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hilary

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The ‘character’ hexagrams

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In Part II, chapter 7 of the Great Treatise (Dazhuan), nine hexagrams are singled out. The authors of the Yi, it says, knew sorrow and disasters (or, specifically, they worried about disasters), and therefore… and it goes on to list the qualities of these nine hexagrams.

You can read the whole passage here, in Legge’s translation.

As you can almost see there, each of the three parts follows its own formula. The first follows the pattern, [hexagram name] de‘s [quality]. The second, [hexagram], [x] and also [y] – often with a marked contrast between x and y that creates something close to a paradox, or maybe a riddle. And the third says [hexagram] 以 [action]. 以, yi, is a tricky one: ‘using for’ or ‘so as to’. Legge has it as ‘the use of [hexagram] appears in…’ while Lynn translates each one as ‘provides the means to’.

The nine hexagrams


The nine hexagrams listed – the same hexagrams in the same order in each of the three sections – are

  • 10, Treading
  • 15, Integrity
  • 24, Returning
  • 32, Lasting
  • 41, Decreasing
  • 42, Increasing
  • 47, Oppression
  • 48, the Well
  • 57, Subtly Penetrating

No-one seems to know why these nine hexagrams were chosen, and – despite my best efforts to find a pattern – nor do I. The hexagrams are given in Sequence order, but they’re not regularly distributed and don’t mark any pivotal Sequence moments that I know of. There’s no distinctive pattern of trigrams.

10 and 15 are complements, as are 32 and 42, but none of the others. 41/42 and 47/48 are pairs, of course. Their presence together makes me half-wonder whether this might be a preserved fragment from a larger text (because paired hexagrams might be written on the same bamboo slip) – though the way it’s arranged in three separate lists makes that less likely.

The only regularity I found that seems significant is that the Oracle texts of five of the nine say it’s ‘fruitful to have a direction to go’. Since only 14 hexagram oracles in the whole book mention this, I think it’s worthy of note. Perhaps this is an unusually purposeful group of hexagrams?

‘Concerned about calamities’


Wilhelm translates the introduction,

‘The origin of Yi was in middle antiquity. Those that composed Yi knew suffering and sorrow.’

Wilhelm/Baynes
Lynn has,

‘The rise of the Changes, was it not in middle antiquity? Did not the makers of the Changes become concerned about calamities?’

R.J.Lynn
and Wang Bi’s commentary on this:

‘If they had not become concerned about calamities, then it would have been sufficient for them to deal with things through non-purposeful action.’
I find that an interesting idea: it seems to suggest that these hexagrams are about planning and intervening to stave off calamity. That’s certainly not how Wilhelm sees it: his commentary makes this the voice of doom-laden resignation:

‘The writer [of the Dazhuan] … feels himself in sympathy with them [the authors of the Yi] in this respect, for he too can do nothing more than preserve for posterity the framework of a perishing civilisation.’
Thoroughly glum – and, I think, not the idea. Surely the problems of the Zhou people were to do first with surviving an oppressive, degenerate regime and then with rising to the challenge of the Mandate of Heaven to create their own kingdom. So I agree with Wang Bi: this is about channelling de to good effect, averting disaster and renewing civilisation.

How it sounds to me now, when I have one of these hexagrams in a reading, is quite simple. ‘Times were rough for them, too. They knew what it was like. Here’s something they gave you to help.’ These are good hexagrams to receive this year.

Hexagram 10, Treading


A compilation of the three statements about Treading:

Treading, character’s foundation. It is responsive and attains its goals. It can be used to act responsively.
‘Character’ translates de – approximately. De covers a spectrum of meanings, from spiritual power and charisma to virtue. Legge and Lynn translate ‘virtue’, Rutt translates ‘powers’ and Wilhelm/Baynes has ‘character’. ‘Virtue’ works well if you can think of its meaning to a herbalist: the ‘virtue’ of a plant being its unique healing properties, its particular strength and goodness. With ‘character’, you need to think of expressions like ‘strength of character’ and ‘she has character’.

So… Treading is de‘s foundation. What does that really mean? The key concept here has to be the repeated word 和, he, ‘responsive’ or ‘harmonious’. It’s a word we know well from 61.2:

‘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 dictionary also gives the meanings ‘to join in singing’ and ‘to compose a poem in reply’.

Wang Bi (as translated by R.J. Lynn) implies a tension between being responsive and attaining one’s goals:

‘To practice harmony yet fail to reach the goal is a matter of just following where things lead one, but Lu means to practice harmony and yet manage to reach the goal. Thus it constitutes a way upon which one may tread.’
How can you act responsively, but still stay in control of your own direction, not be pushed hither and yon by circumstances? You’ll need the qualities of Hexagram 10, treading the tail of the tiger: recognising the great powers, having the courage to engage and the skill to align with them.

Walking with the tiger is 和: making your actions compose a poem in reply to its power and grace. And this is the ‘de’s foundation’ – meaning not what it grows from, but what it walks on. (Wang Bi points out helpfully that ‘a foundation is where one plants one’s feet.’) It’s de in practice: no floaty abstractions about virtue, but knowing how to put one foot in front of the other. Being powerful, or having ‘character’, or just surviving anxieties and disasters, starts with right relationship to the powers of the world.

Hexagram 15, Integrity

Integrity is character’s handle. It is honoured and shines out. It can be used to create the rituals.
All the translators agree that Hexagram 15 is the handle of de. It means, I think, that this is how you access and use your strength of character, how it can be applied. (The same word also means lever.)

It makes sense that the qualities of Hexagram 15 would make this possible: honesty, integrity, and willingness to do the work, as opposed to self-deception, vainglory or indeed false humility.

The specific use of this is to ‘create the rituals’ – to craft them, design them, set them up. ‘Rituals’ are 禮, li – etymologically, an altar and a drum. The trouble with translating it as ‘manners’ or ‘decorum’ is that this evokes using the right cutlery for the fish course, not sacred observances to ensure the favour of ancestors and spirits.

How does Integrity create rituals? The ‘honour and radiance’ of the second part are the raw ingredients: communicating the participants’ respect to the spirits, and showing the spirits’ glory to the participants. Someone with Integrity would be a transparent medium for this two-way communication, and so it becomes the ‘handle of powers’. (That’s Rutt’s translation – and it’s good to remember that de is not confined to the human realm!)

Following the tiger brings you into contact with powers; the attitude of Hexagram 15 gives you the means to engage. If you have Integrity, your rituals will be well-made, holding closely to the reality.

Is this any help to us when we cast Hexagram 15 now, and we’re (usually) not designing rituals for offering our ancestor a sheep? I think it is, if we boil it down to essentials. You can use Integrity to engage with de, creating practices that honour spirit and allow its presence to shine through your activity. Those ‘practices’ could be anything: how you work, how you make breakfast, how you walk the dog.

Hexagram 24, Returning

Returning is character’s root. It is small and distinguishes between things. It provides the means of self-knowledge.
|:::::


It’s easy to see Hexagram 24 as a ‘root’: everything will grow from that single solid line at the base, under the earth. De starts growing here, as everything does.

Also, though, Returning means turning round, ‘The Turning Point’ – and you could also say that de grows from the ability to turn around. It starts, with Hexagram 24, as an inkling, the small nudge that distinguishes between things and says, ‘not that way, this way.’

And then there are cycles. I once asked a wise woman how to avoid forgetting and setbacks in growth, and she suggested that the forgetting and setbacks might just be part of the process. The way she described it reminded me of 24: you go out, you get help, you come home, you integrate what you learned, or you forget some of it, and you go round again. But every new direction begins from the same root: the little inner nudge that says ‘Let’s grow.’

(Six more hexagrams will follow, in future posts!)
 

hilary

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I love the way the process of copying the post over here from the blog somehow forgets the size of the images, and gives you the world's biggest ever |:::::
 

Trojina

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As you can almost see there, each of the three parts follows its own formula. The first follows the pattern, [hexagram name] de‘s [quality]. The second, [hexagram], [x] and also [y] – often with a marked contrast between x and y that creates something close to a paradox, or maybe a riddle. And the third says [hexagram] 以 [action]. 以, yi, is a tricky one: ‘using for’ or ‘so as to’. Legge has it as ‘the use of [hexagram] appears in…’ while Lynn translates each one as ‘provides the means to’.

I don't understand this Blog, particularly this paragraph, at the moment. I guess I can't bear to look at Legge which is crucial.
 

hilary

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It's only three tiny little paragraphs of Legge. You can do it! :cheer:
 

Trojina

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I'll see how I go after a bowl of porridge.

This looks very much like algebra

The first follows the pattern, [hexagram name] de‘s [quality]. The second, [hexagram], [x] and also [y] – often with a marked contrast between x and y that creates something close to a paradox, or maybe a riddle. And the third says [hexagram] 以 [action]. 以, yi, is a tricky one: ‘using for’ or ‘so as to’. Legge has it as ‘the use of [hexagram] appears in…’ while Lynn translates each one as ‘provides the means to’

I wonder if this is Hilary or someone else.
 

hilary

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Who else would it be? :???:
 

michuco

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The ‘character’ hexagrams


No-one seems to know why these nine hexagrams were chosen, and – despite my best efforts to find a pattern – nor do I. The hexagrams are given in Sequence order, but they’re not regularly distributed and don’t mark any pivotal Sequence moments that I know of. There’s no distinctive pattern of trigrams.
Hi,

My take on this part is that the authors of the Great Commentary believed that Yi was written by someone who was in great distress (King Wen in prison) when a prescription for cultivating one's virtue (De 德, Wilhelm: character) is called for.

They then picked the nine hexagrams that characterize this virtue and its cultivation. Where does this virtue come from? From the hexagram sequence, 10. Lü is identified as Li 禮, rite (Wilhelm: mores). Our moral conducts are built from these rites. Thus the authors considered the foundation (Wilhelm: basis) of virtue consists of these rites as in Lü. There, one treads carefully as in ritual/with tiger.

But first, one needs to be modest (15. Ch'ien) because only when the highly mountain accepts being under the lowly earth, it can manifest (Wilhelm: handle) virtue.

To be modest, the principal act is returning (24. Fu) to the virtue's root (Wilhelm: stem). Nine at the beginning. Image: "Return from a short distance" thus one cultivates one's character (here 修身, not the same "character" De above) .

This virtue must be constant, firm as in 32. Hêng/Duration.

Etc.

Cheers,

Michuco
 

Trojina

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Here it is, unintelligible

Chapter VII. 49. Was it not in the middle period of antiquity that the Yî began to flourish? Was not he who made it familiar with anxiety and calamity?

50. Therefore (the 10th diagram), Lî, shows us the foundation of virtue; (the 15th), Hsien, its handle; (the 24th), Fû, its root; (the 32nd), Hăng, its solidity; (the 41st), Sun, its cultivation; (the 42nd), Yî, its abundance; (the 47th), Khwăn, its exercise of discrimination; (the 48th), Žing, its field and (the 57th), Sun, its regulation.

51. In Lî we have the perfection of harmony; in Hsien, we have the giving honour to others,

p. 398

and the distinction thence arising; in Fû we have what is small (at first), but there is in it a (nice) discrimination of (the qualities of) things; in Ming we have a mixed experience, but without any weariness; in Sun we have difficulty in the beginning and ease in the end; in Yî we have abundance of growth without any contrivance; in Khwăn we have the pressure of extreme difficulty, ending in a free course,; in Žing we have abiding in one's place and at the same time removal (to meet the movement of others); and in Sun we have the weighing of things (and action accordingly), but secretly and unobserved.

52. (The use of) Lî appears in the harmony of the conduct; of Hsien, in the regulation of ceremonies; of Fû, in self-knowledge; of Hăng, in uniformity of virtue; of Sun, in keeping what is harmful at a distance; of Yî, in the promotion of what is advantageous; of Khwăn, in the diminution of resentments; of Žing, in the discrimination of what is righteous; and of Sun, in the doing of what is appropriate to time and to circumstances.

p. 399
 

hilary

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Which bit? Doesn’t the translation in the post help?
 

Liselle

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I'm pretty confused too. I think you kind of have to pick it apart very, very slowly and very, very carefully, and do that more than once. But it doesn't quite line up. Here's what I've tried - Hilary, help, please?

There are 3 paragraphs, marked in green (screen clip from Legge). Each paragraph says a similar sort of thing, or makes a similar point, about each of the hexagrams. What I think are the hexagram 10 parts are marked in blue.

1598627778344.png

To examine one hexagram, you have to tweeze the applicable phrases out of the paragraphs and combine them, as Hilary did here:

1598628014061.png

But the only one of those that lines up well with Legge is the paragraph 50 part, 'foundation'. Legge does not use the words 'goals' or 'responsiveness' anywhere, so it's hard to match those. For better or worse, I sort of assumed the matching, as economists assume ladders...

I figure Hilary referred us to Legge because it's the only one available for referral (being out of copyright and posted on the internet), but then used other translations in her discussion, so the words aren't the same - ?


Also, sometimes the hexagram names are different. Older and newer ways of writing things, I guess?

Legge
Brad/LiSe
10​
LiLu
15Hsien 1598629983892.png (different diacritic from hexagram 1 1598630013680.png )
24FuFu
32HangHeng
41Sun 1598630251324.png
42Yi
47Khwan
48Zing
57Sun
Etc.
 

Liselle

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Legge seems to call 32 two different things. Again maybe it's best just to assume things match, and trot right along.

1598631205000.png
 
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Liselle

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Also, there's 'character' stuff in the Yijing that's not in this list. 39, for instance (Image):
'Above the mountain, there is water: Limping.
A noble one turns himself around to renew his character.
'

Wonder why?
 

Liselle

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(Lest you feel ganged-up-upon, Hilary, posts like this are worthwhile imo because they're challenging, in ways we're less used to. It's a very good thing for you to write about the Dazhuan - I, for one, forget it's there and ignore it. But you'll get flurries of questions and confusion - probably unavoidable.)
 

hilary

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To your first post - yes, exactly. Ritsema/Karcher was the first place I found the three excerpts pieced together for each hexagram, and they do make good sense that way. I just included the link to Legge so people could see the original layout.

To your second - huh, tut, didn't notice that. Someone phone Legge and tell him to fire his proofreader.

To your third - yes, so do I. If, as Michuco suggests, these hexagrams were specifically chosen to describe Wen's struggles, why not 29, or 36? Is there any logic to the choice we can follow, or is it just the author's personal opinion?

Other mentions of de... well, there are lots in the Image, but the Dazhuan authors might or might not have seen that. (Not sure which is earlier - and the Dazhuan is a hodge-podge of different traditions anyway.) But there are four in the Zhouyi: 6.3, 9.6, 32.3.5, 42.5. So two of those hexagrams are in our list of 9... and two aren't.

There are two other slices of Dazhuan I really appreciate for readings - the culture origins bit, and the long passages that Karcher thought were records of a master diviner extemporising. Both are chopped up and distributed among hexagrams in nice translations like Lynn's.
 

Trojina

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I can't deal with it, it's just baffling. And why is there a triangle with an exclamation mark at the beginning of the post ? I'm either not having a good brain day/days or I'm being idle which could well be the case - or I'm just not very bright o_O I just feel like I can't deal with it at all. I'd have to come back to it. I guess I didn't understand the reference to character really. Character hexagrams ? Partly this is me being too overwhelmed to take it in but it's an odd concept

Maybe you should do a Ladybird version of each blog - like start by saying what the Dazhuan is, well it's a wing isn't it ..
 

hilary

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The warning triangle is because of the introduction to these 9 - hexagrams for hard times, or for anxiety about calamities or whatever. Also because I completely ran out of ideas for a blog image, but every article has to have an image of something, and I didn’t want to wait a week to publish while I tried to come up with a better idea. Goodness knows what I'll use for the next two in the series.

Oh, I think you are reasonably bright, on the whole. Maybe I should outsource finding blog image ideas to you...
 

Liselle

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every article has to have an image of something
Says who? 🤨

I mean, I really like the pictures you find, but I promise I'd still read the articles without them...
 

radiofreewill

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Hi hilary,

I take the nine hexagrams of de to be the hallmarks of successful spiritual pathwalking through life:

10 Treading ~ Pathwalking without desire is the foundation of de.​
15 Integrity ~ Being down to earth is how to get ahold of de and act right.​
24 Returning ~ Returning to the Origin leads to self-knowledge and the root of de.​
32 Lasting ~ Moving with Change is the long-lasting strength of de.​
41 Decrease ~ Decrease desire in order to cultivate de and have safety from harm.​
42 Increase ~ Increase Presence for an abundance of de and authentic thriving.​
47 Oppression ~ The discernment and persistence of de lessens resentment.​
48 The Well ~ The heart-mind (xin) is the ground of de.​
57 Subtly Penetrating ~ Presence in the witness position is the controller of de.​

Minford translates 'Tao Te Ching' as 'The Way and the Power,' which conveys nicely the sense of integral Oneness ~ The Way is the substance of the Power, and the Power is the Activity of the Way.

I'm looking forward to the next 6!

Thanks!
 

Trojina

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It's morning and I now understand although it says in the footnotes

The first Section shows how the sages were themselves independent of the Yî, and had no need of it; the second goes on to tell how they devised and constructed it, to make all men equal to themselves in a knowledge of phenomena and human events, and of their indications of, and issues in, the future.
If they had no need of Yi they didn't know suffering or calamity presumably.


There's ancient de in 6.3 but 6 isn't there.

Re images, no need for them. Often when they don't tie in to the topic they confuse more than clarify. For example there's the idea that to deal with adversity character/virtue is needed and then the warning sign, which isn't the same thing. I suppose it struck me, placed where it is, as 'this is a very important blog attention !'


I've often wondered why, when I get promotional emails from people I've done courses with to do with yoga/alexander technique/meditation that kind of thing, there is always a snow capped mountain or something or a rushing stream as an image. I've actually wondered why ? I've thought about it, I've thought 'yes I might come to your workshop but why have you sent me another mountain picture ?' there are no mountains round here and mountains won't be on the course'. Possibly it's a bit like car ads always show cars being driven in a desert or mountain range. I guess the mountains are meant to be aspirational suggesting poise and calm but they don't feel relatable. If it's not a snow capped mountain it will be the silhouette of someone leaping in the air against a sunset. It doesn't fool me and I doubt it fools anyone. Give me real pictures, people hunched over phones in the street, things like that.
 
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Liselle

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Oh, the Gods of Internet Presence, especially the ones responsible for social media. It's on a stone tablet handed down on some mountain-top or other.
Oh, right, sorry. I do tend to forget that people exist who are not on this website every day and rely on Twitter etc. to tell them about things. 😲
 

hilary

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I've thought 'yes I might come to your workshop but why have you sent me another mountain picture ?'
:rofl:
At least I didn't include another mountain picture. (I'm very bad at thinking of images.)
I do tend to forget that people exist who are not on this website every day
Don’t believe it for a minute. The whole world is here.
 

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