February 02, 2005
lo shu square


Lo shu orders the Chinese stages of life 1 through 9 in a square that adds up to 15 in all directions-- diagonally, horizontally and vertically. 15's a magic number in China, so this square was something that fascinated them. As the guy who told me about this square said, 'if you're around for 6000 years to have to find something to do.'

The 9 stages of life are:
1-beginning, danger, water sex/black
2-planning, harmony
4-chaos, acceleration
5-stillness (in the eye of the storm- as 5 is in the middle), adolescence/yellow

In China you're considered born at the moment of conception, so it makes sense 1. is sex, black, beginning, water, and danger, for at the time infant fatality rates would have been tremendous, and 1. references our time in the womb. If we apply lo shu to business the model means: a company is born out of the black into its planning stage, then finally growth occurs, unforseen market forces bring chaos into the picture, in the middle of the chaotic storm there is always a calm eye - yellow number 5- eventually the company achieves wealth, people can relax, perhaps some retire, there's stasis, the company dies, and there's eventual recognition of all that's happened.

Every piece of art has a number as well. If a novel's about chaos it's a 4, etc.. Say you want to tell the story of someone who gets rich, for instance. Place the number 3 (for growth) in the wealth spot (the bottom right hand corner of the box - where '6' sits in the lo shu box). Now, we have 3/6 - growth occuring in wealth - someone's getting rich. From there, we fill out the rest of the box following the magic lo shu line and we're left with this:


If we like the 3/6 and want to experiment further we can go in the opposite direction along the lo shu line aswell:


The last thing we do is decide where we start. You don't necessarily want to start in the beginning - beginnings are more effective elsewhere in the cycle. If we have a particularly powerful scene in mind for the opening we might put 9/9 - double recognition - at the beginning. One possible order that follows from this is 1/8, 2/7, 3/6, 4/5, 5/4, 6/3, 7/2, 8/1, which breaks down as:

9/9 recognition in a place of recognition - our shocking opening scene, followed by
1/8 beginning (water danger sex black) in stasis
2/7 planning and harmony in relaxation
3/6 growth (thunder/green) in wealth
4/5 chaos in stillness (center, adolescence/yellow)
5/4 stillness (center, adolescence/yellow) in chaos
6/3 wealth in growth
7/2 relaxation in planning/harmony
8/1 stasis in beginning (water, danger, sex/black)

If you knew you wanted to end with "chaos in stillness" (4/5), you would have to begin with "stillness in chaos" (5/4) and work down, or with "growth in wealth" (3/6) and work back.

The symbols are vague enough that the juxtapositions are invariably evocative: Lo shu can function as a kind of random plot generator to test drafts against. It is also used with equal effectiveness to make decisions and tell fortunes - or so the ancients believed.

Posted by ÿ at February 02, 2005 05:13 PM
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