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Category Archives: Interpreting hexagrams

Comments on whole hexagrams, individual lines and so on

Leave, go out and far away

Leave, go out and far away

‘Dispersing blood.
Leave, go out and far away.
Not a mistake.’

Hexagram 59, line 6

Dispersing blood‘? What does that mean?

Wilhelm says it means avoiding an existing danger, ‘dispersion of that which might lead to bloodshed’ for both oneself and others. Lynn, following Wang Bi, has the same idea: ‘This one disperses the threat of bloodletting.’

So the traditional interpretation is quite clear. However, reviewing readings with this line, I found something else was happening. There was – often – over-sharing that harmed relationships; on one memorable occasion there was even an overheated motherboard with some crucial circuitry melted.

In other words, something had overflowed its limits; some truly useful boundaries had been ‘dispersed’, with unfortunate results. There were no enormous disasters, but in each case, dispersing had clearly gone too far.

The red stuff, we know, is supposed to stay on the inside. When there’s a threat of ‘dispersing blood’, run away. ‘Leave, go out and far away!’


However… the line doesn’t end there. It concludes, ‘No mistake’. Why wouldn’t this be a mistake?

I wonder if this might be a similar ‘no mistake’ to that in the 6th line of Hexagram 28, Great Exceeding:

‘Exceeding in wading the river, head underwater.
No mistake.’

Hexagram 28, line 6

Here, I think there’s a sharp division between two perspectives. 28.6 is a disaster for the one who drowns, but overall it’s not a mistake. We can imagine an all-seeing narrator, looking down on the scene from a great height, saying, ‘This was meant to be’ – or at least, that it wasn’t not meant to be.

Perhaps 59.6 is similar, and nothing in this line is a mistake? It might help to remember that ancient China was a lot less squeamish than we are. Blood sacrifice was a normal part of life, and essential to the ongoing flow of energy between humans and spirits.

So… perhaps this is not Dispersing gone too far; perhaps it did need to go this far.

However, once the blood is flowing, you need to get clear. After the emotional outpouring, people seek distance – stop talking to each other, block phone numbers, or at least pretend it never happened. If the wires have melted and now the whole device is live, stand well back and cut the power. Certainly, none of this is a mistake.

59.6 changes to Hexagram 29, the Repeating Chasms –


In other words, behind ‘dispersing blood’ are chasms. Now everything is crumbling, now the walls are dissolving between the living and the dead, don’t fall in. Leave, go far away, get out!

Loftier perspective…

Combining a hexagram’s upper nuclear trigram with its outer trigram shows you its higher nuclear hexagram, the one I think of as the telos: a higher learning, an ultimate end. 59’s telos is 53, Gradual Progress: ultimately, Dispersing might free us to integrate more deeply and naturally, ‘marrying into’ our own lives.

Mapping 59.6 into 53 shows you 53.6:

‘Wild geese gradually progress to the high plateau.
Their feathers can be used to perform the sacred dances.
Good fortune.’

Hexagram 53, line 6

You can imagine this as the higher learning of 59.6 – and it gives you another view of what it can mean to leave and go far away. Go on out, over the mountains; maybe even go beyond your own objectives, your idea of what it’s all for. (Geese don’t understand sacred dances.) Get out of the immediate gore so you can see the dance, and dedicate the sacrifice to something higher.

Hexagram 64: Not Yet Across

Hexagram 64: Not Yet Across

Its name and nature At the very end of the Yijing comes the hexagram called Not Yet Across – the embodiment of incompletion and imperfection, an ellipsis in hexagram form. It’s a very large-scale, oracle-sized joke about our expectations of tidiness and order. The Chinese name has two characters: 未濟, wei meaning ‘not-yet’ and ji… Continue Reading

Hexagram 56 in trigrams

Hexagram 56 in trigrams
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Hexagram 56, Travelling

Fire on the mountain The trigrams of Hexagram 56 show inner mountain and outer fire. The picture, for me, suggests the nomads’ campfire. It has limited fuel and a limited duration, and the travellers will need to resolve any disputes before the ashes are cool, so they can move on unencumbered in the morning. A… Continue Reading

Hexagram 56, Travelling

Hexagram 56, Travelling
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Hexagram 56, Travelling

Following your flag The name of Hexagram 56 is lu 旅, Travelling. The Chinese character (which also means a division of troops) originally shows people around the flag, and was normally written simply with two people under the flag, almost as if sheltering under a roof: An ancient Chinese settlement would be built around its banner,… Continue Reading

Who is the ‘superior man’?

Who is the ‘superior man’?

The person who emailed me this question found the expression ‘superior man’ quite off-putting. I can see why: arranging half of humanity into superiors and inferiors, inviting the reader to identify not just as a good person but as someone better than the rest… none of this feels sympathetic to me, either. And, I would argue,… Continue Reading

Hexagram 3 and the very beginning

Hexagram 3 and the very beginning

Hexagram 3 is the first hexagram where the two kinds of line mingle, and so it’s associated with the very beginnings of life. The Sequence says, ‘There is heaven and earth, and so the ten thousand things are born. Overflowing the space between heaven and earth, the ten thousand things. And so Sprouting follows: Sprouting… Continue Reading

Layer cake imagery (and Hexagram 53)

Layer cake imagery (and Hexagram 53)

The Yijing’s full of imagery. Even though the first impression when you open it is one of wall-to-wall text, it’s also a picture book. In last month’s ‘Connecting with Imagery’ workshop I put a reading on the screen and asked people to mark all the images they could see. They saw quite a few… There’s… Continue Reading

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