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Changes of heart

kayak on the river

At the very end of Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm, in its final line, ‘results bring a change of heart’:

‘Enthusiasm in the dark.
Results bring a change of heart,
No mistake.’

And then at the very beginning of Hexagram 17, Following, its first line begins with an official’s change of heart:

‘An official has a change of heart.
Constancy, good fortune.
Going out of the gates, joining with others, there is achievement.’

The word I’ve translated as ‘change of heart’ in both lines is yu 渝. What I didn’t manage to show is that it’s used in parallel constructions, too:

16.6 成有渝 – results have/bring change-of-heart
17.1 官有渝 – official has/brings change-of-heart

Its dictionary definition is a change of mind or attitude, a volte-face, violating an oath or denouncing a treaty – so it sounds like quite a dramatic shift, not just the ‘on second thoughts I’ll have another chocolate biscuit’ sort of change. The ancient character shows water and a small boat in the current.

The word occurs just one other time in the Yijing, in 6.4:

‘Cannot master this argument,
Returning and taking up the mandate.
With a change of heart, peaceful constancy is good fortune.’

There, it sounds like a matter of reconciliation: losing the argument with reality, and turning away from conflict towards peace and tranquility. But I’d like to concentrate for now on 16.6 and 17.1, because of their parallelism and the way they’re part of Yi’s story-telling between hexagrams.

The two lines


‘Enthusiasm in the dark.
Results bring a change of heart,
No mistake.’

The word 冥 ming, ‘dark’, means both shadowy and mysterious (and the realm of the dead) and also dull and stupid. I opted for ‘in the dark’ to cover both possibilities: maybe my surroundings are dim, or maybe it’s just that I am.

This is one of Yi’s very short stories. Enthusiasm means anticipation, being motivated by what we imagine. By line 6, that’s got us as far as it can – or maybe slightly further – and now our inner world is going to be reshaped by real-world results. (That is, this is one of those 6th lines that’s leaving the realm of its hexagram behind.) The results are cheng 成 – a word that normally means an achievement, something successfully built, like a rammed-earth wall.

This line changes to Hexagram 35, Advancing. Enthusiasm seeks progress, wants to grasp all its opportunities – and this desire will both lead it into the dark, and also towards action in the real world, as it seeks tangible achievement. (Whether or not what results looks like achievement to us, it’s still ‘no mistake’, perhaps because it can only be a good thing that we’re rejoining the world beyond our imaginings.)


‘An official has a change of heart.
Constancy, good fortune.
Going out of the gates, joining with others, there is achievement.’

Another very short story. This time an ‘official’ has the change of heart. The word means a government functionary, and also a government position. Apparently the ancient character actually shows buttocks under a roof, so perhaps we should call it the ‘seat of power’…

Anyway, the official is very secure within his place, so to go out of the gates certainly calls for a change of heart. It’s interesting that this is good fortune in constancy: it must mean being loyal to the change of heart, holding to the new insight and following it where it leads, all the way out of the gates.

This line changes to Hexagram 45, Gathering – it’s drawn onward and outward by this desire to join with other people and be part of something bigger.

The lines together – inside and out


The step from Hexagram 16 to 17 is one of the Sequence’s interesting trigram moments: the thunder trigram that was on the outside in Enthusiasm – its songs bellowed lustily over the spring fields! – is taken inside in Following, becoming an inner motivation:

compared with

And both 16.6 and 17.1 are part of that trigram zhen, thunder, at its end and its beginning.

In 16.6 we might imagine the effects of the impulse are petering out, the echoes of song are dying away, and possibly we’re left wondering what we got ourselves into. (Never mind – you’ll find out!)

But 17.1 is the first line of zhen – the initial ‘B-‘ of BANG! This is where the action starts. And – unusually – I think you can see a pretty clear reference to the trigram in the text: ‘going out’ is an action of thunder, and ‘going out to join with others’ sounds very much like thunder moving towards lake (the outer trigram). (You could even say that ‘the gates’ are represented by the nuclear trigram gen mountain, formed by lines 2, 3 and 4.)

The Sequence

The Xugua – the Wing that describes the Sequence of Hexagrams – says

‘Enthusiasm naturally means Following.’

As so often, this isn’t vastly helpful except as a starting point. Why might enthusiasm mean following?

As best I can see, this is part of the journey of thunder from outside to inside. Enthusiasm sings out its joy and anticipation into the world. Following senses that same impetus, but inside. I’ve often seen Hexagram 17 describing synchronicities and guidance: the real world infused with meaning, giving you your cues to Follow.

The play of inner and outer, following the movement of the trigram thunder, continues in 16.6 and 17.1. When ‘results bring a change of heart’, that’s internalisation: tangible results ‘out there’ leading to an inner change. When ‘an official has a change of heart’, that’s a move outward, from the abstract realm of rules towards intercourse with fellow humans – following what’s real outside the gates.

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