AccScience Publishing / JCAU / Volume 2 / Issue 1 / DOI: 10.36922/jcau.v2i1.968
Cite this article
Journal Browser
Volume | Year
News and Announcements
View All

The Bagua as an Intermediary between Archaic Chinese Geomancy and Early European Urban Planning and Design

Abraham Akkerman1 Jingkun Shao2
Show Less
1 Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism 2020, 2(1), 968
© Invalid date by the Authors. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution -Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC-by the license) ( )

Present-day concerns with urban design for pedestrians largely surround the issue of microclimate in streetscapes. Such concerns are not new and have been extensively discussed during the European Renaissance. Western historical references on urban design and microclimate primarily converge on a single source: The octagonal, radial-centric plan of an ideal city in Book I of the Ten Books of Architecture written in the late first century BCE by Marcus Vitruvius Polio. As his own source Vitruvius pointed to the Tower of the Winds in Athens, designed c. 50 BCE by Andronicus of Cyrrhus on an octagonal plan, respectful of eight wind directions. We posit that octagonal Bagua geomantic map made its way from Chang’an in China to Cyrrhus in western Asia during the first century BCE, and was possibly one of two sources that stirred Andronicus toward his design of the tower, the other source being the Pharos Lighthouse in Alexandria. The Bagua corresponds to the Luo Shu magic square that guided the ideal city plan of Han China, while the octagon, through Vitruvius, inspired several city plans in Renaissance and Baroque Europe. Beyond the rainbow of multiple impact on Roman urbanism from neighboring civilizations, the ancient Chinese ideal city plan through the intermediary of the Bagua, may also have played a role in Vitruvius’ own ideal city plan, by way of the Tower of the Winds. The environmental message of the Bagua, thus, has possibly carried an indirect impact upon Renaissance and Baroque urbanism, and upon urbanist concerns lasting to this day.

ideal city
Han dynasty
Tower of the Winds
wind directions
This work was financially supported by the University of Saskatchewan Sabbatical Grant (2019) awarded to A.A.

Vitruvius Polio M. The ten books on architecture, translated by Morris Hicky Morgan. c. 30 BCE/1960, Dover, New York.


Rosenau H. The ideal city: Its architectural evolution in Europe. 2013, Routledge, London and New York.


Lagopoulos AP. The semiotics of the Vitruvian city [J]. Semiotica, 2009, 175(1): 193-251.


Cache B. The Tower of the Winds of Andronikos of Kyrros [J]. Architectural Theory Review, 2009, 14(1): 3-18.


Nichols MF. Author and audience in Vitruvius' De architectura. 2017, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York.


Giocondo FG. M. Vitruvio, De Architectura libri decem additis. 1511, Giovanni Taccuino, Venice.


Hippocrates. Airs, waters, and places. 400 BCE/1881, Wyman and Sons, London.


Stuart J, Revett N. The antiquities of Athens measured and delineated by James Stuart F.R.S. and F.S.A. and Nicholas Revett Painters and ?rchitects, Vol. III (ed. Willey Reveley). 1794, John Nichols, London.


Laurence R. Roman Pompeii: Space and society. 2006, Routledge, London and New York.


Castleden R. The Mycenaeans. 2005, Taylor & Francis, Abingdon.


Hill JD. The Pre-Roman Iron Age in Britain and Ireland (ca. 800 B.C. to A.D. 100): An overview [J]. Journal of World Prehistory, 1995, 9(1): 47-98.


Stoddart S, Palmisano A, Redhouse D, et al. Patterns in Etruscan urbanism [J]. Frontiers in Digital Humanities, 2020, 7: 1-30.


Wenren J. Ancient Chinese encyclopedia of technology: Translation and annotation of the Kaogong ji (the artificer’s record). 2013, Routledge, London and New York.


Wright, AF. Reflections on Chang’an and other great cities [J]. Journal of Asian Studies, 1965, 24(4): 667-679.


Wheatley P. The ancient Chinese city as a cosmological symbol [J] Ekistics, 1975, 39(232): 147-158.


Whitehouse OC. The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. 1902, J.M. Dent, London.


Beale, GK. The Book of Revelation. 1999, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.


Drinkard JF. Jr. “Ezekiel,” in: Watson Mills (ed.), The Prophets: Mercer Commentary on the Bible, Volume 4. 1996, Mercer University Press, Macon, 159-203.


Hsu E. Wind, life, health: Anthropological and historical perspectives [J]. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2007, 13: S117-S134.


Charles RH. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, Part 2. 1920, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.


Stuckenbruck LT. “Revelation,” in: James D. G. Dunn and John William Rogerson (eds.), Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. 2003, William Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1535-1572.


Madeddu M, Zhang X. Harmonious spaces: the influence of Feng Shui on urban form and design [J]. Journal of Urban Design, 2017, 22(6): 709-725.


Wright AF. “The Cosmology of the Chinese City,” in: William G. Skinner (ed.), The City in Late Imperial China. 1977, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 33-75.


Zhang D. Cultural symbols in Chinese architecture [J]. Architecture and Design Review, 2019, 1(1): 1-17


Heinle ?E, Fritz L. Towers: A historical survey. 1988, Rizzoli, New York.


Clayton PA. Seven wonders of the ancient world. 2013, Routledge, London and New York.


Howell MC, Prevenier W. From reliable sources: An introduction to historical methods. 2001, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London.


Jacobs J. Death and life of great American cities. 1961, Random House, New York.


Steinhardt NS. Chinese imperial city planning. 1990, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.


Vankeerberghen G. The Huainanzi and Liu An's Claim to Moral Authority. 2001, SUNY Press, Albany.


Lowe M. “The former Han dynasty,” in Denis Twitchett and Michael Lowe (eds.), The Cambridge history of China, vol. 1, The Ch'in and Han Empires 221 B.C-A.D. 220. 1986, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 103-222.


Lowe M. “The concept of sovereignty,” in Denis Twitchett and Michael Lowe (eds.), The Cambridge History of China, vol. 1, The Ch'in and Han Empires 221 B.C-A.D. 220. 1986, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 726-743.


Nylan M. The five “Confucian” classics. 2001, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.


Nielsen B. Cycles and sequences of the Eight Trigrams [J]. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 2014, 41(1-2): 130-147.


Boyd A. Chinese architecture and town planning, 1500 B.C.-A.D. 1911. 1962, Alec Tiranti, London.


Zhang G, ?Wang L. Urban planning and development in China and other East Asian countries. 2019, Tongji University Press, Shanghai; Springer, New York.


Lehmann K. The dome of heaven [J]. The Art Bulletin, 1945, 27(1): 1-27.


Soper AC. The “Dome of Heaven” in Asia [J]. The Art Bulletin, 1947, 29(4): 225-248.


Schinz A. The magic square: Cities in ancient China. 1996, Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart.


Hub B. Filarete and the East: The Renaissance of a Prisca Architectura [J]. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 2011, 70(1): 18–37.


Meyer JF. “Feng-Shui” of the Chinese city [J]. History of Religions, 1978, 18(2): 138-155.


Theodossiou E, Petros M, Vassilios NM. The quadruplex Sundial of Tenos [J]. The Compendium, 2006, 13(2): 27-30.


Edmond F. Une nouvelle inscription latine à Cyrrhus (Syrie du Nord) [J]. Mélanges de l'école française de Rome, 1994, 106(1): 71-77.


Comfort A. Roman bridges of South-East Anatolia [J]. Collection de l'Institut des Sciences et Techniques de l'Antiquité, 2013, 1277(2): 315-342.


Young GK. Rome's Eastern Trade: International Commerce and Imperial Policy 31 BC – AD 305. 2001, Routledge, London and New York.


Kevin B. Coinage in Roman Syria: Northern Syria, 64 BC-AD 253. 2004, Royal Numismatic Society, London.


Comfort A. “Traveling between Euphrates and Tigris in Late Antiquity,” in: Anne Kolb (ed.), Roman Roads: New Evidence - New Perspectives. 2019, De Gruyter, Berlin and Boston, 109-131.


Millar F. Caravan Cities: The Roman Near East and long-distance trade by land [J]. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 1998, 42(Supp 71): 119-137.


Darling JK. Architecture of Greece. 2004, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT and London.


Chiou S-C, Krishnamourti R. Unraveling Feng-shui [J]. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 1997, 24: 549-572.


Xu Y. The Chinese city in space and time: The development of urban form in Suzhou. 2000, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.


Swetz F. Legacy of the Luoshu: The 4,000 year search for the meaning of the magic square of order three. 2008, CRC Press, Boca Raton.


Guan Z, Herrmann K. Kao Gong Ji: The world’s oldest encyclopaedia of technologies. 2014, Brill.


Sit VFS. Chinese city and urbanism: Evolution and development. 2010, World Scientific, London and Shanghai.


Rykwert J. The idea of a town: The anthropology of urban form in Rome, Italy and the ancient world. 1988, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.


Cammann S. Chinese hexagrams, trigrams, and the binary system [J]. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1991, 135(4): 576-589.


Louis F. The genesis of an icon: The “Taiji” diagram's early history [J]. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 2003, 63(1): 145-196.


Jowett B. Aristotle's Politics, with an introduction by Max Lerner. 1943, Modern Library, New York.


Akkerman A, Shao J. “The Impact of Chinese Geomancy on Early European Urban Planning,” Colloquium, Jan 16, 2020: Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.


Fara P. Science: A four thousand year history. 2009, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York.


Millward JA. The Silk Road: A very short introduction. 2013, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York.


Comes R. “The transmission of Azarquiel’s Magic Squares in Europe,” in: Faith Wallis and Robert Wisnovsky (eds.), Medieval Textual Cultures: Agents of Transmission, Translation and Transformation. 2016, De Gruyter, Berlin and Boston, 159-198.


Berglund L. The secret of Luo Shu: Numerology in Chinese art and architecture. 1990, Tryckbiten, Lund, Sweden.


Golding NH. Plato as a city planner [J]. Arethusa, 1975, 8: 359–371.


Palladio A. The four books of architecture, translated by Robert Tavernor and Richard Schofield. 1570/1997, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.


Nova A. The role of the winds in architectural theory from Vitruvius to Scamozzi, in: Barbara Kenda (ed.), Aeolian winds and the spirit in Renaissance architecture: Academia Eolia revisited. 2006, Routledge, London, 70-86.


More St T. Utopia, edited by George M. Logan and Robert M. Adams. 1516/1989, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


Friedman D. Florentine new towns. 1988, MIT, Cambridge, MA.


Wu L. A brief history of ancient Chinese city planning. 1986, Gesamthochschulbibliothek, Kassel.

Conflict of interest
None of the authors have any competing financial, professional, or personal interests from any other parties.
Back to top
Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism, Electronic ISSN: 2717-5626 Published by AccScience Publishing