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


ideal city
Han dynasty
Tower of the Winds
wind directions




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 Western historical references on urban design and microclimate primarily converge on a single source: The octagonal, radial-centric plan of an ideal city in Book I of the Ten Books of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.


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