Hétú*Luòshū: 河圖*洛書 Chart of the [Yellow] River and Writ of the Luo [River]

The author of this entry, Isabelle Robinet begins: “According to legend, the Hetu emerged from the Yellow River on the back of a “dragon-horse” (lóngmă 龍馬) during the reign of the legendary emperor Fú Xī 伏羲. Similarly, the Luoshu came out of the Luo River on the back of a turtle”.

The first reference to Luoshu was made in the text created probably in the second century CE, in the fifth century it was related ‘to a liturgical cult of sexual union practiced by the school of the Celestial Masters (Tianshi dao) and for us, humble readers of Encyclopedia of Taoism it will be enough to know how to place the numbers 1 to 9 in the table in the way that the sum of the numbers in vertical, horizontal, and diagonal directions will be always 15. I can imagine the fullness of joy of the person who did it the first time. The joy must be (and is) truly awesome to the present days!

4     9     2

3     5     7

8     1     6

In the the Hetu case a magic square arranges the numbers such way that they form a cross, or three concentric squares:



8          3      5        4        9



Numbers 1-5 are called ‘generative’ (shēng 生)  and numbers 1-9  are ‘performative’ (chéng 成), they don’t serve rituals recently but neidan alchemists earlier used them making ‘Three Fives’ (sānwŭ) important in the process of alchemical mystery.

If someone wants 214 pages of details about Luoshu, probably a book Legacy of the Luoshu by Frank J. Swetz can be helpful. This is about the 4,000 year search for the meaning of the magic square of order three (of course, fēngshuǐ 風水 is discussed too), contains many pictures and documents, takes you for a short time to Babylonia, Greece, Egypt, India, Tibet, Japan, and the Islamic World. It is written by a mathematician and an educator, hence the style is cool, literally 🙂



ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM: Gānzhī 干支 [Celestial] Stems and [Earthly] Branches

This article shortly named gānzhī (I do like Chinese, they make new words easily just pairing the ending of one term of the two glyphs with the ending of another term of the two glyphs too) but the full picture would be nicer for us if the title will sound shi tian gan shi er di zhi, Ten Celestial Stems and Twelve Earthly Branches. Wait a second, what we can do here? Well, let’s call it TCSTEB!

十天干十二地支 shí tiān gān shí èr dì zhī, or gānzhī

Pic. 1

ganzhi01Following Christopher Cullen’s entry we can see the beginning of use a ten-day period in ancient China (xún 旬) in the Shang epoch (1600-1045 BCE), probably one millennium BCE sixty days cycle was added by pairing (!) of the ten Stems with the twelve Branches, and from the Han time (202 BCE-220 CE) a cycle of sixty years was in service.

Pic. 2


01     jiazi, for example 1984 or 2044


10     guiyou, 1993 or 2053

11      jiaxu, 1994 or 2054

12     yihai, 1995 or 2055


60     guihai, 1983 or 2043 etc.

By the way, if you will slowly follow to every number from one to sixty you will feel that your eyes make a figure ‘8′, and the process will repeat itself five times, or until you will be tired. And there is a kind of rhythm here too. Numbers will dance in the special rhythm in one place! Is that amazing!     

ERRATUM in the text of encyclopedia (unfortunately):

In the table 7 in STEMS AND BRANCHES article two signs xu 戌 and hai 亥 (11 and 12) from the left column (Stems) should be placed into right column (Branches). In my digital Kindle edition they were misplaced to the left column. Is that obvious for all readers or my eyes are especially sharp? 🙂