Explore Lee Ungno's Abstract Letter Series, 'I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence'

By Lee Ungno Museum

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

"The world of calligraphy has points in common with abstract painting. The move of a line, creation of a space, and the relationship between the shape of Indian ink and the space on a white plane are basic forms sought by contemporary painting. Chinese characters themselves are abstract patterns of the orient." - Lee Ungno, Seoul-Paris-Tokyo, 1985

I-ching-64-hexagrams (All) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence is a series made in 1974 by Lee Ungno as he resumed his career in Paris, following his release from prison in Korea for his involvement in the East Berlin Affair in 1967. Born to a Confucian family, he studied Chinese classics when he was young, and he was therefore familiar with the I Ching, which explores the patterns of change inherent in nature and in human life. In content, Ungno expressed the I Ching’s primary emphasis on balance and harmony in patterns of change, while in form he referred to traditional calligraphy and visualized the meaning of each hexagram in the continuation of his Abstract Letter series.

The powerful brushwork of Lee’s experimental calligraphic drawings from the mid- to late-1970s reaches its pinnacle in the artist’s Ching: 64 Hexagrams series.
This series precisely demonstrates the relationship between calligraphy and abstract painting. It offers a dramatic view of how calligraphy can be transformed into abstract images.

This work, a hexagram titled Sujibi, or Creeks and Rivers on Earth: Holding Together and Alliance, shows two people who trust, rely on, and follow each other, reaching a state of perfect harmony and unity. This implies one of the world’s simplest and clearest truths that no one can achieve great results through their own efforts alone and, therefore, everyone must get along well with others and accept help to achieve the tasks given to them.

This hexagram, called Cheontaengni, or Lake under the Sky: Affluence, shows a body of water at the bottom and the heavens at the top.

Traditionally, the heavens have always been a symbol of Li (理), or 'principle', while lakes symbolize the human mind. Much like Kant’s Kategorischer Imperativ, this piece reminds each of us of 'the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me'. The sixty-four hexagrams are not simply a collection of images, but are rather guidelines encouraging each of us living in the modern world to live more wisely.

This hexagram, called Jicheontae, or Terrain in the sky: pervading peace and greatness, refers to the state in which the minds of heaven and earth connect and exchange with one another to create a sense of abundance. In this piece, Lee Ungno (Goam) depicts a hexagram (which is generally regarded as representing the best of all the situations surrounding humanity) using the image of four people dancing together, approaching each other with open arms as if to give each other a big hug.

This hexagram, titled Cheonhwa Dongin, or Torch under the Dark Sky: Fellowship with Men , symbolizes both heaven and fire, which are governed by the same principle of reaching toward that which is above. In this piece, Lee depicts two people facing each other, expressing the truth that 'all people are the same and equal'.

In this hexagram, titled Hwacheon Daeyu, or Big Fire, Sun in the Sky: Great Possession, Lee depicts three “great men” who convey a universal and fundamental, and so truly great spirit but take the form of ordinary people. This artwork shows that, to the artist, common human beings are greater and more important than any grandiose concept or ideology.

Let's take a closer look at theses sequences and their meanings. 

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(重天乾) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jungcheongeon(重天乾): Shape of six dragons going toward heaven

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(重地坤) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jungjigon(重地坤): Shape of five grains planted on fertile land

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(水雷屯) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Suroedun(水雷屯): Shape of shoots of plants waiting for spring under the snow

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(山水夢) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sansumong(山水夢): Shape of jewelry that is deeply hidden

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(水天需) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sucheonsu(水天需): Shape of thick cloud and mist

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(天水訟) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Cheonsusong(天水訟): Shape of one meeting a big wind while sailing

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(地水師) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jisusa(地水師): Shape of hero that has many soldiers

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(水地比) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sujibi(水地比): Shape of many stars following the Great Bear

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(風天小畜) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Pungcheonsochuk(風天小畜): Shape of a pearl buried in mud

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(天澤履) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Cheontaekri(天澤履): Shape of one stepping on the tail of a tiger

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(地天泰) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jicheontae(地天泰): Shape of all kinds of crops that are plentiful due to a good harvest

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(天地否) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Cheonjibi(天地否): Shape of the moon hidden inside dark clouds

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(天火同人) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Cheonhwadongin(天火同人): Shape of one receiving light on a dark night road

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(火天大有) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Hwacheondaeyu(火天大有): Shape of the bright sun high up in the sky

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(地山謙) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jisangyeom(地山謙): Shape of ripe rice plants bowing

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(雷地豫) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Noejiae(雷地豫): Shape of a Chinese phoenix giving birth to her young

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(澤雷隨) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Taekroesu(澤雷隨): Shape of a craftsman cutting a pearl

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(山風蠱) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sanpunggo(山風蠱): Shape of an insect eating a leaf

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(地澤臨) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jitaekrim(地澤臨): Shape of a dragon in the sky looking down at the world

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(風地觀) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Pungjigwan(風地觀): Shape of the sun and the moon shining brightly

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(火雷噬嗑) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Hwaroeseohap(火雷噬嗑): Shape of one putting food in his mouth and chewing it

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(山火賁) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sanhwabi(山火賁): Shape of a red evening glow

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(山地剝) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sanjibak(山地剝): Shape of a wise man hidden because a mean person is making trouble

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(地雷復) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jiroebok(地雷復): Shape of a traveler coming back home

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(天雷无妄) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Cheonroemumang(天雷无妄): Shape of one living in an ordinary way keeping old ideas

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(山天大畜) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sancheondaechuk(山天大畜): Shape of clothes and food plentifully spread with dignity

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(山雷頤) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sanroei(山雷頤): Shape of one driving away evil and pursuing good

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(澤風大過) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Taekpungdaegwa(澤風大過): Shape of a small boat in the middle of an ocean meeting the wind and waves

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(重水坎) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jungsugam(重水坎): Shape of a boat meeting the wind and waves, striking a reef

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(重火離) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Junghwari(重火離): Shape of the bright sun shining above a fresh green

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(澤山咸) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Taeksanham(澤山咸): Shape of God answering a sincere effort

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(雷風恒) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Noepunghyang(雷風恒): Shape of the sun and the moon not changing

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(天山豚) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Cheonsadon(天山豚): Shape of a noble man hidden in the mountains

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(雷天大壯) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Noecheondaejang(雷天大壯): Shape of a wild tiger with horns

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(火地晉) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Hwajijin(火地晉): Shape of a good king obtaining good retainers and ruling the world peacefully

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(地火明夷) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jihwamyeongi(地火明夷): Shape of the sun setting in the west

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(風火家人) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Punghwagain(風火家人): Shape of flowers falling and fruits being produced

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(火澤暌) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Hwataekgyu(火澤暌): Shape of two women fighting each other for one man

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(水山蹇) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Susangeon(水山蹇): Shape of a wild goose that has lost its partner crying sadly

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(雷水解) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Noesuhae(雷水解): Shape of snowy trees and grass meeting spring

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(山澤損) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Santaekson(山澤損): Shape of a mountain made with collected soils

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(風雷益) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Pungroeik(風雷益): Shape of a stream going toward the sea

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(澤天夬) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Taekcheongwae(澤天夬): Shape of a aquatic dragon going up to the sky

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(天風姤) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Cheonpunggu(天風姤): Shape of the moon hidden in a cloud re-appearing

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(澤地萃) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Taekjichwi(澤地萃): Shape of water gathered from all sides gathering together into one place

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(地風升) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jipungseung(地風升): Shape of streams forming a river and going into the sea

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(澤水困) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Taeksugon(澤水困): Shape of a bowl that has a crack

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence(水風井) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Supungjeong(水風井): Shape of bead being put into the sea

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (澤火革) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Taekhwahyeok(澤火革): Shape of one throwing away old things and taking new things

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (火風鼎) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Hwapungjeong(火風鼎): Shape of one boiling valuable medicine in a pot

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (重雷震) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jungroejin(重雷震): Shape of two dragons fighting for precious bread

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (重山艮) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jungsangan(重山艮): Shape of one keeping within due bounds following an old spirit

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (風山漸) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Pungsanjeom(風山漸): Shape that many pieces of dust making a mountain

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (雷澤歸妹) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Noetaekgwimae(雷澤歸妹): Shape of clouds covering the sun and the moon

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (雷火豊) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Noehwapung(雷火豊): Shape of one burning back from the dark and going to a bright place

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (火山旅) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Hwasanryeo(火山旅): Shape of a traveler wandering without purpose

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (重風巽) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jungpungson(重風巽): Shape of trees and grass dancing on a gentle wind

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (重澤兌) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Jungtaektae(重澤兌): Shape of the moonlight brightly reflected on a pond

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (風水渙) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Pungsuhwan(風水渙): Shape of a boat on a gentle sea

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (水澤節) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Sutaekjeol(水澤節): Shape of a change of four seasons not winning time

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (風澤中浮) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Pungtaekjungbu(風澤中浮): Shape of a mother bird sitting on eggs

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (雷山小過) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Noesansogwa(雷山小過): Shape of a high-flying bird going down

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (水火旣濟) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Suhwagijae(水火旣濟): Shape of a good retainer meeting a good king

I Ching 64 Hexagrams Sequence (火水未濟) (1974) by Lee UngnoLee Ungno Museum

Hwasumije(火水未濟): Shape showing that amid anxiety there is joy

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