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Xiang Shu Yi Xue 


A Brief History of Xiang Shu Yi Xue


Xiang = Image

Shu = Number, Mathematical Function

Yi Xue = Study of the Changes


Xiang Shu Yi Xue is best described as the study of Yi (Changes) using a mathematical approach. Functions are rigorously defined with the 384 yao as domain, and the 10 heaven stems and 12 earth branches as range. Further mathematical functions are then defined with the purpose of creating an image to receive the message from Heaven. The basis is the concept of "Heaven and Man combine to become one" Tian Ren He Yi    .


Basic Principle: A human being is part of the Universe.


Being part of the Universe, we are able to communicate with the whole. Our mind is an emitter of qi. Heaven can receive the message we send out and will always give us a response. This is parallel to what is in the Bible, "Ask and you will receive."


The answer we get from the Universe is not a straightforward one. What we receive is only an image. The idea of studying Xiang Shu Yi Xue is to make the image clear to see how colors can be added to make it beautiful.



The Origin of Xiang Shu Yi Xue


The development of Xiang Shu Yi Xue can be traced as far back as to Zi Xia  (507 ?400 BCE) who was one of the more important disciples of Confucius (551 ?479 BCE). The important disciples of Confucius were experts in various fields. Zi Xia was versed in literature. Confucius was of the opinion that Zi Xia would be his successor who could glorify his teaching. After Confucius died, Zi Zia became the teacher at Xi He  and the Earl of Wei was among his students. Although the Ten Wings develops into philosophical teachings, the use of the Twelve Xiao Xi Gua    to interpret certain hexagrams advocates that the Yi Jing is a book for divination. In Zi Xia Yi Zhuan, such use is obvious.


Xiao = disappearing

Xi = breathing

Xiao Xi means exhausting and growing


The concept of introducing a hexagram to match each of the twelve months of a year was first found in Gui Cang   which is known as the Shang  version of the Yi Jing that predates Zhou Yi  . It indicates that the ancients used natural phenomena at specified times of the year to cast an image that represents the message delivered by Heaven in a divination. The diagram of the twelve xiao xi gua is an important chart used by Xiang Shu Yi scholars.



The Twelve Xiao Xi Gua


Notice that the Hai month is assigned the Kun hexagram which is the most yin hexagram. In Zi month, yang has already begun to grow. The reason why the Yin month is chosen to be the beginning of the year is also obvious. This month is assigned the hexagram Tai which is Heaven and Earth intercourse in harmony. This marks the beginning of new life. The Qian hexagram, which is the most yang hexagram, is assigned to the Si month. In the Wu month, yin has already begun to grow. The philosophy embedded in this diagram is deep and profound.


Zi Xia Yi Zhuan might have been written by his disciples. Its influence on later developments is great.


We have no problem to understand how the twelve months of a year can be assigned hexagrams matching the waxing and waning of yang and yin qi. Ancient Yi scholars tried hard to assign a hexagram to the days in a year. If one year is a multiple of 64 days, it would be ideal. If it is a multiple of 60 days, we can still get around. The problem is, even the ancients were aware of the fact that one year had 365 1/4 days. Dividing 365 1/4 by 60, we get 6 and 7/80. Removing Kan, Li, Zhen and Dui from the 64 hexagrams because they represent the four pure hexagrams in the cardinal directions, then every hexagram is assigned 6 and 7/80 of a day. This is the key teaching of West Han scholar Meng Xi       .



This is part of the first lesson: A Brief History of Xiang Shu Yi Xue. For the rest of this lesson and the many more wonderful lessons, sign up for the Correspondence Course.

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