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Hexagram 62, line 3

This is the line Wilhelm translates as,

“If one is not extremely careful,
Somebody may come up from behind and strike him.
Misfortune.”

So reading it this way, the line would mean that you should ‘overstep the mark’ in taking care – that you should be extraordinarily defensive, constantly on guard, and never too adventurous.

I don’t think this translation or this interpretation make good sense.

The word translated here as ‘extremely’ is actually guo, ‘excess’, ‘preponderance’ or ‘passing’, as in the name of the hexagram. There are just four Chinese words in that first part of line 3:
“Not passing defending [pronoun]”
The same pattern occurs in other lines, using guo in the same way:
“Not passing meeting [pronoun]” in line 4, and
“Not meeting passing [pronoun]” in line 6.

So Wilhelm naturally has “He meets him without passing by” in line 4, and “He passes him by, not meeting him” in line 6. And line 2 uses guo in the same way: ‘Passing one’s grandfather, meeting one’s grandmother.’

I’m not a translator of Chinese, but it doesn’t seem to make much sense, when you have the same structure three times in the original, to translate it with an entirely different pattern in just one line. If line 4 means ‘Not passing by, but meeting it,’ then perhaps line 3 means ‘Not passing by, but defending it.’

I’d suggest something like:

‘Not stepping across, defending herself.
Someone following behind may kill her.
Pitfall.’

(Or ‘himself’, of course – the Chinese is neutral.)

So with this more literal translation, what’s happening here? Just as in line 4, someone hasn’t completed a transition. But whereas in line 4 she’s stopped for an encounter and to receive a message about the dangers ahead – which is ‘not a mistake’ – here she’s stopped to defend herself.

The root of that word for ‘defending’ is earth ramparts. So she’s digging in here, adopting an ‘entrenched’ position. It’s a quite different thing from the person in line 4 who must be ‘on guard’: the root there is holding a weapon in the hand, being ready to fend off dangers as you go along.

Now the picture of this line suddenly comes into focus. She’s digging in behind her ramparts, peering out over them to see what’s coming, and all the time there is someone behind her with a big stick. Perhaps she’s trying to defend an indefensible position. Perhaps she should have spent more time looking around, and less time shovelling.

This line moves towards Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm: the hexagram of big images and great, inspiring imaginings. But now our protagonist’s big imaginings have met the limitations of Small Overstepping, and the whole disconcerting experience of being ‘small’, not having control over her environment. She doesn’t have the power or resources to make things happen as she would want to – but she still can’t let go of her idea of how things are really meant to be; she wants to defend it. The hubristic, unrealistic tendencies of Hexagram 16 may be at play here, convincing her that she can sustain this position.

So she digs in to defend her idea, sticks to her guns, and gazes out hopefully over the top of her ramparts. You can see her attitude in 16.3 – the fan yao, the line that follows the same path as this one but in the opposite direction:

“Wide-eyed enthusiasm: regrets.
Delaying means regrets.”

As you might have guessed, a fair bit of personal experience with this line goes into this interpretation. It comes up when there is a whole lot of energy and drive available (Hexagram 16), but it’s all getting channelled into defence rather than exploration.

I think this is what Joseph Campbell called ‘refusing the call’:

“Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work or “culture”, the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.”

I think something very similar happens in this line. There is the challenge of Small Overstepping, both being moved by Inner Truth and finding ways to express it with limited strength in a very big world. And this is supercharged and overloaded with Enthusiasm, irrepressible and demanding inspiration.

Campbell says that people refuse the call because to accept it would be too much of a risk; better to stay safe. Except that there is ‘maybe Someone’ following behind, and it is no longer possible to stay safe. (‘Safe’ is overrated, anyway.)

9 responses to Hexagram 62, line 3

  1. The yang line in this position is at the top of the mountain gua. It is encountering the thunder gua which is directly in front of it. The image is of someone suddenly encountering something disconcerting or frightening right in front of them. They stop short, but unless their caution is very great, the yin lines behind them run into them. Thus this position carries the tag of misfortune.

  2. Line 3 –
    “One does not protect oneself from excesses. Following this path may lead to death (being killed). Danger.” [One needs to be disuaded from this path, return]

    Any form of exaggeration will force differentiation and that is competitive and so an increase in the chance of some conflict. hex 62 in general covers unconditional loyalty and the use of exaggerations of traditions etc to try and maintain collective loyalty (it pairs with 56 that is particular in its approach to loyalty issues) – with a hint that we have passed (or are approaching) the ‘best before/use by’ date of the collective.

    Line 3 is ‘ruled’ by hex 15 where the focus is on avoiding highs and lows, keeping words close to the facts, and so being modest. This trait linked with the overall focus of 62 on exaggerations of traditions etc to maintain loyalty elicits a warning where not considering the properties of 15 (where considering those properties acts to limit exaggerations to the ‘truth’) in this context of 62 can lead to danger.

  3. What the line says you are not doing here is ‘guo’ – exceeding, or committing excesses. The sentence structure heavily implies (to say the least) that you are protecting yourself.

  4. ‘Nowhere exceeding, defending-against it’
    Compare R&S p654
    ‘Nowhere exceeding, meeting it’
    – universally translated as ‘not crossing over but meeting’. Of course, to be consistent you could translate line 4 as ‘not meeting excesses’ or ‘not meeting too much’. If you really wanted…

  5. R. G. H. Siu, whose “Portable Dragon” is generally overlooked, is a Chinese American scientist and administrator I think with MIT or was in the day. His translation of 62.3 is: “the man is disdainful of weak enemies and does not exercise adequate precautions in the face of apparently insignificant signs. He will be hurt.” His translation of 16.3 is “the man looks upward for favors and continues his dependency upon others. He indulges in visions of pleasure and affluence. Unless he changes immedieately, he will be sorry.” This post departs from the problem of literal translation, but gives an interpretation from a native speaker of Chinese and intellectual scientist (who uses quotes from mainly western literature to comment of the lines).

  6. Could “Somebody” (“If one is not extremely careful, Somebody may come..”) and “Someone” (“Not stepping across, defending herself. Someone following behind may kill her. Pitfall.”) and “enemies” (“the man is disdainful of weak enemies and does not exercise…”) that is written above, mean Oneself. Could it mean a persons ego, that in defending, they are defending against the completion of this stage of their growth, but not knowing that in doing so, in following their current position of defense, they are leaving themselves open to hurt.

    I’m new to the Yi-Jing and 62.3,4 has just come up in a reading I’ve done so thank you for the insights. It seems to me that everybody is right here. From this post, I see that the Yi-Jing tells what the person is doing wrong and leaves then to see the truth, or gives advice more directly and tells them what they should do. I’m thinking that this could relate to, if the translater is at a stage (of personal growth or life experience, etc…) where they are personally effected by the stage that the Yi Jing is giving advice on. So maybe when Wilhelm translated 62.3, he was letting the small things become too important and wouldn’t let them go! It is strange how he only translates this line in the form of personal advice. “Magic” works in mysterious ways…

  7. Yes, good thought – I do think the mysterious ‘someone’ following behind could be a part of oneself, and the injury could be self-sabotage. It happens…

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