Sunday, January 5, 4200

Fu Hsi (2800-2737 BC) - I Ching, Ch'in

[Nuwa and Fu Hsi]

In Chinese mythology, Fu Hsi (c. 2850 BC) was the first of the mythical Three Sovereigns of Ancient China. He is a culture hero reputed to be the inventor of writing, fishing, trapping, and the ch'in zither.

[China - The Strumming of an Old Man in a Refined State of Intoxication]

Fu Xi was born on the lower-middle reaches of the Yellow River in a place called Chengji (possibly modern Lantian, Shaanxi or Tianshui, Gansu).

According to legend the land was swept by a great flood and only Fuxi and his sister Nüwa survived. They retired to Kunlun Mountain where they prayed for a sign from the Emperor of Heaven. The divine being approved their union and the siblings set about procreating the human race. It was said that in order to speed up the procreation of humans, Fu Hsi and Nüwa find an additional way by using clay to create human figures, and with the power divine being entrusted to them, they made the clay figures to come alive.

Fu Hsithen came to rule over his descendents although reports of his long reign vary between sources from 115 years (2852-2737 BC) to 116 years (2952-2836 BC).

He lived for 197 years altogether and died at a place called Chen (modern Huaiyang, Henan) where his mausoleum can still be found.

During the time of his predecessor Nüwa (who according to some sources was also his wife and/or sister), society was matriarchal and primitive. Childbirth was seen to be miraculous not requiring the participation of the male and children only knew their mothers. As the reproductive process became better understood ancient Chinese society moved towards a patriarchal system and Fu Xi assumed primary importance.

In the beginning there was as yet no moral or social order. Men knew their mothers only, not their fathers. When hungry, they searched for food; when satisfied, they threw away the remnants. They devoured their food hide and hair, drank the blood, and clad themselves in skins and rushes. Then came Fu Hsi and looked upward and contemplated the images in the heavens, and looked downward and contemplated the occurrences on earth. He united man and wife, regulated the five stages of change, and laid down the laws of humanity. He devised the eight trigrams, in order to gain mastery over the world.

Fu Hsi taught his subjects to cook, to fish with nets, and to hunt with weapons made of iron. He instituted marriage and offered the first open air sacrifices to heaven. A stone tablet, dated to AD 160 shows Fu Hsi with Nüwa, who was both his wife and his sister.

Traditionally, Fu Hsi is considered the originator of the I Ching which work is attributed to his reading of the He Map (or the Yellow River Map). According to this tradition, Fu Hsi had the arrangement of the trigrams of the I Ching revealed to him supernaturally. This arrangement precedes the compilation of the I Ching during the Zhou dynasty. Fu Hsi is said to have discovered the arrangement in markings on the back of a mythical dragon-horse (sometimes said to be a turtle) that emerged from the river Luo. This discovery is also said to have been the origin of calligraphy.


The I Ching, also called Book of Changes or Classic of Changes is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. The book consists of two parts. The "basic text" of the Changes, which took form sometime in the early Zhou dynasty (122-256 BC), consists of 64 six-line divinatory symbols known as hexagrams, each of which has a name that refers to a physical object, an activity, a state, a situation, a quality, an emotion, or a relationship. In addition, each hexagram possesses a short, cryptic description of several words, called a "judgment," and a brief written interpretation for each line of each hexagram, known as a line statement. The line statements, which are read from the bottom of the hexagram upward, describe the development of the situation epitomized by the hexagram name and the judgment. In the process of divination, the person consulting the text evaluates not only the judgment and line statements but also the relationship of the constituent trigrams (three-line symbols, also called gua) for insights into the issue under consideration, and what to do about it. Over time, a great many different systems developed for analyzing the relationship of hexagrams, trigrams and individual lines.

During the late Zhou period, a set of appendices known as the Ten Wings -- attributed to Confucius--became permanently attached to the "basic text," and so the work received imperial sanction in 136 BC as one of the five major "Confucian" classics. This second part of the book articulated the Yijing's implicit cosmology and invested the classic with a new and powerfully attractive literary flavor and style. The world view of this amplified version of the Changes emphasized correlative thinking, a humane cosmological outlook, and a fundamental unity and resonance between Heaven, Earth and Man. It also stressed the pervasive notion of yinyang complementarity, cyclical movement and ceaseless alternation. These amplifications and explanations of the "basic text" have had enormously important consequences in many realms of Chinese culture, from the Han period to the present.

Fu Hsi was reputed to have had the eight trigrams revealed to him supernaturally (By the time of the legendary Yu (2194–2149 BC), the trigrams had supposedly been developed into 64 hexagrams ( lìu shí sì gùa),

which were recorded in the scripture Lian Shan, meaning “continuous mountains.”

[The eight trigrams]

The solid line represents yang, the creative principle. The open line represents yin, the receptive principle. These principles are also represented in a common circular symbol (☯), known as taijitu, but more commonly known in the west as the yin-yang diagram, expressing the idea of complementarity of changes: when Yang is at top, Yin is increasing, and the reverse.

The I Ching has influenced countless Chinese philosophers, artists and even businesspeople throughout history. In more recent times, several Western artists and thinkers have used it in fields as diverse as psychoanalysis, music, film, drama, dance, eschatology, and fiction writing.

During most of its history, the I Ching was only known in China. It was introduced to the West in the late 19th Century. A translation by Richard Wilhelm, into German was subsequently translated into English by Cary F. Baynes. Another translation, by James Legge has also held wide popularity in the West. Since the early 20th Century the I Ching has been influential in fields as diverse as psychoanalysis and popular culture. Some of those influenced are the following:

Niels Bohr included the Tai Chi symbol in his coat of arms, when knighted, to reflect his appreciation for the I Ching's use of probabilistic concepts in its handling of physical, social, and psychological phenomena.

Carl Jung developed his theory of synchronicity based upon the I Ching.

John Cage used the I Ching to decide the arrangements of many of his compositions.

Andrew Culver uses vast quantities of chance operations to generate compositional events and structures, and whose simulation of the coin-tossing oracle called ic is available freely online at

Merce Cunningham uses the I Ching and chance operations to decide the arrangement of many of his dances.

The ABC soap opera Dark Shadows at one point featured a copy of the I Ching and yarrow sticks amongst its many mystical plot elements.

George Harrison of the Beatles read the I Ching and decided he should surrender to chance. Following this, in his words, he "picked up a book at random, opened it, saw 'gently weeps,' then laid the book down again and started the song" (While My Guitar Gently Weeps).

Chapter 24 from Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, written by Syd Barrett, features lyrics adapted from the I Ching. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun from A Saucerful of Secrets is also based on the work.

Hermann Hesse's novel The Glass Bead Game (1943) is mainly concerned with the principles of the I Ching.


Fu Hsi is also credited with the invention of the ch'in, together with the later Three Sovereigns Shennong and Huang Ti.

The ch'in has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favored by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote "a gentleman does not part with his ch'in or se without good reason," as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius (September 28, 551 -479 BC). It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as "the father of Chinese music" or "the instrument of the sages."

The ch'in is a very quiet instrument, with a range of about four octaves, and its open strings are tuned in the bass register. Its lowest pitch is about two octaves below middle C, or the lowest note on the cello. Sounds are produced by plucking open strings, stopped strings, and harmonics. The use of glissando -- sliding tones -- gives it a sound reminiscent of a pizzicato cello or fdouble bass. The qin is also capable of over 119 harmonics, of which 91 are most commonly used. By tradition the ch'in originally had five strings, but ancient ch'in-like instruments with 10 or more strings have been found. The modern form has been standardized for about 2,000 year.

In 1977, a recording of Flowing Water (Liu Shui, as performed by Guan Pinghu, one of the best qin players of the 20th century) was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated LP recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts. It is the longest excerpt included on the disc. In 2003, kuchin music was proclaimed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The music of the ch'in can be categorized as three distinctively different "sounds." The first is san yin: "scattered sounds." This is produced by plucking the required string to sound an open note.

The second is fan yin, or "floating sounds." These are harmonics, in which the player lightly touches the string with one or more fingers of the left hand at a position indicated by the hui dots, pluck and lift, creating a crisp and clear sound.

The third is an yin, or "stopped sounds." This forms the bulk of most qin pieces and requires the player to press on a string with a finger or thumb of the left hand until it connects with the surface board, then pluck. Afterwards, the musician's hand often slides up and down, thereby modifying the pitch.

According to the book, Cunjian Guqin Zhifa Puzi Jilan, there are around 1,070 different finger techniques used for the qin, with or without names. It is therefore, the instrument with the most finger techniques in either Chinese or Western music. Most are obsolete, but around 50 or so are sufficient to know in modern practice.

According to tradition, the ch'in originally had five strings, representing the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Later, in the Zhou dynasty, Zhou Wen Wang added a sixth string to mourn his son, Bo Yihou. His successor, Zhou Wu Wang, added a seventh string to motivate his troops into battle with the Shang.

The entire length of the ch'in (in Chinese measurements) is 3 chi, 6 cun and 5 fen; representing the 365 days of the year.

The kuchin is nearly always used a solo instrument, as its quietness of tone means that it cannot compete with the sounds of most other instruments or an ensemble. It can, however, be played together with a xiao (end-blown bamboo flute), with other ch'in, or played while singing. In old times, the se (a long zither with movable bridges and 25 strings, similar to the Japanese koto) was frequently used in duets with the ch'in. Sadly, the se has not survived into this century, though duet tablature scores for the instruments are preserved. Lately there has been a trend to use other instruments to accompany the ch'in, such as the xun (ceramic ocarina), pipa (four-stringed pear-shaped lute), dizi (transverse bamboo flute), and others for more experimental purposes.

The Japanese ichigenkin, a monochord zither, is believed to be derived from the qin. The qin handbook Lixing Yuanya (1618) includes some melodies for a one-string ch'in, and the Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu contains a picture and description of such an instrument. The modern ichigenkin apparently first appeared in Japan just after that time. However, the honkyoku (standard repertoire) of the ichigenkin today most closely resembles that of the shamisen.

The Korean geomungo may also be related, albeit distantly. Korean literati wanted to play an instrument the way their Chinese counterparts played the ch'in. For some reason they never took to the ch'in itself, instead playing the geomungo, a long fretted zither plucked with a thin stick. The repertoire was largely the geomungo parts for melodies played by the court orchestra. It should be noted that another ancient Chinese zither, the zhu, was likely plucked with a stick, so the komungo may also be related to that instrument.

[4302 Huang-ti / 4200 I Ching Ch'in / 3500 Iraq Harmonics]