Understanding Cave Script: Four
Cave Script appears to include examples of the notation found in the Yì Jīng 易經, the ancient Chinese text, known in English as the Book of Changes. This is easier to understand if we consider the possible origin of the name Yì Jīng 易經.
Some early versions of the character yì 易 seem to be composed of the character shān 彡 and the character xī 夕. My interpretation of this would be the time when it gets dark. In other early versions the two characters are reversed. My interpretation would be the time when it gets light. Thus we seem to be talking about the relative lengths of day and night.
Furthermore, one interpretation of the character jīng 經 is longitude.
It is therefore possible that the symbols in Cave Script corresponded to an early version of the solar terms, in other words a calendar.
In the table (below), I have listed the solar terms for the Earth’s northern hemisphere. The symbols in the table, known as the bāguà, are built from the symbols known as the liǎngyí, or yīn and yáng (left).
The yīn and yáng lines are simple representations of dark and light. The Chinese name for the lines is yáo 爻, meaning boundary or cusp. It is the point at which one thing changes to another.
The relative relationship between the number of hours of light and the number of hours of darkness, depicted in the bāguà symbols, applies regardless of the latitude of the observer.
This can be better understood if we look at two examples from hypothetical astronomical observatories. The first located at Lascaux with geographical coordinates of 45° 2′ 57″ N, 1° 10′ 34″ E, and the second at Sanxingdui with geographical coordinates of 30° 59′ 34.8″ N, 104° 12′ 0″ E.
The diagrams (above) show the estimated hours of daylight at the solar terms¹.
The first thing to notice is that where there is a yáng line at the bottom of the symbol, light levels are increasing until you get to the maximum number of hours at the Summer Solstice. Similarly, where there is a yīn line at the bottom of the symbol light levels are decreasing until you get to the minimum at the Winter Solstice. Thus, we get the direction of change in the relationship between light and dark.
Next you should understand that the number of lines in the symbol is indicative of the relative number of hours of daylight versus hours of darkness. If we take the date of May 6, the solar longitude is 45°, and the solar term for the northern hemisphere is the Start of Summer. At Lascaux there are over 14 hours of daylight. Hence, the bāguà symbol has two yáng lines and one yīn line. At Sanxingdui, there is one hour less daylight due to the change in latitude, but the relationship depicted in the bāguà symbol is still valid.
If we look at the 225° position, we see that the bāguà symbol is equal and opposite. It represents not only the number of hours of daylight for November 7, the Start of Winter (the opposite half of the year), but also the number of hours of darkness for May 6. It also tells us what is happening in the southern hemisphere, at latitude 45° S (the opposite side of the globe), on May 6.
In the October 2012 news item, I mentioned that Yán Yánzhī (384 – 456) considered the hexagrams from the Yì Jīng to be one element of script; the túlǐ 圖㸚, or ‘picturing of nature’s principles’2. I haven’t found a hexagram (six line symbol) in Cave Script. It may be that the six line symbols are more modern. However, the one and three line symbols are seen at the Grotte de Lascaux and Grotte Cosquer.
I hope that these few paragraphs have given you an understanding as to why the Yì Jīng should be a reference work when we attempt to decipher the script in the caves.
1. The estimated daylight hours (the number of hours between sunrise and sunset) were calculated using dates for 2012 and the Sun Position Tool from SunEarthTools.com: http://www.sunearthtools.com/dp/tools/pos_sun.php#dayLight: Accessed: May 2013
2. Wen C. Fong, 2008: Zhongshi Ouyang et al.: Chinese Calligraphy (The Culture & Civilization of China): Prologue, p. 1-2: Yale University Press