What is the Bagua? It is a deceptively simple tool used in Feng Shui with powerful results. In Feng Shui we use it to map out areas of your home that correspond to certain life aspirations with the intent on bringing about desired changes in your life. But what exactly is it? Well, it has a somewhat mysterious origin.
When I first certified as a Feng Shui practitioner in 2006, I confess that while I was clear on how to use the Bagua map, I was not clear on its origins. The Bagua stems from the I Ching, the Book of Changes. Scholars suggest this text dates back to approximately the 9th century BC, and that by 300 BC, it was used by all levels of Chinese society as a divination tool.
A premise of the I Ching is the concept of yin and yang. Most of us have seen the yin/yang symbol with its circular black and white swirls. While it is a pretty cool symbol for the bumper sticker of your car, it has so much more depth and meaning. The Chinese use yin/yang as a way to describe our existence.
From Tai ji (or oneness) comes a world of duality; the complimentary yet opposing forces of nature in our physical world; the yang – masculine energy and the yin – feminine energy. The yin/yang sign is symbolic of constant change as the energy wanes and waxes from one extreme to the other. In the symbol, you will note that there is always a little seed of yin in yang energy and a seed of yang in yin energy. This is because everything physical you cannot have one without the other; it’s like two sides of the same coin.
The I Ching depicts Yang energy as a solid line - a strong, directed force, and Yin energy as a broken line – more fluid and yielding. By combing the yang and yin lines, we have 4 combinations, giving us more information regarding the balance of yin versus yang as the energy flows clockwise from yang to yin and back again. These four energy symbols can be used to understand various cycles, for example; seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) and the cycle of one day (Sunrise, Noon, Sunset, Midnight).
Adding a third line results in eight possible combinations that provide us an even greater understanding of the amount of yin or yang energy at certain points in the circular movement. It is the energy of these eight 3-line symbols, or trigrams as they are known, that form the Bagua. In Feng Shui the number 8 represents change and these eight trigrams are symbolic of the powerful changes that occur in nature.
Placing the trigrams in a circle, we get a representation of the yin/yang cycle. The Five Elements of Feng Shui are added to further describe the energy as it flows from one trigram to the next. You will find the elements Wood moving into Fire, Fire expanding into Metal, Metal making room for Water, and Water flowing to nourish Wood as the energy moves clockwise around the circle with Earth at its center.
Along with the Five Elements, each trigram was assigned a specific Life Aspiration, including health, wealth, fame, relationships, creativity, travel and helpful people, career, and wisdom. The addition of these Life Aspirations simplified the qualities of energetic transformations in the wheel of life because it zeros in on the sanctuary of home. It is this ease of use that brought Feng Shui within the reach of everyone, and not just the Imperial Palace.
Bottom line: the Bagua is a tool to help us understand and use life force energy. It provides a framework to conceptualize how subtle energy moves, and also helps us become aware of how this subtle energy can impact our lives and health.