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The 8 Trigrams in Feng Shui Explained

By nvg

The 8 Trigrams are, in fact, ancient Chinese symbols whose origins lie in the I Ching - The Book of Changes. Each trigram is represented by 3 lines, the top line represents the influence of the Heaven, the middle represents the influence of the Humanity and the lowest line represents the influence of the Earth.

Various combinations of these trigrams exist, and they can be interpreted having in mind the influential forces of the Heaven (Yang) and Earth (Yin).

Although the Nine Star Ki Astrology knows of 9 principal numbers, in Feng shui we consider only 8 trigrams; the number 5 does not have an associated trigram.

These eight I Ching trigrams have a clear association with the four cardinal directions (East, South, West, North ) and the four semi cardinal directions of the compass. There is also a traditional animal associated with each of the trigrams (put in brackets in the table below) as well as a new animal.

Li (pheasant) - Baboon

Kun (ox) - Ox or hedgehog

Kan (pig) - Pig

Chen (Dragon) - Dragon

Sun (chicken) - Gorilla

Chien (horse) - Eagle

Tui (rooster) - Rooster

Ken (dog) - Wolf

Each of the trigrams is believed to have eseence, inner structure, and motivation as presented in the table below:






Yin Sensing




Yin Thinking




Yin Feeling




Yin Willing




Yang Feeling


Keeping Still


Yang Thinking


Danger, Abyss


Yang Sensing




Yang Willing



Chien - The Creative, Father (Heaven) 6 Metal

chien trigram symbolic representation

This trigram comprises 3 unbroken Yang lines and is associated with the head of the household - the father/leader/patriarch/male. It also signifies sky, energy, perseverance and heaven. Chien's element is big metal and its direction (using the later heaven configuration) is northwest.

People born in a 6 metal year are born into the year which fully represents male qualities. In general this means the person is straight and to the point and can be a good natural leader showing their natural authority. They are perceived as quiet and even-handed. Their need to be impartial can appear as inflexibility however.

Corresponding number: 6

Chen - The Arousing, Eldest Son (Thunder) 3 Tree

chen trigram symbolic representation

This trigram comprises 2 broken Yin lines above a single unbroken Yang line. It signifies the eldest son and its image is that of Thunder.

It also symbolizes the dragon, rising out of the depths and soaring into the sky. Hence the strong Yang line pushes from below the 2 broken Yin which give way. Its element is wood.

People born in a 3 Tree year are inquisitive, open to explore and adventurous. They can be somewhat hasty in their actions and can make mistakes. They are natural trailblazers for their younger siblings.

Corresponding number: 3

Kan - The Abysmal, Middle Son (Water) 1 Water

kan trigram symbolic representation

This comprises 1 unbroken Yang line in between 2 broken Yin lines. Kan is the middle son. Its element is water and direction north. It is not the most auspicious of trigrams and can signify hard work.

People born in a 1 water year make good arbitrators (being in the middle of the family, they can help broker peace during conflicts). Their softer, quieter qualities can help to diffuse heated situations.

Corresponding number: 1

Ken - The Mountain, Youngest Son (Mountain) 8 Soil

ken trigram symbolic representation

- This comprises one unbroken Yang line above two broken Yin lines. It signifies stillness, waiting and solitude. It is also associated with the youngest son, its element is earth.

People born in this year have the benefit to take on the experience of those before them. This affords them greater opportunity for reflection and they can express this knowledge through their own more thoughtful approach.

Corresponding number: 8

Kun - The Receptive, Mother (Earth) 2 Soil

kun trigram symbolic representation

This comprises three broken Yin lines. It is associated with the mother/matriarch/maternal female. Its element is earth and direction southwest. It perfectly complements Chien according to the I Ching. It must be led by Chien to achieve its full potential.

Contrasted to the Father (Chien), the Mother trigram has all female or Yin qualities. People born in this year are open to listen to others, helpful, nurturing and caring. 2 soil people will try to let people have their chance to say or to do.

Corresponding number: 2

Li - The Clinging, Middle Daughter (Fire) 9 Fire

li trigram symbolic representation

This comprises one broken Yin line sandwiched between two unbroken Yang lines. The element of Li is fire and it also represents the middle daughter. Li is associated with the sun, brightness, lightning, heat and dryness. It represents firmness and an unyielding exterior but weak and hollow on the inside.

In a stark contrast to her same level brother (Middle Son 1 Water), people born in this year will rush to conclusions. The quality of fire does however bring light to a given problem. 9 Fire people are seen as direct and challenging but also add sparkle to any occasion!

Corresponding number: 9

Sun - The Gentle, Eldest Daughter (Wind) 4 Tree

sun trigram symbolic representation

This comprises two unbroken Yang lines above a single Yin line. It represents the eldest daughter and it can be thought of as 'penetrating'. Its colors are brown or green and its element is wood.

People born in a 4 Tree year are prone to look for new ways to express themselves and new opportunities in their working life. They can also be very impetuous which leads to inevitable mistakes.

Corresponding number: 4

Tui - The Joyous, Youngest Daughter ( Lake) 7 Metal

tui trigram symbolic representation

This trigram comprises one broken Yin line sitting above 2 unbroken Yang lines. It represents happiness and joy and is also associated with the youngest daughter. Tui is also the lake and can be seen as the mouth which utters joyous feelings. Outwardly weak but inwardly stubborn, its element is metal.

As for her same level brother (Youngest Son 8 Soil), people born in this year have the knowledge available to them of those who have gone before. This gives them the ability to reflect but whereas their brother would reflect in a more intellectual fashion, these people are more emotionally and spiritually reflective.

Corresponding number: 7

About the Author

Read more about the cosmological and metaphysical association of the trigrams at


Shelly Z says:

To the author, there are many discrepancies in your article...for example, in the list of trigrams Chen is NW but in the text Chen is East...and this is just one. There are many kun SE or SW. I know enough about feng shui to see what you meant but there are too many was thoroughly confusing. For the new people, please correct. I would have been completely frustrated with the conflicting info. Thank you

sunnyray says:

Thanks for the thorough reading. You are right. It appears that different sources have associated different directions. So we have omitted the direction altogether.

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