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