 to 33/34 inclusive makes eight pairs. ‘Arrival at the eighth month…’?)

The letter ‘d’ marks a unique moment, when complementary/opposite hexagrams are adjacent in the Sequence without being part of a complementary pair. By this point it might not surprise you that this moment’s marked with Hexagram 38, Opposing.

As you can see from the arrows, this is another moment of changing direction. Travelling south and west instead of north and east, perhaps. Coming instead of going, as you might say: turning around.

‘Above the mountain, there is water. Limping.
Noble one turns himself around to renew his character.’

(Hexagram 39, the Image)

From then until the end of the Vessel Casting pattern at Hexagram 50, every pair is ‘coming back’. It takes a full-size Shock to flip us around again and make us look forward.

Really, you might think someone had done this on purpose.

Once you start looking at where individual pairs find their complements, there’s more to see. For instance, the greatest distance between two complementary pairs is that between 3 and 50: it takes a long time to complete a Vessel. The second greatest distance begins with Hexagram 5, which has to Wait until Hexagram 35 for its complement. (Oddly enough, 3/4, 5/6, 35/36 and 49/50 are eight of the twelve ‘Steps of Change’ reached by changing single lines in 63/64, at the very end. The remaining four are 37/38 and 39/40, the closest complements.)

(And isn’t the third-biggest distance between 21, Biting Through, and 48, the Well, two hexagrams about closing or bridging a gap?)

(Add your own parentheses ad lib; there is so much to this book that we haven’t yet seen. I can’t recommend it as a soporific, though.)

sheep in a field

Vessel Casting Patterns

Vessel Casting Patterns
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Casting the Vessel

A few years ago now, I first noticed the Vessel Casting pattern in the Sequence, and got tremendously excited about it. For the past couple of months, I’ve been developing those ideas and their application in readings for Part 5 of ‘Exploring the Sequence’, which Change Circle members can find here. For this post, I… Continue Reading

Clarity and the flying bird

Clarity and the flying bird
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Two-line relationships

I’ve written before about looking at groups of changing lines, and seeing how they point towards their changed hexagram – just as a single line would do. (I’ve just added all those posts to a series, so you can find them all easily.) Here’s another for the collection: Hexagram 62, Small Exceeding, changing at lines… Continue Reading

What’s wrong with carting corpses, anyway?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Two-line relationships

Simple Two lines in Hexagram 7, the Army, talk about carting corpses: line 3: ‘Perhaps the army carts corpses. Pitfall.’ and line 5: ‘The fields have game Fruitful to speak of capture: No mistake. When the elder son leads the army, And younger son carts corpses: Constancy, pitfall.’ The core meaning is surely intuitively obvious:… Continue Reading

Nourished by synchronicity: 38 zhi 27

Nourished by synchronicity: 38 zhi 27

The relating hexagram, the one revealed by the moving line changes, can show the aspect or quality of the cast hexagram embodied in those lines. One way to imagine this is to say to yourself, ‘The reading shows how [primary hexagram] might do [relating hexagram].’ That works well in readings, because the relating hexagram typically represents… Continue Reading

Nuclear families of 37 and 38

Nuclear families of 37 and 38

Back in 2007, I wrote about the nuclear family of Hexagram 37, People in the Home. That’s the four hexagrams that contain 37 as a nuclear, coiled in potential within their inner lines. If you unpack lines 2,3,4 and 3,4,5 from any of these hexagrams –        – you see Hexagram 37: I’ve just been looking… Continue Reading

Theme and variations

From its first appearance in the first words of the Yi, the creative flow through the four characters yuan heng li zhen is tangible. Its power is felt in the other five hexagrams with the whole, uninterrupted formula. But the natural cohesion of the four-word formula can also be felt in the hexagrams where it… Continue Reading

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