I CHING AND SUN ZI'S ART OF
Change is the most important factor challenging
the well being of mankind. The I Ching recognises change has a
cyclic nature and was thus created to present a potent cyclic
strategy to deal with change. Its cyclic strategy is two-fold:
 the hawk serious but calm ability to sense small changes,
especially in human behaviour, and  the serpent ability to
swiftly react adaptively to change, based principally on
accommodation of the eight classes of human behaviour.
The I Ching has been traditionally regarded as the
original source of all Chinese wisdom. The common cultural
symbolisms pervasive in the I Ching and so many branches of
Chinese philosophy could reflect their legacy from Huang Di. The
close similarities of Duke Chou's readings to the twelve lines
of hexagram 52, Ken, and hexagram 51, Chen, of King Wen I Ching
with the principles of the first twelve sections of Sun Zi's Art
Of War show that the King Wen I Ching represents a much wider
collection of themes, from which only a small part, viz two
hexagrams, forms the strategies of Sun Zi's Art Of War. This
pool of I Ching traditions must have existed through the
previous dynasties, for the Shang dynasty had its own Kuei
Ts'ang version and the Hsia had its own Lien Shan version. These
I Ching traditions dated even back to Fu Hsi who created the
first I Ching, the Early Heaven Array.
Chinese traditions say that Yellow Emperor Huang
Di invented the magic squares (Needham 1959 p.61). The magic
square is the Lo Shu pattern of the Later Heaven Array of the
Five Elements and the Pakua, and became the fighting pattern of
the Five Elements, Pakua, and King Wen I Ching, and the source
of Sun Zi's Art Of War. Sun Zi's Art Of War uses this Later
Heaven Array of the Five Elements and the Pakua, which is not
surprising, seeing that its real author was Huang Di himself.
Neither is it surprising that King Wen I Ching also uses this
Later Heaven Array of the Five Elements and the Pakua, as Huang
Di was also involved in the origins of the I Ching.
Parallel Cyclic Strategies in Cultural
The Yin Yang-Four Elements-Pakua represent various
levels of cyclic change. Understanding of this is the crucial
basis of superlative strategy, as it enables you to patiently
and adaptively select or wait for the return of the correct
situation for you to win.
The parallelisms in cultural symbolisms between
Sun Zi's Art Of War and King Wen I Ching show that they belong
to the same pool of ancient traditions of strategies. They
illustrate the important fact of change in life and that this
change is cyclic in nature:
- Common Cyclic Symbolisms
Both Sun Zi's Art Of War and King Wen I Ching
share several cultural symbolisms, such as the Yin Yang, the
Five Elements, the Four Cardinal Directions and its associated
Four Heraldic Animals, the four seasons, cyclic changes, etc.
They indicate that understanding of the phenomenon of change is
crucial to superlative strategic thinking.
- Mutual Destruction Relationship of the Five
The Appendix 3: "Yellow Emperor Attacks Red
Emperor" shows that Sun Zi's Art Of War adopts the Mutual
Destruction Relationship or fighting version of the Five
Elements which is also the basis of King Wen I Ching. Both
ancient texts concern serious issues which can only be dealt
with through the fighting style of thinking outlined by both
- Pakua Array.
Sun Zi's Art Of War advocates the family
structure for the organisation - this is a reference to the
eight trigrams of the Pakua which symbolise the eight members of
the family. Sun Zi's Art Of War depicts the organisation of the
army as like a snake. The ancient military science portrayed
the divisions of the army as the eight sections of a snake, the
eight sections being the eight trigrams of the Pakua.
The fighting Later Heaven Array version of
the Pakua is, of course, the basis of King Wen I Ching. Both
ancient texts place emphasis on the Pakua as the strategic basis
of organisational structure to combat high pressure war-like
Cyclic Strategies for Serious Situations
also: Strategy of Small Defeat Big
The remarkable historic fact is that calm patient
understanding of the cyclic nature of change enables the weak to
select or wait for the correct situation to win against the big:
- Origin in Troubled Periods
It is not accidental that both ancient texts were
known to be compiled during troubled periods of the dynastic
wars. Both texts were written concerning strategies to deal with
troubled war-like conditions.
- The Summer Solstice Link
The Appendix 3: "Yellow Emperor Attacks Red Emperor"
shows that Huang Di launched his war during the Summer Solstice
period, which is also supported by the Appendix 4: "Terrain II".
This indicates that the original war of Huang Di referred to in
Sun Zi's Art Of War started in the Summer Solstice period.
Commentators are aware that the King Wen I Ching also started
with the Summer Solstice period, for its initial two hexagrams,
Chien and Kun, signifies the fourth month approaching the most
evil period of the year which is Summer Solstice in the fifth
Both texts concern strategies written to
combat evil of the darkest form.
- The Wu Wang Link: Strategy of Small Defeat
The Appendix 3: "Yellow Emperor Attacks Red
Emperor" not only shows that Sun Zi's Art Of War has origins
from Yellow Emperor Huang Di, but also that the strategies of
Sun Zi's Art Of War were used by Tang to establish the Shang
dynasty (circa 1700 B.C.) and then later by Wu Wang to establish
the Chou dynasty (circa 1126 B.C.).
The father of Wu Wang happens to be King
Wen, the author of the King Wen I Ching. Father and son must
have shared the same family heritage of philosophy and
strategies. Thus, there must be some family based links between
Sun Zi's Art Of War and King Wen I Ching.
According to Chinese traditions, Huang Di,
Tang, King Wen and his son Wu Wang all had to fight against
overwhelming odds. Both texts concern how the small can defeat
The parallelisms in the cultural symbolisms may
just indicate that both Sun Zi's Art Of War and King Wen I Ching
adopt, albeit rather closely, similar cultural roots. However,
the historical evidence, that King Wen was the father of Wu Wang
who used the strategies of Sun Zi's Art Of War, indicates that
Sun Zi's Art Of War and King Wen I Ching form close vibrant
parts of the same family heritage of philosophy and strategies.
ATTACK CYCLIC STRATEGY
Swoop like a hawk and strike like a
Change creates new conditions and each condition
requires an appropriate response. It is the ancient universal
knowledge that, to combat fast changing high pressure
conditions, one must use, adaptively and repetitively, a Yin
Yang two-fold retreat and attack cyclic response: "know first
before you act", or never move until you think it out.
The similarities between King Wen I Ching and Sun
Zi's Art Of War testify to that there had existed a very ancient
pool of knowledge of the strategic Yin Yang retreat-attack
movements. Thus, many schools of Chinese philosophy preach, in
different ways, a two-fold cyclic strategy of retreat before
A universal form of the Yin Yang is the caduceus
emblem of the hawk and the serpent, the well known modern emblem
of medicine; but once also the emblem of the war messengers and
ancient merchants. Medicine, war and business share pertinent
features, such as their often bewildering complexity and sense
of urgency. The hawk and serpent, used by Sun Zi to typify his
military strategy of "Swoop like a hawk and strike like a
snake", were also animals venerated in several ancient
religions and cultures.
The strategic process is necessarily two-fold,
with a planning stage and an implementation stage, which are
equivalent, respectively, to a retreat stage and an attack
stage. In the King Wen I Ching, the retreat movement is
typified by the even hexagram 52, Ken the Keeping Still
Mountain, which lay down strategies for effective planning.
Effective planning is laid down through Sections 1 to 6 of Sun
Zi's Art Of War. The corresponding attack movement, or
implementation, is described in the odd hexagram 51, Chen the
Arousing Thunder, and Sections 7 to 12 of Sun Zi's Art Of War.
Yin Yang Cyclic
- There is a two fold division in the thirteen
sections of Sun Zi's Art Of War composing of an initial six
sections on strategic planning and a later six sections on
strategic implementation. The initial strategic planning and
later strategic implementation compose, respectively, an initial
quiescent Yin stage, flowing into a later active Yang stage.
With a new situation, one could return to the planning
stage and the process is repeated.
- There are a pair of hexagrams in the King Wen I
Ching which reflect closely the Yin Yang two-fold division of
Sun Zi's Art Of War. These hexagrams are the active Yang
hexagram 51, Chen Arousing Thunder, and the quiescent Yin
hexagram 52, Ken Keeping Still Mountain. The King Wen I Ching
readings for hexagram 52, Ken, heavy with stillness and hexagram
51, Chen, full of active movements, respectively, reflect very
closely the initial strategic planning Yin stage and the later
strategic implementation Yang stage of Sun Zi's Art Of War.
Hexagram 52, Ken and Hexagram 51,
- The readings of Duke Chou's six lines to the
quiescent Yin hexagram 52, Ken Keeping Still Mountain, follows
closely the strategies of the initial six sections of Sun Zi's
Art Of War on strategic planning. On the other hand, the
readings of Duke Chu's six lines to the active Yang hexagram 51,
Chen Arousing Thunder, follows closely the strategies of the
later six sections on strategic implementation. That is, the
said twelve sections of Sun Zi's Art Of War are astonishingly
reflected sequentially by the readings of Duke Chou's twelve
lines to hexagram 52, Ken, and hexagram 51, Chen.
EVERY THEME HAS
COMPLEMENTING YIN YANG ASPECTS
Knowing and Acting are Both Equally
An essential feature of the Yin Yang art is the
need to recognise the differing human personalities and hold
together in harmony and balance their diverse human behaviour.
The odd hexagram is a mirror or transverse image
of the following even hexagram, showing that the 64 hexagrams of
King Wen I Ching are actually 32 pairs of hexagrams. The links
between hexagrams 51 and 52 with Sun Zi's Art Of War indicates
that, in each pair of hexagram of King Wen I Ching, one is the
yin half and the other is the complementary yang half, i.e.,
there are some 32 pairs of Yin Yang alternations. Each odd
hexagram is meant to be closely associated with the next even
hexagram. Hexagram 51, Chen, and hexagram 52, Ken, are closely
interdependent, each meaningless without the other. Paralleling
these, Sun Zi's Art Of War's initial six sections on strategic
planning will be useless without the later six sections on
strategic implementation, and vice versa. That is, the yin has
logical dependence on the yang, and vice versa.
Even as the human brain has physically a left
hemisphere (yang) and a right hemisphere (yin), every task or
theme has a yin component and also a yang component and these
two components are inter-related to one another in a logical
manner. Hence, the Chinese philosophy says that as the yin
grows the yang diminish. But the yin has a limit to its maximum
growth, at which point yang would start to grow again and yin
must diminish. This is represent by a small yang dot in the yin
full growth. As yang reaches its maximum, a small Yin dot will
appear, and the cycle repeats. What the Yin Yang concept
cautions us is that the two stages, which deceptively appears
separate, are simultaneous with, paralleling, supplementing and
complementing each other. That is, planning without
implementation is useless, while implementation without planning
is dangerous. To ensure simultaneous planning and
implementation, these guidelines must be followed:
- To ensure that both Yin Yang aspects are
taken into account, you must recognise the diversity in human
behaviour implied by the concepts of the Four Elements and
Pakua. You may have to have different persons in the team to be
able to achieve both planning and implementation.
- People are often good at one stage but not in the
other and could often claim that their stage is more important
than the other. The leader must control to prevent this
divisive attitude and in this there is a great need to harmonise
the different human traits.
SET YOUR OWN
HOUSE IN ORDER
Some people are good at determining others'
weakness, but, in failing to "know yourself", they lose.
Each yin or yang hexagram composes of a lower
trigram and an upper trigram. The two trigrams illustrate that,
in any situation, the individual must consider two things: 
first, he must know the external situation vis the "enemy"
(upper trigram), and then,  second, he must examine himself
(lower trigram) as to whether he is ready to deal with the
Sun Zi talks of "know your enemy and know
- If you know your enemy and know yourself; in
a hundred battles you will never fear the result. Sun Zi
- Know your enemy and know yourself and your
victory will be undoubted. Know Earth and know Heaven and you
complete your victory. Sun Zi 10:31. Earth=yin? Heaven =
Sun Zi shows that the applications of the upper
and lower trigrams ""know your enemy and know yourself" are
necessary in both the planning stage (as evident by Sun Zi 3:18)
and the implementation stage (as evident by Sun Zi 10:31). You
must "know your enemy" first in order to define the problem or
issue at hand. This is the upper trigram pertaining to the
external thing. The problem or issue at hand then determines
the areas where you need to "know yourself". This is what the
lower trigram is about; it defines the internal self examination
or changes required.
- To understand others is to be knowledgeable;
To understand yourself is to be wise
(Tao Te Ching. beginning of Chapter 33)
It seems that while people could be good at
"knowing your enemy", they fail to "know yourself". People
often like to see the faults in others, but hate to be shown
their own faults. Self examination is a traditional trait which
the Confucians often valued as a critical quality of the
gentleman; it was not just a matter of humility but of critical
DUKE CHOU EVOLVED
HEXAGRAM 52, KEN,
AND HEXAGRAM 52, CHEN
INTO SUN ZI'S ART OF WAR
To master change you must develop the discerning
ability to detect small changes.
The cyclic strategies do not stop with just each
pair of hexagrams.. Even more meticulous details of the cyclic
retreat-attack strategies were given in Duke Chou's readings to
the twelve lines of each hexagram. His twelve lines to hexagram
52, Ken, and hexagram 51, Chen, closely parallel and are the
origins of the main principles of Sections 1 to 12 of Sun Zi's
Art Of War. Someone picked up Duke Chou's twelve lines to
hexagram 52, Ken, and hexagram 51, Chen, and created Sun Zi's
Art Of War. The Appendix 3: "Yellow Emperor Attacks Red
Emperor" indicates it was Huang Di himself. It was likely that,
when Huang Di was evaluating the I Ching, he used some of the
themes to formulate the strategies of Sun Zi's Art Of War.
There is a very close kinship between part of the
King Wen I Ching and Sun Zi's Art Of War, viz.:
- Correspondence between Duke Chou's 6 lines to
hexagram 52, Ken, and Sun Zi's Section 1 to 6.
- Correspondence between Duke Chou's 6 lines to hexagram
51,, Chen, and Sun Zi's Section 7 to 12.
- Duke Chou's six lines to hexagram 52, Ken, illustrate
the same sequential steps in strategic planning as outlined by
Sun Zi's Sections 1 to 6.
- Duke Chou's six lines to hexagram 51, Chen, illustrate
the same sequential steps in strategic implementation as
outlined by Sun Zi's Sections 7 to 12.
- As the I Ching was older, it is likely that the I
Ching principles, like as found in hexagram 51, Chen, and
hexagram 52, Ken, are the origins of Sun Zi's Art Of War
Sections 1 to 12.
Yin Yang Strategic Thinking of
Sections 1 to 12 of Sun Zi's Art Of War
Sun Zi's Art Of War is not hazardously written.
Rather, underscoring the principle that there is no shortcut to
great success, it composes of a systematic logical flow of
meticulously detailed natural sequential steps essential in all
quality strategic thinking. To effectively detect and deal with
- You must develop the habit of being meticulous
and giving due attention to details.
- Do not just look for problems but also think
positively in terms of solving the problems.
This Yin Yang alternation is reflected by Sun Zi's
Art Of War's initial six sections on strategic planning and its
later six sections on strategic implementation. The lower
trigram of hexagram 52, Ken the Mountain, emphasises self
examination as the necessity beginning of planning. Then, the
upper trigram of hexagram 52, Ken the Mountain, emphasises the
need to adjust plans to the external situation. Then the
strategic implementation would begin, leading from the initial
strategic planning. The lower trigram of hexagram 51, Chen the
Thunder, shows that first part of implementation is self
preparation of the leader and the men. Then, in the later part
of implementation, reflected by the upper trigram of hexagram
51, Chen the Thunder, the action begins and here it is necessary
to think in terms of "strategic alliances" and "winning over
The planning and implementation are two phases
necessarily dependent on each other. Sun Zi's Art Of War has
two "beginnings", one being Section 1 which begins the initial
strategic planning and the other being Section 7 which begins
the later strategic implementation. They are, therefore,
respectively, the beginning of Yin and the beginning of Yang. In
both planning and implementation, understanding of human
behaviour provides the edge, especially the habit of good
relationships with people. When the strategic implementation
achieves its objective it must end. At this stage, there could
be a return to a new strategic planning to plan and implement
the next phase, and, thus, the cycle may repeat.
Duke Chou's six lines to each hexagram shows that
each stage, whether planning or implementation, could be divided
into six steps, giving even more details how the cyclic
strategies should be used. These six lines of each hexagram
represent a natural and logical sequence of steps. For example,
for hexagram 52, Ken, the first line correctly corresponds to
the initiation of strategic planning in the six sections of Sun
Zi's Art Of War. The top of the six lines of each hexagram has
been known traditionally to represent the height or conclusion
of the event or theme. This is so with Sun Zi's Art Of War,
where Section 6, which corresponds with the top line of hexagram
52, denotes the conclusion of strategic planning, as Section 7
begins the next phase of strategic implementation.
The above is the basis of the ancient Chinese
philosophy stating that the Yin and Yang must go hand in hand to
balance each other. Duke Chou's lines show that for superlative
strategic planning and implementation you must train yourself to
be systematic, meticulous and detailed.