Yesterday I stumbled upon the Chinese symbol 天, and managed to look it up, and this led me through an interesting Chinese wikipedia journey.

To look up a symbol in the wiktionary, you apparently need to count the number of strokes of the radical (the core part of the symbol), and then find the symbol with a number of additional strokes. It turns out that 天 is the radical 大 with a line on top of it.

天 means the sky, which makes sense: imagine a man standing with outstretched arms 大, and the line above the head of the man is… the sky 天. And in addition it thus means heaven, overhead, and top.

天 also means God, – of course there is something divine about the heaven 😉 and also it is the combination of one (一) and great (大). As “一” means one – it is just one line – and “大” is a man with outstretched arms, which means great.

If you continue the associations you can imagine that the sky 天 also represents the weather, the day, the seasons etc. And also nature, and the natural or innate.

The symbol 天 is called Tian, and turns out also to be a mythological concept, including the Heaven in the Daoistic duality Heaven and Earth. This lead back to the the I Ching and the eight core symbols ☰☱☲☴☳☵☶☷ which is called the trigrams or Bagua([八卦: 八=eight]{lang="zh" lang="zh"} 卦=symbols of divination).

In I Ching, heaven, 天, is an aspect of the trigram ☰ (and earth is an aspect of ☷). The unbroken lines are Yang(masculine aspect, force, action, active, ..) and the broken lines are the Yin(feminine, nurturing, receiving, passive,…), so ☰ is the most Yang-like trigram. Which again connects with the masculine aspect of the Father (in the) Heaven, or feminine aspect of Mother earth, which we see across mythologies. The trigrams also looks very similar to the binary and octal number system, ie. ☰ would obviously be 7 and ☷ would be zero.

The journey could continue further, from a Chinese symbol, through I Ching, and further into binary numbers, and probably into Computer Science, if we take it too far, but I will pause for now 🙂