...life can be translucent

Series: Two-line relationships

How lines combine and work together to create zhi gua relationships

Another Yijing Easter egg*

Another Yijing Easter egg*

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Two-line relationships

Hexagram 12 – Blocked?

‘Blocking it, non-people.
Noble one’s constancy bears no fruit.
Great goes, small comes.’

Hexagram 12, the Oracle

However clearly we understand that there are no ‘bad’ hexagrams, we’re probably not over the moon when we cast Hexagram 12. It’s at least nice to be able to think that, if we could come up with some ‘noble one’s constancy’, it would bear fruit.

And yet… that feeling of stasis, frustration and head-meet-brick-wall futility are strongest when 12 is unchanging – Blocked with nowhere to go. When lines are moving, it tends to be about shifting the block – one way or another, with more or less success – much as Hexagram 18 tends to be about dealing with Corruption. 12’s moving line texts are lively and rich with imagery. For instance…

Bao 包, embracing

bao 包, ’embracing’, in lines 2 and 3:

‘Embracing the charge.
Small people, good fortune.
Great people, blocked. Creating success.’

Hexagram 12, line 2

‘Embracing shame.’

Hexagram 12, line 3

The word means enveloping, enwrapping, encompassing, and also undertaking something – wrapping yourself round it, as it were, and making it your responsibility.

Hence in 12.2, ’embracing the charge’ has to do with accepting a task, internalising an order. As I put it, going on for 10 years (!!?!) ago:

“You are offered an agreement like a contract, with its own set of mutual expectations, requirements and compensations. To embrace it is to accept the terms you are given, and enter into their service – something which has an utterly different significance for small and great people.”

Commentary on 12.2 from I Ching, Hilary Barrett

Line 3 describes someone taking on and internalising shame in a similar way:

“You feel shame, and carry it enfolded within you, as part of yourself – whether or not you’re fully aware of its influence. Since you don’t feel entitled to anything much, you draw back into yourself and don’t feel able to ask directly for what you want or need.”

Commentary on 12.3 from I Ching, Hilary Barrett

You can get more of a feel for this one by looking at its position in the trigram-picture as a whole. Line 3’s just inside the threshold between inner and outer trigrams, looking (and leaning, and sometimes hankering) outward. But here, heaven’s above earth and moving away, and so as line 3 looks out across the threshold, it feels how the gap is widening. It curls inward around its sense of inadequacy, of being small, and Retreats – but also wants to reach out with an offering in expiation (another meaning of ‘shame’).

The etymology of bao is very simple: it shows a foetus in the womb.

oracle bone bao character
Oracle-bone bao character, from Hanziyuan.net

(That casts a whole new light on ‘great goes, small comes,’ doesn’t it?)

And here’s the Easter egg: when 12’s two bao lines change, they show Hexagram 44, Coupling behind them:

changing to

That’s Hexagram 44 whose name shows a woman giving birth – see LiSe’s site for more:

And, of course, Hexagram 44 has its own rich fertility imagery, with the wrapped (bao) fish and melon.

Blocked with bao-enwrapping means Coupling and birth.

One more wrapper…

Hexagram 12 has one more instance of bao, hidden away in line 5:

‘Resting when blocked.
Great person, good fortune.
It is lost, it is lost!
Tie it to the bushy mulberry tree.’

Hexagram 12, line 5

The hidden bao character here is the word translated as ‘bushy’. It’s written with the same foetus-in-the-womb element, plus the ‘plant’ radical: 苞. We can imagine that a bushy mulberry is one that wraps and contains, womb-like.

Such imaginings are not too academically respectable – but on our way back to respectability, let’s take a detour via the story of the birth of Yi Yin:

A woman who lived near the Yi River was warned in a dream that when she saw her mortar leaking water, she should flee to the east and not look back.

This happened the very next day, so she warned her neighbours and fled east as she’d been told. But after ten leagues, she looked back, seeing how her town had completely disappeared beneath the floodwaters – and she was transformed into a hollow mulberry.

Later, when a local woman came gathering mulberry leaves for the silkworms, she found the baby Yi Yin inside the tree.

Of course, bao means ‘enwrap, embrace’, not ‘pregnancy’. Still… the Yijing is poetry; it has layers.

And speaking of those layers – changing all three bao lines of Hexagram 12 leads to Hexagram 50: the great Vessel, the ultimate container.

changing to

*Easter egg?

(*That’s ‘Easter egg’ in the painfully geeky sense as defined by Wikipedia, here. Basically, an ‘Easter egg’ is a hidden message or feature, tucked away somewhere in the system, just waiting for someone to find it.

So we could imagine a wise diviner secreting away extra connections between changing lines and their destinations, ready for us to dig up 3,000 years later, but we don’t have to. It could simply be that these hidden gems are an intrinsic property of the book. The Yi’s made of solid truth, all the way through, and – naturally – it shows.)

Hexagram relationships

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Two-line relationships

Here’s a whole field of study where (as far as I know) we’ve barely scratched the surface. Each hexagram line ‘points towards’ the hexagram created when it changes, its zhi gua. It’s natural enough to go through the I Ching line by line and see how each one reflects the relationship of its two hexagrams… Continue Reading

Changing lines in groups

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Two-line relationships

You can learn a lot about moving lines in the Yijing by looking at where they’re headed – that is, the hexagram that would be generated if this line alone were changing. Arguing doesn’t lead to good fortune – unless it’s done in an awareness of being ‘Not Yet Across’. Returning that’s moved by a… Continue Reading

Two-line changes

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Two-line relationships

If you’ve been working with Yi for a while, you’re probably familiar with the idea of looking at the hexagram each individual moving line would change to on its own, to give you a better context to understand its meaning. You might have heard them referred to as zhi gua, or (by Stephen Karcher) as… Continue Reading

What’s wrong with carting corpses, anyway?

What’s wrong with carting corpses, anyway?
This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Two-line relationships

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 gameFruitful 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: an army with cartloads of corpses… Continue Reading

Clarity and the flying bird

Clarity and the flying bird
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Two-line relationships

I’ve written before about looking at groups of changing lines, and seeing how they point towards their changed hexagram – just as a single line would do. (I’ve just added all those posts to a series, so you can find them all easily.) Here’s another for the collection: Hexagram 62, Small Exceeding, changing at lines… Continue Reading

Release the arrows

Release the arrows
This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Two-line relationships

Archery in Hexagram 40 Hexagram 40 is Release: its core theme, from the simple decision of the Oracle to the clear air after the storm of the Image, is the release of tension. That might remind you of archery, which is a special, intentional kind of tension-release: deliberately drawing the bow, creating tension, and releasing it… Continue Reading

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