Archery in Hexagram 40
Hexagram 40 is Release: its core theme, from the simple decision of the Oracle to the clear air after the storm of the Image, is the release of tension. That might remind you of archery, which is a special, intentional kind of tension-release: deliberately drawing the bow, creating tension, and releasing it into the arrow’s line of flight.
I can imagine this in the trigrams of Hexagram 40, too: the inner trigram kan reminds me of the bow under tension, and outer zhen – thunder, associated with sudden, swift movement – looks like the flight of the arrow. (The Shuogua, the Wing that describes trigram attributes, says kan represents ‘bending and straightening; bow and wheel.’)
Its two arrows
But for all these imaginative associations, archery is actually mentioned in just two lines of Release: lines two and four.
‘In the field, taking three foxes.Hexagram 40, line 2
Gaining a golden arrow.
Constancy, good fortune.’
‘A prince uses this to shoot a hawk, on the top of the high ramparts.Hexagram 40, line 6
He gets it. Nothing that does not bear fruit.’
In line 2, the hunter finds release from the foxes: he overcomes deception (including self-deception) with directness. We can tell this as a story of using the arrow’s gift of directness to overcome the wiles of the foxes, or as gaining that quality by overcoming them. And the story of how this line changes to Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm –
– can be told in the same two ways. This can be the Release of Enthusiasm, of your powers of motivation and imagination, when they’re no longer foxed; it can also be that the clear, strong, spirited motivation of Hexagram 16 provides the energy to see beyond delusions (for instance, seeing beyond busy-work to what’s really important).
Line 6 shows the right moment to bring down something oppressive that looms over you. Wilhelm identifies the hawk as another person, ‘a powerful inferior in a high position’; I’ve found it can also be one’s own hesitancy, as with that task that grows ever bigger and more forbidding the longer you put it off, or imaginings, as with not daring to approach someone because of the imagined importance of their opinion.
This line joins Release to Hexagram 64, Not Yet Across, suggesting a release from the suspense and hesitancy of ‘not-quite-yet’, and also a reminder that, with hawks just as with river crossing, you only get one shot at it, and the fruits of the task all lie in the future, on the other side of your venture.
But what really catches my attention here is the way those two archery lines together change to Hexagram 35, Advancing:
‘Advancing, Prince Kang used a gift of horses to breed a multitude.Hexagram 35, Advancing
In the course of a day, he mated them three times.’
Archery is the fully intentional version of Release, and it’s all about seizing your moment: you can’t build up gradually, taking a quarter of a shot today and half of a shot tomorrow; you have to be ready to see your opportunity and act. And this is entirely the spirit of Hexagram 35: now is the moment to breed the horses; the sun (upper trigram li, fire) is shining over all the earth (lower trigram, kun) now, so make hay!
Compare LiSe’s vivid imagining of Hexagram 35…
‘Prosperity does not arrive by itself, it visits the people with the right attitude. The one who always carries along arrows is probably the only one who comes home from a walk with a rabbit for dinner. The lord of Kang grasped the opportunity of a gift to breed a meadow full of horses. The first one who sees a gap in the market builds up the multinational. Grasp the small chances, do not wait for the big one to arrive, stay alert with eyes and ears and hands ready, and a quiver filled with arrows.’LiSe Heyboer, https://yijing.nl/hex-stories/35.html
…with what the ‘Master’ in the Dazhuan has to say about Hexagram 40, line 6:
‘The hawk is the object of the hunt; bow and arrow are the tools and means. The marksman is man. The superior man contains the means in his own person. He bides his time and then acts. Why then should not everything go well? He acts and its free. Therefore all he has to do is to go forth, and he takes his quarry. This is how a man fares who acts after he has made ready the means.’The Dazhuan, Wilhelm/Baynes translation
But this connection is altogether easier to see than it is to describe: you need only look at the Chinese name of Hexagram 35:
And there, hidden in plain sight, are your two arrows: the golden arrow of the line 2, and your one shot at the hawk at line 6.
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