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Hexagrams in conversation

Hexagrams in conversation
This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Hidden gems

In my last post, I mentioned all the meaning packed into a tiny space in Hexagram 56, line 6. The nest is burned, line 6 changes, and you can see the bird flying away, into Hexagram 62.

Because the Yijing’s lines move, it creates this kind of magic all the time. The different hexagrams are in constant conversation, and their meeting place, the line texts, embody their relationships.

(And yet there are people who prefer to leave the relating hexagram out of readings altogether. To me, this is something like having a rare diamond and refusing to hold it up to the light; I don’t get it at all.)

There are at least 384 examples of this. Here are some of my favourites:

The ancestor with good teeth

‘Regrets vanish.
Your ancestor bites through the skin.
Why would going on be wrong?’

Hexagram 38 line 5, changing to 10

This is one Bradford Hatcher was fond of pointing out. What ancestor could bite through the skin? See Hexagram 10.

A hermit’s constancy

‘Treading the path, smooth and easy.
A hermit’s constancy brings good fortune.’

Hexagram 10 line 2, changing to 25

Why is the hermit’s path smooth and easy? Could it be that he’s Without Entanglement?

The only winning argument

‘Arguing: good fortune from the source.’

Hexagram 6 line 5, changing to 64

No other lines of Hexagram 6 suggest good fortune from arguing; why is this one different? I think it’s because it’s Not Yet Across, not wholly committed to a position – and as we know, in a time of Arguing, it’s ‘fruitless to cross the great river.’

Long-awaited fulfilment

‘King Yi marries off his daughters.
This brings fulfilment, good fortune from the source.’

Hexagram 11 line 5, changing to 5

King Yi was the penultimate Shang ruler, and his daughters were married into the Zhou family, probably to the future King Wen. In a future King Yi couldn’t have imagined, the son of this alliance, Wu, would finally overthrow the Shang and inaugurate Zhou rule – while still honouring his matrilineal ancestors.

But all this was generations away for King Yi, and it’s equally remote in the Sequence of Hexagrams, where the Marrying Maiden won’t reappear until Hexagram 54 (or ‘hexagram minus 11’, counting back from 64). We have a long Wait for fulfilment.

Small-scale domesticity

‘No direction to pursue,
Stay in the centre and cook.
Constancy, good fortune.’

Hexagram 37 line 2, changing to 9

Some of these conversations between hexagrams are about grand historical events; some are altogether smaller. At the inner centre of the home, stay by the hearth and cook. Tend to the small things.

Too much fire

‘Traveller burns down his resting place
Loses his young helper.
Constancy: danger.’

Hexagram 56 line 3, changing to 35

The traveller has been careless, stoking the fire in his lodgings too fast. What inspired his over-enthusiasm? It looks to be the eagerness of Hexagram 35, seizing the day: a gift of horses is good, and a whole herd will be better; a small fire is good, and a big one will be… oops.

But wait, there’s more…

There are 384 of these single line changes to enjoy. But what if more than one line is changing? Naturally you can look at each line’s destination individually to see how this constant flow of conversation elucidates the text.

But the Yi goes further. I’ve come across enough beautifully-woven two line changes, clearly expressing the qualities of their changed hexagram, to realise that the authors didn’t stop at single lines.

384? 4032?

My capacity for seeing these relationships between lines and their resulting hexagrams hits a ceiling round about two changing lines – very occasionally three. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous, though, to assume the relationships stop there?

too many diamonds to count
Too many to count…

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