The Image of the Cosmos in the I Ching: the Yi-globe (2011)

Introduction Reconstruction Analysis Microcosm   Origin   Analogues    News   
<−− Home Contents   References Contact

III. The analysis of the Yi-globe - The presence of the cosmos

(This chapter is a shortened version of the original manuscript.)

Space and time
Fire and water – The six-pointed stars
Dark and light – Yin and yang
Summary of the structural elements

The series of operations – taking out the hexagrams from their so-to-say disordered status and arranging them in space – has produced an extraordinary composition. Something was born that had existed before, in a latent form and in its elements only, and which has become complete in the form of the Yi-globe, revealing such new features of the I Ching that have never previously been thought of.


The most striking novelty it offers is the possibility of locating phenomena in space and time.

Orientation in space and time — The cross

By composing the Yi-globe a step was made from totally abstract notions towards concrete ones, since the globe demonstrates several otherwise invisible things, though does not depart from the field of symbols yet. All the new elements, which are visible on the Yi-globe – circles and lines, right and left, above and below – bear some symbolic meaning. If one wants to learn something about this symbolism, first of all orientation is required in this three-dimensional field.

The question arises whether there is a means available that would facilitate orientation in this formation. Fortunately, a positive answer exists; there is a guideline: one of the simplest forms, the cross.

The place where the cross, being suitable in the present respect, can be found, was conceived perhaps in the most adequate manner by the great traditional philosopher Renι Guènon in his work dealing with the symbology of the cross, saying: 'When the figure of the cross is perceived in astronomical or other phenomena, it has exactly the same symbolic value as that which we ourselves can trace; this merely proves that true symbolism, far from having been artifically invented by man, is to be found in nature itself, or rather, that the whole of nature amounts to no more than a symbol of the transcendent realities.'. [Guènon: 21-22.] Starting from this statement the solution is also given for the directions in the space: 'What must in reality be considered is, firstly, the plane of the equator and the axis joining the poles and perpendicular to that plane, and then the two lines respectively joining the pair of solstitial points and the pair of equinoctial points; we thus get what might be called, in the first case, the vertical cross, and in the second, the horizontal cross. The combination of the two crosses, which have the same center, forms the three-dimensional cross, the branches of which are oriented in the six directions of space.' [Guènon: 22.]

Having a look at the Yi-globe, it is to be seen that each element of Guènon’s 'compass' can be found there:

The above specified elements are illustrated in figure 23.

I-Ching: The Yi-globe: the six points of space

Fig. 23. The spatial directions and the seasons on the Yi-globe

This cross has two essential features:


(2) It is the three-dimensional cross that serves as the direction indicator of space and time on the Yi-globe.

The center and the axis

The idea 'the Center of the World' is frequently mentioned in ancient myths from almost all over the world.

The definition of the Center of the World, that directly leads to the Yi-globe, was set forth by Guènon after Clement of Alexandria: 'All the spatial directions of indefinite expansion start from God, "the heart of the cosmos"' and 'He is the beginning and the end (the alpha and the omega).' A further thesis is associated with the above: '... in Far-Eastern tradition this is called "Unchanged Center", which is the place of the perfect equilibrium represented as the center of the «cosmic wheel», where the "action of the Heaven" directly manifests itself.' [Guènon: 42.]

Reverting to the Yi-globe, it can be seen that its center perfectly corresponds to the above definitions:

The Yi-globe depicts the universe not only formally, since the geometrical positions on it always get a particular meaning from the hexagrams attached to them. In the present case, the two hexagrams at the center – After Completion and Before Completion – clearly demonstrate that it is actually the Center of the World that is manifested at this place, since the common place of these two signs effectively comply with the formulation worded by Clement of Alexandria: they are 'the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega'.

In the myths, the World Axis passes across the Center of the World, or originates from it directly. Whatever the form it has, its role is always to hold the universe and to connect heaven with the earth.

It is easy to find this axis in the Yi-globe: it is the the vertical axis of the globe itself. This is one of the points where the chosen method of this arrangement confirms itself: the Creative is above the world to transmit its force thereto and to bring things into being, while the Receptive is below enabling the power of the Creative to be asserted and its ideas to be realized. Between these two fundamental powers in the field of force spanned by them, as the result of their interaction, myriad things crowd together, and around the axis the 'universe whirls'. Thus, the axis of the Yi-globe represents the World Axis, demonstrating the basic features of the latter.

The axis bears the ten basic hexagrams of the I Ching: the eight doubled trigrams, and the two signs of Completion which close the Book (figure 24). These are the ten signs that hold the axis, and the Yi-globe as well; in symbolic meaning, these are the forces creating and determining the world and around which the whole universe is revolving and changing.

The axis of the Yi-globe

Fig. 24. The axis of the Yi-globe

Then, it can be established that:

(3) The vertical axis of the Yi-globe, connecting the hexagrams of the Creative and the Receptive complies with the ideas symbolised by the World Axis. Its center, constituted by the two hexagrams of the Completion complies with the Center of the World.

Spatial conditions

The passages above determined the cardinal points and the directions facilitating orientation on the Yi-globe. From this point reference can be made to the position of the individual hexagrams within the globe, and interrelation can be sought between the meanings and the spatial positions of the hexagrams.

High and low

High and low are such general concepts which are associated with space, and often mentioned in the book. To begin with, here is the first sentence of the Da Zhuan : 'Heaven is high, the earth is low; thus the Creative and the Receptive are determined.' [Baynes: 280] (.....) In this respect the Yi-globe does not say more than the text, but – and the essence lies in this – it demonstrates the same meaning by its own pictorial means. The same, but still somewhat more, because this arrangement expands the signification of the words 'high' and 'low' into the field of ideas.

xxx xxx xxx

Hexagram pairs

The spatial arrangement of the hexagrams not only demonstrates the differences of the levels, but also represents the existing and already known interrelations among the hexagrams in an expressive manner.

xxx xxx xxx

Relation with the diagram of Earlier Heaven

xxx xxx xxx

The correspondence is so expressive, covering each part of the diagram of Earlier Heaven, which allows the Yi-globe to be considered as an enlarged, extended image of Earlier Heaven in regards to its content and vice versa: the diagram of Earlier Heaven is the simplified image of the Yi-globe.

(4) There is an analogy between the Yi-globe and the diagram of Earlier Heaven in regards to the content and the form as well.

The cyclic time

By embracing the whole universe the Yi-globe gives place to all the phenomena (the 64 hexagrams), arranging them in space and time as well. Figure 23 demonstrates how and where the points of orientation appear on the globe by means of the hexagrams of the equinoxes (11 and 12). Issuing therefrom, the next passages describe the 'time-reckoning' on the Yi-globe in detail, i.e. the appearance of time on the globe.

The duodecimal cycle – The Sun-line

It is advisable to begin time analysis with the twelve hexagrams associated with the Chinese months, which are the so-called calendar hexagrams (table 2).

The second and third columns of the table indicate the ordinal number of the months as used in ancient China and the periods approximately complying with these months according to our present calendar[*]. The fourth column indicates the events (the two solstices and the two equinoxes) belonging to the four selected hexagrams.

The calendar hexagrams in the I Ching

Table 2. The calendar hexagrams

The top-view of the Yi-globe covering only these hexagrams serves for further study (figure 25).

The locations of the calendar hexagrams in the Yi-globe - Top-view

Fig. 25. Interrelations among the hexagrams and the months

Here it can be seen that the hexagrams are arranged regularly, each of them following the former one at 30 degrees, and their sequence corresponds to that of the calendar months.

Figure 26 is the perspective view of the Yi-globe, in which the calendar hexagrams are connected by red, dotted lines. For a better view, the globe is rotated by 90 degrees. Here the first month is at the front side.

I-Ching: The calendar hexagrams on the Yi-globe - Perspective picture

Fig. 26. The Sun-line on the Yi-globe

It can be seen that on the surface of the globe the hexagrams of the months are gradually ascending from the month of the winter solstice (the Receptive) up to the summer solstice (the Creative), from the nadir up to the zenith, then they return to the nadir again, while the signs of the equinoxes (the Peace and the Standstill) are just at the middle. That is to say, the connecting line of these hexagrams symbolically follows the culmination of the Sun, as it apparently ascends and descends in the sky as the months pass. Accordingly, this line is called Sun-line.

Considering the statements concerning the calendar months and the Sun-line, the following analogies can be revealed:

Naturally, the correspondences are to be meant strictly symbolically, since no actual dimensions and proportions are in question.

Summarising the above observations the following statement can be made:

(5) The Yi-globe is the symbol of the sky as well. Its duodecimal graduation corresponds to the number and sequence of the calendar months. The line connecting these hexagrams is analogous to the annual movement of the Sun in the sky.

The sexagenary cycle

xxx xxx xxx


In a large part of the world equilateral triangles symbolise the primal powers of the universe. It is known that the triangle with its peak upwards represents – among other things – fire (as fundamental principle), while the one with its peak downwards stands for water. The two triangles placed above one another, in the form of a six-pointed star, demonstrate the harmonic co-operation of the two cardinal elements and the balance of opposites, and used as the symbol for the macrocosm. All these ideas occur often in the I Ching with great importance attached to them. Thus it can be foreseen that the signs and the forms corresponding to them will be found in the Yi-globe as well.

Triangles and hexagons

The triangles already occurred several times in the passages above, demonstrating the hexagrams having interrelation with After Completion (63) and Before Completion (64) on levels II and IV.

xxx xxx xxx

Thus, on level II of the Yi-globe there is a triangle of water (yin) character, and another one of fire (yang) character. These conditions are true for level IV as well.

If the two triangles on level II are placed onto one another, as they are actually located in the Yi-globe, a six-pointed star will be created. Naturally, the result will be the same on level IV. These six-pointed stars fully manifest the associations generally attributed to this symbol:

Six-pointed star on the level II of the Yi-globe   Six-pointed star on the level IV of the Yi-globe

Level II


Level IV

Fig. 28. Six-pointed stars on the levels II and IV

The positions of the six-pointed stars within the Yi-globe and their interrelations with the hexagrams of Completion imply further symbolism as well. As the illustrations show, the changes of the hexagrams on level II will result in a movement towards the center of the globe – towards the signs of Completion, the Center of the World. Then, the changes of the hexagrams in the center will create another star at an upper level (level IV). The interpretation of these movements is extremely meaningful if the associations with the Center are considered: this is the beginning and the end, the place of perfect balance, where opposites dissolve, where God lives. And now it appears that one of the six-pointed stars starts therefrom, while the other one returns there.

Expansion from the center and contraction thereto shows an especially interesting image when the routes of changes are added to the picture (figure 29). Here one of the pyramids represents the creation of the world, the expansion into material, while the other one means that existence ceases at the end and everything returns to the beginning. Applying the scientific terms: one of them is the symbol of the 'Big Bang' the other one stands for the 'Big Crash'.

I-Ching: Six-pointed stars in the Yi-globe

Fig. 29. Six-pointed stars in the Yi-globe

The essence of the passages above:

(6) The Yi-globe embraces the six-pointed star as a symbol completing it with the sign of creation and destruction.

The six-pointed stars and the Earlier Heaven

xxx xxx xxx

I-Ching: The joint symbol of the six-pointed stars and the Earlier Heaven in the Yi-globe

Fig. 32. Joint diagram of the six-pointed stars and the Earlier Heaven


The five parallels split the meridians on the Yi-globe into six equal sections. The calendar hexagrams are positioned on the meridians so that the number of the sections under the hexagrams is equal to the number of the firm lines contained by the given hexagram, while the number of the sections above them is equal to that of the yielding lines. Thus, because on the meridians the number of the sections above the calendar sign is proportional to the number of the dark hours, it is well-founded to take these parts to be dark, while the parts below can be taken to be light on the same basis.

The dark and the light sides of the Yi-globe

Extending the above concept to the Yi-globe and to the other hexagrams over its surface, the part above the Sun-line can be regarded as dark while the one below it as light. Figure 36 shows the Yi-globe with the Sun-line splitting it in such a way into dark and light parts.

In this figure the Yi-globe displays where darkness and light are; where the dark side and the light side of the world are. The world and its powers are divided into dark and light, yin and yang.

I-Ching: The dark and light halves of the Yi-globe

Fig. 36. The Yi-globe, split into dark and light parts

In this way another basic concept of the I Ching — the changes of the dark and the light — becomes manifested in the Yi-globe.

xxx xxx xxx

The yin-yang diagram

When the dark and the light parts are marked with different colours (e.g. with black and white), the Yi-globe shows a characteristic picture (figure 37.a).

Front view of the Yi-globe   The yin-yang variant

a) Front-view


b) A reshaped variant

Fig. 37. Two images of the Yi-globe

xxx xxx xxx

(8) It is possible that the well-known yin-yang diagram is nothing more than the simplified planar representation of the Yi-globe. Certainly the same cosmic image stands for the background of both.

xxx xxx xxx

The Yin-yang Globe

xxx xxx xxx


Confucius says in the Da Zhuan: 'The holy sages set up the images in order to express their thoughts completely; they devised the hexagrams in order to express the true and the false completely.' [Baynes: 322] That is to say, the Master states that images and hexagrams can express more than words could imply. According to this, the sixty-four hexagrams are capable of telling the most about the world; whereby they are important 'information sources' for the people of our time as well. In all probability, it was not a simple task to consult the hexagrams two or three thousand years ago, and by now it has become almost impossible. However, the I Ching, being eternal, is capable of carrying its message to our age as well. This message has not been put into words – which would have been distorted in the course of time – but into images; not only into the hexagrams but also into other symbols that have meaning for everybody. These simple geometrical forms are understandable in our day as well – for those who wish to understand them. The I Ching embraces all these symbols, concealed in the Yi-globe as follows:

(9) The Yi-globe embraces all the cardinal metaphysical symbols of the peoples of the world also revealing thereby that the hexagrams and the I Ching — apart from being special Chinese creations — form an integral part of the universal tradition. First and foremost, it demonstrated the origin, the make-up, and the operation of the universe, that is the cosmology, as it was imagened in China sometime before the first millennium BC.

The Yi-globe reveals a lot for a thinking person and can be of great help in understanding the essence of the I Ching. As in the Book, also in the globe '.. are included the forms and the scope of everything in the heaven and on earth.'

The next image, concentrating the symbols of the Yi-globe, can facilitate a contemplation on this concept (figure 42).

I-Ching: The symbols in the Yi-globe

Fig. 42. Traditional symbols in the Yi-globe

Reconstruction TOP Microcosm

[*]In Table 2, the numbering of the months and the periods assigned to the hexagrams are taken from the Richard Wilhelm edition. It has to be noted, however, that in 104 BC Emperor Wu of the Western Han dynasty introduced reforms that have governed the Chinese calendar ever since. His calendar had a year with the winter solstice in the eleventh month. Before that time the Chinese chronology based on the changes of the moon, and consequently the time-rating of the months was rather confused; usually, the year began on the first new moon after or preceding the winter solstice.

All material on this web site is Copyright © by Jσzsef Drasny, Budapest, 2007