The 8 Trigrams

The 8 Trigrams

The Ba Gua diagram (literally 8 houses, also spelled as Pa Kua) is the basic tool for tool for Feng Shui analysis.  When a Feng Shui analysis is performed, the practitioner refers to these basic concepts to analyze the situation within each area of the building.  From this representation, the basis of the mathematical calculations are found.  In other words, it is a tool for calculating the attributes of a building, not a general overlay to be used on a floor plan.  Additionally, the trigrams hold the keys to understanding the who or what is effected by the Feng Shui of a building.  Even beyond that, certain personalities can be found in the trigrams relating to both people and their buildings.

The three by three matrix, shown below, is called the 8 Trigrams.  Within the Eight Trigram structure is a wealth of information.  Each section is one trigram.  The Trigram is the 3 level combination of Yin and Yang.   Yin and Yang theory is the first concept needed to understand to use this tool.   Each Trigram contains bars.  These bars might be Yin or Yang depending on which Trigram we are working with.  These bars are representations of Yin and Yang.   Yang is a solid bar and Yin is a broken bar as shown here:


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These Yin and Yang representations are stacked three high in a combination that yields a lot of symbology including, elemental representation, family representation, a symbology, and a bodily area representation.  The trigrams are viewed from the bottom up based on:




------ Heaven

------ Man

------ Earth


Summary Interpretations


Each trigram has a corresponding home direction.   As with Yin and Yang, South is indicated at the top.  North is at the bottom.


Each of the trigrams has an elemental relationship.  There are two wood, two metal, three earth, one fire, and one water elements.  These elements can interact in productively, reductively, or by dominating one another.  You find that there is a distinct pattern to the elements and the rest of the 8 Trigram chart.  For example the soft metal and the soft wood relate to the feminine, while the hard metal and hard wood refer to the male trigrams.  The five elements follow a pattern based on the Yin and Yang, with wood producing fire, producing earth, producing metal, producing water, thus producing wood again.


The numbers in the 8 Trigram chart represent perfect balance.  Summed in any direction they total 15.  This is often referred to as the “Magic Square.”  These numbers are not fixed, but change location with time.  The pattern of the number ascension remains the same; Center, Northwest,

West, Northeast, South, North, Southwest, East, Southeast.  This pattern remains, but the placement of the numbers changes depending on orientation and time factors.

Family Relationships

When a trigram has only one Yin line in it, than it is female and the family relationship is a female.  When the Yang line is alone in a trigram, it represents a male family member.  The Kun Trigram is often referred to as the Mother Trigram as it is completely Yin.  Whereas, the Qian Trigram is completely Yang so it is the Father Trigram.  The family relationship of the trigrams has implications such as when two elemental energies are found together in a domination relationship, then it is possible that the person who belongs to that trigram/element that is being dominated will have problems in a particular body area.  An example of this would be if Xun (4) wood dominates Gen (8) Earth, then the young children could be effected, or if it is an adult, then the hands or spine might be effected.


The symbology is based largely on the yi jing.   For example, the Zhen trigram is Thunder.  This is because there are two yin lines above a yang line.  Yin is inverted from its natural position.  Yin should be on the bottom near the earth. (Because yin is coolness settling.) According to the ancient Chinese meteorologists when there is Yang in the air, and Yin at the ground, thunder and lightning strike.   This trigram can hold these characteristics in personality too.  Sometimes people born in a Chen year are prone to explosions like thunder.

Body Part

The Body Part indicates the area of the body that might be susceptable to problems if there is a problem with qi in that area.   For example if in a bedroom Xun (wood) dominates Gen (earth) then the person spending time in the room might be susceptable to back aches or problems with their fingers or small bones.  By introducing the proper elemental remedy, this problem will be eliminated.


The trigrams are grouped into two distinct groupings.  The East Group contains all the wood, fire, and water trigrams.  The West Group contains the Metal and Earth trigrams.  People who are of a particular group (example West) find houses that have a sitting orientation to the same group (again West) more comfortable than those houses belonging to the opposite group.   The same can be said of people of different groups.  East Group people are more comfortable around East Group people, as are West Group people with West Group people.  The groupings for People can be determined by which solar year your birth date falls under.  This will be discussed in a future article.  The groupings for Buildings can be determined by the orientation of the building.

The Eight Trigrams




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Element: Soft Wood

Family Relationship: Eldest Daughter

Symbology: Wind

Body Part: Hips & Buttocks

Group: East Group



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Element: Fire

Family Relationship: Middle Daughter

Symbology: Brightness, the Sun

Body Part: Eyes & Heart

Group: East Group


--  --

--  --

--  --




Element: Earth

Family Relationship: Mother

Symbology: “Mother Earth”

Body Part: Abdomen & Reproductive Organs

Group: West Group


--  --

--  --




Element: Hard Wood

Family Relationship: Eldest Son

Symbology: Thunder

Body Part: Throat

Group: East Group



Element: Earth



--  --





Element: Soft Metal

Family Relationship: Youngest Daughter

Symbology: Marsh

Body Part: Mouth area

Group: West Group




--  --

--  --



Element: Earth

Family Relationship: Youngest Son

Symbology: Mountain, Youth

Body Part: Hands, Spine, & Small Bones

Group: West Group



--  --


--  --



Element: Water

Family Relationship: Middle Son

Symbology: Water, the Moon

Body Part: Liver, Kidneys, Inner Ear

Group: East Group









Element: Hard Metal

Family Relationship: Father

Symbology: Heaven, Leader

Body Part: Head, Lungs

Group: West Group

Yin and Yang Theory

Yin and Yang Theory

The concept of Yin and Yang is one of the most fundamental and profound theories of Feng Shui. It is the Chinese perspective of balance and continual change. Many Feng Shui practitioners claim they have a deep understanding of this concept, yet they cannot even represent the image correctly. In fact, this is a good indicator of the depth of knowledge a “master” possesses. Many times these practitioners call themselves masters, yet their printed materials contain an incorrect Tai-ji (The name for the Yin and Yang circle) representation. How can one call themselves a master of Feng Shui and not even understand the basics of this deep and extremely significant diagram? Yin and Yang is a foundation theory for Feng Shui that supports many other theories including the Five Elements theory and the Environment. Hopefully by reading this, you will be better informed on what Yin/Yang theory is in Feng Shui.

What the Western version of Yin and Yang might be

A western perspective on yin and yang

Yin and Yang are dependent opposites that must always be in balance. The opposites flow in a natural cycle always replacing the other. Just as the seasons cycle and create a time of heat and cold, Yin and Yang cycles through active and passive, dark and light, etc. Yin and Yang evolved from a belief of mutually dependant opposites that cannot live without the other. The Eastern view of opposites is, if you will excuse the pun, opposite of a Western view. If Yin and Yang are balanced and flowing in the East, in the West (if a similar philosophy were adopted), it might look like the image to the right.

We in the West tend to look as things as black “or” white, right “or” wrong, etc. There is separation and unrelatedness in the Western perspective. Whereas, the Chinese view opposites as evolving and cycling. There is neither right or wrong, but rather there is balance, transformation, interaction, and dependent opposition. We need both to maintain a balance.


Yin and Yang can further be explained as a duality that cannot exist without both parts. The chart below shows some of the many opposites that are contained in such a simple symbol.

yin and yang

After the Yellow Turban rebellion (184 A.D.), the Han dynasty emperors commissioned scholars to re-examine the ancient texts. The principles of which Dong Zhongshui (?179-104 B.C.) and others interpreted the ancient texts were derived from the early philosophy of nature, the complementary alternating forces of Yin and Yang, dark and light, female and male, which maintain the balance of the cosmos, and which had been a thought pattern of the Chinese before any philosophical schools came into being.1 Meaning, that Feng Shui and Yin and Yang concepts were evolving from cosmological and environmental sciences before Daoists philosophy adopted it. Many people believe that it was a Daoist invention.

Within Yang, there is a small piece of Yin. Within Yin, there is a small piece of Yang. Just as in the heart of winter, a seed lays in wait to become life, so is Yang waited within Yin for its turn. In a hot summer, a sudden desert storm can bring coolness. This too is an example of how Yin is found in Yang. Again, there are no absolutes, just cycles in time.

An excellent book on this topic is Heaven and Earth in Early Han ThoughtYin and Yang.

Understanding a small piece of the true nature of the Tai Chi symbol

5 Element cycle

These Han dynasty scholars examined the ancient texts and discovered that their forebearers already had a logical and cyclical explanation for the Yin and Yang beyond the morality and philosophy. The first initial observations were of the changes of the seasons. Then expanding these observations the directions were explained. Then cycles in nature were further explained as the cycle of the Five elements.

From a solar perspective, the Sun rises in the East, reaches its peak overhead and sets in the West, then the symbology of the Tai-ji can be represented as right. Furthering that; Spring gives way to new wood, Summer brings fire and heat, Autumn cools like metal, and lastly snow (frozen water) brings the coldest time or Winter. It can also be seen that heat rises and coolness settles.

From a directional perspective, in the Northern Hemisphere (and from a Chinese perspective) the hottest direction is the South and the coldest is the North. Meanwhile all of this occurs with Earth being the center point.

An elemental perspective is a productive cycle of five elements. Creating this productive cycle of elements we see that:

  • Wood burns producing Fire.
  • Fire leaves behind Earth.
  • Earth is the source of Metal.
  • Metal liquefies into flowing liquid like Water (or another explanation is that Metal when cooled it creates condensation, such as a car left out on a cool night).
  • Water then becomes the nourishment for the Wood.

Now you see that there is a lot of depth and meaning to this simple symbol. Many times this symbol is represented as shown below. If heat rises and cool settles, how can Feng Shui “masters” use it on their web sites, in Feng Shui books, and in their classes classes etc.?

Incorrect Tai Ji Incorrect Tai Ji

Incorrect! Heat does not flow down and cool does not rise!!

Without understanding the conceptual view of Yin and Yang, one cannot properly utilize five elements. Since the five elements are the basis of the energetic representations and are the (only!) corrections utilized in Feng Shui, next time you see this incorrect version of the Tai-ji, question the information you are receiving.

For an authentic Feng Shui Consultation, please contact us today.

1. Morton, W. Scott, China Its History and Culture, McGraw Hill, 1995

Yin and Yang