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Category Archives: Interpreting hexagrams

Comments on whole hexagrams, individual lines and so on

The well in the valley

The well in the valley

Hexagram 48 line 6 says,

‘The well gathers,
Don’t cover it.
There is truth and confidence,
Good fortune from the source.’

Bradford Hatcher, who has dug more wells than your average Yijing scholar, suggests that this is an artesian well, one where the water rises spontaneously. That certainly fits with my experience of the line, and also seems to me to fit with the hexagram it changes to: 57, Subtly Penetrating, with the water flowing unseen through strata deep in the earth.

Only I just noticed something that goes under the capacious heading of, ‘Turns out the people who wrote the Yi knew what they were doing, who’d’ve thought?’

My ‘who’d’ve thought?’ moment came when I looked again at the Wikipedia article on artesian aquifers, while also looking at the paired line: Hexagram 47, Confined, line 1.

(Aside: to find the paired line, draw your hexagram and mark the line that’s changing; then rotate the paper 180 degrees, so that you’re looking at the same pattern of lines from a different angle. If you draw Hexagram 48 with line 6 changing, and then change your angle of view like this, you’ll find yourself looking at 47.1. Same line, different perspective.)

‘Buttocks oppressed with a wooden stick,
Entering into a gloomy valley,
For three years, meeting no-one.’

Each of these lines is in the trigram kan, associated with deep pits and flowing water: line 1 at the very bottom of the valley, line 6 at the top of a water column. Line 1 to line 6 – the most distant of line pairs.

Now… here is a diagram from that Wikipedia article:

By Andrew Dunn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Image by Andrew Dunn
(Would you believe it, water trapped in porous rock strata is technically known as a confined aquifer?)

There you have it: at the very bottom of the valley, below the water table, you can dig a ‘gathering well’.

In the cross section, you can see the strata: one flowing line between two containing ‘banks’ of impervious rock, like the lines of kan. Move the uppermost inactive layer, and the water rises. Hexagram 57 describes the way the water seeps inward through the pervious rock; its pair, 58, describes pools and reservoirs, and also rising and breaking through.

The whole thing is not just mentioning an artesian well, it’s showing us a diagram of how it works – watch the line move, and it’s even an animated diagram.

In other news, I have looked at these lines for going on 20 years without noticing any of this. So as I file this observation under, ‘Turns out they knew what they were doing, who’d’ve thought?’ I’ll cross-reference with ‘How much more am I missing?

When Yi says ‘me’

When Yi says ‘me’

By and large, we know what sort of thing we expect Yi to say (though not, heaven knows, what it will say): ‘Here’s what you’re doing’ or ‘here’s what would happen’ or ‘here’s how to cope with that’ – something along those lines, describing or advising. Only every now and then – just eleven times, in… Continue Reading

Hexagram 27, Nourishment

Name and Nature The name of Hexagram 27 translates literally not as ‘Nourishment’ but as ‘Jaws’ – not something we call it, because shark. But it does help to remember that it’s not specifically about nourishment (of whatever kind), but rather about the framework that makes nourishment possible. Just looking at the shape of the… Continue Reading

What’s wrong with carting corpses, anyway?

Simple Two lines in Hexagram 7, the Army, talk about carting corpses: line 3: ‘Perhaps the army carts corpses. Pitfall.’ and line 5: ‘The fields have game Fruitful to speak of capture: No mistake. When the elder son leads the army, And younger son carts corpses: Constancy, pitfall.’ The core meaning is surely intuitively obvious:… Continue Reading

The noises of Hexagram 37, line 3

The noises of Hexagram 37, line 3

Line 3 of Hexagram 37, People in the Home, is full of noise and emotion: ‘People in the home scold and scold, Regrets, danger: good fortune. Wife and child giggle and giggle. In the end, shame.’ What’s the story behind this? Traditional interpretation… Read any traditional translation – Wilhelm/Baynes, Lynn, or Tuck Chang – and… Continue Reading

Making the most of it

Making the most of it

I’ve been thinking about Hexagram 35 – and especially how it shows up as a relating hexagram. Introducing Hexagram 35 The name of this hexagram is ‘Advancing’, or ‘Progress’ or ‘Flourishing’. The oldest form of the character seems to show arrows in their sheath: Those arrows – along the text of the oracle – suggest… Continue Reading

Hexagram 33, Retreat

Hexagram 33, Retreat

Looking simply at the shape of hexagram 33 with a naïve, imaginative eye… …we might see the entrance to a cave. And if you look at the picture painted by the trigrams, heaven above the mountain, then it conjures up the idea of a hermit who Retreats to the mountain-top. Retreat from… All this is… Continue Reading

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