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Category Archives: Interpreting hexagrams

Comments on whole hexagrams, individual lines and so on

Moving lines of Hexagram 58

Moving lines of Hexagram 58
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Hexagram 58, Opening

Opening other hexagrams

I mentioned in my post on Hexagram 58 how its meanings of joy, communication and exchange are connected with the action of breaking things open, opening them up. When lines change and Opening is joined with other hexagrams, it seems to be opening them up for exchange and communication – putting their ideas into circulation, or simply getting into conversation.

Line 1: Opening Confinement

The lake trigram’s first line changes to reveal kan, running water: the lake’s currents, how it moves.

‘Responsive opening: good fortune’

Hexagram 58, line 1

He, ‘responsive’ or ‘harmonious’, is a rather beautiful character showing a mouth and a stalk of grain. It’s the same word you see in the poem of Hexagram 61, line 2:

‘Calling crane in the shadows,
Her young respond in harmony.
I have a good wine vessel,
I will share with you, pouring it all out.’

Hexagram 61, line 2

The young chicks he: they ‘respond in harmony’ or ‘join in singing’. This is where Opening begins: by responding and joining in. Singing in harmony demands listening; first of all, you have to open your ears.

So it’s perhaps a bit surprising that this line changes to Hexagram 47, Confined, which is pretty much the opposite of responsiveness. What’s that about?

changes to

An obvious answer is that this line is Opening Confinement. Words may not be trusted (as in 47’s Oracle), but responsiveness listens more than it talks; it keeps quiet for long enough to connect.

But I’ve found this responsiveness is also based on 47’s quality of self-reliance: responding, not asking or expecting that the other meet your needs. And it’s also ‘Opening Confined’: responding within limits, within the bounds of the other person’s needs – not bawling out Nessun Dorma in the shower.

And also… this reminds me how, when I was about 9 and first expected to sing in harmony, I couldn’t do it; I would be so flooded by the other parts that I couldn’t hear my own. I had to block my ears to hear my own part first. Perhaps that’s Opening with Confining, too.

Line 2: Opening Following

‘True and confident opening, good fortune.
Regrets vanish.’

Hexagram 58, line 2

This line shows lake’s thunder: its power to act and set things in motion. That comes from fu – trust, presence, sincerity, faith – banishing regrets, which imply separation from the present moment, or being in two minds. Fu is always whole and present.

This is 58 zhi 17, Opening’s Following: creating alignment, bringing us into accord.

changes to

A few years ago, I asked Yi about the experience of resonance, and received 58.2.5 to 51:

Line 3: Opening Deciding

‘Coming opening, pitfall.’

58, line 3

I believe the most straightforward translation of this enigmatically laconic little line would be ‘Pending Opening’ or ‘Opening to come’ – that is, ‘coming’ is a marker for the future tense, and this is opening in the future.

In practice, in readings, the line tends to be about someone looking to the future, anticipating what it will bring.

ancient writing of trigram dui
ancient character 'dui'

Think of the trigram dui, and the character dui, and where this line is located: at the surface of the lake, open to the sky, or the open mouth, calling to the ancestral spirits. There’s a quotation from one Jules Renard (unless it’s a Chinese proverb): “Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time.” This line might be for him.

changes to

It points us towards Hexagram 43, Deciding – the hexagram where the messenger comes to the king’s court, ‘with truth, calling out, there is danger,’ notifying the town, advocating a ‘direction to go’. Hexagram 58 Opens up the message and brings it all into question; now, there’s an active interplay between what you expect (anticipate? dread? affirm?) and what’s coming.

The problem with this line might be how it ‘decides’ what shall come – I’ve seen it comment on the practice of affirmations for wealth. (‘I receive £1 million effortlessly! I receive £1 million effortlessly!’) Also, its future-orientation is a problem in itself, which is how Bradford Hatcher sees it: ‘Waiting for one great ship to come in, one can miss two ships’ worth of rowboats.’

Line 4: Opening Measure

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

Hexagram 58, line 4

Once again, the lake flows into the river – but this time, it seems it’s important to set limits to its flow.

Stephen Field makes an interesting observation here: the word I’ve translated ‘Negotiating’ is actually Shang, the name of the dynasty conquered by the Zhou (the people who first created/discovered the Yi as an oracle). Could these be ‘Shang discussions’ – making settlements after the conquest? Perhaps. In that case, you might want to ‘contain the affliction’ of restless or aggrieved people within borders, to avoid contagion.

changes to

And you can imagine this as ‘Opening with Measure’, using the wisdom of Hexagram 60 to find a workable agreement. The line would call for ‘Opening Measuring’, too: opening up questions of measure, contracts and borders. 

I wrote more about this line and its connection with Hexagram 60 in this article on ‘borders and boundaries’:

Line 5: Opening and the Marrying Maiden

‘Trusting in stripping away,
There is danger.’

Hexagram 58, line 5

This is the one line that doesn’t mention dui, ‘opening’. Instead it speaks of fu, trust-truth-confidence, and stripping away – which is the name of Hexagram 23, where the mountain is eroding into the earth. You could imagine either of these as ‘peak dui‘: trusting, being wholly available, without reserve or second-guessing; stripping away, breaking open the protective covering so there is no roof separating your altar from the heavens (see my first Hexagram 58 post) and everything lies wide open. Trusting stripping away – a reminder that another word for ‘open’ is ‘unprotected’. Yi says this is dangerous; it doesn’t say whether not it’s wise.

changes to

This line changing reveals the Marrying Maiden – because any marriage, let alone the marriage of a powerless girl, is the ultimate in removal of outer, protective layers. It’s the end of self-containment: now you are opened up and joined to the other.

Line 6: Opening Treading

‘Opening that pulls.’

Hexagram 58, line 6

‘Pulling’ here is yin, 引, as in drawing a bow. So it carries associations of drawing something towards oneself, and a pull that creates tension. It also means leading, guiding or prolonging. I’ve seen readings where it describes sexual attraction, or the seductive power of a cult, or a drug, or advertising. But it’s important not to be ‘pulled’ out of true by any one reading experience: Yi, after all, isn’t saying whether this is good or bad.

(Indeed, the further you travel upward and outward through Opening, from the inner to the outer trigram, the less the lines have to say about an ultimate outcome – the more ‘open-ended’ it becomes.)

changes to

‘Opening that pulls’ is Opening Treading, Hexagram 10:

‘Treading a tiger’s tail.
It does not bite people.
Creating success.’

The enduring mystery of Hexagram 10 is why anyone would want to get close to a tiger – now, or three thousand years ago, when the chance of being eaten was that much closer. And yet we do: power attracts. In 58.6, it’s ‘opened’ to us, experienced as a force of communication that pulls.

Hexagram 58, Opening

Hexagram 58, Opening

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Hexagram 58, Opening

In context After Hexagram 57, Subtly Penetrating, comes 58, Opening. It’s an inverse pair: 58 is 57, turned around:   There’s a change of orientation: 57 faces inward, 58 outward. 57 enters in – the Sequence says it’s like entering the home – and 58 opens out, shares and circulates. When I was thinking about… Continue Reading

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… Continue Reading

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

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