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© 2000 Dr. Stephen L. Field Trinity University
Illuminating the Eight Halls
The technique of residential fengshui known as Bazhai mingjing (Illuminating the eight halls), one of the most popular systems in use since the Qing dynasty, has been called the most obscure and difficult to understand of the different versions of the compass school. This is because there has never been a satisfactory explanation of the cosmological principles employed by this school, including, but not limited to, a justification for its apparently arbitrary assignment of good and bad fortune to the compass directions. This essay will first outline the rudiments of the technique as currently practiced, then suggest a possible derivation of its most baffling methodologies.
Figure 1 Houtian Trigrams and Directional Correlates
A unique characteristic of this technique of fengshui is its apparent sole reliance on the bagua, or eight trigrams of the Yijing, and particularly on the sequence of those eight trigrams known as the houtian (post-heaven) configuration. In the Shuogua zhuan "Trigram Explanation" commentary of the Yijing, each trigram of the houtian sequence is also correlated with one of the eight directions, as in fig. 1 (click on the link to the left to see the illustration). The 3x3 grid illustrated in this diagram is called the jiugong, or Palace of Nine Halls. A trigram and one of the eight directions represent each of eight of the nine halls (in traditional Chinese cartography, south is placed at the top of the map rather than north). The direction identifies its location in space and the trigram characterizes the qi of that location. The ninth hall is the courtyard of the palace.
Other correlations were undoubtedly being made at this time. For example, the trigrams of the houtian sequence were also given seasonal associations as well as agricultural connotations (see below). Later on (conceivably as early as the Han dynasty) the houtian configuration of trigrams was correlated with a sequence of numbers known as the luoshu, or "Luo River writing." The luoshu is first mentioned in the Confucian Analects, and the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi first mentioned the "nine numbers" of the luo. The Xici zhuan or "Great Commentary" of the Yijing, first connected the luoshu with another configuration of numbers known as the hetu, or "River chart," which will be discussed in some detail later in this analysis. At the very latest by the beginning of the Han dynasty
Figure 2 Houtian Trigrams and Luoshu Numbers On various divination boards buried in Han era tombs the numbers and the trigrams can be indirectly related. "Tri-epoch. 8. each of which was labeled with one of the eight trigrams of the houtian sequence. As for the numbers. and diagonals all add up to 15 (see fig. The square plate of this divining board was also dissected by four intersecting diameters. The disc of the zhanpan was divided into eight equal segments by four intersecting diameters. in an early Han dynasty tomb in Anhui province a zhanpan divination board (dated to 173 BCE) was discovered on the face of which were inscribed nine numbers in the luoshu configuration. There is a 2 . or the Nine Stars." Since every year has a ganzhi designation. Each of the eight minggua therefore has a corresponding eight zhaigua. a shipan "cosmograph" was discovered in another Han dynasty tomb in Korea. Figure 2 correlates houtian trigrams and luoshu numbers (click on the link to the left to view the illustration). This is called the minggua. plus two secret "companions" to the penultimate star of the handle. 7. but the scant textual evidence suggests at the very least that it was religious in origin. The provenance of the concept of Nine Stars is unknown. and these eight groups of eight trigrams complete the da you nian. the endpoints of which were numbered in the order 4. Each luo number has a unique trigram. The auspice generated by the conjunction is known as jiuxing. the Northern Ladle (Big Dipper). columns. 1. A formula called the da you nian. the natal trigram is paired with each of the eight directional trigrams in the houtian sequence (called zhaigua or hall trigrams). reading clockwise. so when the Tri-epoch digit is equated with the luo number. and it identifies the character of cosmic qi present at the person's birth. 9. 2. ganzhi cycles of 180 years called the sanyuan. an arrangement of the digits 1 through 9 in a three-by-three grid such that rows. derived from its houtian correlation (see fig. Finally. 69 CE). The unusual nouns (see table 1 below) supposedly name the seven stars of Beidou. This complement of a natal trigram and its set of hall trigrams represents a metaphysical interaction between the individual's natal qi and the qi of the environment that surrounds that individual. and each transformation is capable of generating good or bad fortune for the individual. "Great Roving Year" is the means by which number and trigram merge. 2). As for the trigrams. 2). This conjunction is essentially thought of as a transformation of the minggua into the zhaigua and vice-versa (called biangua or bianyao). the sequence of digits 1 through 9 is repeated 20 times to match three sixty-term. 3. the tomb of Wang Xu (d. in the Tri-epoch everyone's year of birth has a digital correlate from 1 to 9. First. or the natal trigram. 6. The Nine Stars and the Great Roving Year The correlation of the luoshu numbers and bagua trigrams is the minimum requirement for conducting bazhai fengshui readings.the luoshu was understood as the magic square of three. each person has a trigram that corresponds to his/her natal year.
By the late Tang dynasty. the Nine Stars referred to archetypal terrestrial counterparts of the celestial namesakes. the Ravenous Wolf star governs the transformation. when fengshui texts such as Hanlong jing were written. which were recognized as deities by Daoist priests of the 4th century. When the natal trigram is known. mountain shapes that seemingly have nothing to do with the original names. Finally. the Nine Stars were apparently arbitrary names for the eight levels of auspice associated with trigram transformation. it is compared with each of the eight directional trigrams. their unique Table 1 3 . by the time bazhai fengshui flourished in the Qing dynasty." Table 1 enumerates the four lucky stars and the four unlucky stars. and the auspice is "great fortune. For example. The divergence of lines across the space of each pair of trigrams determines the star that will govern a particular direction for that particular person. Let us now return to the Great Roving Year.considerable body of legend attached to the stars of Beidou. if the natal trigram and the hall trigram differ by only the top line. Each star in turn is characterized by a specific auspice.
has never been satisfactorily explained. east." and form the configuration around the houtian sequence of trigrams as illustrated in figure 3 (click on the link to the left to see the illustration). the "four eastern halls. The foregoing discussion has provided the reader with a brief outline of the methodology of the bazhai or jiugong method of residential fengshui. as in table 2. the four lucky halls Figure 3 Eastern and Western Halls 4 . and southeast.auspices. If the birthdate is known. From these two tables it can be seen that of the eight directional auspices for each minggua of the Nine Star system. an interesting phenomenon emerges. To provide an example of da you nian transformation table 2 uses the trigram qian as the natal trigram. and the diverging lines that mark the transformation from one trigram to the next (click on the link to the left to view the table). their directions. which is not externally evident. northeast. four are auspicious and four are inauspicious. The logic of this array. Table 2 If the remaining natal trigrams are expanded according to the da you nian transformations as in table 2 above. And the other half of the natal trigrams are fortunate matches with the remaining four hall trigrams--specifically the directions south. and northwest. Later in this analysis it will be shown how this physical arrangement of the palace is the one scientifically valid basis of bazhai fengshui. and the accompanying auspices from table 1 (click on the link to the left to view table 2). north." and the xi si zhai. These two groups of trigrams are called the dong si zhai. the "four western halls. the directions west. Half of the natal trigrams are fortunate matches with the same four hall trigrams--specifically. southwest. and then lists the eight trigrams.
the orthodox translation of trigram names. what exactly is it that makes a Ravenous Wolf auspicious and Virtue baleful? The auspice of these stars seems to contradict their nature. because of the popular texts that discuss the bazhai methodology. most rely on wuxing "five phase" correlations to explain the derivation of auspice. even though five. the question still remains. good fortune is indicated when the two exhibit a relationship of xiangsheng. or "mutual production. and the individual will then know which is the most appropriate direction in which to face the house or orient its rooms. or "mutual conquest. However. these two 5 . Figure 4 gives the houtian sequence of trigrams. Table 3 The supposition of orthodox fengshui is that when the five phase value of the natal trigram is matched with the five phase value of the directional trigram. and their five phase correlations (click on the link to the left to view the illustration). their directions.and eight-term series are not easily overlaid." while bad fortune is indicated when the two exhibit a relationship of xiangke." Developed by the late Warring States yinyang theorist Zou Yan. Logically. should not a "virtuous" star bring good fortune and a "ravenous" star bad fortune? What accounts for the apparently arbitrary assignment of good and bad fortune to the da you nian directions? The Fortune of Five and the Hetu Key Figure 4 Five Phase Values of Houtian Trigrams Obviously these questions have been asked before. The five phase and eight trigram cosmological systems were also correlated early on.and the four unlucky halls can be easily derived.
From fig." In the mutual conquest order of the five phases. From fig. and table 1 confirms that the Ravenous Wolf. From fig. 4 we see that li has the phase "fire." In the mutual production order of the five phases. patterned after the early Han dynasty cosmograph (click on the link to the left to view the illustration). and the 6 . In order to facilitate the reader's comprehension of the numerology underlying bazhai fengshui. which has the phase "earth. 4 we see that xun has the phase "wood. However." In the mutual production order of the five phases. fully 15% of da you nian auspices cannot be predicted accurately by five phase correlations. In similar fashion five phase theory can predict the auspice of the remaining six directions of the natal trigram xun. the luoshu numbers. wood saps earth. fire builds earth. to our surprise. which brings great misfortune. 1 we see that the xun and kan trigrams differ by the top line. let us take as another example a person born under the trigram li who plans to build a house facing in the direction northeast. which has the phase "earth. small). governs this transformation. and table 1 confirms that this transformation is governed by the star Virtue. But the resolution of the mystery of auspice determination requires the juxtaposition of five factors. so the conjunction of xun and kun would indicate bad fortune. which brings great fortune. In fact. let us imagine that a person with the natal trigram xun wanted to build a house facing the direction north. of the 64 possible trigram conjunctions. governs this transformation. so this conjunction of xun and kan would indicate good fortune.sequences are illustrated in table 3 (click on the link to the left to view table 3). Up to now we have seen how the houtian trigrams correlate with the luoshu numbers to provide the characteristics of a person's natal qi. The Mandarinate. a baleful star that brings lesser misfortune. lesser. Add to this the fact that five phase theories cannot differentiate between the different levels of good or bad fortune (great. This numerical dial juxtaposes the following four factors: the xiantian and houtian sequences of trigrams. But. 1 we see that the li and gen trigrams differ by the bottom line. From fig. which has the phase "water." whereas the direction north is occupied by the trigram kan. 5. not just two. and it is clear that these theories. I have prepared a heuristic device in fig. while passable indicators of good and bad fortune. For example." whereas the direction northeast is occupied by the trigram gen. From fig. table 1 refutes our five phase projection. cannot be considered the origin of da you nian auspice. suppose the same person wanted to build a house facing the direction southwest. 1 we see that the xun and kun trigrams differ by the middle and top lines. water nourishes wood. On the other hand. The direction southwest is occupied by the trigram kun. so the conjunction of li and gen should indicate good fortune.
From a numerological standpoint good fortune always and without exception reveals itself as 5 or a multiply of 5. and 15) and four that are not. or the number 8 of the direction east (which equals 10 when added). What makes this possible. On the outer square I have placed the cardinal directions. On the square grid are arranged the trigrams of the houtian sequence. without five phase theories and their mutual orders. For example. it will become clear that half of the 64 possible conjunctions are multiples of five. or number 2 on the dial. The remaining four directions produce sums or differences all not divisible by 5. or the number 2 of the direction southeast (which equals 0 when subtracted). each of which will correspond to a direction the house might face. in other words. Then take the sum or difference of the numbers attached to the juxtaposed trigrams. the hetu system of numbers mentioned briefly above. suppose a person has the natal trigram xun. along with their luoshu numbers from the xiantian dial. 5. 7 . First choose the natal trigram on the inner disc and note its number. It can be matched with the number 3 of direction south (which equals 5 when added). The result will be eight numbers. this board will reveal a most intriguing phenomenon that may have begun as a well-guarded secret centuries ago but was eventually forgotten. is the fact that there lies embedded within this number dial one more hidden factor. Next. Once each of the eight natal trigrams is paired with its eight directions and the numbers have been computed. however. 10.directions. Figure 5 Xiantian and Houtian Trigrams with Luoshu Numbers The dial works in this fashion. Around the inner dial are arrayed the xiantian trigram names with their luoshu correlates. 0. or the number 7 of the direction north (which equals 5 when subtracted). From just these factors. four of which are divisible by five (that is. we can conduct fengshui readings as sophisticated as those outlined above. match this number with each trigram in turn on the square grid. More importantly. however.
Figure 7 The Hetu Numbers If these two pairs of hetu arms are compared. southeast. the directions southwest. and the western 8 . the eastern and southern (left and top) arms on the one hand (3+2. northwest. south. and north. Refer to the illustration of the hetu in figure 7 (click on the link to the left). 8+7. we find that the numbers of the eastern group (the dong si zhai) correspond to the eastern and southern arms of the hetu (left and top arms). These are none other than the dong si zhai and the xi si zhai. and northeast. while the numbers of the western group (the xi si zhai) correspond to the western and northern arms of the hetu (right and bottom arms). that is. The other half of the disc trigrams are fortunate matches with the remaining four trigrams of the grid-specifically. that is. See figure 6 (click on the link to the left). These two groups of four trigrams form an array around the plate that is quite revealing.Figure 6 Eastern and Western Halls and Hetu Numbers Now. the Eastern and Western Halls of the Palace of Nine Halls. 8+2). we see that when the numbers of each pair are added. the directions east. west. we find that half of the disc trigrams are fortunate matches (their sums or differences are multiples of 5) with the same four trigrams of the grid-specifically. 3+7. When the numbers of these two groups are compared with the numbers appearing on the hetu. when each trigram of the disc is matched in turn with all trigrams of the grid.
the sums are 5. The hetu configuration of numbers can also account for the rank of auspice among the eight directions. elder daughter. younger son and younger daughter. Next. which discusses the environmental basis of nine star auspice. All of the numbers on these pairs of arms correspond to trigram pairs whose Nine Star auspice is great or lesser misfortune. pairs of numbers from opposite arms of the hetu (that is. Such 9 . or the numbers of the northern and southern (bottom and top) arms. when the numbers of the eastern and northern (left and bottom) arms. relative auspice is a factor of proximity. 6-1). 4+6. it still does not explain the provenance of the strange array of halls called the dong si zhai and xi si zhai. never is the sum or difference a multiple of five. The texts agree on the rationale of this division. when establishing new settlements the ancient Chinese first used a gnomon. 9+ 1). one half contains the four members father. Subtraction of numbers within each arm always equals five (7-2. pairs of numbers from these arms always correspond to trigram pairs whose Nine Star auspice is misfortune. middle son and middle daughter. the north/south and east/west arms) always correspond to trigram pairs whose Nine Star auspice is great misfortune. all multiples of 5. When adjacent arms of the hetu do not conform to the Eastern and Western Halls (that is. and 15. However." which may characterize the partitions. Different arms can be either adjacent (next closest in proximity) or opposite (farthest in proximity). or the numbers of the eastern and western (left and right) arms. Popular fengshui texts explain this division in trigrammatic terms. but certainly does not explain their origin or significance. The numbers closest in proximity--those pairs sharing the same arm which equal 5 when subtracted--are the most fortunate. it is the segregation of the Palace of Nine Halls into eastern and western partitions that is the overall-determining factor of fortune in this type of residential fengshui. pairs of numbers from these arms always correspond to trigram pairs whose Nine Star auspice is good fortune. As we saw earlier in the legend of Gong Liu. stating that each partition would chengjia "complete a family. According to the east-west partition. to locate the cardinal directions. 9-4. 10. Finally. mother. or the numbers of the western and southern (right and top) arms. While the hetu configuration of numbers is a surprisingly apt candidate for the origin of bazhai fengshui. 8-3. when adjacent arms of the hetu conform to the Eastern and Western Halls of the Palace of Nine Halls (that is. This concludes part 1 of the essay. are added or subtracted.and northern (right and bottom) arms on the other hand (4+1. or sundial. so their Nine Star auspice is great good fortune. while the other half contains the four members elder son. using the passage in the Shuo gua commentary of the Yijing that identifies the eight trigrams with the eight members of the family. lesser. the east/south and west/north arms). or small fortune. 9+6." or "make a family. click here. As it turns out. After all. the east/north and west/south arms). I suspect there is also an environmental basis for this partitioning of the world. All of these numbers correspond to trigram pairs whose Nine Star auspice is great. To continue with part 2. Each number of the pair of numbers that we add or subtract to determine auspice can come from the same arm of the hetu (closest in proximity) or from different arms.
faced south. From this picture it might appear that north would never be an advantageous direction. if a house is built facing due south. So in the spring and autumn when the sun was more nearly overhead. As houses grew in size. We moderns know that due to the tilt of the earth’s axis as the earth revolves around the sun. At least by the late Warring States period the Chinese had learned to correlate seasons with directions.…Kan in the north stores them. in a gloss on that section of the Shuo gua commentary that first introduced the houtian sequence of trigrams. the great house in the center of the settlement faced east. So it would make sense for bedrooms to be placed in the east and workrooms to be placed in the west. and perishable food would keep longer in them. the season of food storage.…Kun in the southwest nourishes them. As houses became multi-roomed. for example. On the other hand. In the winter. that is probably the case.…Xun in the southeast disseminates them.observation enabled them to orient their buildings so as to obtain the most benefit from the rays of the sun. it was the placement of the door that required this information.…Qian in the northwest orders them. the front rooms will be shaded. and it was no longer strictly necessary that the house face due south. interprets the sequence according to the passing of the agricultural seasons. we will see how the eastern and western hall partitions make perfect environmental sense. This is the most efficient use of solar energy for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. A text from the early Han. Yiwei qianzuodu. in primitive times when houses were only one-room structures. during summer when the sun rises and sets farther to the north. Obviously. the direction of the rising sun.…Li in the south gives them growth. In the Neolithic village of Banpo. Practically speaking. For a one-room dwelling. northern rooms would be cold all day. But for multiple room houses north is the proper direction for storage. the eastern rooms would be sunny in the morning and the western rooms would be sunny in the afternoon. Things emerge with zhen in the east.1 10 . the sun appears to rise and set further and further south as winter approaches. for the most part. different portions of the house would be more comfortable during particular seasons.…Gen in the northeast marks their termination and beginning. while the one-roomed human dwellings that surrounded the great house. 1 If we return now to the Palace of Nine Halls.…They are harvested with dui in the west. every direction had a function. its front rooms will be sunny all day during the winter.
" while the Western Hall partition contains a natural progression of three half-seasons appropriate to the agricultural phase we might call "decline. the direction of storage.Figure 8 grafts this seasonal and agricultural information onto the houtian sequence of trigrams to create a map of the cosmos. The Four Eastern Halls begin in the east (spring equinox). and the Western Hall progression resumes in the northeast. As a result of this arrangement. when seeds are sprouting. from nourishment through harvest to order." However. Figure 8 A Houtian Map of the Cosmos As before. from emergence through dissemination to growth. The Eastern hall partition contains a natural progression of three half-seasons appropriate to the agricultural phase we might call "growth. the shaded portions of the map correspond to the Four Eastern Halls of the Palace of Nine Halls. 11 . and move through three successive eastern octants to the south (summer solstice). The Four Western Halls begin in the southwest (early autumn). each partition then skips an octant and breaks the progression in order to pick up its fourth octant. and proceed through three successive western octants to the northwest (early winter). the direction of termination. The Eastern Hall progression then resumes in the north. There is a logical reason for this. each partition is fully balanced from a seasonal perspective.
there will be two auspicious rooms that are sunny in winter and shady in summer. Figure 10 Winter Cold Phase This environmental view of the eastern and western partitions is also informative for another reason. Both phases are correlated with an equal number of eastern and western halls. the birth and death of the year. Seasonal growth and decline.Figure 9 Summer Heat Phase In figure 9 we see an exaggerated representation of the northern sun of summer. which explains why the directions of decline are ominous for someone born in the directions of growth. We have seen how the Eastern Hall partition corresponds predominantly to the growth phase of the agricultural year. that is. In other words. while the Western Hall partition corresponds predominantly to the decline phase of the year. Regardless of which partition a person’s birth determines is auspicious. are logically incompatible. the all-important southern orientation of the house is divided equally between eastern and western partitions. and vice-versa. and in figure10 we see a representation of the southern sun of winter. No partition gets the lion’s share of sun. Since life and death are the natural 12 .
http://www. The transformation of one symbol into another conjures up a star spirit which visits good or bad fortune upon the person who by chance or choice resides in that space at that time.fengshuigate. Yet such a house would still have four incompatible rooms corresponding to the directions of planting and growth. Traditional commentary informs us that the interaction of two sequences of esoteric symbols—the houtian bagua and the luoshu—allows us to fathom the relationship between humans and their specific environments. Those who wish to seek the good or avoid the bad can employ the pseudo-scientific theories of five phase orders to predict the fortune of human-earth conjunction. that is.com/environment. it is of course entirely appropriate to orient a house toward the partition of decline. harvest and completion. Conclusion The goal of this analysis was to explain the cosmological principles underlying orthodox bazhai fengshui theories.html 13 .condition of all living things. including the derivation of directional auspice and the significance of partitioning the Palace of Nine Halls into eastern and western divisions.
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