☵☲

by Jin, 08-06-10 // 7 comments

Occasionally, I get emails from people asking me what my site logo is and what it means. I use the same ☵☲ for my gravatar too. Some assumed that I was a big fan of Snake Eye or Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe since they have the same symbol on them. I am a fan, but that’s not the reason why I use it though.

My long time readers are aware that I started this blog originally with the intention of translating Taoism books to English. While I have stopped writing about the philosophical Tao, its teachings are still dear to me. There are sixty four chapters in I-Ching(易經 Book of Changes) and each chapter is associated with a hexagram. A hexagram is comprised of two trigrams.

Trigrams

A trigram is made up by three lines. Each line is either solid or broken. Together, the two lines symbolize “Yin” and “Yang,” or any two opposing forces. Balance through opposites is one of the main themes of the philosophical Taoism. There are total of eight possible trigram combinations and each trigram has an element assigned to it.

天 Sky 澤 Lake 火 Fire 雷 Thunder 風 Wind 水 Water 山 Mountain 地 Earth

Did you know the trigrams were the earliest known binary counting system? Broken line = 0, solid line = 1. 2³ = 8 possible combinations. Hexagrams have 8² = 64 combinations. From above, you can also see the opposing forces have opposing line makeup as well: ☰ sky v.s. ☷ earth, ☵ water v.s. ☲ fire.

After Completion

Speaking of water and fire, ☵☲(water over fire) is the hexagram of chapter 63 in the book I-Ching. The designer in me loves the minimalist aesthetics of these symbols, and the geek in me is intrigued by their logic operands. Every chapter of the book describes a situation and how we should handle it. Chapter 63 resonates with me the most. The title of the chapter is 既濟, roughly translates to “after completion,” or “end of sailing.” The gist of the content is: even though you have a achieved success or completed a journey, you should remain cautious. Things may be at a perfect equilibrium right now, but any additional disturbance will ruin it. Avoid being complacent or arrogant. Now it’s time to reflect and welcome a new phase.

The water over fire symbolism fits this theme perfectly too:

When water in a kettle hangs over fire, the two elements stand in relation and thus generate energy (cf. the production of steam). But the resulting tension demands caution. If the water boils over, the fire is extinguished and its energy is lost. If the heat is too great, the water evaporates into the air. These elements here brought in to relation and thus generating energy are by nature hostile to each other. Only the most extreme caution can prevent damage. In life too there are junctures when all forces are in balance and work in harmony, so that everything seems to be in the best of order. In such times only the sage recognizes the moments that bode danger and knows how to banish it by means of timely precautions.

source

Finding balance in life is also the teaching in chapter 2 of Tao Te Ching, another Taoism book I love. I translated the chapter it a while back. The other parts of I-Ching are worth reading too. You may just find a chapter that’s most relate-able to you. Keep in mind though, I’m talking about the philosophical Taoism, not the religious one. The two are polar opposites, and almost have nothing in common in essence.

7 comments

also feel free to contact me on twitter or via email
Milos Sutanovac 08-06-10

True, I was already thinking about the meaning of your logo. Guess that’s the reason why it’s really interesting to read this post, at least for me. I also smiled when you tweeted ‘There’s a unicode for everything almost…’. :)

Oh, one more thing:

Design for this post is an absolute win.

Keep doing what you do.

Milos.

Kris 08-06-10

Very interesting, Jin. Are there decent English translations of I-Ching available?

Jin 08-06-10

@Milos, yes I was surprised when I saw the unicode for all 64 hexagrams and 8 trigrams. Thanks!

@Kris, there’s the site I linked in my post http://deoxy.org/iching/ it does a decent job translating. But I find it’s not done in “plain language.”

Kris 08-06-10

Yes, saw that after I asked. Thanks!

This was an absolute joy to read, thanks Jin :)

I went back and read your other posts Taoism. It’s very thought provoking and I love the way you write about it. It’s very new stuff to me, but I don’t feel like an outsider intruding, which I often find is the case when reading on such topics. I’d like to cast my vote to see more of the same :)

Jin 08-09-10

@Alex, thanks. I feel weird talk about it these days. I feel like most philosophies, once you get the essence of them there’s not a lot of point of talking about it. Especially with Taoism, it’s lived, not talked about. I also feel it’s not something to over think or discuss, otherwise it leads to pragmatism. I just really like this particular hexagram though, both its appearance and what it implies.

Duane 06-03-11

I was sent here after reading a post by Radu. I have to thank him and you, there is truly a calming effect on this site. I just read your comment to Alex, I understand your point of view but still by sharing your experiences you introduce others to it, thats how it has survived thus far. It always amazes me how it seems our ancestors understood the world far better than we do. Thanks for sharing.