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Blog post: Hexagram 36: Hidden Pheasant?

hilary

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Hexagram 36: Hidden Pheasant?

duck-rabbit

Hexagram 36, Brightness Hiding, might be one of the easiest to connect with. Isn’t there a story in the Sorrells’ I Ching Made Easy of someone in an abusive relationship who received Hexagram 36 and broke down in tears of recognition and relief when she heard the story of Ji – feigning madness to avoid the attention of a dangerous, oppressive regime?

And in less extreme situations, too, we can recognise the experience of light wounded and the wisdom of hiding it under a bushel at times. Ji’s strategy is mirrored in the trigram picture, too: the trigram li, fire and light, is hidden away under the earth. We might think of light under a bushel. or banking up a fire to protect it, or just of the cycle of night and day. In any case, it’s a picture we can relate to.

But what about the pheasants?​


However… if you look at the work of almost any of the translators who concentrate on recapturing the original, Bronze Age meaning of the text, this simple, relatable picture more or less disappears. Originally, it seems, the hexagram name didn’t mean ‘Brightness Hiding’ at all, but
  • Crying Pheasant (Rutt)
  • The Calling Arrow-Bird (Field)
  • Pelican Calling (Minford book 2)
  • Calling Pheasant (Redmond)
Prince Ji is still there in line 5, but the hexagram name no longer has much to do with him. It’s been re-translated: ming 明 means ‘pheasant’; yi 夷 means ‘calling’.

And this has the benefit of making some of the moving lines much more intelligible. Only compare line 1 –
‘Darkening of the light during flight.
He lowers his wings…’

(Wilhelm/Baynes)

to

‘A crying pheasant, flying on drooping wing.’

(Rutt)

Or line 4:
‘He penetrates the left side of the belly.
One gets at the very heart of darkening of the light.’

(Wilhelm/Baynes)

with

‘Entering the left flank, finding the crying pheasant’s heart.’

(Rutt)

Pheasants have wings and hearts and are hunted (line 3); ‘wounded light’ just doesn’t work in the same way. The translation that makes the most sense with the least explanation must be the right one, surely…?

But what about the readings​


Only… where does this leave our confident, natural response to a hexagram called ‘Brightness Hiding’? Imagine if the Sorrells had told their querent that her pheasant was crying…

To start with, the pheasant works rather less well in line 5:
‘Darkening of the light as with Prince Chi’

(Wilhelm/Baynes)

vs

‘Jizi’s crying pheasant.’

(Rutt)

Is he supposed to have kept one as a pet?

Also, the reason why it’s said to be impossible for the hexagram to have meant ‘Brightness Hiding’ originally seems fragile to me. Here’s Redmond:
“The Wilhelm-Baynes translation as “Darkening of the Light” is poetic, but clearly incorrect. …This cannot have been the early meaning because, as emphasized previously, there is no evidence for trigram correlations before the Zuozhuan and Ten Wings.”

He’s confused the absence of evidence with evidence of absence, of course. Also, the very earliest manuscripts we have of the Yi tend to show the hexagrams written as two trigrams, with a gap between. Also, we know from the text how often line 3 is a dangerous place because it’s on one side of that gap.

It doesn’t follow that the trigrams originally had all the meanings that have accrued to them since – the lists in the Shuogua, for instance. Indeed, we can be pretty sure they hadn’t, since the imagery of the text doesn’t fit. However, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that hexagrams have been understood as two trigrams for a long, long time.

And on that note, the two characters from the hexagram name, ming (‘Brightness’ / ‘pheasant’) and yi (‘hiding’ or ‘wounded’ / ‘calling’), are used both together and separately in the moving lines of this hexagram. In line 2:
‘Brightness hidden, wounded in the left thigh.
For rescue, use the power of a horse.
Good fortune.’

That’s ‘ming yi, yi in the left thigh.’ No-one is translating that as ‘calling in the left thigh.’

And line 6:
‘Not bright, dark.
At first rises up to heaven,
Later enters into the earth.’

That’s ‘not ming, dark…’ – and no-one translates as ‘not pheasant, dark’ either. So the meanings of ‘brightness’ and ‘hiding/wounded’ have not been altogether banished.

It all depends…​


So which is the right translation? ‘Brightness Hiding/Wounded’ or ‘Calling Pheasant’? I think it all depends on what you are trying to translate. For a couple of millennia – at least since the time the Image was written – Yi has used this hexagram to talk to people about wounded, hidden light. So do you try to translate what the Yi is probably saying to people now, or what the original authors were trying to say 3,000 years ago? Both are valid; both are valuable; they’re just translating different things.

But wait…​


However… (this post is full of ‘however’s!) the original authors of the oracle were not trying to communicate anything, or not in the same way any other author might be. They did not set out to convey information to their listeners or readers about either pheasants or wounded light: they were creating a language for an oracle to communicate in.

And that oracular language stems from an oral tradition of sayings and stories. Readings are spoken aloud: they would have been originally, and they are now: I still never do a live reading without reading out the text, and I encourage people reading for themselves to read their question and the oracle’s answer out loud. People need to hear their question being answered.

And spoken language naturally includes wordplay. Thinking in terms of written language, we refer to homophones: distinct, different words that sound the same, like ‘hoarse’ and ‘horse’. Starting with spoken language, it might be better to think of sounds that have more than one meaning.

Chinese is full of these sounds, and they’re not only used for groan-worthy humour, as they are in English, but carry real power. Have a look at this Wikipedia section about the influence of homophones on Spring Festival traditions and you’ll see what I mean.

So…



… is that a duck or a rabbit? It depends how you look at it. And is ming yi a wounded light or a calling pheasant?

Perhaps we can leave the binary either/or behind altogether. The pheasant in question, by the way, is probably the golden pheasant, Chrysolophus pictus: a spectacularly colourful bird that screeches loudly. And yet it’s said to be ‘timid‘, fond of hiding in dense undergrowth, and ‘surprisingly difficult to find‘. A bird that hides its brightness, in fact.

Since Chinese is so good at wordplay in general, the Yijing text is probably full of duckrabbits I know nothing about. But isn’t it apt that this hexagram – with its play of lighting-up and hiding – should be one? The vivid golden pheasant vanishes into the undergrowth and screeches. Prince Ji hid his light, which is perfectly visible to us 3,000 years on. Hexagram 36: the Calling Hiding Bright Pheasant.

 

Trojina

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But what is the pheasant calling for ? Why is it calling ? Is there any clue as to why or what the significance of a calling pheasant is ?

@hilary
 

hilary

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I'm not sure why pheasants call, as a rule. The ones round here (different kind, of course) seem just to squawk for the hell of it. Hard to believe it could have much significance as an omen unless the Chinese kind does it much less often.

Rutt quotes songs where the pheasant is calling for its mate, and connected with an abandoned lover. Also a case where a pheasant calling at a royal sacrifice was a sign it had been badly done. Not a good sign overall, then.
 

Trojina

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Hard to believe it could have much significance as an omen unless the Chinese kind does it much less often.
It is hard to see what it would signify yes. And if it doesn't signify anything very much then how much use was it for the language of the oracle
They did not set out to convey information to their listeners or readers about either pheasants or wounded light: they were creating a language for an oracle to communicate in.
I like the idea they were creating a language although sadly here it isn't one we know the meaning of. A crying pheasant doesn't somehow signify anything to me.

These

Rutt quotes songs where the pheasant is calling for its mate, and connected with an abandoned lover. Also a case where a pheasant calling at a royal sacrifice was a sign it had been badly done. Not a good sign overall, then.
....seem tentative, not very strong. That may be because pheasants in the UK just screech at anything as you say and so I struggle to connect with the pheasant image because it doesn't seem to mean much. Or rather the meaning is so distant and tentative it isn't a robust meaning. I still don't see where a pheasant fits into the meaning of 36. I guess you did say the golden pheasant was hard to find but then so are many birds.
 
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H

Hans__

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It’s been re-translated: ming 明 means ‘pheasant’; yi 夷 means ‘calling’.
On her website LiSe gives an alternative for "calling pheasant":
Mingyi can be a pheasant, but it can also allude to the golden colored raven which carries the sun.
with the story:
Long ago there were 10 suns, one for each day of the 10-day week. They would rise in succession, until one day all ten came up together. The earth got scorched, but Hou Yi, Lord Yi, shot down 9 of them and saved the earth from incineration.
...
Ideogram of the hexagram name: the first (upper) character is sun + moon: brightness. The second character is an image of an archer with a string arrow. According to other sources a kneeling archer, aiming his arrow. It means level, smooth, wounding or barbarian (which is anyone 'not us'), but it is also the name of the East tribe, the tribe of the famous archer 夷羿 Yí Yì (Yí of Yì) or 后羿 Hòu Yì (Lord Yi), who shot down the 9 surplus suns.
Ravens squawk constantly and, combined with the story LiSe gives, it is also possible that in H36 it is not a pheasant but a raven.
 

surnevs

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Out of curiosity, I looked 'pheasant' up in C.A.S. Williams's "Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs" and found, quote:
"It is quite probable that the mythical Chinese Phoenix is merely the Argus Pheasant, or possibly the peacock. In any case the pheasant is sometimes used in the place of the phoenix, and partakes of all its attributes, being a common emblem of beauty and good fortune."
And looking Phoenix up in this book, quote:
".... this bird is the product of the Sun or fire...."

Hex. 36, the Judgement:

明 夷 利 艱 貞。(1)
míng yí. lì jiān zhēn. (2)

The translations of these words:
ming: bright (out of more meanings, see webpage below)
yi: to wipe out ( -"- ) ????
li: favourable ( -"- )
jian: difficult ( -" - )
zhen: chaste ( -"- )
according to mdbg.net (
Webpage)

As a non-sinologist, I have just taken these words from the webpage mentioned above, but when seeing how sinologists translate them, there is a far distance in the meaning. For example, the word yi which in mdbg.net is translated, as the first meaning, 'non-Han people, esp. to the East of China / barbarians' and the same translation is found here: https://hanziyuan.net, 'Meaning ancient barbarian tribes.'
_____________

This all reminds me of the question that Julie Lee Wei raised in this article:

https://sino-platonic.org/complete/spp324_yi_jing_trigram_names.pdf


I think that, if she is on the right track, so to speak, some confusion concerning texts in the I Ching can be traced back to this ie her main point in the article.

1) https://www.biroco.com/yijing/zhouyi.htm
2) https://web.archive.org/web/20210401144813/http://grichter.sites.truman.edu/files/2012/01/yjnew.pdf
 

Trojina

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I suppose for me the bottom line is (no pun intended) whatever bird it is it's not something I could use in readings because it doesn't mean much. The story if Prince Ji is relatable for 36, neither a crying pheasant nor a raven are. I wonder if Bradford had any truck with this bird in his translation...looking at the translations in the Resonance Journal neither Hilary, nor Bradford nor Lise mention a pheasant (I mean it's on Lise's site but not in the RJ translation)


if you look at the work of almost any of the translators who concentrate on recapturing the original, Bronze Age meaning of the text, this simple, relatable picture more or less disappears. Originally, it seems, the hexagram name didn’t mean ‘Brightness Hiding’ at all, but
  • Crying Pheasant (Rutt)
  • The Calling Arrow-Bird (Field)
  • Pelican Calling (Minford book 2)
  • Calling Pheasant (Redmond)
But there is absolutely nothing to do with a pheasant in an interpretation of 36 is there? Translation by itself doesn't offer interpretation just presents us with pheasants and such and leaves it there.

Since Chinese is so good at wordplay in general, the Yijing text is probably full of duckrabbits I know nothing about. But isn’t it apt that this hexagram – with its play of lighting-up and hiding – should be one?
But yes if it's a pun or wordplay well, I don't know because the thing with puns is they are so specific to time and place. Above I just wrote without even thinking 'but the bottom line is' which isn't a pun or really wordplay but is just a common way of saying 'fundamentally' or rather 'it comes down to this' ..something like that...but why we say 'bottom line' I don't know and probably non English speakers wouldn't learn that in lesson 1.

Are you saying the pheasant is likely a pun or wordplay and so there is no pheasant featuring in 36 ? I guess you can't commit either way as it isn't known. I don't think I could incorporate it in readings anyway.
 
H

Hans__

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I suppose for me the bottom line is (no pun intended) whatever bird it is it's not something I could use in readings because it doesn't mean much.
What exactly do you mean with "it is it's not something I could use in readings because it doesn't mean much"?
The golden raven (or three legged crow), the pheasant, the phoenix are all (mythical) birds associated with the sun and trigram Fire.
 

Trojina

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What exactly do you mean with "it is it's not something I could use in readings because it doesn't mean much"?
The golden raven (or three legged crow), the pheasant, the phoenix are all (mythical) birds associated with the sun and trigram Fire.
What I said, the image of a calling bird doesn't connect for me with the story of Prince Ji in the tyrant's court. That carries the greatest meaning for me in 36. A pheasant appears random and so I imagine is connected with wordplay perhaps in a way not yet known. There is no pheasant being used in the text of the Oracle or the lines in any of the translations used in the RJ. the translations I use the most. The fact that the lower trigram is light isn't enough to conjure pheasants of ravens for me. Not to say they aren't there, I mean Hilary's said all these translators uncovering Bronze Age meanings do include it

if you look at the work of almost any of the translators who concentrate on recapturing the original, Bronze Age meaning of the text, this simple, relatable picture more or less disappears. Originally, it seems, the hexagram name didn’t mean ‘Brightness Hiding’ at all, but
  • Crying Pheasant (Rutt)
  • The Calling Arrow-Bird (Field)
  • Pelican Calling (Minford book 2)
  • Calling Pheasant (Redmond)
Good Grief Minford has a pelican, I have no idea what they sound like
 
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breakmov

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Brightness Hiding = Crying Pheasant ?

....I know from personal experience a very peculiar behavior....


I don't know if the same thing happens with pheasants, but in the case of partridges and quails, which belong to the same species, I know from personal experience a very peculiar behavior that they all have when they are in danger and are near dry vegetation or in open field and want to hide.

... and if they have young, the behavior is simply spectacular:

As soon as the partridges or quails feel threatened (and imagine 5 or 6 small young) and want to flee without having vegetation to hide, they simply separate from each other and lie down on the ground with their legs up ( Are they acting out with crazy behavior?)... and it's simply phenomenal, because they are so camouflaged that they can't be seen... it all becomes the color of the earth... the legs look like branches or dry grass....you are literally next to them and you simply can't see them!

I don't know if pheasants, being more colorful, also do this (if the underside of them is brown... I don't know), but since pheasants,partridges and quails are of the same species, the idea is at least for the chicks, since they all have beige/brown plumage.

...but after the period of danger, the mother starts calling the chicks and they, still hidden, start to respond ...perhaps this calling and response is also a way for everyone to communicate that they are still alive, despite not being visible...and that is why the calling or cry of the pheasant may also be seen as the calling of a Hiding Brightness. ..this camouflage that makes it stay hidden and protected until a feeling of relief appears.

breakmov
 

hilary

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I can use the idea of a golden pheasant that - despite having truly spectacular, fiery plumage - disappears shyly into the undergrowth: a sun-bird that hides. As for the squawking... well, that would be how you know it's there. I startled a pheasant when out walking a couple of days ago, or rather the pheasant startled me. You are walking along in the peace and quiet, just a little distant robin-twittering and branches stirring, and then there's an almighty squawking and whirring as this thing takes off a few yards away. No-one in 36 seems to be jumping out of their skin because of the pheasant, though.
 

Trojina

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I know what pheasants do, make a stupid amount of noise for no particular reason. If they call out they aren't hiding so I can't see how they are doing 36

I mean a golden pheasant is a bright thing hiding but it isn't hiding if it is calling out. Goodness knows what a pelican is meant to be doing
 
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breakmov

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It is really counterintuitive to have all that pheasant noise and at the same time want to go unnoticed. If this were the idea of the pheasant attributed to hex 36, then it would be strange.

Of course, imagine that you could always frame all this behavior in something more basic and common, typical of the protective behavior of avoiding threats typical of the pheasant as a species, and this behavior could be mirrored "metaphorically" in hex36....

The male pheasant, with this behavior of quickly hiding its exuberant plumage so as not to attract attention (females and chicks do not have this problem), as this ends up being a weak point for someone with little flying ability... and at the same time, now on more distant, hidden and safe ground, emitting a threatening noise, a kind of double camouflage with which it now tries to manage the danger of conflict, trying to give the appearance of something it is not. ... to attract attention to something hidden, uncertain, but with potential to be threatening, as a way to confuse the potential enemy. ... I imagine that its role, as a male, is also to provide protection to the female pheasant and chicks...

Perhaps this "ominous noise" of the pheasant, in the context of hex36, can be seen metaphorically as "the threat of all that is dark, unknown and hidden" and its role to manage environments of danger and conflict.

I imagine that the judgment and image of the hex36 could give support to this.

breakmov
 

surnevs

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|:| Li "............ The Clinging acts in the pheasant...." (Wilhelm/Baynes, Shuo Kua, Ch. III, 8), the lower trigram. Could this attribute from the Ten Wings have been the source for some author's translation?
 

my_key

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36 carries a strong sense of injury and having to bear the hardships of that injury through accepting the resultant trials and tribulations. Brightness can relate, in many ways, to our awareness, and here in 36 that while we are aware of more besides, it is to our advantage to keep or act schtum.

36 follows 35 and the injury might well be inflicted, through our own doing, Icarus-like, having flown too close the sun. A fateful spiralling out of control to only crash and burn can best be salvaged through being steadfast and upright and managing the resulting plummet from a place of concealment, either in the physical, emotional or spiritual realms. Harmonising between not too much light and not too much dark.

This period of self imposed recuperation allows for a more confident venture into 37 where words and deeds can align and find a more natural and settled place of repose.

Rutt's translation, in it's minimalistic way, maps, perhaps most clearly the flight path of the crying pheasant.

36.1 - Flying with a drooping wing (induced Icarus style?) it cries out bemoaning the state of the world. A cry reported by many naturalists as akin to a squawking version of 'woe is me'.
36.2 - The malaise spreads to the left thigh -now an easy limping target
36.3 - The cries attract the huntsman and a further wound - perhaps even from friendly fire
36.4 - Now shot in the left flank too - a heart wound! Progress not possible.
36.5 - Surviving the heart wound, through deeper concealment, allows a new type of cry to be emitted from our feathered combatant. Success, of a type, is now ensured, and a way to shine through and beyond the affects of the original injury becomes apparent. Acting now like a grounded pheasant rather than a cock-of-the-walk.
36.6 - The pheasant stops crying (it's seen the light?). The dark has got as dark as dark can be and yet there is light to be seen at the end of the tunnel. The dark essence of injury associated with the moaning and grumbling of 36.1 has run it's course.

Interestingly, the energetic pathway of 36 is deeply guided by 40 'Relief'.

... of course, it may mean nothing like this at all.

Take care
 

surnevs

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Anyway, King Wen descended from the barbarians. To type two pages about that from "The Cambridge History of Ancient China" (1) I'm not going to, but I got a snapshot from Wu Jing-Nuan's book, see attached picture (2)
As he writes, 'MingYi' could be a historical reference to King Wen who wrote the I Ching in jail.

Zhu Xi made the same reference to King Wen (3)

Julie Lee Wei wrote:​



kw.jpg

cut&past from: page 2/3 HERE

See the translation of the Core text on #6 above.
____________________________________________

I have attached a PDF with characters for Pheasant and hex. 36 to compare, from Birocco.com



_______________________________

1) "The Cambridge History of Ancient China", pg. 299-302, Cambridge University Press, N.Y. 1999
2) "Yi Jing", Wu Jing-Nuan, U.S. 1991, at hexagram thirty six
3) "The original meaning of the Yijing", tr. & ed. by Joseph A. Adler, Columbia University Press 2020, at hexagram 36 pg. 176
 

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