Hexagram 48 line 6 says,
‘The well gathers,
Don’t cover it.
There is truth and confidence,
Good fortune from the source.’
Bradford Hatcher, who has dug more wells than your average Yijing scholar, suggests that this is an artesian well, one where the water rises spontaneously. That certainly fits with my experience of the line, and also seems to me to fit with the hexagram it changes to: 57, Subtly Penetrating, with the water flowing unseen through strata deep in the earth.
Only I just noticed something that goes under the capacious heading of, ‘Turns out the people who wrote the Yi knew what they were doing, who’d’ve thought?’
My ‘who’d’ve thought?’ moment came when I looked again at the Wikipedia article on artesian aquifers, while also looking at the paired line: Hexagram 47, Confined, line 1.
(Aside: to find the paired line, draw your hexagram and mark the line that’s changing; then rotate the paper 180 degrees, so that you’re looking at the same pattern of lines from a different angle. If you draw Hexagram 48 with line 6 changing, and then change your angle of view like this, you’ll find yourself looking at 47.1. Same line, different perspective.)
‘Buttocks oppressed with a wooden stick,
Entering into a gloomy valley,
For three years, meeting no-one.’
Each of these lines is in the trigram kan, associated with deep pits and flowing water: line 1 at the very bottom of the valley, line 6 at the top of a water column. Line 1 to line 6 – the most distant of line pairs.
Now… here is a diagram from that Wikipedia article:
(Would you believe it, water trapped in porous rock strata is technically known as a confined aquifer?)
There you have it: at the very bottom of the valley, below the water table, you can dig a ‘gathering well’.
In the cross section, you can see the strata: one flowing line between two containing ‘banks’ of impervious rock, like the lines of kan. Move the uppermost inactive layer, and the water rises. Hexagram 57 describes the way the water seeps inward through the pervious rock; its pair, 58, describes pools and reservoirs, and also rising and breaking through.
The whole thing is not just mentioning an artesian well, it’s showing us a diagram of how it works – watch the line move, and it’s even an animated diagram.
In other news, I have looked at these lines for going on 20 years without noticing any of this. So as I file this observation under, ‘Turns out they knew what they were doing, who’d’ve thought?’ I’ll cross-reference with ‘How much more am I missing?‘