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Bagua diagram explanation from Zhao Huiqian's 六書本義; Liùshū běnyì, 1370s
Chinese name
Literal meaningEight symbols
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetBát quái
Chữ Hán八卦
Korean name
Japanese name

The bagua (Chinese: 八卦; pinyin: bāguà; lit. 'eight trigrams') is a set of symbols from China intended to illustrate the nature of reality as being composed of mutually opposing forces reinforcing one another. Bagua is a group of trigrams—composed of three lines, each either "broken" or "unbroken", which represent yin and yang, respectively.[1] Each line having two possible states allows for a total of 2 × 2 × 2 = 8 trigrams, whose early enumeration and characterization in China has had an effect on the history of Chinese philosophy and cosmology.

The trigrams are related to the divination practice as described within the I Ching and practiced as part of the Shang and Zhou state religion, as well as with the concepts of taiji and the five elements within traditional Chinese metaphysics.[citation needed] The trigrams have correspondences in astronomy, divination, meditation, astrology, geography, geomancy (feng shui), anatomy, decorative arts, the family, martial arts (particularly tai chi and baguazhang), Chinese medicine and elsewhere.[2][3]

The bagua can appear singly or in combination, and is commonly encountered in two different arrangements: the Primordial (先天八卦), "Earlier Heaven",[4] or "Fuxi" bagua (伏羲八卦) and the Manifested (後天八卦), "Later Heaven",[4] or "King Wen" bagua.

In the I Ching, two trigrams are stacked together to create a six-line figure known as a hexagram. There are 64 possible permutations. The 64 hexagrams and their descriptions make up the book. The trigram symbolism can be used to interpret the hexagram figure and text. An example from Hexagram 19 commentary is "The earth above the lake: The image of Approach. Thus the superior man is inexhaustible in his will to teach, and without limits in his tolerance and protection of the people."[5] The trigrams have been used to organize Yijing charts as seen below.


There are eight possible combinations to render the various trigrams:

Trigram figure Possible binary value[6] Possible decimal sequential number[6] Name Translation: Wilhelm[7] Image in nature (pp.l-li) Phase Later Heaven's Direction (p. 269)[citation needed] Later Heaven's Equinox or Solstice[citation needed] Earlier Heaven's Direction[citation needed] Earlier Heaven's Equinox or Solstice[citation needed] Family relationship (p. 274) Body part (p. 274) Attribute (p. 273) Stage/ state (pp.l-li) Animal (p. 273) Obtained Images[8]
1 111 7
the Creative, '(natural) force' heaven, sky
metal northwest south Summer Solstice father head strong, persisting creative
three lines
2 110 6
the Joyous, 'open (reflection)' lake, marsh
metal west Fall Equinox southeast third daughter mouth pleasure tranquil (complete devotion)
sheep, goat
flawed above
3 101 5
the Clinging, 'radiance' fire, glow
fire south Summer Solstice east Spring Equinox second daughter eye light-giving, humane "dependence" clinging, clarity, adaptable
hollow middle
4 100 4
the Arousing, 'shake' thunder
wood east Spring Equinox northeast first son foot inciting movement initiative
face-up jar
5 011 3
the Gentle, 'ground' wind, air
wood southeast southwest first daughter thigh penetrating gentle entrance
broken below
6 010 2
the Abysmal, 'gorge' water
water north Winter Solstice west Fall Equinox second son ear dangerous in-motion
full middle
7 001 1
Keeping Still, bound mountain
earth northeast northwest third son hand resting, stand-still completion
face-down bowl
8 000 0
the Receptive, field ground, earth
earth southwest north Winter Solstice mother belly devoted, yielding receptive
six fragments
Alternative conversion of the trigrams to binary[9]

Relation to other principles[edit]

The Book of Changes listed two sources for the eight trigrams. The chapter Xì Cí shàng; 'The Great Treatise I' explains the first source thus:[10][11]


Yì yǒu tàijí,
shì shēng liǎngyí,
liǎngyí shēng sìxiàng,
sìxiàng shēng bāguà.

Legge's translation:
  [I]n (the system of) the Yi there is the Grand Terminus,
  which produced the two elementary Forms.
  Those two Forms produced the Four emblematic Symbols,
  which again produced the eight Trigrams.

 Adler's translation
  In Change there is the Supreme Polarity,
  which generates the Two Modes (兩儀; liangyi).
  The Two Modes generate the Four Images (sixiang),
  and the Four Images generate the Eight Trigrams.

Derivation of the bagua

This explanation would later be modified to:[citation needed]

The Limitless (wuji) produces the delimited, and this is the Absolute (taiji). The taiji produces two forms, named Yin and Yang.[a] (Adler's 2012 translation: "Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity (無極而極)! The Supreme Polarity in activity generates yang ; yet at the limit of activity it is still. In stillness it generates yin ; yet at the limit of stillness it is also active. Activity and stillness alternate; each is the basis of the other. In distinguishing yin and yang, the Two Modes are thereby established.")[12][13]

The two forms produce four phenomena named lesser yang, great yang (tai yang also means the Sun), lesser yin, and great yin (tai yin also means the Moon). The four phenomena act on the eight trigrams (ba gua), eight eights are sixty-four hexagrams.

Another chapter, 說卦; Shuō Guà; 'Discussing the Trigrams', characterizes the ; Qián trigram, which represents Heaven, and ; Kūn, which represent earth, as father and mother, respectively, of the six other trigrams, who are their three sons (; Zhèn, ; Kǎn, ; Gèn) and three daughters (; Xùn, ; , ; Duì).[14]

The trigrams are related to the five elements of Wu Xing, which are used by feng shui practitioners and in traditional Chinese medicine. The elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. The Water and Fire trigrams correspond directly with the Water and Fire elements. The element of Earth corresponds with the trigrams of Earth and Mountain. The element of Wood corresponds with the trigrams of Wind (as a force that can erode and penetrate stone) and Thunder. The element of Metal corresponds with the trigrams of Heaven and Lake.[14]

Hexagram lookup table[edit]


(qián) (duì) () (zhèn) (xùn) (kǎn) (gèn) (kūn)
Heaven Lake Flame Thunder Wind Water Mountain Earth
1 43 14 34 9 5 26 11
(qián) (qián) (guài) 大有(dàyǒu) 大壯(dàzhuàng) 小畜(xiǎoxù) () 大畜(dàchù) (tài)
Heaven Force Displacement Great Possessing Great Invigorating Small Harvest Attending Great Accumulating Pervading
10 58 38 54 61 60 41 19
(duì) () (duì) (kuí) 歸妹(guīmèi) 中孚(zhōngfú) (jié) (sǔn) (lín)
Lake Treading Open Polarising Converting the Maiden Inner Truth Articulating Diminishing Nearing
13 49 30 55 37 63 22 36
() 同人(tóngrén) () () (fēng) 家人(jiārén) 既濟(jìjì) () 明夷(míngyí)
Flame Concording People Skinning Radiance Abounding Dwelling People Already Fording Adorning Intelligence Hidden
25 17 21 51 42 3 27 24
(zhèn) 無妄(wúwàng) (suí) 噬嗑(shìhé) (zhèn) () (tún) () ()
Thunder Innocence Following Gnawing Bite Shake Augmenting Sprouting Swallowing Returning
44 28 50 32 57 48 18 46
(xùn) (gòu) 大過(dàguò) (dǐng) (héng) (xùn) (jǐng) () (shēng)
Wind Coupling Great Exceeding Holding Persevering Ground Welling Correcting Ascending
6 47 64 40 59 29 4 7
(kǎn) (sòng) (kùn) 未濟(wèijì) (jiě) (huàn) (kǎn) (méng) (shī)
Water Arguing Confining Before Completion Deliverance Dispersing Gorge Enveloping Leading
33 31 56 62 53 39 52 15
(gèn) (dùn) (xián) () 小過(xiǎoguò) (jiàn) (jiǎn) (gèn) (qiān)
Mountain Retiring Conjoining Sojourning Small Exceeding Infiltrating Limping Bound Humbling
12 45 35 16 20 8 23 2
(kūn) () (cuì) (jìn) () (guàn) () (bāo) (kūn)
Earth Obstruction Clustering Prospering Providing-For Viewing Grouping Stripping Field

Fuxi's "Earlier Heaven"[edit]

Fuxi's "Earlier Heaven" bagua arrangement
 Qián Sky (Heaven) Summer Creative  Father 南 South Expansive energy, the sky. For further information, see tiān.
 Xùn 風 Wind Summer Gentle 長女 Eldest Daughter 西南 Southwest Gentle penetration, flexibility.
 Kǎn Water Autumn Abysmal 中男 Middle Son 西 West Danger, rapid rivers, the abyss, the moon.
 Gèn Mountain Autumn Still 少男 Youngest Son 西北 Northwest Stillness, immovability.
 Kūn Earth Winter Receptive  Mother  North Receptive energy, that which yields. For further information, see .
 Zhèn Thunder Winter Arousing 長男 Eldest Son 東北 Northeast Excitation, revolution, division.
 Lí Fire Spring Clinging 中女 Middle Daughter  East Rapid movement, radiance, the sun.
 Duì Lake Spring Joyous 少女 Youngest Daughter 東南 Southeast Joy, satisfaction, stagnation.

King Wen's "Later Heaven"[edit]

King Wen "Later Heaven" bagua arrangement
Li  Fire Summer Clinging 中女 Middle Daughter  South Pulsing motion, radiance, the luminaries.
 Kun  Earth Summer Receptive  Mother 西南 Southwest Receptive energy, that which yields.
 Dui  Lake Autumn Joyous 少女 Youngest Daughter 西 West Joy, satisfaction, stagnation.
 Qian  Heaven Autumn Creative  Father 西北 Northwest Expansive energy, the sky.
 Kan  Water Winter Abysmal 中男 Middle Son  North Danger, rapid rivers, the abyss, the moon.
 Gen  Mountain Winter Still 少男 Youngest Son 東北 Northeast Stillness, immovability.
 Zhen  Thunder Spring Arousing 長男 Eldest Son  East Excitation, revolution, division.
 Xun  Wind Spring Gentle 長女 Eldest Daughter 東南 Southeast Gentle penetration, flexibility.

In feng shui[edit]

The bagua is a tool in the majority of feng shui schools. The bagua used in feng shui can appear in two different versions: the Earlier Heaven bagua, used for burial sites, and the Later Heaven bagua, used for residences.

Primordial bagua[edit]

Primordial bagua is also known as Fuxi bagua or Earlier Heaven bagua. In traditional Chinese medicine, this sequence is known as the prenatal sequence and is used to understand familial risk for illness or disease, similar to western medicine's understanding of formative medicine and the study of genetics. The Heaven trigram is at the top, the Earth trigram is at the bottom (the South was located at the top in Chinese maps of this period) of the bagua. The Fire trigram is located on the left, while the Water trigram is on the right. Thunder and wind form another pair, being the opposites of each other; the first is on the bottom left next to fire, while the second is next to Heaven on the top right of the bagua. Mountain and Lake form the last pair, with one opposite the to other. The adjustment of the trigrams is symmetrical by forming exact contrary pairs. They symbolize the opposite forces of Yin and Yang and represent a state in which everything is in balance.

Later Heaven bagua[edit]

The sequence of trigrams in the Later Heaven bagua is attributed to King Wen. It is also known as the postnatal bagua arrangement in traditional Chinese medicine; it is used to understand physical, emotional and environmental patterns that influence health or disease, similarly to western medicine's inquiry into functional medical science.[15] In this arrangement, Water is placed downwards and Fire at the top; Thunder is in the East, while Lake is in the West. Contrary to the Earlier Heaven bagua, the Later Heaven bagua is dynamic; energies and the aspects of each of its trigrams flow towards the following. It is the sequence used by the Luo Pan compass, which is used in feng shui and referred to as the manifest pattern; it analyzes the movement of the qi that practitioners believe affect them.

Western bagua[edit]

The popularity of feng shui increased in the West because of the bagua of the eight aspirations. Each trigram corresponds to an aspect of life that also corresponds to one of the cardinal directions. Applying feng shui using the bagua of the eight aspirations (or bagua map for short) made it possible to simplify feng shui and to use it for the general public. Western bagua focuses more heavily on intention than the traditional forms of feng shui.[16]

Experienced practicers of traditional feng shui disregard Western bagua[17] for its simplicity, since it does not take into account the forms of the landscape, time, or the annual cycles. The bagua of the eight aspirations is divided into two branches: the first, which uses the compass and cardinal directions, and the second, which uses the bagua by using the main door. It is clear that, not taking into account the cardinal directions, the second is even more simplified.

Bagua map[edit]

A bagua map is a tool used in Western forms of feng shui to map a room or location and see how the different sections correspond to different aspects in one's life. These sections are believed to relate to every area or aspect of life and are divided into categories such as fame, relationships/marriage, children/creativity, helpful people/travel, career, inner knowledge, family/ancestors/health, and wealth/blessings.

In this system, the map is intended to be used over the land, one's home, office or desk to find areas lacking good chi, and to show where there are spaces that may need rectifying or enhancing in life or the environment.

For example, if the bagua grid is placed over an entire house plan and it shows the toilet, bathroom, laundry, or kitchen in the wealth/blessings area of the map, it would be said that the money coming into that particular environment would disappear very fast.

A Tibetan "Mystic Tablet" containing the Eight Trigrams on top of a large tortoise (presumably, alluding to the animal that presented them to Fuxi), along with the 12 signs of Chinese zodiac, and a smaller tortoise carrying the Lo Shu Square on its shell

In Unicode[edit]

The bagua symbols in the Miscellaneous Symbols block of Unicode include the following:

Miscellaneous Symbols Unicode block
Official Name Glyph Unicode # HTML Element
Trigram for Heaven  ☰ U+2630 ☰ Metal
Trigram for Lake  ☱ U+2631 ☱
Trigram for Fire  ☲ U+2632 ☲ Fire
Trigram for Thunder  ☳ U+2633 ☳ Wood
Trigram for Wind  ☴ U+2634 ☴
Trigram for Water  ☵ U+2635 ☵ Water
Trigram for Mountain  ☶ U+2636 ☶ Earth
Trigram for Earth  ☷ U+2637 ☷

The Miscellaneous Symbols block also encodes the constituents (yang—U+268A; &#9866) and (yin—U+268B; &#9867), as well as the digrams (greater yang—U+268C; &#9868), (lesser yin—U+268D; &#9869), (lesser yang—U+268E; &#9870), and (greater yin—U+268F; &#9871).

The hexagrams they form are separately encoded in the Yijing Hexagram Symbols Unicode block U4DC0..U4DFF.

In culture[edit]

In traditional Chinese medicine, including the profession of acupuncture, the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven arrangements are used to understand the pathogenesis of disease or illness and to select treatment plans specifically related and tailored to a patient's constitution.

In Peking opera, a role with Daoist techniques or military strategy wears a costume decorated with taijitu and bagua.

Baguazhang and tai chi are two Chinese martial arts based on principles derived from bagua.

The 2004 Philippine horror film Feng Shui and its 2014 sequel, Feng Shui 2, revolve around a cursed bagua mirror that kills those who stare into it.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Compare this statement from Zhou Dunyi's 太極圖說 Taijitu shuo "Explanation of the Supreme Polarity Diagram" : 「自無極而為太極。太極動而生陽,動極而靜,靜而生陰,靜極復動。一動一靜,互為其根;分陰分陽,兩儀立焉。」


  1. ^ The World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 19. Chicago: Scott Fetzer Company. 2003. p. 36. ISBN 0-7166-0103-6. OCLC 50204221.
  2. ^ TSUEI, Wei. Roots of Chinese culture and medicine Archived 2012-08-12 at the Wayback Machine Chinese Culture Books Co., 1989.
  3. ^ ZONG, Xiao-Fan and Liscum, Gary. Chinese Medical Palmistry: Your Health in Your Hand, Blue Poppy Press, 1999.
  4. ^ a b Wilhelm, Richard (1950). The I Ching or Book of Changes. translated by Cary F. Baynes, foreword by C. G. Jung, preface to 3rd ed. by Hellmut Wilhelm (1967). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 266, 269. ISBN 0-691-09750-X.
  5. ^ Wilhelm, Richard (1950). I Ching. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 79.. The quote is from the "Image" commentary, which is one of the Ten Wings, part of the Yijing.
  6. ^ a b "Understanding Bagua sequence" (December 6, 2015) Shanghai Daily. Quote: "According to the authentic rules of binary method, the value conversion is bottom-up. The ID numbers of Mountain (☶, 100) and Thunder (☳, 001) should be reversed, [i.e. Mountain (☶)'s binary value should be 001 while Thunder (☳)'s binary value should be 100] [...] their sequential numbers are 0-Earth, 1-Mountain, 2-Water, 3-Wind, 4-Thunder, 5-Fire, 6-Valley, and 7-Sky."
  7. ^ Wilhelm, R. & Baynes, C., (1967): "The I Ching or Book of Changes", With foreword by Carl Jung, Introduction, Bollingen Series XIX, Princeton University Press, (1st ed. 1950)
  8. ^ Zhouyi Jie (Explaining the Zhou's [Book of] Changes) "Bagua Quxiang Ge (Song about how the Eight Trigrams Obtained Their Images)"《八卦取象歌》 (Bagua Quxiang Ge (Song about how the Eight Trigrams Obtained Their Images), quote:「☰乾三連,☷坤六斷,☳震仰盂,☶艮覆碗,☲離中虛,☵坎中滿,☱兌上缺,☴巽下斷。」
  9. ^ "Understanding Bagua sequence" (December 6, 2015) Shanghai Daily. Quote: "Leibniz came up with the ID number of each 3-yao gua's based on the position of yao from top down to base. He defined yang yao (whole line) as 1 and yin yao (broken line) as 0. Here are some examples according to Leibniz-Shao Yong approach. Mountain (☶) can be converted to 100. [...]"
  10. ^ Book of Changes "繫辭上 - Xi Ci I (The Great Treatise) 11.3" with James Legge's translation
  11. ^ Zhu Xi (2020). The Original Meaning of the Yijing: Commentary on the Scripture of Change. Translated by Joseph A. Adler. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 46.
  12. ^ Zhou Dunyi, Taijitu shuo. text at wikisource
  13. ^ Adler, Joseph A. (2012) "On Translating Taiji 太極" in David Jones and He Jinli, eds., Rethinking Zhu Xi: Emerging Patterns Within the Supreme Polarity. Albany: SUNY Press
  14. ^ a b Yi Jing "Shuo Gua 10". Translated by James Legge
  15. ^ Golding, Roisin (2010). The Complete Stems and Branches: Time and Space in Traditional Acupuncture. Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 978-0-7020-2961-5.
  16. ^ Cisek, Jan. Feng Shui London blog, 2007.
  17. ^ Moran, Elizabeth and Master Yu, Joseph. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feng Shui, 3rd Edition, Penguin, 2005.