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The Image of Hexagram 62

‘Above the mountain is thunder. Small overstepping.
Noble one in actions exceeds in courtesy,
In loss exceeds in mourning,
In using resources exceeds in economy.’

This is the Image of Small Overstepping (the Daxiang of Hexagram 62). It’s advice for crossing boundaries with a ‘small’ mindset – that is, adapting to circumstances rather than depending on one’s own power to fly high and achieve great things. So we’re advised to ‘exceed’ – that is, to ‘overstep the mark’ (guo, the name of the hexagram) in courtesy, in mourning, and in economy. Our actions – thunder – need to rest on and be proportionate to our inner foundations.

In readings, the call for thriftiness often makes a lot sense. And it’s also not so hard to explain the need to be more polite and considerate of others than ‘common sense’ or social norms might require. The call to ‘exceed in mourning’ is harder, but it often provides encouragement people need to allow themselves and others time to mourn what passes. The question, though, is what theme pulls these three things together.

I think there may be a clue in one of those articles Harmen linked to: Ideas concerning death and burial in pre-Han and Han China by Mu-Chou Poo. My ears pricked when he quoted from a biography of Confucius which describes how Confucians ‘make elaborate preparations in funerals, show excessive emotion in mourning, and spend all their fortunes on lavish burials.’

Could Hexagram 62 have an Image of burial rites? Looking at the way the trigrams are described in the Shuogua, zhen (thunder) is movement and gen (mountain) is stopping, so Small Overstepping could be the movement that continues above, after an end below. Or again, zhen is a highroad and gen is a mountain or doorway, and so this is the highroad that continues on over the mountain, or on the other side of the door.

Stephen Karcher describes this hexagram as ‘the threshold of life and death’. To me, it’s always felt more like a transition back into ordinary life: the hero’s return, carrying the Inner Truth from his journeys. I wonder whether the transition might not be both of these: both death and a return to ordinary life.

The Daxiang was likely written ‘not much before 200BC’ (according to Richard Rutt), at a time when burial customs were changing and a hotly-debated topic. According to Mu-Chou Poo, Confucians were in favour of burials precisely as lavish as befitted the status of the deceased, and no more. (There was a tendency for people to use richer burials as a way to lay claim to higher status.) Mohists argued against expending such huge resources on the dead as to impoverish the living. Daoists, of course, saw the whole preoccupation with burial rites as a symptom of not understanding the nature of life and death. It’s worth noting that all these arguments were about the well-being of the living.

So maybe the Daxiang is making a more focussed point here than I’d ever realised. Observe the funeral rites with punctilious care, in the Confucian spirit of caring for social order. Go beyond the limits of what’s ‘reasonable’ in mourning. But – and here is the twist in the tail – give just as much care to conserving your own resources.

In readings, we might take this as advice for transitions of all kinds, whenever we are leaving something behind. Tread carefully, allow feelings full expression, but don’t pour resources into the grave.

7 responses to The Image of Hexagram 62

  1. From the universal focus, 62 shares space with 56 and the general focus on issues of loyalty. (mountain base is of contractive bonding, sharing space with another/others ‘in here’ etc – trigram read “with self-restraint comes awareness”

    62 covers unconditional loyalty in its use to focus on traditions to aid in keeping a collective together even if past its ‘best before’ date. – so you could pick up the ‘vibe’ re burial rituals etc (and the vibe of loyalty past the ‘best before’ date allows for consideration of the ‘death’ of the collective UNLESS traditions are used to put off that ‘death’.

    The skeletal form of 62 is 30 – and so the focus on guidance and direction-setting (concerns with ideology) is the ‘soul’ if you like of 62.

    56 is more conditional, covering ‘loyalty at a distance’ etc.


  2. Hi,

    For those who are quoting lines from I-Ching, I think it would be more beneficiary if you would provide citation as well, rather than having the reader to figure out which translation was that and which edition are they talking about.

    Anyway, this hexagram is interesting one as first of all as everything is in the wrong place ( Yin to be inside is normal, yet here we have Yang) Yang lines which mean movement are not able to move freely as the Yin lines are blocking them.

    Mountain is restraining, limiting and stopping while thunder is active free, movement. So there is tension and restrictive movement here. The overall is excess Yin. So weakness does not allow big results. One must pay attention to details.

    The image of the hexagram also looks like the bird which the Judgement and Yao lines mention flying. The yin lines are the wings and the Yang lines are the body.

  3. As an actualisation of a potential, using the wave perspective and so summing lines gives us a superposition, a ‘chord’, the two yang lines reflect characteristics derivable from summing the generic characteristics of hexagrams 15 and 16. (in that 15 ‘rules’ 3, 16 ‘rules’ 4 – where all other lines in 62 are in potential energy states, not actualised states. )

    Thus we have the sense of keeping words close to the facts (15), modesty, levelling-out, but also the use of foresight and associated enthusiasm (16) – a focus on dealing with the future.

    Combine these descriptions with the ‘skeletal’ form of 62, described by analogy to hex 30, and so a generic focus on issues of guidance and direction-setting, and a general ‘meaning’ emerges.

    The ‘excess’ is in the 16 element – the enthusiasm factor etc (with devotion to another/others comes awareness/enlightenment) – the ‘facts’ are in the reality of loss etc.

    As line pairs so we can map-in a dynamic BETWEEN the nature of 15 and the nature of 16.

  4. Everyone including Stephen Karcher is taking potshots and still wide of the mark. It goes to show that not too many Yi students or experts like to ponder deeply into the Yi. However with sufficient divinatory experiences hopefully they may still come to understand the real meaning behind Hexagram 62.

    While you may like to make more guesses, the answer is in the message.

  5. Allan Lian:
    I always wonder how some people can blithely insult others. What do you gain? It looks very bad. I notice that many cold and heartless people frequent this site. Many are judgmental, cruel and pretentious. I happen to think that C. Lofting’s comments were quite helpful and insightful. I am sure you do too, but are just trying to sap his energy and be hurtful.

  6. Oh, Vani, how can you read a few words someone writes on a web page and be so sure they are ‘cold and heartless people’?

    Anyway… as you will see, this post and its comments are just a few months away from celebrating their fifth birthday. Lots of water has flowed under many bridges since they were written.

  7. I got this hexagram as a complement (secondary) to Hex. 55 Line 1, which was very confusing. It seems that not many people understand 62 as even the experts seem to interpret it with senctences that start with “maybe…”. I also wish Allan Lian would have contributed or helped to understand the hex instead of insulting the other contributors.
    Can anyone provide some useful information to people who are still learning, such as myself?
    Thanks in advance.

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