Qian: The Creative Principle

Qian: The Creative Principle

I’ve been studying the I Ching, or “Book of Changes”, off and on for over a decade now. And consulting it. I’ll toss the coins to see what hexagram they correspond to and then study the text. I’ve thought about doing I Ching readings as a little sideline but have never gotten around to it. The I Ching is often called “The Oracle” but the truth is that it’s no more a soothsayer than a Ouija board or one of those 8-balls you turn over to get a smart alec answer to some question posed (I had one as a kid; the answer I always seemed to get was “Not very likely.”).

At the same time, the I Ching is incredibly complex. Based on the interaction and balance of yin and yang, the I Ching explains how life is a process of movement and change. There are 64 hexagrams (2 trigrams each) composed of six horizontal lines that are either solid (yang) or broken (yin) and may be moving (indicating cyclic reversal) or fixed. From the 64 hexagrams, there are over 4000 possible permutations. It does not divine the future, but it does distill wisdom. Carl Gustav Jung, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst, studied the I Ching for years. He once said that it was a challenge to

feel one’s way into such a remote and mysterious mentality as that underlying the I Ching. One cannot easily disregard such great minds as Confucius and Lao-tse . . . much less can one overlook the fact that the I Ching was their main source of inspiration.”

If you look beyond the entertainment aspect, you’ll find that the advice given by the I Ching, pertaining to patterns of movement, stillness and transformation, relate not only to the way we view our world and live in it, but also to our spiritual practice. I’ve read many times that Taoist meditation has its origins in the I Ching and based on Jung’s comment, it seems like a reasonable statement.

A solid line represents yang, the creative principle. Yang also symbolizes other principles or qualities; however, the subject today is creativity. I am defining creativity in the same way that American existential psychologist Rollo May did in his book The Courage to Create: “its authenic form – the process of bringing something new into being.”

Creativity is not the exclusive property of artists. Each of us are constantly engaged in a creative process. Mostly, in the act (or art) of creating our lives. How we create is through thoughts. Meditation and texts like the I Ching can help us initiate creative thinking by suggesting new avenues of thought for improving and enhancing our quality of life. Being creative, though, doesn’t necessarily mean being original. Creativity is often just a procedure of collecting other thoughts, concepts, and experiences we come across as we fare along the Way and learning how to apply them.

So here are some thoughts you can collect today, from the I Ching and the first hexagram Qian, the creative principle:

The power of creativity is vast and great, it is the source of all things. Clouds form, rain falls, and everything develops in their proper forms.

Qian: Pure Yang, Creativity.


Creativity is successful and sublime. Good fortune comes from perseverance in the right way.

Structure and Imagery of the Hexagram

With 6 unbroken lines, the hexagram denotes strength. Its primary image is Heaven, representing the primal creative power of the universe. Its the source of all things, and is constantly in motion. The hexagram has 4 attributes: benevolence, virtue, justice, and perseverance (wisdom).


Creativity initiates change and everything obtains its true nature. When change is used to strengthen character and achieve harmony with nature, the result is beneficial and correct. In this way, aspirations are fulfilled and harmony is established. A sage understands the relationship between beginning and end, and comprehends how the lines of the hexagram reach completion, each in their proper time.

As the text states, Qian is pure Yang, signifying movement and change; it is associated with strength and male energy, which is hard and firm. Qian is called “opening the door”, indicating new beginnings.

Creativity in this sense is the strength of mental energy, initiating energy. Strength can also mean the courage to be honest with yourself. Or, staying true to your original vision, holding on to your values. Success in both thinking and acting comes from your level of consistency and perseverance.

Yet, if in using Qian, you are unyielding, this can be dangerous. The text states that “an overbearing dragon causes regret.” In China, the dragon is regarded as a symbol for wisdom and dignity and sagehood. So, it says that a dragon must have “an understanding of end as well as beginning, of retreat as well as advance, of failure as well as success.”

The I Ching wants us to understand the path of change. In term of spiritual development, change means personal transformation. When we are strong in character, and strong enough to win over ourselves, the result is beneficial to both ourselves and others. The tao of creativity is to become skillful at transformation so that all will find their true nature and destiny, and in harmony with each other, create meaningful lives.

The creative act is an intense experience of the present, and as such, timeless.”

– Lama Govinda, The Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism


4 thoughts on “Qian: The Creative Principle

  1. Hmm- according to your blog, Qian = yang or ‘male energy’ = strength, creativity, spiritual transformation and growth, strength of character, courage / moral integrity, Source/Heaven, initiative, perseverance, energy, mind, light, Sovereign. Nothing left for ‘Kun’ or ‘female energy’ except for passivity, weakness, emotion, emptiness, moral deficit, darkness, submissiveness / yielding acquiescence. You fail to understand that Yin and Yang were gendered and constructed in greater detail during a time of female repression. Before the time of I Ching, Daoism, and Confucius, women enjoyed elevated status.
    You are enthralled by Qian/Yang, and yet you accept Yin as ‘passive’. You refer to Yin as ‘love and wisdom’. But ‘mind’ belongs to Yang- there is no consciousness or wisdom in Yin. ‘Love’ was never delegated to Yin. Love = thoughtfulness = strength. How are you able to paint Kwan Yin in a favorable light? You employ all the favorable qualities of the modern age that women have recently been fighting for (denied to them in the Industrial era) , calling her emblematic of power, wisdom, and strength- bucking the male-female division that abuses women into a subservient category. Don’t employ ‘passive’ and ‘egalitarian’ in the same breath please, you aren’t fooling anyone.

    1. Hmm, I don’t even mention yin or Kuan Yin or kun (“receptivity”) in this post. Anyway, I always hope that readers, rather than nickpicking or engaging in semantics, will try to get the big picture. Part of that picture in this post is drawing a contrast between yang or aggressive energy and yin or not-as-aggressive energy.

      Besides, passivity is not necessarily a negative thing. I’ve always thought passive resistance is a nice thing.

      Passive may not be the best word, but it is a common definition of yin. I think the first thing I ever read about I Ching was in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy by Wing-tsit Chan (first published in 1963): “two forces, yin, the passive or female element, and yang, the active or the male element.” Some of the core Chinese definitions of this character yin are much more negative (dark, shady, gloomy, somber, negative, etc.).

      I don’t believe I used egalitarian and passive in the same breath. If you go back and re-read the paragraph in the single post of the blog where egalitarian is used and try to understand what Rita Gross is talking about with the “reconstruction of the symbol system” then you will understand how I can paint Kuan Yin in a favorable light.

      I’m not trying to fool anyone.

  2. Hmm. It would be good for blog writers like you to be ‘open’ to feedback, to acknowledge flaws or weaknesses to enable growth and mutual understanding. It is better not to shoot down readers or clientele, by implying they are ‘nitpicking’ or ‘small-minded’ for example.
    I see you have absorbed and registered nothing from my note, I appreciate the ‘consideration’.
    The appropriate term is not ‘passive resistance’. It is ‘nonviolent resistance’. Protests are a core element of such a movement, yet they are non-passive. Resistance implies effort, which is non-passive. In the following link, ‘passive’ is described as a misleading term in the phrase: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/passive_resistance.aspx.
    Are you minimizing semantics? Semantics are nothing if not symbolic and indicative of meaning. Words have definite purpose, they are not accidental or interchangeable. Why else is the I Ching so thoughtfully constructed and defined, or the Bible, or any religious text or doctrine? The whole of philosophy, religion, debate, economics, politics, etc is centered in ‘Semantics’. Word usage, and its implied classification and hierarchization, are very important. No, promoting justice and fairness is not equivalent to nitpicking. I guess Rosa Parks was nitpicking her relegation to a subordinate bus seating. Because, like semantics, bus seating is only ‘symbolic’. True purpose and fulfillment require a sense of esteem (toward oneself and others) and autonomy. But that’s just ‘semantics’.
    If you were to truly read the I Ching and the Spring and Autumn Annals, which strive for polarity (and thus hierarchy), you would know that yin is definitely portrayed as negative. Yes- ‘gloomy, dark, negative’, and ‘passive’ and ‘contracting’ and more. This dark, gloomy stuff isn’t a random, curious outlier. It is part of the evident misogyny.
    Let’s see it for what it is. Yin = Passive Receptivity, or receiving / Earth. Yan = Initiating creativity / Origin or Heaven. Yin = submissivenness, Yan = authority/control. Yin = Emotion (in all its lack of equanimity and even-mindedness), Yang = Mind (in all its knowledge/thoughtfulness, implied moral virtue, consciousness). Yin = soft and yielding (poorly suited to growth/ character, teaching, providing, protecting). Yang = hard and firm strength, or as you imply in your blog above, ‘courage, integrity, consistence, perseverance.’ Yin = Empty, Contracting. Yang = Full, Expansive.
    Which side of this polarity is God-like? Is it better to give or to receive? Does passivity not connote a lack of soul or consciousness, a lack of action or usefulness? Is the mind not a central element to personhood/consciousness?
    Aggressiveness, love, and ‘self vs other’ aren’t really codified in Yin/Yang. That is a modern construction. (Another modern construction – the association of ‘yan’ creativity with female ‘yin’ in an attempt by so-called feminists to salvage this polarity.) Supposing that love fits into the picture- it wouldn’t even register in ‘yin’. Benevolence requires action and thoughtful mindfulness. Is love for others even possible without self-love- a respect for one’s own person-hood, goals, autonomy, dignity? No. Do the ‘yan’ qualities of esteem and personal autonomy enable civil treatment of others? Yes- you can’t give what you don’t have, and if you’ve got self-love, it’s what you have to give away. Does ‘yan’ control imply aggressiveness? -no- it may just mean autonomy. Does excessive yan lead to arrogance, control issues, or domination? No, this is the domain of fear, an emotion. Yin and Yang were codified in such a way to produce a hierarchy – their male authors knew what they were doing. No, it didn’t reflect actual society at the time, it just portrayed the bigoted views of disgruntled, old, elite men, once land rights and power became patri-lineal. Women didn’t truly get screwed till the industrial age.
    Daoism doesn’t have to do with Yin and Yang. It has to do with Love vs fear, self vs other. It favors love and egalitarianism over fear and domination. So much for Laotse’s focus on softness, flexibility, fluidity. A case of poorly interpreted semantics. One can have kindness without softness. Flexibility and fluidity do not connote submissiveness, acquiescence, or giving up. Rather, Daoism connotes openness, resourcefulness, an aversion to fear-driven control.
    Your acknowledgement of Kuan Yin as a legitimate deity is commendable – I never said it wasn’t. But that’s where your progressiveness ends. You, along with other tradition-favoring folks, fail to acknowledge the red flags and true origin of things. You fall on the wrong side of justice.
    But you’re not alone, it’s the normal state of affairs. We’re all flawed and there would be no poverty, factory farms, environmental degradation, slavery, and the like if we were perfect.
    No, I didn’t say that you use egalitarian and passive in the same sentence. I suppose you’re being too literal. An issue with semantics?

    1. Well, thanks for these comments. I agree with some of your points, disagree with others. There’s a lot of stuff here, too much for me to be able to deal with right now. I will just say that what you see as feminists trying to salvage a polarity, others may see as feminists trying to change a polarity, turn it on its head. As I say in my latest post, it all depends of your point of view.

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