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

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IV. The Yi-globe and the human microcosm

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

The I Ching and the Nei Jing
The Yi-globe as the symbol of the microcosm

According to the teachings of the I Ching, a wise man is supposed to contemplate on the hexagrams, understanding thereby their meanings. As the book says: 'In this way man comes to resemble heaven and earth, he is not in conflict with them. His wisdom embraces all things, and his Tao brings order into the whole world; therefore he does not err.' [Baynes: 295.] This saying includes the traditional idea that man was originally created in the semblance of heaven, that is he represents a certain kind of microcosm, having thereby an inherent ability to apply the heavenly laws to himself, thus harmonizing with heaven. The I Ching renders guidance for the solution of this exact task, disclosing the rules of harmonious human life. Therefore the book, since ancient times, has exerted its influence not only on the spiritual development of men but on the preservation and curing of bodily health as well. Also the theoretical fundaments of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) reflect the spirituality of the I Ching, or are directly originated from it. The frequently quoted saying of Sun Simiao, a Taoist priest and medical expert (581-682), is generally accepted in this sphere, according to which: 'You cannot master medicine until you have studied the I Ching.'

In the previous passages the Yi-globe was discussed as the symbol of the macrocosm but it seems to be probable that also the human world, the microcosm, should be manifested in it. This consideration encourages the discussion on the Yi-globe and the human microcosm as on comparable ideas. Hereafter, such elements will be revealed in the Yi-globe, which are considered as the fundamental features of the human organism.


To demonstrate the relationship between the I Ching and Chinese medicine, the oldest ancient work of the vast TCM literature, the Nei Jing serves the purpose best. The theoretical and practical material of this book forms the basis of each following Chinese medical work, and therefore still exercises its influence in our time. The survival of the Nei Jing through millennari can be attributed to its versatility; being not only a medical book but rather a philosophical treatise on health and illness. Ilza Veith writes that in the ancient China: 'Medicine was but a part of philosophy and religion, both of which propounded oneness with nature, i.e. the universe.' [Veith: 10.] Thus it is impossible to understand the Nei Jing without being familiar with the Chinese thinking of that time, with special regard to the three fundamental concepts: the Tao, the yin/yang duality and the theory of the five elements. From among these concepts the first two are cardinal ideas in the I Ching as well, and so, as common spiritual base, create a thorough relationship between the two works.

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As it has been demonstrated in this study, the macrocosm can be found in the Yi-globe symbolically and structurally as well. The spherical form itself represents the whole world, its unity and completeness, with the fire-water triangle pairs and the yin-yang diagram embraced by it, representing the duality of the world. Moreover, the internal structure of the sphere truly follows the structure of the fundamental elements of the macrocosm: the directions of space (four and six directions), the cycles of time and their duodecimal distribution, the World Axis, and the Center, etc. These ideas denote the elements of traditional cosmological worldviews as the sages imagined them at the time when the hexagrams and the I Ching were compiled. It is obvious that to find the signs of the microcosm in the Yi-globe, it is required to know the Chinese approach to the human organism in the Zhou-age and in the times preceding it. It is the Nei Jing again, that offers help to solve this problem. At first, however, it is necessary to highlight the features considered as determining factors in the comparison with the Yi-globe. This means that it is useful to deal with the fundamental elements of acupunctural healing, this being the method that best expresses the cosmologic theories in Chinese medicine.

The acupunctural method is based on the theory that the organs of the human body are interrelated among each other through a well-defined channel system, the so-called meridians, and through these channels energies (qi or chi) flow, regulating (promoting or hindering) the operation of the organs. It is important to note that the meridians are not some physically or anatomically specified organs (as e.g. the blood vessels), but rather routes or lines of force; however, their existence has already been proven by modern scientific methods as well.

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Based on the location of the main meridians and the time of the energy-maximums, a schematic drawing can be made, showing the daily circulation of energy in the body (figure 43).

I-Ching: The symbolic representation of the energy circulation in the human meridians

Fig. 43. The meridians and the energy-maximums - Symbolic representation

In the figure the following features are demonstrated – in a very simplified manner:

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The features of the meridian network are almost completely reflected in the Yi-globe as well. Drawing a variant of the Yi-globe, where the twelve “heavenly” meridians are replaced by the twelve human meridians, it will be apparent how these features correspond to the structure of the globe (figure 45).

I-Ching: The human microcosm in the Yi-globe

Fig. 45. The human microcosm in the Yi-globe

On the basis of the visible conformities this figure may be supposed a symbol of the human microcosm.

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