Book of Changes, first semantic lexicon

Semanticus F. Alpaerts suggests in De Denkbeeldige Ruimte (1980) that the I Ching or Book of Changes, originating from mythical antiquity, is the first semantic lexicon of mankind. In this Chinese classic, unquestionably one of the most influential books in the world’s literature, 64 chapters are coded with a double triplet line code called hexagrams.

Alpaerts used the Wilhelm (1971) translation to show a possible connection between the code lines from the I Ching and the codon encoding in the Semantic Colour Space. The open (- -) and closed (—) lines from the I Ching correspond with respectively the 0’s and 1’s from his semantic coding system. This way he could associate the concepts described in the 64 chapters of the I Ching, with the eight primary colours and their combinations (8×8) from his classification. Later, his hypothesis was confirmed by a comparative research he conducted on the similarities between his keyword-colour classifications, in which the concepts from the I Ching form an important part, and the empirical data from sociologist Eva Heller’s word-to-colour association study (Alpaerts, 1993).

The following list includes I Ching chapter titles with links to pages in the DSD (between brackets: if the title is not in the DSD, a synonym), chapter numbers, digital coding (hexagram), and colour combinations.

chapter titlechaptershexagramcolour combination
creative heaven1111:111YL:YL
the receptive2000:000BL:BL
difficulty at the beginning3010:001GR:BK
youthful folly (inexperienced, foolish)4100:010BR:GR
the fight6111:010YL:GR
the army7000:010BL:GR
the all-encompassing8010:000GR:BL
the taming power of the small (newborn)9110:111WH:YL
standstill (stagnation, blocking)12111:000YL:BL
fellowship with men (together, community)13111:101YL:RD
great possessing (imperium)14101:111RD:YL
rage (rancor, attack)16001:000BK:BL
correcting (addressing)18100:110BR:WH
nearing, rapprochement19000:011BL:PL
viewing (perception)20110:000WH:BL
biting through (stick-it-out)21101:001RD:BK
adorning (embellish)22100:101BR:RD
splitting apart (slivering)23100:000BR:BL
the turning point24000:001BL:BK
the taming power of the great (steering)26100:111BR:YL
the corners of the mouth, providing nourishment (feeding, grooming, open mouth)27100:001BR:BK
great exceeding (overloaded)28011:110PL:WH
the abyss29010:010GR:GR
the clinging, fire (flame, attach)30101:101RD:RD
influence, wooing (courtship)31011:100PL:BR
duration, constancy32001:110BK:WH
the power of the great (powerful)34001:111BK:YL
darkening of the Light (hiding)36000:101BL:RD
polarising (contrasts)38101:011RD:PL
increase, beneficial, useful (growth, functional)42110:001WH:BK
resoluteness, determination43011:111PL:YL
gathering together, massing (assemble)45011:000PL:BL
pushing upward46000:110BL:WH
oppression, exhaustion (depletion, sucked out)47011:010PL:GR
the well48010:110GR:WH
revolution, moulting49011:101PL:RD
the cauldron (terrine)50101:110RD:WH
the arousing, shock, thunder51001:001BK:BK
keeping still, mountain (still, not moving)52100:100BR:BR
development, gradual progress53110:100WH:BR
the marrying maiden (concubine)54001:011BK:PL
abundance, fullness55001:101BK:RD
the wanderer, travelling (wanderlust)56101:100RD:BR
the penetrating, wind57110:110WH:WH
the joyous, lake (gay)58011:011PL:PL
dispersion, dissolution, (scattering)59110:010WH:GR
limitation, moderation (delimitation, restriction)60010:011GR:PL
inner truth61110:011WH:PL
preponderance of the small (unremarkable, incompetent)62001:100BK:BR
after completion63010:101GR:RD
before completion64101:010RD:GR
Fig.1/ Venus of Laussel, Dordogne France.

The Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty is a legendary object, a symbol of prosperity and abundance, originally dating back to the earliest myths of mankind. One finds the first depictions of a horn already dating back from the Upper Palaeolithic. The Venus of Laussel (France, approximately 25,000 years old) is such an example. Here, the mother goddess holds a horn in her hands. (Fig.1)

Fig.2/ Sventovit with a horn in his hands in a phallus shaped statue, Zbruch idol. Collection of the Krakow Archaeological Museum in Poland.

Originally an attribute of the mother goddess, the horn is also adopted by male gods. Examples are found in Slavic mythology, such as the god Sventovit (Fig.2). The fertility of the female, related to plant life and water, is complemented with the potency of the male, relating to the bloodline and fire. While the meaning of abundance remains. Slavic priests used the horn to predict rich harvests. (Vyncke, 1969)

Fig.3/ Ancient Tibetan Fertility Horn (c.1840)

The horn of plenty thus becomes a phallus that guarantees the reproduction of the clan and the abundance of the harvest (Fig.3-4).

Fig. 4/ Ancient Roman allegory of Tiber River. By Erin Silversmith (talk · contribs) – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=135990

The cornucopia contains a male and a female aspect, which is why this object can be an attribute both of male and female deities. Examples of goddesses wearing the horn are personifications of Earth (Gaia); the nymph Mai, and Fortuna, the goddess of luck, who had the power to grant prosperity (Fig.5-6). (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornucopia)

Fig.5/ “Fortuna” by Jean Francois Armand Felix Bernard
Fig.6/ Fortuna governs the circle of the four stages of life, the Wheel of Fortune, in a manuscript of Carmina Burana.

The concept of the Cornucopia, its male and female aspects, consists of parts and variations in meaning that can be clarified by the different levels of meaning in the Semantic Colour Space.

First, there is the horn, which is classified under the 64-level code red-on-black or white-4 (ecru, off-white). Red-on-black is the code for kingship, which prescribes laws and rules, and administers justice. In the same way, red-on-black contains the meaning of the phallus, which underlines the king’s potency and supremacy. A stylized phallus is the sceptre (a combination of 8-level black: stem and red: circle) Both the phallus, the sceptre and the horns denote the blood, the lineage, the pedigree, which gives the right to the holder to issue laws and rules. The white 8-level aspect of white-4 is the line. We recognize in this image the bloodline of descent, but also the (moral) rules imposed by the king. (Fig.7)

Fig.7/ The construct red-on-black and white-4 in the Semantic Colour Space.
Fig.8/ The construct black-on-red and green-4 in the Semantic Colour Space.

The second part concerns abundance. The horn is filled with attributes from the harvest, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, wine, later also with coins. Important in this image is that the horn overflows. The name ‘Abundantia’, the Roman Goddess of fortune, prosperity and abundance, literally means ‘plenty’ or ‘overflowing riches’. This concept was classified in the Semantic Colour Space under the 64-level code black-on-red, or green-4 (a darker aquamarine-green). Keywords such as abundance, flood and fullness, describe a situation that is at a peak, like the sun at noon. (Fig.8)

While in the inverted code red-on-black the laws are laid down and justice is spoken, in this sign they will be implemented by severe punishments. Weapons such as swords are often attributed to the deity as a means of enforcing laws and providing protection from the enemy. The green aspect in green-4 is the relationship to nature, alive, flow (8-level) and contains a feminine (physical) aspect. The (over-)fullness of life, accurately describes the core meaning of this sign. (Fig.8)

However, it is an unstable state, because when water overflows, it can become a dangerous force that causes destruction and grief, as in the case of flooding, or when one burst into a crying fit because of accumulated tension. It includes the creation of life in all its fullness, but therein also lies the danger. So the sign encompasses both creative abundance, and its destruction.

The horn of plenty, as a combination of white-4 and green-4, is classified under the code white-on-green or red-4 (. This colour combination is often used by artists to depict the female deity wearing the cornucopia, such as the goddess Fortuna (Fig. 5-6) or Abundantia. The core image contains the wind (white) blowing above the flowing water (green), causing the water to scatter and dissolve into foam and bubbles. The contents of the overflowing horn are thus scattered over the earth. (Fig.9)

Fig.10/ Statue allégorique de la Loire sur la fontaine de la Place Royale à Nantes. Fontaine de Daniel Ducommun de Locle, Guillaume Grootaërs et Simon Voruz (1865).

The white-on-green coding implicates that the plenty is of an uncertain nature, that the rich harvests are not guaranteed, instead, they are a question of fate, of luck. That is why the cornucopia is often a means for fortune-telling, a white-on-blue keyword. Then, the colour combination white-on-green becomes a movement in the depth dimension from white-on-blue (code 110-000) to green-on-blue (code 010-000) in this classic conceptual construct. (Fig.11)

Fig.9/ The construct white-on-green and green-on-blue in the Semantic Colour Space.

The concept of fortune is an addition to the white-on-green code. Fortune is coded green-on-blue. It is the earth (blue) on which life (green) grows that gives fortune. The idea represents the earthly womb that bestows life. This womb is represented by an amphora or pitcher, from which the water of life flows. (Fig.10)

Fig.11/ The construct white-on-blue and green-on-blue, with a movement from white-4 to green-4 in the Semantic Colour Space.

I.Michiels, red.