Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Explanation of Bagua Zhang and the Eight Trigrams of the I Ching

(from Wang Shujin's, Bagua Zhang Connected Palms, translated by Kent Howard)

The illustration on this page appears to be pedestrian but is actually profound. In its largest sense it embraces the universe; in its smallest it can encompass a person's body. Cultivating Dao (Tao) and enriching humanity is the essence of Bagua Zhang practice. If you do not grasp the true meaning of the elements within the illustration, even if you follow the instructions step by step and practice hard, your movements will be mechanical and you will not obtain true spiritual growth. Because of this, our teachers valued their art highly and did not transmit it lightly.

The inner circle of the illustration represents the beginning of the concept of duality, commonly called the tai ji form [yin-yang symbol]. The diagram uses the form of two fish swimming to represent tai ji—yin and yang. The taiji symbol is characterized in linear form by the liang yi, or two intentions (— --) From liang yi arises the sz hsiang, or the four directions. From the sz hsiang arises the ba gua, or the eight trigrams. The ba gua represent the basic forms of the natural world from which arises the myriad manifestations of our universe. The ba gua can also be used to express the nature of the divisions within the human body. In Bagua Zhang the head is represented by qian, the abdomen by kun, kidneys by kan, heart by li, sacrum by cun, neck by gen, stomach by zhen, and spleen by dui. It is said that Fu Hsi created ba gua to teach people to harmonize with the flow of yin and yang and to sort out the natural essence of all things in the world.

On the outer circle of the illustration there are eight terms: twei, tuo, dai, ling, ban, kou, pi, and jin. These are the eight major forms of Bagua Zhang. Each form matches with one of the eight trigrams or bagua. The practice of each form should match with the essential character of each trigram. To relate the symbols correctly we must undertand the six rules or methods of creating Chinese calligraphy. In ancient times, before written language, people recorded events by using knotted chords. The markings of ba gua were a more advanced method of recording things. Until Zhang Jie created writing, people collected all manner of marks and forms to create the six methods of creating words. The methods are:

1) xiang xin: using the shapes of things

2) huei yi: using the meaning of things

3) xing shen: imitating the sound of things

4) zhi shi: pointing to symbols

5) zhuan chu: using the definition of things

6) jia jie: borrowing categories

These are the six categories under which Chinese characters are grouped. How Bagua Zhang matches with each trigram is by imitating a portion of the six methods of language creation by using shape, meaning, and borrowing of forms as in the following section.
[editor's note: since the trigrams could not be recreated in this word document, they are laid out in linear form. The first is the top line, the second the middle, and the third the bottom line. ]

(— — —) Qian: The trigram is composed of three unbroken lines, and thus is very yang in nature. The ancient interpretation is that good people should constantly improve themselves like nature. The palm form is twei, or push. Your practice should be like the lines of the trigram—top to bottom, inside and out, with strong and unbroken breath. Qian is the first trigram of the eight. It represents a new beginning. That is why the first form in Bagua Zhang (Single Palm Change) utilizes Qian and the application of twei. If you practice the movements evenly from beginning to end, your blood flow will be smooth; if not, your heart will not open properly and the flow of blood will be blocked.

(-- — --) Kan: According to the trigram shape, the center is full which means sinking inward. It also has the connotation of being dangerous. If you want to avoid danger you need to have a strong will to survive. The palm form is called tuo, to hold up. When you practice tuo you should be like the trigram and be outwardly soft but strong within. Strengthen your heart by collecting your chi. The hand form is smooth and flexible. In this book the fifth form (White Snake Spits Out Tongue) uses both the shape and energy of tuo. If you practice the form smoothly it will elevate the fire in the heart and you will not become dizzy.

(— -- --) Gen: The trigram shape appears like an overturned bowl; the bottom is facing upward and the interior is concealed. The principle of movement is turning back and cutting off. The palm form is dai, to carry. The way to practice dai is to take on the form of Gen itself, and be firm on the top and pliant beneath. Project the energy of stillness and repose. In this book the sixth form (Mighty Peng Spreads Wings) utilizes dai in structure and intention. If practiced well the heart's chi will descend and spread to the four limbs.

(-- -- —) Zhen: The trigram shape is symbolized by a basin standing upright. The principle is one of vibrating or quaking. Powerful actions bring fearful reactions that will lead to order and control. The awe of power opens the way. The palm form is ling, to lead. In practice ling emulates the form of Zhen—yielding above but firm below. Seeking movement within stillness. This is the birth of yang. The intention is one of searching deeply and unpredictable change. The third form (The Hawk Swoops Upward) utilizes the technique of ling as its theme. If practiced correctly the liver's chi will be harmonized; if not you will become easily angered.

(— — --) Cun: The trigram is broken on the bottom. Cun means to enter like the wind. There is no opening so small the wind cannot penetrate. The palm form is ban, to move about. The way to practice Cun is to have firm intent in the middle and upper body while keeping your footwork mobile. The technique is one of carrying. The eighth form (Whirlwind Palms) employs ban as its main action. If practiced smoothly your chi will spread to the four limbs and your body will move like a windmill in a gale.

(— -- —) Li: The composition of the trigram is empty in the center. Li means to adhere to. The palm form is kou, to button or hook. The way to practice kou is to be pliant within and resolute without. Remain flexible in the center like a snake wriggling through a small opening. The second form (Double Palm Change) employs the use of kou to penetrate. If practiced smoothly your mind will melt into emptiness.

(-- -- --) Kun: The trigram is composed of three lines broken into six parts. The ancient meaning of Kun arises from the purity of a female horse. A mare is very mild and composed yet capable to swift and sudden flight. The palm form is pi, to split. The way to perform pi is to have both top and bottom and interior and exterior in harmony. The fourth and sixth forms use pi as their major actions. If practiced smoothly your movements will be light and quick.

(-- — —) Dwei: The trigram is broken on top. Dwei is symbolized by a swamp where water gathers. Here it represents something more like a pond. The palm form is jin, to enter. In practice jin is soft and supple on top and firm and strong below. The form is contracted like a crouching tiger ready to spring forward. The seventh form (White Ape Offers a Peach) employs jin. If the movements are practiced smoothly, your lung chi will be pure and fluid; if not, your chi will not be harmonized and it may lead to asthmatic wheezing.

The definitions above are just rough explanations of a much larger picture. As for the details, it depends upon the learner himself to study, question, consider, analyze, and practice in order to find deeper meaning. The eight forms should also be examined and practiced individually. In conclusion, the more diligently you study the greater your return. Bagua Zhang forms imitate the nature of heaven and earth. Follow the principles of yin-yang and harmonize with the seasons, and you will benefit humanity by developing a more universal view of life. Embracing the yin-yang fish and treading the ba gua diagram you will walk the circle as though striding through the cosmos.

1 comment:

Mo said...

Great work! I really appreciate your vids on Youtube. Keep on posting it's rare to find such clear information on the subject (even more on Master Wang). I hope your book will be published soon.