| Picture of the Ultimate
the Eight Diagrams
content by Mr. Du Feibao
|The picture is a composite of the Ultimate and
the Eight Diagrams, and is found even now in some Chinese temples.
The picture of the Ultimate consists of a black and a white
fish-also called the yin and yang fish. The picture of the Eight
Diagrams is an octagon formed of eight combinations of three
whole or broken lines.
|According to legend, the picture
was created by Fuxi, an ancient Chinese sage. It is written
in the ancient book Zhou Yi (The Zhou Book of Changes) that
"Changes originate in the Ultimate; from the Ultimate issue
the two spheres. From the two spheres issue the four elements,
and from the four elements the eight diagrams". That was
the basic theory of the Ultimate giving rise to the eight diagrams.
By the Ultimate, the ancient meant the origin of all things
and creatures. The philosopher Zhu Xi (1130-1200) of the Southern
Song Dynasty said, "The Ultimate is the way of all things
in heaven and earth". The two spheres refer to heaven and
earth, or yin (feminine, negative) and yang (masculine, positive).
The four elements are metal, wood, water and fire, which are
everywhere. The eight diagrams symbolize the eight natural phenomena:
sky, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountain and lake. So
the picture represented the ancient Chinese's earliest knowledge
of the universe, which contained a simple dialectical materialist
point of view .
What is more interesting is the picture of the Eight Diagrams,
which are formed of yao (lines), namely, the yangyao (male line,
whole line written as __) and the yinyao (female line , a broken
line written as - -. ) The two forms are contradictory opposites
and they form the eight combinations. (see the diagram above)
By taking two of them or doubling them, 64 combinations can
It has been suggested that the German mathematician Wilhelm
von Leibuiz (1646-1716) was inspired by the Chinese Eight Diagrams
to create the binary system. If this was true, then the Chinese
picture of the Ultimate and the Eight Diagrams made some historic
contribution to the modern computer science.
In the early 1930's the Chinese scholar Liu Zihua, 27 years
of age who was in France on a work-study basis, used the Eight
Diagrams, without recourse to Newton's theory of gravity, to
forecast the existence of the tenth planet of the solar system,
and wrote a thesis entitled "The Eight Diagrams Theory
of the Universe and Modern Astronomy", which won him the
French national doctorate in 1938 and thrilled the world astronomy
The Chinese picture of the Ultimate and the Eight Diagrams is
still being studied by some Western scholars as a source of
ancient science. It is certainly an important heritage of Chinese
science and culture, though at times it was used for divination
and other superstitious activities.