The Eight Trigrams

Ba Gua Zhang is translated literally as Eight Trigrams Palm. To understand Baguazhang, it is necessary to understand the concepts behind the Eight Trigrams.The Eight Trigrams philosophy grew out of an initial divinatory form attributed to Fu Xi, the legendary ruler, in 2852 BC It was changed and amended by King Wen. This set of trigrams formed the basis for the Yi Jing, or Book of Changes.Originally a manual of oracles, the Book of Changes evolved to consider ethical matters, and eventually became a book of wisdom, one of the Five Classics of Confucianism. It became a common source for both Confucian and Taoist philosophy. The central theme of the book, as well as the central theme of Baguazhang, is continuous change. While the basic idea of the Book of Changes is the continuous change and transformation underlying all existence, the martial art style of Baguazhang absorbs this idea into a system of exercise and defense.At first, the Book of Changes was a collection of linear signs to be used as oracles. In its most rudimentary sense these oracles confined themselves to the answers “yes” and “no”. A “yes” was written in a single unbroken line (), and represented Yang (of the Yin-Yang). Solid lines also symbolized the dragon, which has always been recognized by the Chinese as symbol of vigilance, strength, the virtues of Heaven and the minister of the will of the gods. A “no” was written in a single broken line (–), and also represented Yin.

trigrams_evolutionOver time, a need arose for differentiation and amplification of the philosophy, and additional lines were included. Thus the Eight Trigrams were developed. A Trigram is a set of three broken or unbroken lines. Later, the Eight Hexagrams evolved. A Hexagram is a set of six broken or unbroken lines. The Eight Trigrams is the origin of Baguazhang philosophy.


The Eight Trigrams
The word Qian symbolizes heaven, creativity, and originality of all things. Of the Eight Trigrams it is the one to indicate change, variation or substitution of things to achieve harmony. As indicated by the strong and undivided lines, it means good fortune, strength, roundness, and vitality.Northwest, Metal, dragon, horse, late autumn, early night
Kun represents the earth and femininity. Expressing originality and firmness, it is complementary to Qian and contains all things which through its power achieve full development. Numerically it is represented by three broken lines which symbolize an accentuation of the Yin qualities and subordination.Southwest, Earth, mare, ox, late summer and early autumn, afternoon, squareness
Zhen symbolizes the movement and development of things. Indicated by two broken lines and one solid line, it foretells apprehension and changes.East, Wood, galloping horse or flying dragon, spring, morning, bamboo sprouts
Kan expresses danger. Another meaning is “water flowing” which signifies the thinking and concentration of the mind. The solid line in the center symbolizes the strength of inner thought – it also predicts the perilous danger that might be encountered or the mental abnormality that might be suffered.North, Water, pig, midwinter, midnight, curved things, wheels
Ken signifies that action or motion is prevented or halted. It is represented by a solid line with two broken lines below. Since it represents a mountain, Ken symbolizes the stoppage of travelers and the resting of both mind and body.Northeast, Wood, dog, rat, and birds, early spring, early morning, gates
Sun is a symbol of growth, and denotes the sun as well as the wind and wood. It reflects the qualities of pliability and influence. It is represented by two solid lines and a broken line. Sometimes it is used to signify the growth of vegetation.Southeast, Wood, hen, late spring and early summer, morning
Li denotes firmness and beauty. Represented by a solid line at the top and the bottom with a broken line in-between, it has a double meaning of both tenacity and adherence.South, Fire, pheasant, toad, crab, snail, tortoise, summer, midday, weapons



Dui signifies happiness, satisfaction, achievement, and progression. Represented by a broken line and two solid lines, its weakness is compensated by the double portion of power and strength.West, Water and Metal, sheep, mid-autumn, evening, reflections, mirror images