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Monthly Archives: February 2022

Not yet

Hexagram 63, Ji ji, Already Crossing, is followed by Wei ji, Not Yet Crossing. Wei 未, ‘not yet’, is the opposite of ji 既, ‘already’. It occurs three times in the Yi in addition to its appearance in Hexagram 64: in the Oracle of Hexagram 48, and in 49.5 and 58.4.

Wei means ‘not yet’, ‘before’, and also simply, emphatically, ‘not’ – still not. The old character originally shows a tree in full bloom, with its branches and leaves emphasised. The academically-correct explanation is that this is just to represent the sound; LiSe points out that a tree in bloom has not yet fruited. It may be full of promise, but any owner of fruit trees will tell you that an abundance of spring blossom doesn’t guarantee a heavy harvest in autumn. There’s promise, but also tension.

48: the rope not reaching

Wei first appears in the oracle of Hexagram 48, the Well:

‘The Well. Moving the city, not moving the well.
Without loss, without gain,
They come and go, the well wells.
Almost drawn the water, but the rope does not quite reach the water,
Or breaking one’s clay jug,

This is close to wei meaning simply ‘not’. Translators of all stripes agree: this well rope is too short to reach the water. (‘If one gets down almost to the water and the rope does not go all the way’ (Wilhelm); ‘to nearly reach and then to fall short with the well rope’ (Hatcher); ‘the rope does not reach the depth of the well’ (Field).) I also wonder if it might be meant to be read continuously with what follows: ‘before you quite reach the water, breaking the clay jug.’

In any case, the meaning is unchanged: the water is not going to be drawn; the potential will remain unrealised. Wei indicates a process left incomplete: the rope reaching towards the water but never getting there.

49.5 zhi 55: divination not yet made

‘Great person transforms like a tiger.
Even before the augury, there is truth and confidence.’

Here, wei means before. And while this time before divination might normally be a period of uncertainty and tension – not yet there, not yet reaching insight or confirmation or connection with the spirits – that’s not how it happens here. Tigers, and the people who can change like them, don’t need to count yarrow stalks; truth is already present for them (or they are already present to truth).

This line changes to Hexagram 55, Feng, Abundance – a time of resolution and swift decision, of reading the celestial signs, consulting the oracle and marching out. You might expect ‘before the divination’ to be before Feng, not yet at the point of decision, but this line is already there. The tension of ‘not yet’ is already banished.

58.4 zhi 60: negotiations not yet concluded

And finally – that is, for the last time before Hexagram 64 itself – there’s 58, line 4:

‘Negotiating opening, not yet at rest.
Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.’

There’s more than one layer to this line, and more than one way to understand it, but I find it most helpful to think of it in terms of the zhi gua (hexagram it changes to), 60, Measuring. This is an exchange, a conversation, looking for Measure. That is… these are negotiations in search of mutually-agreeable measures, and with the dispute not yet resolved.

This line takes place right in the midst of not yet – a tense interim, where the talks might still break down. Then the advice to ‘contain the affliction’ is about containing the tension and hostility, not allowing it to spread like a contagion, in order to bring the talks to a conclusion worth celebrating.

(Other layers: the word for ‘negotiating’ is shang, the name of the dynasty the Zhou replaced. And the word I’ve translated ‘at rest’ was also used as a name for the great Zhou king Wen: ning wang, the pacifier king. More on this line and its ‘containing’ here.)

Hexagram 60 is very present here: the negotiations are seeking measure, not yet attained; the affliction needs to be contained, not allowed to flow and spread freely – like 60’s bamboo segments contain and limit the flow of 59.


As a reminder…

  • ‘Already crossing’ and ‘Not yet crossing’ are the names of the final two hexagrams of the book.
  • ‘Already’ appears three times outside Hexagram 63, always in the Upper Canon, and always in lines that change to hexagrams before them in the Upper Canon.

Now it turns out that ‘Not Yet’ appears three times outside Hexagram 64, always in the Lower Canon – and sure enough, the two occurrences that are in changing lines both change to hexagrams ahead of them in the Sequence. ‘Already’ lines look back; ‘Not Yet’ lines look forward.

Anyone would think someone did this on purpose.

I wish I could conclude with a sparkling insight into why the authors made this pattern. I’m left with the feeling that a big point is being made, and I’m not yet quite getting it. I’ll go and look for a longer well-rope…

I Ching Community discussion



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Camping on the left

Camping on the left

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Limping disentangled

Limping disentangled

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