< Back

Understanding the Trigrams

The I-Ching uses 64 hexagrams, each consisting of 6 broken or unbroken lines.

On a more complex level -- or perhaps a simpler level -- each hexagram can also be divided into an "upper" and a "lower" trigram each consisting of just 3 lines.

There are only 8 possible trigrams. They are: Heaven, Earth, Wind, Water, Thunder, Fire, Mountain and Lake. When you analyze your I-Ching hexagrams for their meanings, don't forget to also consider the additional meanings contained in the two inner trigrams.

The 8 Trigrams of the I Ching

vintage divider

The trigram of "Heaven"

The trigram of Heaven is also known as 'The Creative'. It is a symbol of raw, supreme creative power. It is associated with strength and truth. It may also indicate a 'father' or 'fatherhood' or the direction 'northwest'.

The trigram of "Earth"

The trigram of Earth is also referred to as 'The Receptive'. Its characteristics are devotion and a yielding to other forces. It often represents 'motherhood' and female forces. This trigram may also refer to the direction 'southwest'

The trigram of "Wind"

The trigram of Wind is associated with 'gentleness' and lightness. It is known as a 'soft force': both subtle and mild and yet it manages to get through. It may also be an indication of an 'eldest daughter' or the direction of 'southeast'

The trigram of "Water"

The trigram of Water is also known as 'The Abysmal' or 'The Gorge'. Water is ever-changing and shifting. This trigram is often a warning of uncertainty and dangerous motion. It is closely associated with the moon and the direction 'north'.

The trigram of "Thunder"

The trigram of Thunder is both powerful and mysterious. In Chinese lore it is often associated with dragons. It is also called 'The Arousing' and indicates intent, movement and initiative. It may refer to an 'eldest son' or the 'north'.

The trigram of "Fire"

The trigram of Fire is sometimes called 'Attachment' or 'Dependence'. It is associated with light-giving and something that is both adaptable and relied upon. It may indicate a 'second daughter' or possibly the direction 'south'.

The trigram of the "Mountain"

The trigram of the Mountain represents stillness and something that can not be moved. It is powerful, silent and eternal. Its attributes are restful and peaceful. It may also represent a 'third-born son' or the direction 'northeast'.

The trigram of the "Lake"

The trigram of The Lake is a symbol of joy and openness. Tranquility is referenced here, along with devotion and calm. The Lake may also indicate a 'third daughter' or the direction 'west'.

More ifate logo I Ching:


I Ching trigrams
A quick review of all eight of the I Ching's building blocks: The Trigrams.


I Ching reference
Look up any hexagram. Its all here in our complete reference, the i-ching index!


Add this fun I Ching widget to your personal webpage or blog!