Romance of the Cosmos

What is Yijing’s secret love story?

Hexagram 11
Twenty-four years ago, I discovered my favorite number. Looking back, Number 11 to me had a lot of personal and mundane reasons, but it made more sense from the time I got serious in my Yijing practice, which was 18 years later. No wonder Hexagram 11 struck me not just for its intrinsic insight, but how it resonates with me as a peace-loving person.

For most translations, the word peace has come to describe Hexagram 11, with the exception of Hilary Barrett’s flow, as an alternative. Be it peace or flow, in my mind Hexagram 11 carries more than just a virtue. One major insight to me is its deeper symbolic story – a love story, actually.

Heaven and Earth
Hexagram 11 is the exact representation of the dynamics of two cosmic truths, Heaven and Earth. Long before yinyang, Heaven or tian 天 and Earth or di, 地 are already primordial concepts in ancient China, the great cosmic parents of all things in existence.

Hexagram 11, Flow/Peace

In Yijing however, the trigrams Heaven and Earth that make up Hexagram 11 are called qián, 乾 (force) and kūn, 坤 (field) respectively. What’s insightful for me is the structure of the trigrams themselves:

Earth is above
Heaven is below

What does this structure tell us?

Mother and Father
The position of trigrams are crucial here. This is unusual, as the common knowledge is Heaven must be above and Earth must be below. But peace and union happens when they are reversed.

In Confucian terms, Heaven is father and Earth is mother. Totally makes sense, even in our most common Western associations. But for them to be unified, Earth has to be raised up, and Heaven has to be on the ground. This to me is the great paradox, if applied as a principle in many human concerns, especially in relationships (romantic or not).

If we can apply the principle in romantic relationship, we can see that it’s really not about gender roles. It’s about carrying the masculine and the feminine energy at any given moment in a relationship, and how they support each other.

With this, Hexagram 11 exemplifies the virtue of unity, of give-and-take, of humility and care, of not abandoning each other. (In fact, this abandonment is shown in the opposite Hexagram 12, also called blocked, because Heaven flew above and Earth was left below.)

To me, this unity of Heaven and Earth is the cosmic love story of all love stories.

Sacred Union
In alchemy and mythology, and later in Jungian psychology, the concept hieros gamos or sacred union has come to symbolize the marriage of great opposites, an event that in Jungian view is the path to achieving a sense of wholeness, or individuation.

I suppose this event is a return to the unity of opposites already present in the ancient psyche of humanity. These opposites are often found in creation stories and mythical deities: the biblical and masculine Yahweh has a forgotten partner, its feminine counterpart Shekinah, which in Hebrew means “dwelling” (sounds like Mother Earth); In Visayan origins, the first man Sikalak and first woman Sikabay, often referred to mistakenly as Malakas and Maganda (strong and beautiful) are said to be formed and then emerged together from a giant bamboo; and who can forget the legendary inventor of Yijing, the ancient deity called Fuxi, who is actually not just a single man, but more like a conjoined fraternal twin – the ancient man and woman.

This unity is more obviously seen in the movement of Change, the Yi itself. Those 8 trigrams in continuous changing time cycle (as it happens in 4 seasons), are eventually symbolized into taijitu, the ever-recognizable yinyang symbol. Even in linguistic terms, they are not yin and yang, the way Western understanding cleaves the opposites; it is always yinyang, a singular word, for yin cannot exist without yang and vice versa.

All these are a timeless love story worth revisiting, and eventually needs completion, or actualization – on Earth as it is in Heaven. Who must do so? The image or wise action remark in Hexagram 11 says:

Hexagram 11 (Image)
Heaven and Earth perfectly interact…
In the same way, the ruler, by tailoring,
fulfills the Dao of Heaven and Earth.

The “ruler” represents us human beings. It means that the Dao or the way of Heaven and Earth – their love story – can be our story. We can tailor it in our communication, in our psychology, in our relationships, in our creativity – to ultimately fulfill this timeless romance of the cosmos.

And as for “tailoring” this principle, I’ll reserve that for the next post.


1 Richard John Lynn, The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching As Interpreted by Wang Bi (Columbia University Press, 1994)


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