Read an Excerpt
The I Ching
The Sacred Books of China
By James Legge
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1963 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
TEXT. SECTION I.
I. THE KHIEN HEXAGRAM.
Explanation of the entire figure by king Wan.
Khien (represents) what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm.
Explanation of the separate lines by the duke of Kâu.
1. In the first (or lowest) line, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon lying hid (in the deep). It is not the time for active doing.
2. In the second line, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon appearing in the field. It will be advantageous to meet with the great man.
3. In the third line, undivided, (we see its subject as) the superior man active and vigilant all the day, and in the evening still careful and apprehensive. (The position is) dangerous, but there will be no mistake.
4. In the fourth line, undivided, (we see its subject as the dragon looking) as if he were leaping up, but still in the deep. There will be no mistake.
5. In the fifth line, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon on the wing in the sky. It will be advantageous to meet with the great man.
6. In the sixth (or topmost) line, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon exceeding the proper limits. There will be occasion for repentance.
7. (The lines of this hexagram are all strong and undivided, as appears from) the use of the number nine. If the host of dragons (thus) appearing were to divest themselves of their heads, there would be good fortune.
The Text under each hexagram consists of one paragraph by king Wan, explaining the figure as a whole, and of six (in the case of hexagrams 1 and 2, of seven) paragraphs by the duke of Kâu, explaining the individual lines. The explanatory notices introduced above to this effect will not be repeated. A double space will be used to mark off the portion of king Wn from that of his son.
Each hexagram consists of two of the trigrams of Fû-hsî, the lower being called 'the inner,' and the one above 'the outer.' The lines, however, are numbered from one to six, commencing with the lowest. To denote the number of it and of the sixth line, the terms for 'commencing' and 'topmost' are used. The intermediate lines are simply 'second,' 'third,' &c. As the lines must be either whole or divided, technically called strong and weak, yang and yin, this distinction is indicated by the application to them of the numbers nine and six. All whole lines are nine, all divided lines, six.
Two explanations have been proposed of this application of these numbers. The Khien trigram, it is said, contains 3 strokes ([??]). and the Khwan 6 ([??]). But the yang contains the yin in itself, and its representative number will be 3 + 6 = 9, while the yin, not containing the yang, will only have its own number or 6. This explanation, entirely arbitrary, is now deservedly abandoned. The other is based on the use of the 'four Hsiang,' or emblematic figures ([??] the great or old yang, the young yang, [??] the old yin, and [??] the young yin). To these are assigned (by what process is unimportant for our present purpose) the numbers 9, 8, 7, 6. They were 'the old yang,' represented by 9, and 'the old yin,' represented by 6, that, in the manipulation of the stalks to form new diagrams, determined the changes of figure; and so 9 and 6 came to be used as the names of a yang line and a yin line respectively. This explanation is now universally acquiesced in. The nomenclature of first nine, nine two, &c., or first six, six two, &c., however, is merely a jargon; and I have preferred to use, instead of it, in the translation, in order to describe the lines, the names 'undivided' and 'divided.'
I. Does king Wan ascribe four attributes here to Khien, or only two? According to Appendix IV, always by Chinese writers assigned to Confucius, he assigns four, corresponding to the principles of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge in man's nature. Kû Hsi held that he assigned only two, and that we should translate, 'greatly penetrating,' and 'requires to be correct and firm,' two responses in divination. Up and down throughout the Text of the 64 hexagrams, we often find the characters thus coupled together. Both interpretations are possible. I have followed what is accepted as the view of Confucius. It would take pages to give a tithe of what has been written in justification of it, and to reconcile it with the other.
'The dragon' is the symbol employed by the duke of Kâu to represent 'the superior man' and especially the great man,' exhibiting the virtues or attributes characteristic of heaven. The creature's proper home is in the water, but it can disport itself on the land, and also fly and soar aloft. It has been from the earliest time the emblem with the Chinese of the highest dignity and wisdom, of sovereignty and sagehood, the combination of which constitutes 'the great man.' One emblem runs through the lines of many of the hexagrams as here.
But the dragon appears in the sixth line as going beyond the proper limits. The ruling-sage has gone through all the sphere in which he is called on to display his attributes; it is time for him to relax. The line should not be always pulled tight; the bow should not be always kept drawn. The unchanging use
of force will give occasion for repentance. The moral meaning found in the line is that 'the high shall be abased.'
The meaning given to the supernumeraryparagraph is the opposite of that of paragraph 6. The 'host of dragons without their heads' would give us the next hexagram, or Khwan, made up of six divided lines. Force would have given place to submission, and haughtiness to humility; and the result would be good fortune. Such at least is the interpretation of the paragraph given in a narrative of the [??]o-Kwan under B.C. 513. For further explanation of the duke of Kâu's meaning; see Appendixes II and IV.CHAPTER 2
THE KHWAN HEXAGRAM.
Khwan (represents) what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and having the firmness of a mare. When the superior man (here intended) has to make any movement, if he take the initiative, he will go astray; if he follow, he will find his (proper) lord. The advantageousness will be seen in his getting friends in the south-west, and losing friends in the north-east. If he rest in correctness and firmness, there will be good fortune.
1. In the first line, divided, (we see its subject) treading on hoarfrost. The strong ice will come (by and by).
2. The second line, divided, (shows the attribute of) being straight, square, and great. (Its operation), without repeated efforts, will be in every respect advantageous.
3. The third line, divided, (shows its subject) keeping his excellence under restraint, but firmly maintaining it. If he should have occasion to engage in the king's service, though he will not claim the success (for himself), he will bring affairs to a good issue.
4. The fourth line, divided, (shows the symbol of) a sack tied up. There will be no ground for blame or for praise.
5. The fifth line, divided, (shows) the yellow lower garment. There will be great good fortune.
6. The sixth line, divided, (shows) dragons fighting in the wild. Their blood is purple and yellow.
7. (The lines of this hexagram are all weak and divided, as appears from) the use of the number six. If those (who are thus represented) be perpetually correct and firm, advantage will arise.
II. The same attributes are here ascribed to Khwan, as in the former hexagram to Khien;—but with a difference. The figure, made up of six divided lines, expresses the ideal of subordination and docility. The superior man, represented by it, must not take the initiative; and by following he will find his lord,—the subject, that is of Khien. Again, the correctness and firmness is defined to be that of 'a mare,' 'docile and strong,' but a creature for the service of man. That it is not the sex of the animal which the writer has chiefly in mind is plain from the immediate mention of the superior man, and his lord.
That superior man will seek to bring his friends along with himself to serve his ruler. But according to the arrangement of the trigrams by king Wan, the place of Khwan is in the south-west, while the opposite quarter is occupied by the yang trigram Kan, as in Figure 2, Plate III. All that this portion of the Thwan says is an instruction to the subject of the hexagram to seek for others of the same principles and tendencies with himself to serve their common lord. But in quietness and firmness will be his strength.
The symbolism of the lines is various. Paragraph 2 presents to us the earth itself, according to the Chinese conception of it, as a great cube. To keep his excellence under restraint, as in paragraph 3, is the part of a minister or officer, seeking not his own glory, but that of his ruler. Paragraph 4 shows its subject exercising a still greater restraint on himself than in paragraph 3. There is an interpretation of the symbolism of paragraph 5 in a narrative of the o K wan, under the 12th year of duke Khâo, B.C. 530. 'Yellow' is one of the five 'correct' colours, and the colour of the earth. 'The lower garment' is a symbol of humility. The fifth line is the seat of honour. If its occupant possess the qualities indicated, he will be greatly fortunate.
See the note on the sixth line of hexagram 1. What is there said to be 'beyond the proper limits' takes place here 'in the wild.' The humble subject of the divided line is transformed into a dragon, and fights with the true dragon, the subject of the undivided line. They fight and bleed, and their blood is of the colour proper to heaven or the sky, and the colour proper to the earth. Paragraph 7 supposes that the hexagram Khwan should become changed into Khien;—the result of which would be good.CHAPTER 3
THE KUN HEXAGRAM.
Kun (indicates that in the case which it presupposes) there will be great progress and success, and the advantage will come from being correct and firm. (But) any movement in advance should not be (lightly) undertaken. There will be advantage in appointing feudal princes.
1. The first line, undivided, shows the difficulty (its subject has) in advancing. It will be advantageous for him to abide correct and firm; advantageous (also) to be made a feudal ruler.
2. The second line, divided, shows (its subject) distressed and obliged to return; (even) the horses of her chariot (also) seem to be retreating. (But) not by a spoiler (is she assailed), but by one who seeks her to be his wife. The young lady maintains her firm correctness, and declines a union. After ten years she will be united, and have children.
3. The third line, divided, shows one following the deer without (the guidance of) the forester, and only finding himself in the midst of the forest. The superior man, acquainted with the secret risks, thinks it better to give up the chase. If he went forward, he would regret it.
4. The fourth line, divided, shows (its subject as a lady), the horses of whose chariot appear in retreat. She seeks, however, (the help of) him who seeks her to be his wife. Advance will be fortunate ; all will turn out advantageously.
5. The fifth line, undivided, shows the difficulties in the way of (its subject's) dispensing the rich favours that might be expected from him. With firmness and correctness there will be good fortune in small things ; (even) with them in great things there will be evil.
6. The topmost line, divided, shows (its subject) with the horses of his chariot obliged to retreat, and weeping tears of blood in streams.
III. The character called Kun is pictorial, and was intended to show us how a plant struggles with difficulty out of the earth, rising gradually above the surface. This difficulty, marking the first stages in the growth of a plant, is used to symbolise the struggles that mark the rise of a state out of a condition of disorder, consequent on a great revolution. The same thing is denoted by the combination of the trigrams that form the figure;—as will be seen in the notes on it under Appendix II.
I have introduced within parentheses, in the translation, the words 'in the case which the hexagram presupposes.' It is necessary to introduce them. King Wan and his son wrote, as they did in every hexagram, with reference to a particular state of affairs which they had in mind. This was the unspoken text which controlled and directed all their writing; and the student must try to get hold of this, if he would make his way with comfort and success through the Yî. Wan saw the social and political world around him in great disorder, hard to be remedied. But he had faith in himself and the destinies of his House. Let there be prudence and caution, with unswerving adherence to the right; let the government of the different states be entrusted to good and able men :—then all would be well.
The first line is undivided, showing the strength of its subject. He will be capable of action, and his place in the trigram of mobility will the more dispose him to it. But above him is the trigram of peril; and the lowest line of that, to which especially he must look for response and co-operation, is divided and weak. Hence arise the ideas of difficulty in advancing, the necessity of caution, and the advantage of his being clothed with authority.
To the subject of the second line, divided, advance is still more difficult. He is weak in himself ; he is pressed by the subject of the strong line below him. But happily that subject, though strong, is correct; and above in the fifth line, in the place of authority, is the strong one, union with whom and the service of whom should be the objects pursued. All these circumstances suggested to the duke of Kau the idea of a young lady, sought in marriage by a strong wooer, when marriage was unsuitable, rejecting him, and finally, after ten years, marrying a more suitable, the only suitable, match for her.
The third line is divided, not central, and the number of its place is appropriate to the occupancy of a strong line. All these things should affect the symbolism of the line. But the outcome of the whole hexagram being good, the superior man sees the immediate danger and avoids it.
The subject of the fourth line, the first of the upper trigram, has recourse to the strong suitor of line 1, the first of the lower trigram; and with his help is able to cope with the difficulties of the position, and go forward.
The subject of the fifth line is in the place of authority, and should show himself a ruler, dispensing benefits on a great scale. But he is in the very centre of the trigram denoting perilousness, and line 2, which responds to 5, is weak. Hence arises the symbolism, and great things should not be attempted.
The sixth line is weak; the third responding to it is also weak; it is at the extremity of peril; the game is up. What can remain for its subject in such a case but terror and abject weeping?
Excerpted from The I Ching by James Legge. Copyright © 1963 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.