It’s Mystical Monday time! This week I’ll be going over the trigrams of the I Ching. These and the natural elements are crucial in understanding how the world works in the universe of The Four Gods. Let’s get started!
Firstly, the world is made up of five elements. These elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. These elements react with one another in different ways to create reactions (for example fire burns trees to make earth-> earth produces metals-> condensation can form to metal to become water->and water makes trees made of wood grow, etc.) Elements also have reactions that can destroy one another (another example, water puts out fire, metal chops down wood, fire melts metal, and earth absorbs water). This is the general relationship of the elements that are important for understanding the trigrams and relationships between the gods of the Si Ling. Let’s move on, shall we?
In The Four Gods: Prince of the North, Gen notices a series of trigrams above each of the gods’ workstations. In the I Ching, these trigrams combine to form hexagrams for divination. When combined, each hexagram has a meaning that can signal the diviner to a possible outcome. Each root of a trigram is a yang line (or a solid line) and a yin line (a broken line), which represents a trait, a situation, and an element of the natural world. These are a little different than the five elements I talked about above, but they have significance in the practical magic used by the gods of the Si Ling. Chonglin introduces Gen to the meaning of the trigrams, and I’ll go into more detail below on the main four used in The Four Gods lore.
1. Water, or Kan. This is the trigram for the northern direction, as the element for Xuanwu is water. While water represents darkness, this isn’t the darkness of western thought that we’re familiar with. Darkness here doesn’t mean evil, it means mystery or the unknown. Kan also represents risk-taking in forging ahead into that unknown, which is useful when this is present in a divining or for the guidance of a certain protagonist. Note also how water has mostly yin lines. This trigram is also considered a minor yin trigram, rather than a major one.
2. Fire, or Li. This is for the southern direction and is the polar opposite of Kan. Radiant, passionate, and burning, Li is the powerhouse of the trigrams and represents knowledge and awareness, making it useful to remind us to be more aware of our surroundings, but also that in this journey of learning the future, there may be many things we don’t yet know. Signifying Fengge’s role, it mostly fits him trying his hardest to be Gen’s opposite. This is considered a minor yang trigram.
3. Thunder, or Zhen. This is used in the Si Ling for the eastern direction and is Longwei’s domain. Zhen is used to put ideas or situations in motion and rolls forward as initiative or an action. In The Four Gods, Longwei is the leader and head of all operations, and thunder represents his initiative to keep the organization alive; this is also a homage to Longwei being a storm dragon. This is considered a minor yin trigram like water, despite the dragon always being a depiction of yang.
4. Lake, or Dui. This is the trigram for the western direction. Notice how like fire and water, thunder and lake are opposites. While thunder has more yin lines and lake has more yang lines, the western god is actually a representation of yin. Lake represents joy, sensibility, and feeling and denotes Chonglin’s role as not only the voice of reason within the Si Ling organization but the joy that he puts into his work as the organization’s teacher and the stillness he brings to an otherwise very passionate and rambunctious group. This trigram is actually a major yang trigram.
Two minor yin and one minor and major yang trigrams together balance out to become the force of yin and yang, the essence that exists in everything. Also take notice of how these trigrams are shown being grouped together on the yang side of the taiji symbol, notifying the gods’ role as mainly yang beings. Confused yet? I hope not, but this is crucial in not only understanding the world of The Four Gods but also in how the ancient Chinese saw the world.
That’s all for this week! Next week I’ll move on to qi and how these elements, trigrams, and relationships add up to make magic in The Four Gods’ universe. See you then!