What Does Taiji ☯, Bagua Mean

By Xah Lee. Date: .

What Does Bagua, Taichi Mean? Bagua, the Trigrams, as Binary System

Here's the Taichi symbol

Here's the Bagua trigrams in Unicode:

this is Chinese metaphysics.

bagua necklace 2020-12-19 7Vfzb
bagua necklace. Photo by emily, 2020-12-19.
bagua necklace

The bagua (八卦) are eight trigrams used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each line either “broken” or “unbroken,” representing yin or yang, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as “trigrams” in English. [Wikipedia]

Taiji (太极) is a Chinese cosmological term for the “Supreme Ultimate” state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potentiality, contrasted with the Wuji (無極, “Without Ultimate”). [Wikipedia]

Here's a verse describing the Bagua:

The Limitless produces the delimited, and this is the Absolute.
The Taiji produces two forms, named yin and yang.
The two forms produce four phenomena, named lesser yin, great yin, lesser yang, great yang.
The four phenomena act on the eight trigrams, eight eights are sixty-four hexagrams.

Note that the trigrams is inherently a binary system. You have 3 lines, each line has 2 states. So, 2^3 = 8 possible combination. And, if you have 6 bars, you have 2^6=64 possible combinations, as is mentioned in the verse.


Exercise 1: look at South Korean flag It has 4 of the 8 trigrams. Find a description of why those 4.

Exercise 2: Gottfried Leibniz (1646 to 1716), inventor of calculus and father of computer, said that “hexagrams a base for claiming the universality of the binary numeral system.”. Why?