Friday, November 04, 2005

The Magic Square of Three

The so-called Magic Square of Three is quite well known among masters and earnest students of Yi studies, Astrology, Fengshui, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Fortune-telling. It is called a magic square because the three numbers in any column, horizontal, vertical or diagonal, add up to fifteen. The square is also directional as it points to all eight directions in a map. Let us have a look at the magic square of three:

4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6

The odd numbers 9, 7, 1 and 3 represents the cardinal directional points: South, West, North and East while the even numbers 2, 6, 8 and 4 represents the inter-cardinal points: SW, NW, NE and SE respectively with number 5 in the center. This magic square relates to the Later Heaven Sequence because when the square is superimposed upon the sequence, the trigrams, their direction and numerical values can be known. For example Li in the South is represented by the number 9 and Kan is represented in the North by the number 1 and so forth. (Also refer to the Later Heaven Sequence depicted in Fig 5 Book II [W/B])

The Later Heaven Sequence is said to have originated for the use on earth since the Earlier Heaven Sequence (with Qian in the South and Kun in the North) is said to be for Heavenly use. Therefore the Later Heaven sequence together with the Luo Writings (Luoshu) are deemed very important to studies associated with the Yi, medicine, astrology, geomancy, meditation, philosophy and the proper conduct of one’s life.

Various sages through the ages came up with variations on how to use the Magic Square of Three to distinguish Yin and Yang adding to it the use of five celestial elements or stages of changes. These five stages of changes now loosely called the ‘five elements’ represent the celestial forces of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. They then indicated that each element can either generate or conquer another element to propagate their understanding of these forces. Whether it works exactly or not will no doubt depend largely on the skills of each master of the art or science.

Probably there are still many mysteries yet to be revealed on the Magic Square of Three. Since coming across this square in a Chinese kungfu series about two decades ago, one has pondered why the numbers were depicted as such and the significance of the summation of fifteen. After coming across the square again more than a decade ago, one perhaps understood the depiction of the numbers – refer to Fig 5 Book II W/B.

If we circle the numbers with a pencil, we can actually draw an outline of a tortoise with 9 as the head, 1 as the tail, 4 and 2 the front limbs, 8 and 6 the hind limbs with a shell covering the neck, limbs and body joining up 3 and 7. Work it out on a piece of paper and have some fun. The diagram perhaps symbolizes why the ancients relate to a tortoise from the Luo River carrying the writings (Luoshu) on its back to the Great Yu.

The reason for the summation of fifteen is another story. The missing link probably not found in books or tied up with the summation concerns cultivation and meditation. Meanwhile the search for further mysteries on the Magic Square of Three continues.

Do you know of some unresolved mysteries about the square and want to discuss them here?

1 comment:

Lynne said...

Some 7 years post post, I found it searching for Luo Shu information regarding the 6 phases of acupuncture and the Palaces of Face reading. If you have any info,...i'm open to hearing what, and/or where
else to look.