Pattern recognition

The ability to distinguish between one thing and another is a basic survival tool, it also lies at the heart of scientific progress, and yet in political hands it can cause suffering on a global scale.


This micro-site can't explore all the dawn and dusk beauty and nuts and bolts problems of 'this and that' but, in taking a sidelong squint at a traditional symbol of opposites, we may glimpse a frequently overlooked property of pattern recognition - our ability to jump to conclusions is prone to jumping to the wrong conclusion.

Taiji Tu, swirly version.


Symbols are a product of pattern recognition - we see a symbol and mentally associate it with connected ideas and emotions. Society employs a complex framework of such short-cuts (a key difference between cultures is the way such cues are understood). Here we shall look at a traditional Chinese system of knowledge, as seen through the eyes of a Westerner who lacks deep insight into sinology, and who only recognises patterns that resonate with his own understanding. Anything arising from such limited knowledge is clearly a personal interpretation, and certainly not a translation.

These pages assume (somewhat controversially) that the mathematical model of the Ba Gua is essentially a binary system. Whether the Ba Gua was originally constructed with such an idea in mind is beyond the capacity of the present author to say (even if it wasn't, perhaps it is a useful extension), but it does give rise to some curious patterns.

Incidentally, the mathematician G W Leibniz (1646-1716), renowned as the founding father of binary in the West, recognised the gua as a form of binary notation. But it would still surprise many Western mathematicians that, if the gua are as old as tradition maintains, the ancient Chinese had also invented a way of writing the numeral zero.

Taiji Tu
The moon
Ba Gua
Luo Shu
He Tu (concept: Paul Martyn-Smith)



© Ken Taylor 2002 - 2016