Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Introduction to Yao-numbers

Yao-numbers or "stick-numbers" are the product of a mathematical transformation of the I Ching's 32 hexagram pairs as presented by King Wen.  In the case of twenty-eight pairs of hexagrams, the mates of a pair differ only by 180 degrees of rotation.  The last four pairs are complementary opposites per Fu Xi's hexagram and trigram arrangements.  

Yao-numbers seem to call attention to the four pairs of complementary opposites: pair-mates generally have identical yao-numbers except in four cases: (01 02) (27 28) (29 30) (61 62), where the mates have "unbalanced" yao-numbers.  Again, these four pairs bear the distinction of having been formed from complementary opposition, as opposed to pair formation from figurative inversion (180 degrees of rotation) in the remaining 28 pairs of hexagrams.

The transformation procedure (described below) produces nine discrete yao-numbers from the 32 Wen pairs of hexagrams. The following crude table displays the 64 hexagrams and the yao-number "families" into which they fall, the quantity of hexagrams per family, as well as yao-numbers and algebraic line-analysis (#YIN lines and #YANG lines) for each hexagram.

0 YANG,6 YIN (144) { 1} [2]
2 YANG,4 YIN (168) { 3} [27 29 62]
5 YANG,1 YIN (172) { 6} [(9 10) (13 14) (43 44)]
4 YANG,2 YIN (176) {12} [(5 6) (25 26) (33 34) (37 38) (49 50) (57 58)]
3 YANG,3 YIN (180) {20} [(11 12) (17 18) (21 22) (31 32) (41 42) (47 48) (53 54) (55 56) (59 60) (63 64)]
2 YANG,4 YIN (184) {12} [(3 4) (19 20) (35 36) (39 40) (45 46) (51 52)]
1 YANG,5 YIN (188) { 6} [(7 8) (15 16) (23 24)]
4 YANG,2 YIN (192) { 3} [28 30 61]
6 YANG,0 YIN (216) { 1} [1]


In Taoist cosmology, the SINGULARITY splits into YIN and YANG; YIN and YANG then combine to produce Four Images, xiang: Heaven (9), Earth (6), Fire (8), and Water (7).  For use in divination ritual, the Taoist tradition assigned "ritual numbers" to the xiang as detailed in parentheses.  Also notable is the traditional association between xiang and the four cardinal directions.

Note: xiang are subtly distinct from the trigrams with the same name; the xiang emerge into being before the bagua (trigrams).  

The transformation that produces yao-numbers is described as follows:
Given the King Wen sequence of thirty-two hexagram pairs as input, employ the xiang bi-grams to measure any changes that occur within a given Wen pair at any of the six line positions.  Four possible measurement outcomes exist:

EARTH: YIN alternating to YANG (6), 
SKY: YANG alternating to YIN (9), 
FIRE: stable YIN (8), or 
WATER: stable YANG (7)

Note: the xiang bi-grams are represented using Unicode and may not render properly on browsers or systems using UTF-8 or other character encoding

We may contextualize and clarify the transformation procedure by interpreting Wen pairs as though they were products of ritual divination.  For example, We can pretend that, using yarrow stalks, we cast hexagram #1 with six moving lines; this normally indicates a situation initially characterized by hexagram #1 subsequently changing to one represented by hexagram #2.   We now encode the differences between #1 and #2 using xiang.  

Line-by-line comparison of hexagram #2 to #1, beginning at position 1 through position 6 shows YANG changing to YIN at all six places.
䷀ ==> ䷁
This implies moving YANG (ritual number 9).  We therefore encode Wen pair (1 2) as [999999].  

If instead we had cast #2 changing at all six places to #1, we would use moving YIN (ritual number 6), to encode Wen anti-pair (2 1) as [666666].  
䷁ ==> ䷀  
The significance of anti-pairs is discussed elsewhere, but as change is represented by movement, it seems to suggest reversal of direction or perhaps reversal of time.

The encoding for Wen pair (3 4) is [968896]; its anti-pair encodes as [698869].  
䷂ ==> ䷃
At positions 3 and 4 both hexagrams indicate YIN -- a non-changing condition -- encoded by stable YIN (8).

The encoding for Wen pair (5 6) is [979676]; [676979] is the encoding for its anti-pair (6 5).  
䷄ ==> ䷅
At positions 2 and 5, both hexagrams indicate YANG.  This, again, is a non-changing condition encoded by stable YANG (7).

Iterating this transformation procedure over the 32 Wen pairs produces 32 vectors of six xiang.  We call them 'vectors' because they depict ordered arrays of data.  The relevant section of Ta Chuan, the Great Treatise (Pt.1, Ch. 9, Sec. 4) provides three clues for interpreting these vectors: 
  • Hexagram #1 has stick-number 216, 
  • Hexagram #2 has stick number 144, 
  • All 64 stick-numbers summed yield 11520, "the number of the myriad things."  
The rule for obtaining the correct stick-numbers from the vectors involves summing the ritual numbers of the xiang for a given vector and multiplying by four.  The derivation of this rule is discussed in the translators' notes to the Great Treatise.  

The divination ritual involves manipulating 49 yarrow stalks to produce a remainder of stalks, then dividing that remainder by four to produce a ritual number (6|7|8|9). Each ritual number corresponds to one of the four xiang (as described in the INTRODUCTION).  Each xiang produced by ritual divination represents a single hexagram line, which may be dynamic or static.  This procedure is conducted six times to produce a complete hexagram.  

We may infer from this that the rule for obtaining the correct yao-numbers involves the inverse operation to dividing by four, i.e., multiplying by four.

As shown in the following illustration, when all 32 pairs of vectors are thus treated, the combined stick-number sum calculates to 11,520 as stipulated in the Great Treatise.

So, what to do with this information?  What is its use?  What does it tell us?  A simple categorization of the 64 stick-numbers shows them falling into 9 discrete "families" (numbered 1 through 9, left to right) with all members of a family having a particular stick-number.  Additionally, Wen pairs tend to fall together within a given family -- excepting the two triplet groups of hexagrams (#2 & #8), and the two singleton hexagram groups (#1 & #9), where the four Wen pairs are separated from each other.

We find there is very strong correlation/correspondence between these nine families and the seven groups (below) produced by algebraically sorting the hexagrams; that is, according to the quantity of YIN and YANG lines in a given hexagram. Alternating between views of the two schema, we observe that the triplet groups move from their positions next to the poles to a position adjacent to the central group of twenty figures.  Both groups of twelve temporarily gain three, bringing their totals to fifteen.

We also observe that the four "unbalanced" hexagram pairs: (01,02) (27,28) (29,30) (61,62) [families #1, #2, #8, & #9]  all share a peculiar trait -- none of them has a proper Wen inverse as do the other twenty-eight pairs of hexagrams.   The pairs formed from these eight hexagrams are not figurative inverses, but complementary opposites.  Complementary opposition is the basis of the xiantian (Earlier Heaven) trigram arrangement, and the square (8x8) hexagram arrangement, both attributed to Fu Xi.

To recap, twenty-eight pairs of hexagrams are formed by 180 degrees of rotation per King Wen's ordering.  The remaining four pairs are complementary opposites as per Fu Xi's arrangement.  Pair-mates generally have identical stick-numbers excepting four cases: (01,02) (27,28) (29,30) (61,62). 

The stick-numbers (calculated above) appear to highlight the complementary opposition of these four pairs against a background of twenty-eight pairs formed from 180 degrees of rotation ("figure inversion").

Although we observe that pairings based on complementary opposition, it is currently unclear how output of the transformation procedure significantly correlates to output of the algebraic sort.


Position refers to lines of an hexagram, numbered 1 (bottom-most), to 6 (top-most).  
Movement refers to change between YIN and YANG at any of the positions.  
Movement can be dynamic (or alternating) when members of a Wen pair disagree at any of the six positions.  Dynamic also refers to moving lines produced from ritual divination (YANG <==> YIN).
Movement can also be static, as when both pair-members agree at a given position, or when no moving lines appear in a divination.

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