Advanced chord diagram with R and circlize

Chord diagram is an efficient way to display flows between entities. This post shows how to build it from an edge list or from an adjacency matrix, using the circlize package.

Chord section Data to Viz

Chord diagram from adjacency matrix

The chordDiagram() function of the circlize package makes it a breeze to build chord diagrams from adjacency matrix in R.

The adjacency matrix displays all origins in rows, and all destinations in columns. Each cell is filled with a numeric value specifying the flow strength.

Note: visit the chord section of the gallery or the circlize vignette for more chord examples.

# Create an adjacency matrix: 
# a list of connections between 20 origin nodes, and 5 destination nodes:
numbers <- sample(c(1:1000), 100, replace = T)
data <- matrix( numbers, ncol=5)
rownames(data) <- paste0("orig-", seq(1,20))
colnames(data) <- paste0("dest-", seq(1,5))

# Load the circlize library
# Make the circular plot
chordDiagram(data, transparency = 0.5)

Chord diagram from edge list

Another common format to store flow information iis the edge list. Basically, all connections are stored one by one in a 2 columns file, listing the origin and destination of each.

Since the chordDiagram() function expects an adjacency matrix as input, it is required to use the table() function for reformating, as described below:

# Create an edge list: a list of connections between 10 origin nodes, and 10 destination nodes:
origin <- paste0("orig ", sample(c(1:10), 20, replace = T))
destination <- paste0("dest ", sample(c(1:10), 20, replace = T))
data <- data.frame(origin, destination)

# Transform input data in a adjacency matrix
adjacencyData <- with(data, table(origin, destination))
# Charge the circlize library
# Make the circular plot
chordDiagram(adjacencyData, transparency = 0.5)

Related chart types

Chord diagram
Arc diagram
Edge bundling


This document is a work by Yan Holtz. Any feedback is highly encouraged. You can fill an issue on Github, drop me a message on Twitter, or send an email pasting with

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