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I Ching Hidden Influences

Fire and Water Yin and Yang

The free online I Ching on this website gives readings that include the Hu Gua or Nuclear Hexagram and the Zong Gua or Reversed Hexagram. These were added to provide deeper insight into the active mechanisms behind the evolution of a given hexagram.


The I Ching hexagram sequences, lines and judgments have been interpreted in many ways over the centuries. Each generation seems to find additional meaning in the I Ching. In this way, the I Ching has become a part of our philosophical story and how we understand ourselves and nature.

In 1679, Leibnitz was inspired to structure the open and closed lines as a sideways hexagram - to create the binary code we use in today’s technology. Terrance McKenna developed a concept of time based on fractal patterns he found in the I Ching.

The concept of Yin and Yang fits nicely with our understanding of force and field in electro-magnetism. The I Ching has inspired many of our inventions. Niels Bohr actually used the Yin and Yang symbol on his coat of arms.

Indeed, anyone who begins to work with the I Ching will be inspired by how one simple open or closed line can evolve and transform in a message that captures life in perpetual change.

The use of the Hu Gua and Zong Gua are founded on the idea that each hexagram is not a static concept. By its very nature, the I Ching and its hexagrams remain ever-changing and fluid.

Understanding the Hu Gua and Zong Gua and how they affect each hexagram can provide additional insight into your reading.

Hu Gua

Just as Ba Gua means the ‘eight arrangements’ of lines, or eight trigrams, Hu Gua means ‘mutual arrangement’ or what becomes the Nuclear trigrams that build a nuclear hexagram. We can imagine a type of energy, described by the Nuclear Hexagram, as being at the core of each hexagram.

While there are always two primary trigrams that create a hexagram, we look for the two nuclear ones, which suggest the hidden influence of an additional hexagram.

This is not to be confused with how changing lines can transform one hexagram into an additional hexagram when doing a reading. A Nuclear Hexagram exists within every hexagram, so a hexagram can be viewed as ‘evolving’ from the energy of the Nuclear Hexagram.

How to find the Nuclear Hexagram:

Each trigram has 3 lines. When we stack two trigrams, it creates a hexagram of 6 lines. From the bottom up, each hexagram’s lines are labeled 1 through 6.

Example of Nuclear Hexagram in I Ching

The Nuclear Hexagram or Hu Gua is created by using lines 2, 3, 4 for the bottom trigram, and lines 3, 4, 5 for the top trigram. Of the 64 hexagrams, one Nuclear Hexagram will reside within groups of 4 hexagrams.

In the example above, the Hu Gua for (6) Conflict is (37) Family. The hexagram for Family is about discussing expectations and finding the merit in roles and cooperation.

(37) Family is also the Nuclear Hexagram for (10) Treading, (58) Joy, and (47) Exhaustion.

In the ‘cautious advance’ suggested by (10) Treading, we look at cycles that recur and perhaps, the way in which our early environment shaped us. In (58) Joy, the Family hexagram can remind us of the joy of treating others like family.

Even the idea of (47) Exhaustion can be improved when we recognize how giving allows new energy to flow through us – and fill us up. When placed in a situation to help another, we are filled with insight and tap our greater capabilities.

In this way, the Hu Gua can be viewed as a ‘hidden influence’ or a type of potential energy that is driving an aspect of the hexagram’s evolution.

The Hu Gua of (4) Youthful Folly is (24) Return or ‘go back.’ We can’t really understand the meaning of (4) Youthful Folly unless we understand the meaning of (24) Return. The Hu Gua is always the same when looking at a hexagram. In other words, stop pushing. The turning point during failure leads you to retreat, regroup and try again. Youthful Folly only exists if we think we already know the answer.

At the same time, the Hu Gua for Hexagram (24) Return will always be (2) Receptive. So, in a sense, the hexagrams can be viewed like an evolving line of insight, where one shapes another as they evolve through the sequence.

In (36) Brightness Hiding, the Hu Gua of (40) Liberation offers a message about untangling something or letting go. When others do not appear to be speaking our language, we might feel alone – but liberating our inner light is all that is important.

The Hu Gua of (40) Liberation is (63) After Completion or a message to complete no matter what works against us. We come to see the present experience in light of what comes next.

While we may receive only one or two hexagrams in a reading, each has a story behind it by way of the Nuclear Hexagram (Hu Gua) and Zong Gua, described below.

Zong Gua

Again, like the Ba Gua or ‘eight arrangements’, the Zong Gua identifies a root (Zong), or ‘cause’ arrangement (Gua). In other words: What came first? What brought this situation about? Why am I getting this hexagram?

Like Yin and Yang, the entire I Ching is written as if one hexagram transforms or is the cause of its opposite.

Where the Hu Gua shows the energy evolving within any given hexagram, the Zong Gua can be viewed as the opposite approach of what is required in a situation.

If you take each of the six lines of a hexagram and reverse the Yin and Yang lines, you will come up with an opposite hexagram. This is why the Zong Gua hexagram is referred to as the ‘underlying cause.’

It is important to note that the upside-down version of each hexagram, which creates the King Wen sequence, is not necessarily the Reversed Hexagram or Zong Gua.

For example, Hexagram (9) Small Restraint is created by the Trigram of Wind above and Heaven below. You can invert each line, or just look at the opposite Trigrams to arrive at the Zong Gua.

Zong Gua or Reversed Hexagram

The opposite of the Wind Trigram is Thunder, and the opposite of the Heaven Trigram is Earth. Thunder over the Earth is (16) Enthusiasm. I often say the Zong Gua is what we shouldn’t do – because the action being called for in the reading is the opposite of the action called for in the Zong Gua hexagram.

We can see that (9) Small Restraint is the opposite of the exuberance of (16) Enthusiasm.

The King Wen sequence is organized by turning most hexagrams upside-down. Hexagram (9) Small Restraint is paired with Hexagram (10) Treading. Therefore, the I Ching is written as if each hexagram is the cause of the one which follows.

This is true when we look at the sequence of hexagrams as an ebbing and flowing of opposite energies, just like the Yin and Yang of the lines. However, this is different from the creation and meaning of the Zong Gua, which inverts the lines.

In the King Wen sequence, Hexagram (8) Union or Holding Together leads to Hexagram (9) Small Restraint and the book captures this pairing: “When Holding Together, Restraint is sure to come about.’ Hexagram (12) Standstill refers to Hexagram (11) Peace or the uniting of Heaven and Earth when it says: “Things do not stay forever united and can lead to Standstill.”

However, the Zong Gua of (8) Union is (14) Great Possessing, which means to bask in one’s accolades or arrival. The action called for in (8) Union is to unite – not to seek individualistic merit.

So, the sequence of how uniting or holding can lead to stagnation is important. At the same time, to gain insight on what action is being required, the inverted hexagram or Zong Gua becomes extremely insightful.

The Zong Gua of (12) Standstill is indeed, (11) Peace, only because turning (12) Standstill upside-down or inverting the lines leads to the same result. The Zong Gua is an additional look at the evolution of why you are receiving a given hexagram.

It wasn’t enough to say ‘you are stuck.’ The message is that you may have grown complacent or are avoiding the present need for effort.

To add in the Hu Gua or Nuclear Hexagram for (12) Standstill, we see (53) Development. It asks us to recognize how change is perpetually necessary and how something grand can grow from just a seed. Take a chance - just begin.

The Zong Gua says don't be complacent and the Hu Gua indicates it is time to nurture and blossom anew.

In another example, if we take Hexagram (50) Cauldron, with Fire above and Wind below, the inversion becomes Water above and Thunder below or (3) Difficult Beginnings. This is different from the upside-down pairing of (49) Revolution with (50) Cauldron: “Nothing transforms as much as the Ting. Therefore, follows the idea of the (50) Cauldron."

Following the sequence, (48) the Well relates to accessing our unchanging depths to invigorate a necessary (49) Molting or Revolution. The (50) Cauldron is where the actual change is taking place. This sequence allows us to see the Cauldron as a message: 'give it time, something deep is still cooking."

At the same time, the Zong Gua, or underlying cause refers to (3) Difficult Beginnings, which suggests persevering or pushing onward toward your goal. As the opposite of what you should do, instead of (3) pushing onward, (50) Cauldron is a message to refine or boil something down to its essence, prior to acting.

This is why looking at the Zong Gua as ‘what you shouldn’t do’ can be insightful in understanding the energy of a given hexagram.

In conclusion, each hexagram has a type of energy at its core in the Hu Gua, which adds dimension to our understanding of it. When wondering about what action to take, comparing the Zong Gua with the action suggested helps us narrow down the appropriate next step.