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Sun / Moon / Venus and Change (8 Trigrams / 5 Wu Xing)

astalder

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The planet Venus stations 5 times every 8 years, drawing a pentagram with its stations [1]. These points shift positions only very slightly every 8 year cycle. In eight solar years there are also almost exactly 99 new moons.

In the "West", there is clear evidence that this was known to people in antiquity. The Olympics were alternatively held every 49 and 50 lunar months [2], i.e. about every 4 years and 49+50 = 99 (=8 solar years). The Mesopotamian goddess of love Ishtar was associated with an eight-pointed star, as well as with sun and moon [3].

In China, where I assume people must have been aware of these astronomical cycles, this seems to be reflected in least in two places:
- Using yarrow stalks to ask the I Ching, you start with 50 and put one away at the beginning, so that 49 remain.
- Change is represented by 8 Trigrams and/or 5 Wu Xing.

Is anybody aware of more such indications in Chinese culture or is the correlation with astronomy even explictly described in some ancient Chinese texts?

Alain

[1] http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/five-petals-of-venus
[2] Valerie Vaughan, The Origin of the Olympics: Ancient Calendars and the Race Against Time, http://www.onereed.com/articles/vvf/olympics.html
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishtar
 

astalder

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The eight-pointed star of Ishtar appears to be because every solar year the moon "advances" 3/8 of the circle, i.e. if the first solar year starts with a new moon, the second year starts with a waxing gibbous moon (3/4 full, getting fuller), the third year with a last quarter moon (1/2 full, getting less full), and so on.

Moon phases: http://s1.thingpic.com/images/w5/NbyYDABUn1HJAqpbyEtq8g6A.jpeg

Interestingly this gives two astronomically natural sequences of 8 phases of the moon (the normal sequence of phases during a month and the sequence of phases every solar year), which superficially reminds of old and new heaven arrangements of the trigrams.

But, so far, I could not make this idea more concrete, first attempts to map moon phases to trigrams were not very revealing, but I will continue to ponder this from time to time...

Once again, if anybody knows of previous work that relates the I Ching to the motion etc. of sun, moon and/or Venus, I would be interested to hear about it :)

Alain
 

tacrab

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David Pankenier researches Chinese astronomy, which was very advanced in Shang and Zhou times.
 

astalder

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I got some additional input in a forum primarily around Western culture regarding these cycles:

The greatest apparent angular distance of Venus from the sun (as morning or evening star) ist about 45-48°, i.e. about 1/8 of the circle, which would also relate the eight-pointed star directly to Venus.

For Venus the 8 year periodicity is very precise, shifts its position only about 1/4 of a degree at every 8 year cycle.

In contrast, for the moon the 8 year periodicity is about 18° off every 8 year cycle, but the moon still comes closer than in any other of the 6 years in between, so if you just look at moon phases, they essentially repeat after 8 years. (There is a more precise cycle of 19 years, the metonic cycle, where the moon is only around 4° off.)

The pentagram is related to the Golden Ratio (which I knew before), but what I did not realize is that that 8 / 5 = 1.6 is almost exactly the Golden Ratio (sqrt(5)+1) / 2 = 1.618..., i.e. only about 1% off.

Alain
 

lilly

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David Pankenier´s book "Astrology and Cosmology in early China" is really an eyeopener concerning many of I Chings images. F. e. +2000 years back a huge star constellation (Cerulan Dragon) was observed in China. Pakenier points out that the Cerulan Dragon´s appearance and sky movement during early to late summer was a prominent seasonal indicator thus of greatest importance. It is linked to Hex1 and its lines. The Cerulan Dragon consisted of a couple of bright shining stars. 5 of them formed a square (Great Square of Pegasus) called Ding.... etc etc.. The book is really a must-read for everybody diving deeper into exploring the origins of the I Ching text.
 

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