Reading Taijitu Shuo Synchronously: The Human Sense of Wuji er Taiji

Galia Patt-Shamir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article suggests that reading Zhou Dunyi’s 周敦頤 Explanation to the Diagram of Supreme Polarity (Taijitu Shuo 太極圖說) synchronously instead of diachronically yields a new understanding on the relatedness between infinitude and finitude, or on the One and many. Zhou’s attitude is introduced as a living riddle, in which “Non-Polar and Supreme Polarity” (wuji er taiji 無極而太極) is understood as a new conceptual construct, and one which is issued as a call for action at the end of the text: it is a call to investigate the beginnings and endings of one’s life. In this way, the text demonstrates how a person embodies the cosmological as riddle. The article follows both the diagram and text. It first refers to the riddle, then moves on to its embodiment in the ongoing processes of living as yin-yang 陰陽, the five phases, qian 乾 and kun 坤, and the myriad things, including human beings. According to the approach presented here, it is the sage who is the human embodiment of “Non-Polar and Supreme Polarity.”

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-442
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Infinitude
  • Living riddle
  • Taijitu Shuo
  • Transformation
  • Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤


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