Hexagram 25, line 3:
‘The calamity of Without Entanglement.
Someone tethered a cow.
City people’s calamity.’
You can get some insight into the background to this laconic little story from here – a very readable account of pastoral nomads in East Asia, part of Edward Kaplan’s Introduction to East Asian Civilisations.
This chapter talks about the cultural divide and relationship between settled farmers and nomadic herders. The story as he tells it is not one of evolution from a primitive or simple nomadic lifestyle to a more regimented, settled one. In fact, the nomads’ ancestors might themselves have been farmers when the land was more fertile. As it dried out, and would no longer support widespread agriculture, there were thousands of years of co-existence between nomads and farmers. When the balance of power was even, the co-existence would be peaceful: exchanges of gifts, trading of goods. When the nomads had the upper hand, they raided and harried the farmers.
Another point that casts interesting light on a good few Yijing lines: they got this ‘upper hand’ largely by domesticating horses. This meant they could move their herds greater distances, and hence get better pasturage and build bigger herds. (The Dazhuan says the ancestors “harnessed oxen and rode horses so they could conduct heavy loads to distant places. Thus they benefited all under heaven.”) Horses also gave the nomads the decisive military advantage. Later, the Western Zhou learned their horse lore and bought their horses from the nomadic tribes on their borders.
So what does Yi draw from all this? The wholly ‘disentangled’ insight that one person’s ‘calamity’ is another person’s gain. A little more humour at the expense of people with delusions of security. (I’ve an idea line 2 could also be parodying the farmers’ hectic cycle of activity as seen by an outsider – while the paired hexagram, Great Taming, takes us back to the farmer’s perspective.) And sometimes, an opportunity for the querent who receives the line to choose whether to be nomad or city person.