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Hexagram 10, Treading

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Hexagram 10 tells you that you are ‘treading the tail of the tiger.’ The first question to ask yourself about it is always – naturally enough – ‘What tiger? Where?’ There is something here that could devour you; you need to know what it is.

In some readings, the tiger is not hard to identify – ‘What if I ask my boss for a raise?’ for instance. But there are also inner tigers, hungry and fierce, and divination, too, can be tigerish in its intensity.

Following a tiger is not something you generally fall into by accident. Tigers, in old China, could certainly eat you, but they might also grant protection and fertility. You follow close behind the tiger because you are drawn to it: the power, the high, pure energy.

This desire for communion, for a connection with something more, is conveyed through the many layers of Hexagram 10’s imagery: the tiger, the trigrams, the name of the hexagram.

Its component trigrams, dui below qian, show the lake reflecting the sky into its depths, or the youngest daughter whose dances court (and perhaps embody) the immutable power of heaven. The noble one observes this carefully –

‘Heaven above, lake below. Treading.
The noble one differentiates above and below,
And makes a place for the people’s aspiration.’

– and recognises a difference between the heights and the depths that reflect them, and so has a more expansive awareness of dimensions, and finds a place for that aspiration that reaches upward.

The name of the hexagram, lu, Treading, is a complex character showing shoes and footsteps, and also the person who sat as the representative of the deceased ancestor at sacrifices. It could be – this is speculative – that when you Tread, it is as if you were stepping into the shoes of an ancestor, embodying their spirit. Again, you would be seeking that connection with spiritual power – and you would need great respect and great skill to walk so closely with ancestors.

Treading is also described as ‘conduct’ – how you make your way in the world. How will you walk your path – and, most importantly, what powers are you walking with? Have you studied their nature and learned how to be with them?

Your studies might have begun in the preceding hexagram: 9, Small Taming. The small farmer watches the skies, sees the dark clouds still not quite raining, and works his plot one weed at a time. This can be a quiet work of (self-)cultivation – but it can also be a frustrating time of not quite reaching fulfilment, not quite managing to contain or channel the powers, not being quite big or strong enough to effect change.

But the noble one here is learning the ways of heaven, shaping himself to its laws as responsively as the wind, ‘cultivating the natural pattern of character’. It’s as if he were serving an apprenticeship –

‘Things are tamed,’ says the Sequence, ‘and then there are the rituals. And so Treading follows.’

Once you have learned the rituals, learned how to relate and interact with the power of heaven, then you may be able to tread, cautiously, behind the tiger.

2 responses to Hexagram 10, Treading

  1. Hillary,

    I love reading your articles on the hexagrams, and consider it essential to my own interpretations, because you make sure to discuss the imagery and old Chinese characters. Without this, one is left with mere cookie cutter explanations which often have nothing to do with what the oracle is trying to tell you. “Worrying the tiger” is not just about being careful or a tiger may bite you. And what a limited view! Thank you for the hard work you put in to making sure the purity of the hexagrams is accessible.

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