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hilary

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Three pots

fou vessel

Introducing the 缶 fou jar​


Here’s another character that occurs just three times in the Yijing: fou 缶. This is a vessel for holding liquids, something like an amphora, with a narrow neck and large body.

It’s originally a pottery jar – that’s the first meaning of the character – but was also made in bronze. And from early times, according to Wikipedia, it was also a percussion instrument used in ritual.

There are three of these jars in the Yijing (the italicised word in each line):

‘With truth and confidence, seeking union,
No mistake.
With truth and confidence to overflow the vessel
An end comes – further good fortune.’

Hexagram 8, line 1


‘A cup of wine, a pair of dishes,
Using earthenware.
Let in with ropes from the window.
In the end, no mistake.’

Hexagram 29, line 4


‘In the clear light of the setting sun,
If not beating a pot and singing,
Then you will be making the lament of great old age.
Pitfall.’

Hexagram 30, line 3

Fou vessel, Eastern Zhou, Metropolitan Museum of Art

8.1​

‘With truth and confidence, seeking union,
No mistake.
With truth and confidence to overflow the vessel
An end comes – further good fortune.’

The ‘overflowing vessel’ is 盈缶, ying fou. Ying itself shows an open bowl with something above it, maybe ‘success’; it means full, surplus, satisfy. So here is a wine jar full of truth: all the truth concentrated and stored up in one place, like the energetic growing centre of the zhi gua, Hexagram 3.

In vino veritas, perhaps – or just an exceptionally beautiful image of the overflowing mutual confidence at the root of our desire to be together and sense of belonging. Start as you mean to go on, and it’ll end well.

29.4​

‘A cup of wine, a pair of dishes,
Using earthenware.
Let in with ropes from the window.
In the end, no mistake.’

Zun vessel, Western Zhou, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The fou here is translated ‘earthenware’ – translators generally agree on this. I wonder, though, whether it might not work better to pass wine in through the window in a fou, with its handles and narrow neck, and then pour it out into the wine-cup. It’d be hard to pass a zun cup without spilling the wine it contained.

So fou here means simplicity – just earthenware will do the job, no need for anything ornate – and perhaps also practicality, handling liquids. (After all, Hexagram 29 is made of the doubled trigram for running water.) How do you get the wine in through the window? ‘On its way’ or ‘available’ is not the same thing as safely arrived – this much is clear from other, connected lines (47.4, 48.3). There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.

An aside: I think this line may be riffing on the shape of the hexagram. There’s an open ‘window’ of yin lines 3 and 4 with a ‘window frame’ of yang lines 2 and 5 – and these four inner lines unfurl into the nuclear hexagram 27, Nourishment.

30.3​

‘In the clear light of the setting sun,
If not beating a pot and singing,
Then you will be making the lament of great old age.
Pitfall.’

Here the fou is the pot to beat on while you sing. A fou has two distinct uses: it can be full of liquid, or it can be empty and used as a drum. And 30.3 is a very empty line: not much daylight left, not much time left, and also not much human companionship. When you reach a ‘great old age’, most of the people you know are dead – that’s true enough now, but the experience must have been more marked in a smaller community.

So if you have no-one to drink with, empty out the wine jar and make a drum of it. And since the fou is a percussion instrument for use in ritual, this isn’t just about making a cheerful cacophony with the saucepans, but honouring the spirits of the deceased. The music of your fou drum may ‘bite through’ (zhi gua 21) the obstacle that separates you.

Conclusions?​


Is this a deliberately significant group of three, or just coincidence? I think there are signs it’s deliberate. For one thing, the two states of this jar, full and empty, correspond to the trigrams of the three hexagrams: a full jar has liquid contained within earthenware :|: ; an empty one contains space within its solid walls |:| .

Also, the three lines share and develop a theme. In 8.1, the jar brim-full of trust is the very beginning of ‘Seeking Union’ – of people belonging together. In 29.4, the jar let in through the window is part of making a connection, overcoming the isolation of the zhi gua 47. And 30.3 can be about overcoming loneliness. Wine vessel or drum, the fou is about deep connection.
 

rosada

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I can see 8.1 as describing wedding vows:

Minister: [Do you swear]With truth and confidence, [that you believe] seeking union, [is] No mistake?

[Bride and groom: We do.]

Minister: With truth and confidence to over flow the vessel [May your cup runneth over] an end comes - and further good fortune [and may you live happily ever after].
 
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my_key

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Also, the three lines share and develop a theme. In 8.1, the jar brim-full of trust is the very beginning of ‘Seeking Union’ – of people belonging together. In 29.4, the jar let in through the window is part of making a connection, overcoming the isolation of the zhi gua 47. And 30.3 can be about overcoming loneliness. Wine vessel or drum, the fou is about deep connection.
Interesting, too, to see the pairing and opposition of 29 and 30 with 8 standing out from the crowd in between the two. It may be that the 'simple earthen pot' is analagous with the holy grail which is at the root of many a quest for full union. The 29 and 30 could well represent thesis and antithesis and 8 the synthesis.

The nuclear energies working through 8 are 23 Stripping Away, for 29 are 27 Nourishment and for 30 are 28 Great Exceeding. So the representation for the pots in each hexagram 'everflowing constancy', 'connecting to the heart' and 'building your resources' are deeply fed by 'removing what is flawed', 'questing for nourishment' and 'propping up a sagging ridgepole'.
 

rosada

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I'm now seeing 29.4 with Hilary's comment about how it emphasizes simplicity as advice on how to live the happy union begun in 8.1 and how simple pleasures can transform even an abyss into paradise.
I think of the poem by Omar Khayyam :

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness.
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
 
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dfreed

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Another translation for 29.4:
Flash of wine, food bowl - a pair.
Choose them made of earthenware,
put them through the window there.
Ultimately, no harm (R. Rutt )​

Stephen Field suggests this might be about feeding captives of war, by putting food and wine through a small window in their cell. Looking at this in an imagined, or mythic/poetic way:

With Gua (hexagram) 29's fourth line moving, the upper trigram Water changes to Lake; which suggests that by 'feeding' what causes imbalance - perhaps our fears or sadness that are keeping us captive - we can change these pit-like feelings into joy and joyful communication (aspects of trigram Lake); and we do this in practical, down-to-Earth(enware) ways: as we might hand someone food and drink - through a window, or the bars of a prison cell.

This also makes me think of the idea of 'pairs' - that they are not always identical nor opposite, but can instead be complementary: "combining in such a way as to enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other or another." So here we don't have two bowls of food and wine that are exactly the same or exactly opposite each other - they only need be 'of this Earth' to complement one another.

Best, D.
 
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hilary

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With Gua (hexagram) 29's fourth line moving, the upper trigram Water changes to Lake; which suggests that by 'feeding' what causes imbalance - perhaps our fears or sadness that are keeping us captive - we can change these pit-like feelings into joy and joyful communication (aspects of trigram Lake); and we do this in practical, down-to-Earth(enware) ways: as we might hand someone food and drink through a window - or the bars of a prison cell.
Yes and... it also changes into something shaped like a cup or basket :) .
 

rosada

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Interesting the Christian religion has the ritual of drinking from a shared cup to symbolize communion.
 

my_key

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Interesting the Christian religion has the ritual of drinking from a shared cup to symbolize communion.
Yes, indeed, I hadn't thought about this as I am not a particularly religious person. This is mostly contained within Catholic beliefs I believe. Lots of deep religious concepts like 'transubstantiation' ( bread and wine= body and blood of Christ) included in the ritual. In essence though as I understand things the main aspects symbolised by partaking of holy communion (The Eucharist) are:

To Receive Jesus (8 / 23) - sincerely inviting him into our life through true repentance.
Gaining Spiritual Nourishment (29 / 27) - Examining our hearts and the darkness of our fears, woes and suffering.
Receiving Strength, Hope and Joy (30 / 28) - Propping up our sagging ridgepole with His light.

I'm happy to be corrected by others who may have a more insightful connection with the Christian religion.
 

rosada

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There is a book titled Secrets of the I Ching by Joseph Murphey. The author has tried to match each of the hexagrams and lines with a passage from the Bible. I find most of his correlations rather far fetched but still it's an interesting exercise and also interesting to see how the same ideas appear in the different philosophies.
Incidentally, I also read a study that compared the core teachings of about ten of the main religions. The result was that while not all the religions have the same teachings, one thing they all share is a belief in is the importance of honoring the father and mother - aka, the 'ancestors.'
 
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IrfanK

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There is a book titled Secrets of the I Ching by Joseph Murphey. The author has tried to match each of the hexagrams and lines with a passage from the Bible. I find most of his correlations rather far fetched but still it's an interesting exercise and also interesting to see how the same ideas appear in the different philosophies.
Incidentally, I also read a study that compared the core teachings of about ten of the main religions. The result was that while not all the religions have the same teachings, one thing they all share is a belief in is the importance of honoring the father and mother - aka, the 'ancestors.'
Rutt talks a lot about the Jesuit missionary obsession with 15, which they somehow saw as epitomizing the Christian ethos. I can't quite see it, but ...
 

my_key

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Rutt
Rutt talks a lot about the Jesuit missionary obsession with 15, which they somehow saw as epitomizing the Christian ethos. I can't quite see it, but ...
Rutt also makes reference to the early meaning of qian being 'deference and appropriate behaviour' rather than humility or modesty. He then goes on (p61) to define humility as ' interior self-denial' which is a definition I struggle with. Humility isn't a denial of self more a freedom from pride or arrogance which for me aligns well with 'deference and appropriate behaviour' .

A synonym for humble is 'meek' and a key tenet in the Christian ethos is ' The meek shall inherit the earth.' This may be a part of where the Jesuit obsession stemmed from. Meekness is a quality, based in it's Greek roots, of “strength under control.” The ancient Greeks, I read somewhere, trained their war horses to be meek i.e. strong and powerful yet easily controllable and willing to submit (without ego - free from pride and arrogance?).

I find it perplexing therefore that Rutt call hex 15 Rat - a symbol of wealth and surplus in China. There may be more about this animal representation but it does seem counter intuitive . I know Karcher also relates 15 to a rodent. This one resides in the liminal realms and cuts through the 'pride and complication of an over-developed ego' so maybe this is a better reference point. If I sit with Rutts Hex 15, even after poring over his notes, I remain unclear about what this hexagram is saying to us or what he is saying about the hexagram. But that is taking us off topic and into Jesuit / Rutt World not Three Pots Land.
 

IrfanK

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Rutt

Rutt also makes reference to the early meaning of qian being 'deference and appropriate behaviour' rather than humility or modesty. He then goes on (p61) to define humility as ' interior self-denial' which is a definition I struggle with. Humility isn't a denial of self more a freedom from pride or arrogance which for me aligns well with 'deference and appropriate behaviour' .

A synonym for humble is 'meek' and a key tenet in the Christian ethos is ' The meek shall inherit the earth.' This may be a part of where the Jesuit obsession stemmed from. Meekness is a quality, based in it's Greek roots, of “strength under control.” The ancient Greeks, I read somewhere, trained their war horses to be meek i.e. strong and powerful yet easily controllable and willing to submit (without ego - free from pride and arrogance?).

I find it perplexing therefore that Rutt call hex 15 Rat - a symbol of wealth and surplus in China. There may be more about this animal representation but it does seem counter intuitive . I know Karcher also relates 15 to a rodent. This one resides in the liminal realms and cuts through the 'pride and complication of an over-developed ego' so maybe this is a better reference point. If I sit with Rutts Hex 15, even after poring over his notes, I remain unclear about what this hexagram is saying to us or what he is saying about the hexagram. But that is taking us off topic and into Jesuit / Rutt World not Three Pots Land.

Interesting!

I remember @hilary explaining the rat in some online class I had with her. It was a bit confusing, because there's also a suggestion the hexagram name could be referring to a bird, so I kept on getting my wires crossed. The bird bit was all to do with the line about "Modesty expressing itself," with the word for express actually being the character for a bird call. I think. And the rat ... hmmm ... from memory something to do with some character in the Mawangdui text that was different from the received text and might possibly have been some kind of rodent?

When I was looking for a visual image to express Modesty, I did look at pictures of rats and guinea pigs, but nothing really worked. But I found an image of turtledove, which is indeed a modest and charming little creature, so I went with that.
 

my_key

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When I was looking for a visual image to express Modesty, I did look at pictures of rats and guinea pigs, but nothing really worked. But I found an image of turtledove, which is indeed a modest and charming little creature, so I went with that.
I think I'll look for an image of a Greek War Horse.
 

hilary

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I'm not worried about threads going off topic if you're not.

The basic idea...
  • the name of the hexagram in the received text means modesty/ humility/ meekness - emphasising the worth of other people rather than one's own.
  • but... lines 2 and 6 talk about 'the call of qian', and 'call' means 'identifying call of a bird or animal'.
  • so... qian must originally be some kind of creature. People look for related characters with the same 'uniting' component but different radicals, and...
  • Kunst finds a Great Grey Hamster, and is followed enthusiastically by Rutt and Karcher
  • LiSe finds a wedwing bird - a bird with one wing that must join with its partner to fly - and then so does Stephen Field.
If you surprise this hamster - which looks exactly like a giant rat - it will stand on its hindlegs like a human and shriek at you. But it is probably quite hard to find a photo of it doing this...
 

my_key

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I'm not worried about threads going off topic if you're not.
I have started a thread for exploring Hex 15 some more. Finding the Greek War Horse analogy really insightful. Maybe the Greeks trained their hamsters in the same way !!! :ROFLMAO:
 

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