Yijing and DNA

**Table of Contents (D N A)**

  1. Brief History

  2. D N A Discovery

  3. Correlations

  4. Yijing DNA coincidence

  5. Fu Xi's Sequence and DNA

  6. Conversions

  7. DNA and Amino Acids

  8. D N A to Amino acids table

  9. DNA References

  10. D N A related tables

  11. Back to Main Page.

(1) History

DNA background

In 1962 Francis Crick, James D. Watson and M.H.C. Wilkens were awarded the Nobel Prize (Physiology or Medicine) for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nuclear acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.

What they discovered in 1953 are now commonly known as DNA (deoxyribinucleic acid) which is the carrier of genetic information. They modeled the DNA as a chain-like molecule of great length, high molecular weight double strand twisted like a spiral staircase. They use the name "Double Helix". The two strands can be looked at as positive and negative helices.

These two strands are joined at regular intervals by a pair of nucleotide bases like rungs of a rope ladder. The bases are thymine (T) [ or uracil (U) in RNA] that always paired with adenine (A) forming a rung linking the strands and vice versa. The other bases are cytosine (C) and guanine (G). They also always paired with one another linking opposite strands.

A,G,C,T(U) are "letters" of the code, pairing with T(U), C, G and A of the parallel rungs of the double helix. The chemical and spatial structure made them tightfitted like elements of a zipper.

The four nitrogenous bases of DNA are arranged along the sugar-phosphate backbone in a particular order (the DNA sequence), encoding all genetic instructions for an organism. Adenine(A) pairs with thymine(T), while cytosine (C) pairs with guanine (G). The two DNA strands are held together by hydrogen bonds between the bases. (A and T by two hydrogen bonds, C and G with three H-bonds.)

The result of their investigation revealed that 3 of these 4 letters always combined as a code word on the substrate of the double strand. This code word is an instruction for synthesizing a compound and is not the product itself. By mathematical law 64 combinations of these triplets are possible. The triplets A-A-A, A-C-G, U-G-A,.. etc. represent the information and instructions needed to synthesize an amino acid, one of the protein building block of the living matters.

A very precisely defined triplet of sequences is specific for the protein structure of a very precisely defined part of a living creature. These precisely formulated instructions must always remain invariable. The sum total of these code words is similar to the "blueprint" for producing a whole living being with all its characteristics. This programmed genetic message remained unchanged throughout the life time of the organism.

When the cell is about to divide, part of the double helix will break up into two strands. Each single strand, acting like a template, will pick up (through A-T, C-G combinations) their complementing bases and form two new double helices. In so doing, preserve the original genetic code of the old cell.

To convert the DNA code into the language of protein synthesis, a part of DNA is cut and made into a single-strand ribonucleic acid (RNA), known as messenger RNA. The process from DNA to this RNA is called transcription. The mRNA will leave the nucleus and go to the cytoplasm. Here the code sequence is read and matched to a free transfer codon that has an amino acid attached. This process called translation is carried out by the transfer RNA.The attached amino acid is then tagged on to a growing amino acid chain to form protein.

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(2) Yijing and DNA correlations

Grouping of Hexagram lines

Heaven, Man and Earth

The six lines of the hexagram are grouped into three sets representing different areas of influences. They are built up from bottom (line 1) to top (line 6).

Lines Represent Influence
  • 6
  • 5
HeavenMoral or spiritual
  • 4
  • 3
ManHuman or social
  • 2
  • 1
EarthNatural or material

We know that Taiji begets Yin and Yang which are symbolized by the broken and solid lines. When these two line types are permuted, four combinatoric line pairs are formed, they are called the four images (Xiang), also called duograms or digrams.

The hexagrams are known to be made up of two trigrams, but from the table above we can also say that they are composed of three digrams and these digrams and their names are:

The reason we use digrams is that each hexagram will now have three parts which correspond with three of the four building blocks of DNA.

By the way, lines are said to be "correct" if yang lines occupy positions 1, 3, or 5 and yin lines occupy positions 2, 4, or 6 of the hexagram.

Two very good books that discuss the relation between Yijing and DNA are :

"The I Ching & The Genetic Code" [THE HIDDEN KEY TO LIFE] by Martin Schoenberger
Translated to English from original German and

"DNA and the I Ching: The Tao of Life" by Johnson F. Yan

Both books gave very informative discussions between the two systems. Schoenberger's book came out earlier and has slightly different assignments (of the Yijing digrams to the DNA bases) from Yan's. I think the difference is caused by the interpretation of Yijing symbols to binary (decimal) numbers. Hexagrams are built up line by line from bottom to top. But to convert to binary then decimal, we should start from top to bottom.

The best way is to translate solid line to '1' and broken line to '0', then rotate the plane 90 degrees clockwise. Now convert these binary numbers to decimals. You could see that Fu Xi's sequence would start with 0,1,2 .. until it reaches 63, a very smooth arrangement. Also you could notice right away if the hexagram is "odd" or not by glancing at the binary notation, looking for "1" in the last digit.

The digrams are called 'old yin', 'old yang' (which could change) and 'young yang' and 'yang yin'. Yang is odd and yin is even. Converting to binary they come out 00,01,10,11 or 0,1,2,3 in decimal. Here is where Schoenberger and Yan differed in assigning the bases. Schoenberger assigned U(T) to 'old yin' (00) and A to 'old Yang' (11) , C to 'young yin' (10) and G to 'Young Yang' (01).

Yan on the other hand assigned A to "old yin" (00) and G to "old yang" (11), U(T) to "young yin"(10) and C to "young yang"(01). He preserved the yang-odd, yin-even rule.

What is more interesting here is the parallelism between DNA (discovered about 50 years ago) and Yijing (5000 years in existence).

E.H. Grafe contributed an article about 'I Ching' in the May 1969 issue of Zeitschrift fuer Allgemeinmedizin. (Journal for General Medicine). In this article he showed the astonishing parallels between I ching and the latest discoveries of nuclear genetics.

Here are some of the comparisons:

  • A: adenine
  • T: thymine
  • C: cytosine
  • G: guanine
  • (--- x ---) moving yin [6]*
  • (---------) stable yang [7]
  • (---     ---) stable yin [8]
  • (----o----) moving yang [9]
Three letters form a codeThree lines form a trigram **
Fixed direction in which
code words are read (rightward)
Fixed direction in which
trigrams lines are read (upward)
Plus and minus double helixprimal poles Yang and Yin
64 of these triplets program
the structure of amino acids
64 of double trigrams
program the oracle
Triples with name "start" and
"stop" to mark the beginning
and end of a code sentence
Hexagrams with name
before completion (#64) and
after completion (#63)

Note:* These are the lines one gets using yarrow stalks method or coin tossing to build up the hexagram during divination. In converting hexagrams to DNA bases, what are used are the two-line digrams, so that a hexagram will be changed to only three bases codes.
** Or three digrams form a hexagram.

Lama A. Govinda in the introduction of Schoenberger's book said "... builds a bridge between East and West, between the early period of human thought and the latest discoveries of science."

A site prepared by C.J. Lofting with many articles under dDiamond site is worth visiting.

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(3) Fuxi's sequence tables

Following Yan's assigned notations.

with 'old yin' replaced by A, 'young yang' by C, 'young yin' by T(U) and 'old yang' by G and using Fu Xi's sequence with the proper substitution of corresponding DNA nucleotides, the following tables result.

The italicized numbers are the equivalent decimals, and the numbers inside the square bracket are King Wen's (textual) order numbers. The A,T,C and G are the symbols for DNA bases. Read these code from bottom to top, this is equivalent to left to right in the next table. (U will replace T if we are talking about RNA.)

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(4) DNA and Amino Acids table

Since there are only 20 amino acids. With four bases on hand, only three are needed to produce a codon, thus we have 4 x 4 x 4 = 64 permutations. Yijing as we know, has exactly 64 hexagrams. When these codons are translated into amino acids , we get the following table:

This is a follow-up table from the previous one. The three italicized letters are the symbols of the twenty amino acids, plus start (Met) that initiates the protein synthesis and stops to terminate the process.

For comparison purpose, here is a circular genetic code table taken from the book

"Unraveling D N A " by Maxim D. Frank-Kamenetskii.

The Genetic Code

Replace T of the previous table by U

With the exception of second table being circular, the contents of these two tables fitted exactly.
And the first table is derived directly from Fu Xi's sequencing of hexagrams (see previous topic).

Very briefly stated, the two strands in the DNA double helix are tightly connected by the four bases like rungs of stair. A always paired with T of the opposite strand and C with G. Before the cell division, part of the helix will break up into two strands. Bases of each strand will match the complementary bases (A-T,C-G) to form a new double helix with these (one old, one new) strands. The genetic code is thus preserved and this process that takes place inside the nucleus is called replication because exact copies of DNA are made.

During a process called transcription, the RNA that carries the codes of DNA will sieve out from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. The mRNA which carry the message of how to make protein will pick from the free nucleotides the matching bases (A-U, C-G) together with their attached amino acids, the tRNA is now doing the job in converting these amino acids into proteins.

Yan's book gives very elaborate details from Yijing to DNA in all (historic, philosophic, scientific...) aspects. A book worth reading, besides it is only mildly technical.

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DNA References

Table of the Genetic Code

Bases (nucleotides) in DNA:
*(U):Uracil in RNA

List of the amono acids and their code abbreviations

AspAspartic acidIleuIsoleucineThrThreonine
GluGlutamic acidMetMethionineValValine

Some terms and definitions:

Complete set of instructions for making an organism
Deoxyribonucleic acid, consists of two helical strands
made up of four basic building blocks (nucleotide);
contains the information of life.
Ribonucleic acid, smaller and more mobile than DNA,
modeled after DNA, has no genetic role; but is
important in transmitting information from DNA to protein.
Sequence of three DNA nucleotide bases (triplets)
Anti-Codon:Sequence of three nucleotide bases in tRNA
that pairs a codon in mRNA during the protein processing.
Replication:Process in which cell copies its DNA
in preparation of cell division.
Transcription:Process of forming RNA using DNA as a model.
Translation:Process of forming a protein by reading
genetic message in mRNA

Type of RNA:
mRNA: messenger-RNA; it carries message of DNA from
cell nucleus to cytoplasm to process proteins.
tRNA: transfer-RNA; it carries amino acids
to ribosome to make proteins.
rRNA: form of RNA found in ribosomes
that glues amino acids together.

For people interested in rudimentary DNA/RNA information Eureka Science is a very good site.

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Yijing and DNA
Pieng-Lam Kho
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Last edited: March 2001