It may seem as if there is no point to many of my posts, as they diverge in very different areas. What I am attempting to do is to try to connect some far-flung dots by setting everything down in a concrete fashion that I can then use as anchor points with which to start drawing the lines that connect two separate ideas. My left brain is always trying to separate them into individual things that don’t have much in common with each other, but my right brain is hunting for the patterns that weave the truth around all these disparaged points.
People have heard the words Ba Gua ( 八卦 ) bandied about quite often but may not understand what it means or if it even has any meaning at all. I have even seen, to the intense amusement of this Tao Babe, that there are some folks who take the Ba Gua and hang it outside their front door as a ward against evil spirits. Although I am sure that if one were to use it in such a fashion and believe it strongly enough, it would probably do the trick, because reality is the stuff that is created from our minds any way. Classic placebo pill effect, except utilizing the Ba Gua for the purpose of the placebo pill.
But please, let me hasten to assure you that Ba Guas are not mystical black magic signs, nor are they wards against evil. They are eight trigrams used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of the natural world. Each trigram consists of three lines, with each line either in a state of broken or unbroken. Unbroken lines are yang lines. Broken lines are yin lines. They are called trigrams because each trigram is a combination of three of these broken/unbroken lines.
That’s it. It’s that simple.
My people call it the Thiên Đồ** which means Natural Symbols (or rather, Symbols of the Natural World) but for expediency and ease of use, I will continue to use the words Ba Gua since that is what westerners are used to seeing, and I am trying to elucidate, not obfuscate the situation.
Probably the most visible one is currently depicted on the the Korean flag, the Taegeukgi, which has four of the eight trigrams on their flag. That was not originally the case, however. The Korean flag, before the 1800s actually had eight trigrams on their flag, not four, and the circular symbol in the center had a different-but-equal-in-meaning depiction for the yinyang symbol, which my people call the Thái Cực đồ.
Here are the two flags, side-by-side for comparison.
As clearly seen on the older flag to the right, Korea possessed their own set of Ba Gua. It proclaimed boldly, the direct ties to an ancient cultural past, one which is centered on the teachings of the I Ching.
For thousands of years, this red flag with the yellow Ba Gua and its circular pre-representation of yinyang was their flag. It showed, with clarity and brevity, the breadth and depth with which the knowledge and teachings of the I Ching was widely prevalent throughout Asia.
Stay with me here. This is important.
In my previous post, Càn Đoài Tốn Khảm Ly Cấn Chấn Khôn, I touched upon it briefly. I am going to extrapolate a bit more so that it can be examined in a clearer fashion.
The ones that China claim are these two.
The Vietnamese Thiên Đồ (Ba Gua) is this one.*
This is clearly a set of three Ba Guas, each owned by three ‘siblings’. The first sibling was given the Upper Heaven. The second sibling was given the Middle Heaven. The third sibling was given the Lower Heaven. Since the yinyang symbol is a representation of a vortex, there is no such thing as up or down so the designations of upper, middle, and lower are just denotations for the various points at any given moment in time that has been flash-frozen to reveal their natural state-of-being.
It would be of no surprise then, when in 1882, under the military imposition of the Chinese, Korea had to remove half of its trigrams of the Lower Heaven Ba Gua. The people of Korea was told not to study the I Ching books because it was tainted information that would be destructive to the Korean psyche. This viewpoint was imposed on the Korean people by a powerful military machine that the Han Chinese had become by that point. It was then that they lost their Ba Gua.
I do feel for them. It was unfortunate that the Koreans could not hide their Ba Gua because it was so visibly emblazoned on their flag. The Vietnamese flag, back in those days, was just a field of gold. This is what it looked like.
It looked like this because it was the original gold head turbans of the Trung sisters when they led an army to go up against the Han Chinese back in circa 12 BC to 43 AD. Remember, Hoàng means gold when it is used for royalty. The Trung sisters were Viet Royalty. The signal to fight was the unraveling of their gold turbans and waving it in the air like a flag. This bright gold hue is the color of my ancient ancestors and I am now a modern-day color guard. This was our flag for thousands of years. THOUSANDS OF YEARS. It denotes royalty, an ancient lineage that runs back as far as memory serves, and even beyond that, into prehistory.
I’m probably the only one left out there, and probably the only one that even cares about such ancient matters, but that’s OK by me. As long as even one of us is still alive and aware, the spirit of my ancestors will still be alive. BTW: these turbans are still a very big part of the traditional Vietnamese costume. North Vietnamese women still wear them to this day, albeit only at formal occasions and weddings.
During the many incursions of the Han Chinese into Vietnamese territory, much was taken from the Vietnamese people, but the one thing that was not taken away was the Vietnamese Ba Gua. It was cleverly hidden in our folk stories and was imparted to the Vietnamese children, made to be committed to memory so that it could be preserved into the future, in hopes that one day, it would be revealed as a national inheritance of great value.
A clue was added to the flag in later years, when it was obvious that the I Ching had been deliberately erased from the Vietnamese collective via book burnings and bronze melting of my people’s history. This addition to our ancient flag was not done lightly. It would be used to nail the claim of the ancient Viet ancestors to the I Ching’s teachings. This was what occurred.
By 1863, the gold field flag was changed to a more colorful flag which could be flown on banners and flagstaffs. This occurred between 1863 and 1885 to represent the joining of two areas, the Xích Tien (Blue North), where Âu Cơ’s family originated from, and the Xích Quỷ (Red South) area, where her husband, the Dragon King of Lac, ruled.
Xích Tien’s color was blue. Xích Quỷ’s color was red. The gold field was the color of the Emperor and denotes royalty.
Fast forward about twenty years and we have a big change. We were occupied by the Chinese, and in the ensuing melee, our flag got changed to this.
The words are Han Chinese. It means Đại Nam (Great South). Basically, what it meant was that the northern Han Chinese had incorporated us into the entirety of the Chinese nation, with a concession for our colors, but the claim was quite visual. We were the Great South and they were the Great North and together, we were the Great China.
My ancestors didn’t like that very much. Fifteen years after that flag had been created, we cast it off and created a new flag. We kept the original yellow field of the Trung sisters but by now, there was something else that was just as important as our color. We also had intellectual property that had to be protected to keep safe and whole for future generations.
You see, it’s one thing to be stripped of national treasures of the physical kind. It’s another to take the spirit and the acquired wisdom of an entire great nation. In an effort to retain our ancestors’ most valued treasure, in 1890, Emperor Thành Thái embedded three red stripes through the center of that field, laying claim to our ancient link to the I Ching. This is the three unbroken lines of Heaven, the Creative.
After this time, there were a few minor changes to the flag, of which the most notable was when the French colonized Vietnam and put their flag onto a corner of our yellow field. This lasted for about twenty years, upon which time we decided that it was not something we wanted, so we went back to the gold field with the red yang (Heaven) stripes. This was what we flew up until 1975, when the Viet flag was changed to what it currently is today.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not writing a post about a political rant. I am attempting to explain the ancient roots of my people and where the I Ching fits into all of this. The flags have a crucial role to play in the telling of that story, so I am including all of this as information with which to move the discussion forward.
Let me stress again that I am not interested in the political strife and tribulations of brothers whose only intentions are to tear each other apart. It has been over 37 years since a gold flag was last flown over the area where the Vietnamese kings used to live.
Although it is scant, and scattered all around the world, it is still fluttering in the gentle winds to remind us that we are still Dragon Fairy children and that our ancestors were successful in protecting and delivering intact, a priceless birthright to us: the I Ching and the Trung Thiên Đồ.
In my next few postings, I will talk about why the Trung Thiên Đồ is an important Ba Gua. Until then, my friends…
* Kinh Dịch – di sản sáng tạo của Việt Nam. Nguyễn Thiếu Dũng.