ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT TAIJI SYMBOL FOR YOUR FAVORITE T-SHIRT): Tàijí tú 太極圖 Diagram of the Great Ultimate
As far as I can see I don’t choose easy topics for comments but the difficult ones. For example, just read how Isabelle Robinet opens her article on Taiji tu diagram in the Encyclopedia of Taoism (Routledge, Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008): “Neo-Confuacians adopted the Taiji tu after Zhou Dunyi’s (1017-73) Tàijí tú shuō 太極圖說 (Explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate) was placed at the head of the Neo-Confucian system by Zhu Xi (1130-1200). There is evidence, however, that this diagram originated in a Taoist milieu together with the Xiāntiān tú 先天圖 (Diagram of the Noumenal World) and the term wújí 無極 (Ultimateness, Infinite). Several sources in particular report that the Tàijí tú derives from the Wújí tú 無極圖 (Diagram of the Ultimateness), which according to the Fozu tongji (Comprehensive Chronicle of the Buddhas and Patriarchs) was transmitted by Chen Tuan (ca. 920-89) in 971. Taoist sources mention a line of transmission that begins with Chen Tuan and his master Mayi daozhe (The Hemp-Clad Man of the Dao) and then divides in two branches, the first leading to Neo-Confucians, and the second either to numerologists or to neidan authors.”
Speaking about “the well-known spiral form of the taiji, called “fishlike form,” it is not found in the Daozhang; it seems to have first appeared in early Ming times (1368-1644) and is common in taiji quan milieux.”—I. Robinet. Well, some scientists believe that a philosopher He Yan (III century) described in one of his texts this symbol well enough, and some scientists put the time of this symbol back into the second half of the Tan dynasty (618-907). If we have reason to agree with academical source of Encyclopedia of Taoism (why not?) the time will be 1368-1644 (Ming dynasty) at least.
Let’s make our point of view stronger adding graphical symbols which you cannot find in the text of encyclopedia but everywhere online. In general, I have drawn six pictures too, and every one has right to exist. What follows now could be called a mini-lecture How to Choose the Right Taiji Symbol for You, Your T-shirt, or your next big tattoo 🙂
VARIANTS A & B Traditionally for China, the South Pole is up, East is right or left considering what kind of rotation you will choose: clockwise (rotation of the Earth surface) or counterclockwise (Heaven’s Sphere). Actually, they are the same form of rotation just seen from different points of view. Energy is born on the Northern Pole in this case (small dots of yin-yang are vertical), and if you are peaceful (yin quality) person, probably you would choose clockwise direction following Earth’s biorhythms. Counterclockwise direction suits better for martial art practitioners, or just people (with yang quality) who like contradict and fight everywhere and every time about everything, so called ‘creative type’ 🙂
VARIANTS C & D Energy is born on the East side because of the rising Sun; the yin-yang small dots are located horizontally, and recommendations for the rotation choice are the same, I guess.
VARIANTS E & F The explanation for these variants is the most interesting and concerns traditional Chinese location of star constellations. Fourteen star constellations from Fáng 房 to Bì 畢 are yang and fourteen others (from Áng 昂 to Xīn 心) are yin. Fish’ eyes (small dots inside) will be located diagonally in this case, conjoining stars’ locations on the heaven’s map. I think, it is more appropriate for the T-shirt or tattoo design not only for astronomy lovers but for all Fēng shuĭ 風水 prediction practitioners too.
So, now you can analyze and muse on the whole picture of the Tàijí tú 太極圖 (Diagram of the Great Ultimate) symbols (online and/or offline) because they are everywhere and they are so different in size, texture, color, and meaning. And frankly, “taiji quan milieux’ joined to feng shui fans should be totally happy now :)))