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Category Archives: I Ching

Hexagrams in conversation

Hexagrams in conversation
This entry is part 7 of 7 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…

I Ching Community discussion

More birds

More birds
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Hidden gems

As I was saying in my last post, Hexagram 61, Inner Truth has a hatchling in its name, and a crane with her young in it second line. Its paired hexagram is Hexagram 62, Small Exceeding – is the pair and complement of – and this has its own calling bird: ‘Small exceeding, creating success,Constancy… Continue Reading

The crane, her young and the wine vessel.

The crane, her young and the wine vessel.
This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Hidden gems

In my last post, I mentioned how ten pairs of tortoises hexagrams lead us from Hexagram 41 to 61, where the crane calls back across the space between hexagrams. This line is a not-so-hidden gem, beautiful in its own right: ‘Calling crane in the shadows,Her young respond in harmony.I have a good wine vessel,I will… Continue Reading

Ten pairs of tortoises

Ten pairs of tortoises
This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Hidden gems

I’ve written all about this before, so now I’m simply going to repeat myself. In my defence, I will point out I’m in good company: ‘Maybe increased by ten paired tortoise shells,Nothing is capable of going against this.From the source, good fortune.’ Hexagram 41, line 5 ‘Maybe increased by ten paired tortoise shells.Nothing is capable… Continue Reading

Trigram pictures

Trigram pictures
This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Hidden gems

There’s more than one way to engage with the trigrams that make up the Yi’s hexagrams. The one that I find most engrossing – that most often shows me hidden beauties of the book, and most often makes for powerful, transformative readings (not unconnected!) – is to look at them in relationship. When two trigrams… Continue Reading

An interruption

An interruption
This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Hidden gems

(This post’s one of a series about the hidden gems of the Yijing. They may quite often describe things I’ve mentioned before, but I think they bear repeating. The idea is to point to especially lovely or ingenious or playful ways that the Yi creates meaning and speaks to us – ways that we can… Continue Reading

Skip or symphony

Skip or symphony
This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Hidden gems

Lately, I’ve been noticing differences between approaches to the Yi. We might describe what we do in the same words – we all ‘consult the oracle’ – but what actually happens next is not at all the same thing. And I think these differences come down to how we conceive of the oracle we’re consulting.… Continue Reading

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