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Hexagram 58, Opening

Hexagram 58, Opening

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Hexagram 58, Opening

In context

After Hexagram 57, Subtly Penetrating, comes 58, Opening. It’s an inverse pair: 58 is 57, turned around:


There’s a change of orientation: 57 faces inward, 58 outward. 57 enters in – the Sequence says it’s like entering the home – and 58 opens out, shares and circulates. When I was thinking about 57’s place in the Sequence, I wrote that,

“the work of 57-58, Subtly Penetrating and Opening, seems to be one of reintegrating and reconnecting – finding a place for individual identity and purpose. In Hexagram 58, that happens through explicit, lively interaction and exchange between separate entities; in 57, it’s ‘hidden away’, a matter of individual nature coming to expression and finding its place as part of the whole.”

And when it’s found its place, says the Sequence, 58’s rejoicing naturally follows:

‘Entering in and then rejoicing, and so Opening follows.’

One more thought on the bigger context –

This hexagram pair, 57/58, is flanked by 55/56 and 59/60, which are complementary (change all the lines of 55 to get 59, and all the lines of 56 to get 60). 55 and 59 both speak of the king’s presence, but in 55 this is part of the concentration of power and energy at the centre, while in 59 the energy is Dispersing outward. It all seems to be part of a theme, in this part of the book, of concentrating inward vs spreading outward.

But back to 58 itself…

Its name

The trigram

Hexagram 58 is called dui; it shares its name with the trigram dui that’s doubled to make it:

The trigram dui has one broken line above two solid ones: it’s open at the top. It represents a lake or marsh, and you can see how it represents one, with the wide-open surface of the water constantly stirred and broken.

Scott Davis, in The Classic of Changes in Cultural Context, writes of this shape:

‘The feature of topmost openness is important for ancient Chinese sacred experience. A shrine might have walls but not a roof; shrines of defeated dynasties were roofed over, cutting off communication with those on high.’

Scott David, The Classic of Changes in Cultural Context

Dui is a trigram of communication because it represents openness. And the same’s true of its association with joy and delight: ‘Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof…’

The character

If you look at the trigram as it might originally have been written alongside its Chinese name, the resemblance is unmissable:

The character dui is made up of a man with a big mouth (meaning older brother, the one who does the talking, especially to the ancestral spirits); the lines to either side of the mouth, corresponding to the upper line of the trigram, mean ‘separating‘. You can imagine it as a picture of speaking words that open the way.

Harmen pointed to dui‘s early meanings of forcing an opening, as in the Shijing where it means opening a road through a forest. Even today, its use in compounds brings a few reminders of that ‘separating, opening’ meaning: ‘grain+dui‘ is tax, ‘metal+dui‘ is sharp, ‘flesh+dui‘ means to cut from the bones, and ‘snake+dui‘ means to moult and slough off.

Hexagram 58 is actually the shortest in the book – a mere 30 characters in total of the original Zhouyi. It’s so enigmatically brief that the word ‘dui‘ has been translated throughout its lines – in every case by someone seeking its original meaning – as ‘joy’ (Minford), ‘talks’ (Field) and ‘the salient’ (Harmen).

I think its core meaning is communication and exchange, and hence the joy of mutual openness. It’s not just about a passive ‘pleasure’: it has the active power of opening things up to allow a flow of exchange.

The oracle

The Oracle of Hexagram 58 says only 兌亨利貞 – dui heng li zhen:

‘Opening, creating success.
Constancy bears fruit.’

Hexagram 58, the Oracle

This is an echo of the very beginning of the book:

‘Creative Force.
From the source, creating success.
Constancy bears fruit.’

Hexagram 1, the Oracle

Qian, yuan heng li zhen. Yuan heng li zhen, ‘from the source, creating success, constancy bears fruit,’ is a potent mantic formula that’s inspired great reams of commentary; its first word, yuan, means the beginning, the origin, what is fundamental and great. It points to the creative, spiritual origins of divination and sacrifice.

In Hexagram 58, dui stands in place of yuan in the same phrase. With its power of ‘opening’, it can fulfil a similar role: not necessarily reaching for ultimate origins or ancestors, but simply for the possibilities of interaction and mingling in the present moment. Success, fruition and constancy can begin from here.

(This exact pattern, with the hexagram name replacing ‘yuan’ in the mantic formula, occurs once more – in Hexagram 31, which has its own power to open and begin. Various other hexagrams create their own nuances of meaning by adding to, varying and interrupting the same formula.)

So the Oracle of Hexagram 58 packs quite a lot into its four words – but the authors of the Wings had more to add…

The Image

‘Lakes joined together. Opening.
A noble one joins with friends to speak and practise together.’

Hexagram 58, the Image

The Image uses dui‘s traditional association, as a trigram, with lake and marsh. Water’s a medium of connection: it can flow together, it can dissolve things and mix them. (It also has some interesting associations with divination: scrying in still water, the yarrow growing best in damp areas, the turtles and water buffalo used in pyromancy.)

When people join together, ideas circulate between them like currents in the lakes. No-one puts this better than Wilhelm:

“A lake evaporates upwards and thus gradually dries up; but when two lakes are joined they do not dry up so readily, for one replenishes the other. It is the same in the field of knowledge. Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating intercourse with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. In this way learning becomes many-sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.”

Wilhelm/Baynes I Ching

(You can find the I Ching Community here.)

The Commentary on the Oracle (tuanzhuan)

So for the Image authors, dui means communication. For the Tuanzhuan, it’s more to do with joy (shuo 說, ‘words’+dui):

Dui means “to give joy”. It is by being hard inside and yet soft outside that one manages to give Joy and still fittingly practice constancy. This is how one can be obedient to Heaven and yet responsive to mankind. If one leads the common folk with Joy, they will forget their toil, and if one has them risk danger and difficulty with Joy, they will forget about dying. Great is Joy, for it is the motivating force of the common folk!’

RJ Lynn, I Ching

True, this sounds a little like the offspring of ‘The I Ching For Populist Politicians’ and Mary Poppins’ ‘Spoonful of Sugar’. But beyond that, it’s also describing how the energy of the trigram works: the solid inner lines embodying enduring truth; the open line above allowing responsiveness and connection. It’s this combination that makes joy not just an emotional condition, but an active force that not only outweighs hardship and fear but can banish them from awareness.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

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