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Hexagram Meanings in the Tao Te Ching

pocossin

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Hexagram meanings may conveniently be divided into five major classes:

1. Stages of Life
2. Features
3. Abstractions
4. Idiosyncracies
5. Scholarly Reconstructions

Stages of Life partisans (of whom I am the sole representative) believe that King Wen's great reformation of the hexagrams consists in his assigning a hexagram to each stage of life as experienced by a Shang era ruler. Resistance to this idea is so great (or I have presented it so poorly) that I had about resigned myself to lonesomely communing with the mind of King Wen, when -- miracle of miracles -- I discover a new friend: Lao Tzu in some cases used the same Stages of Life meanings. I will give specific examples below.

In the Tao Te Ching, a hexagram meaning based on a feature of a hexagram occurs in chapter 60 (hexagram 43): "Governing a large state is like boiling a small fish" (Lau). The fishy thing about hexagram 43 is the same thing that is fishy in 44.2 and 44.4. The hexagram roughly looks like a fish, the single yin line making the notch in the fish's tail. The use of hexagrams to represent the months is another example of hexagram meanings based on features.

Meaning by abstraction is the most popular way of finding meaning in the hexagrams. A case of meaning by abstraction occurs in chapter 40 (hexagram 33):

"Turning back is how the way moves;
Weakness is the means the way employs.

The myriad creatures in the world are born from
Something, and Something from Nothing." (D.C. Lau)

Wilhelm/Baynes titles hexagram 33 as "Retreat", Blofeld as "Withdrawal". The concrete stage-of-life meaning from which this abstraction is taken is the withdrawal of a pregnant woman from active life in order to protect the developing fetus. Lao Tzu is not using this specific idea of protecting pregnancy, although he is clearly aware of it as the last two lines show.

The first three classes of hexagram meanings are the ones used in the Tao Te Ching, but partisans of Idiosyncracies and Scholarly Reconstructions are especially vocal, and I would not want to slight anyone.

Idiosyncratics are of two sorts: theoreticians and empirics. Theoreticians typically espouse a grand, pseudo-scientific (yes, I am being judgmental) interpretation of the I Ching that has nothing to do with the I Ching as anyone other than themselves knows it. One such theoretician holds that the I Ching is an expression of the human nervous system.

Empirics believe that the meanings of the hexagrams are determined by their personal experiences. They cast compulsively. What they experience after the casting, especially when it is traumatic or sensational, is what the hexagram means.

The last class, Partisans of Scholarly Reconstructions, find the meanings of the hexagrams primarily through etymological manipulations. Their hidden agenda seems to be to produce a text that is oracular and primitive. Consider "The Mandate of Heaven", p.202:

"The test of restoring a potentially dropped radical, or supposing a radical has been incorrectly supplied and so dropping it again or changing it, ultimately depends on whether the resultant interpretation can make sense of things previously senseless. In the top line of hexagram 33, for instance, fei dun is translated in Wilhelm-Baynes as 'cheerful retreat'. but this is a forced translation because fei actually means 'fat, plump', and as Waley points out, this really does clench the matter because what is a 'fat retreat'? The simpler interpretation is that originally the hexagram was about a suckling pig being fattened up, the other lines also fitting this reading."

The author of "The Mandate of Heaven" (a book no I Ching home should be without) is in better company than I usually keep, since Whincup does indeed translate hexagram 33 as "The Piglet" and 33.6 as "Fat piglet. Favorable." But to answer the question, "What is a fat retreat?" A fat retreat is confinement of the mother at the time of advanced pregnancy with a large, healthy baby due. If the piglet idea has any relevance (which I question), then it refers to the human fetus that the human mother is carrying.

Hopefully, I have clarified some of the complications of hexagram meanings, and, as promised above, will now turn to examples of Stages of Life meanings in the Tao Te Ching.

Consider hexagrams 32 - 35. In King Wen's Stages of Life terms, hexagram 32 represents sexual intercourse between husband and wife, hexagram 33 represents pregnancy, hexagram 34 represents birthing, and hexagram 35 represents infancy. These inevitable stages of life, dear reader, whether you remember them or not, are your personal facts of life and the underlying subject matter of the Zhouyi. It is a statement of the human condition and not a manual on pork production.

Hexagrams 32 - 35 are among those hexagrams that Lao Tzu used twice in order to apply the 64 hexagrams to the 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching:

chapters 39 - 42 = hexagrams 32 - 35
chapters 49 - 52 = hexagrams 32 - 35

Hexagram 32 or Copulation. "Duration" in Wilhelm/Baynes.

1. Chapter 39 describes the fundamental reproductive unity: "If the myriad things had not thus lived and grown, they would soon become extinct" (Wing-Tsit Chan). No reproduction, no duration.

2. Chapter 49 uses unity abstractly. The sage has unity of mind with the people:

"The sage has no mind of his own.
He takes as his own the mind of the people." (D.C. Lau)


Hexagram 33 or Pregnancy. "Retreat" in Wilhelm/Baynes.

1. Chapter 40 as pregnancy is considered above.

2. Chapter 50 concerns the preservation of vitality. According to Chinese thinking, a person gets a charge of vitality from his parents (womb time = charge time) and dissipates it in living:

"Man comes in to life and goes out to death." (Wing-Tsit Chan)


Hexagram 34 or Birthing. "The Power of the Great" in Wilhelm/Baynes.

1. Chapter 41 uses the idea of birthing abstractly as self-cultivation, that is, as bringing into being a better person:

"When the highest type of men hear Tao, they diligently practice it."
...
Yet it is Tao alone that skillfully provides for all and brings them to perfection." (Wing-Tsit Chan)

In sum, Tao is the Mother of good men.

2. Chapter 51 begins: "The way gives them life;"


Hexagram 35 or Infancy. "Progress" in Wilhelm/Baynes.

1. Chapter 42:

"The way begets one;
One begets two;
Two begets three;
Three begets the myriad creatures." (Lau)

"People hate to be children without parents...and yet kings and lords call themselves by these names." (Wing-Tsit Chan)

2. Chapter 52:

"The world had a beginning
And this beginning could be the mother of the world.
When you know the mother
Go on to know the child.
After you have known the child
Go back to holding fast to the mother,
And to the end of your days you will not meet with danger." (Lau)

Mother and child. Baby time right where it's supposed to be. I think I have delivered.

Tom
 

madversity

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dear tom i apologizing 4 being able to read only the first lines but i felt a need to support your belief that the Yi text is ALSO a historical document of the chinese People/ this is not contrary to the belief that it holds ALSO other strata of meaning and function.

i believe this is also true of the hebrew bible, that is ALSO a historical document of my people, while reffering ALSO to all phenomena in upper and lower worlds. nothing is just one thing. like we rnt tust one thing, be it spouse, professional, parent, football fan, etc.
i do not know y this diversity of being is so unacceptable and single dimensional or one word answers r sought.
tom i hope at least smtng here is relevant and apologize if it isnt. tali.
 

hilary

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Hi Tom - hope the delivery was painless
wink.gif


You are definitely not the only 'stages of life' partisan, though. This is one of the (many) things Stephen Karcher has picked up on, with the decades of the hexagram sequence corresponding roughly to the decades of a human lifespan. There is a lovely article somewhere online describing the hair clasp in #16 as part of a graduation to adulthood. Right now my memory has fallen through a hole somewhere and so I can't give the credit where it is due. Hopefully someone will know who I mean and post a link...?

Tali - lovely to hear from you again! And I agree all the way: countless layers and dimensions.
 

hilary

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Then again, who needs a brain when they have Google? The name I was looking for is Scott Davis - though I haven't found the link yet.
 

madversity

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thank u
i apologize again for my reading and writing handycap, as well as my warped mind, that makes it difficult for me to b part of this or any community. so even one word sent my way really means alot... good night.
 

madversity

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me b touched. thank u for the beautiful text, i read it almost to the end will return to it 2mrw.
 

cal val

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Pocossin...

I just happen to be reading a couple of different interpretations of the daodejing at the moment, and I can't see the connection you make between Hexagram 43 and the wonderful line "Rule a state as you would cook a small fish." Forgetting the form... the words... and thinking about the content... the meaning... of that line... I can't see any correlation between "avoiding micromanagement" or "using a light touch" and hex 43. I'd love if you'd explain it to me.

Thanks!

Val
 

pocossin

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Hilary, the delivery was a joy, the young one is healthy and vigorous ("One who possesses virtue in abundance is comparable to a new born babe", ch.55), and the fun has just begun. Its howling both day and night has so upset my internal clock that I showed up for work an hour early today, and asked why the clock in the shop had stopped.

Scott Davis and I go back a long way. He was the first I Ching person I corresponded with on the Internet. Yes, he does have some very good insights, but some not so good too, and five years ago I was so forward as to tell Professor (Ph.D in anthropology from Harvard, I think) Davis so.

Are you sure that Stephen Karcher believes "that King Wen's great reformation of the hexagrams consists in his assigning a hexagram to each stage of life as experienced by a Shang era ruler"? Does Stephen distinguished between the two canons of the I Ching? I'd very much like to know whether Stephen understands hexagrams 32 - 35 as I understand them. If he does, it's about time for me to remove to my ancestral home in Wales.

Thanks for the suport, Tali. In my opinion anyone who pays attention to me has a beautiful mind and can't be handicapped in any way!

Val, you did find the references to fish in hexagram 44, didn't you? Hexagram 43 is just hexagram 44 turned upside down. To see the fish, stop looking at words and look at the hexagram. When you do see the fish and realize the consequences, it's magical. Please remember that anciently the hexagrams were without words, so to contemplate a hexagram a person would look at the hexagram itself. Today the situation is completely reversed: Most people think of the hexagram as being its appended text (Lord knows where some of this text comes from!), and never look at the hexagram as being a visual whole (a gestalt).

The idea of small fish (the people) might strike you as being frivolous, but I assure you that it is profound. Divination is the ability to see subtle relationships that normally are missed.

"The fish must not be allowed to leave the deep;
The instruments of power in a state must not be revealed to anyone."
(Chapter 36, hexagram 29).

"I can't see any correlation between "avoiding micromanagement" or "using a light touch" and hex 43. I'd love if you'd explain it to me.

I'll try, but if your versions of the Tao Te Ching contain such expressions as "avoiding micromanagement" and "using a light touch", it's going to be difficult. You absolutely need unpoetic, literal translations like D.C. Lau's and Wing-Tsit Chan's. ("Truthful words are not beautiful; Beautiful words are not truthful." Ch.81) Here is Lau's translation of chapter 60 (hexagram 43):

"Governing a large state is like boiling a small fish.

When the empire is ruled in accordance with the way,
The spirits lose their potencies.
Or rather, it is not that they lose their potencies,
But that, though they have their potencies, they do not harm the people.
It is not only they who, having their potencies, do not harm the people,
The sage, also, does not harm the people.
As neither does any harm, each attributes the merit to the other."

http://terebess.hu/english/tao/lau.html

King Wen saw hexagram 43 as a plastron. (By the fireplace near my computer I have such a plastron waiting to be cracked.)

43. Kuai / Break-through (Resoluteness)

The Judgement

Break-through. One must resolutely make the matter known
At the court of the king.
It must be announced truthfully. Danger.

What is being made known is the outcome of plastron divination. The cracked (broken-through) plastron itself was ritually presented to the king. Blofeld: "When a proclamation is made at the court of the king." : Legge: "exhibition in the royal court". Such activity was a major part of the life of a Shang era ruler, as the archaeological archives of plastra prove. In addition to bamboo strip books, Lau Tzu was probably in charge of the Zhou hoard of such plastra.

In Shang thought, the spirits influenced affairs on earth and spoke through the plastra. However, say Lau Tzu,

"When the empire is ruled in accordance with the way,
The spirits lose their potencies."

Lao Tzu is thinking in terms of spiritual efficacy. Plastra, fish, and people are all one. The voice of the people is the voice of God.

When the state respects the human spirit, the small fish are not wantonly destroyed in war and egotistical projects. When evil spirits are not evoked by war-conscious and class-conscious leaders, then "though they [the spirits] have their potencies, they do not harm the people."

Tom
 

hilary

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<BLOCKQUOTE><HR SIZE=0><!-Quote-!><FONT SIZE=1>Quote:</FONT>

Are you sure that Stephen Karcher believes "that King Wen's great reformation of the hexagrams consists in his assigning a hexagram to each stage of life as experienced by a Shang era ruler"? Does Stephen distinguished between the two canons of the I Ching? I'd very much like to know whether Stephen understands hexagrams 32 - 35 as I understand them.<!-/Quote-!><HR SIZE=0></BLOCKQUOTE>

I am pretty sure that Stephen doesn't believe anything of the sort. But there are many, many different ways of connecting hexagrams with stages of life! Looking at the 'gestalt' is one; reading the book is another. (BTW, the theory that the hexagram figures were used independently before the words is an interesting one, but I don't know of any evidence for it.)

Of course he distinguishes between the canons. I would refer you to the headings he gives to them in TIC, if there hadn't been a misprint. (What is it with Yi books and misprints??) But it was meant to be 'Book I, Foundations; Book II, Realizations.'

And he doesn't understand 32-35 as you do. Me neither...
Tom... the name of hexagram 35 has nothing to do with babies. Nor does the judgement; nor do the line texts. Nor, heaven help us, do the trigrams, so far as I know. Please don't tell me I have to look at those six lines and see a perfect newborn!
 

pocossin

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Chapter 11 (hexagram 4):

"The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends" (Legge).

"Thirty spokes unite around the nave;
From their not-being (loss of their individuality)
Arises the utility of the wheel" (Lin Yutang).

"Thirty spokes share one hub. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart" (Lau).

"Thirty spokes are united around the hub to make a wheel,
But it is on its non-being that the utility of the carriage depends" (Chan).

"Thirty spokes collectively form a hub,
But through nonbeing the chariot can be employed" (Ralph Sawyer).

The mind would like to jump immediately to contemplation of nonbeing, but first there are troubling little details to clear up. Thirty spokes make what? We can, I think, be absolutely certain that such a huge number of spokes does not form the wheel of a land vehicle of the Zhou era. It doesn't in any picture I have found. To my non-technical mind, Zhou limits in strength of materials and machining should make the engineering of a practical 30-spoke wheel impossible. So what are the spokes forming?

And what is the vehicle, if it is one? Is it a cart? wagon? chariot? or carriage?

By referring back to the hexagram on which chapter 11 is based, definite answers are possible. Chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching is based on hexagram 4. Hexagram 4 has the same hexagram gestalt as hexagram 3. The hexagram gestalt of hexagram 3 is the carriage of an official, if not of the ruler himself.

We know that the carriage of an official is being considered in hexagram 3 because in Legge the word "chariot" ("wagon" in Wilhelm/Baynes) is used in lines 2, 4, and 6, but since the image possesses thills, the word should be "carriage." The official is on a recruiting drive, that is, appointing helpers:

3. The Judgement: "It furthers one to appoint helpers."
3.1 "It furthers one to appoint helpers."

Such recruitment is also the topic of Tao Te Ching chapter 3 (also based on hexagram 3):

"If we stop looking for 'persons of superior morality' (hsien) to put into power, there will be no more jealousies among the people" (Waley).

So the vehicle of chapter 11 is the carriage of an official, but where are the thirty spokes? Such a vehicle was covered by a round umbrella-like canopy. The canopy was round like heaven; the body of the carriage was square like earth. The offical rode in a cosmic symbol, expressing the ruler's connection to heaven. If the canopy had thirty spokes, it would symbolize the thirty days of the lunar month. In the canopy is where I think the thirty spokes go.

Tom
 

pocossin

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>"Please don't tell me I have to look at those six lines [of hexagram 35] and see a perfect newborn!"
-- But Hilary, looking at baby pictures is fun! Can't you see those big, beautiful baby eyes in the fifth line? About the trigrams of 35, isn't the lower trigram 'mother'? And isn't the upper trigram 'clinging'? And isn't what clings to mother 'the baby'? And isn't babyhood the most progressing (growing) stage of life?

To quote from my antique website: "In line 2, Legge has "grandmother," Blofeld has "royal mother." Mother entails child. Further, the hexagram as image resembles the primitive character for 'child.'" Wilhelm/Baynes has "ancestress". Even in the text there is a hint of motherhood.

I certainly am not going to tell you that you have to do anything about anything. I think you should do what is truly best for you, and no one should change horses in midstream. However, I do say that if all the evidence is considered, then I find the conclusion unavoidable that King Wen understood hexagram 35 as a reference to babyhood. And wasn't I pleased when my new friend, the Grand Archivist of the Zhou, some 600 years later included a reference to mother and child in his chapter based on hexagram 35! A subtle thing is a new bundle of joy.

And I agree that "there are many, many different ways of connecting hexagrams with stages of life!" My sole focus, however, has always been: What did the hexagrams mean to King Wen? If my understanding of the hexagrams is not close to King Wen's, then I have made a serious error. Otherwise, I've nothing to worry about.

Tom
 

hilary

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Again - it's a nice theory, that the hexagrams came before the text (600 years before??) but not exactly proven
wink.gif
. Why not the other way about? (And who cares? since the Yi is the melding of hexagrams and texts.)

So I persist in finding the words relevant. Arrows and a quiver don't seem too suitable for baby, and nor do the activities of Prince Kang's horses. The question with line 2 is, 'Whose royal mother?' We don't know, of course - but there is a prince in the text.
 

pedro

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Tom, I really cant tell where these associations stop being research and start being your own imagination, but I must say that I liked the idea from the start and you sure look like you have a well-fundamented case
This and the other thread on the correspondances between the ddj and the yi are among the most interesting pieces of research that Ive seen in a long while (and among the funniest in some points)
You seem to be heading to proof beyond doubt, so keep up the good work

Best wishes
pierre
 
C

candid

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Coming from I-don't-know-land on this one, but aren't written words and hexagrams the same thing? Don't ideograms originate from simple drawings, such as trigrams and such?

I imagine (and imagine only) two inquisitive ancients sitting in the sand, communicating their thoughts, or maybe dreams by drawing images in the sand.

A boat. A river.
2177.jpg
 

pocossin

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>"Again - it's a nice theory, that the hexagrams came before the text (600 years before??) but not exactly proven. Why not the other way about?"

-- It's ironic, but I got the same question from Mo, and he was responsible for me looking into the Tao Te Ching, because he reproved me for not knowing who Gia-fu Feng and Jane English were.

The reason it can't be the other way about is because the indefinite is appended to the definite. When things are sorted out, an indefinite set of things become definite by being places in definite categories.

I suppose you sort out knives, forks, and spoons pretty much as I do, with a definite container for each. Suppose that instead of bringing the utensils to their containers you put a container where each knive, fork, and spoon happens to be. Kitchen chaos.

The question has the hidden assumption that hexagrams are meaningless, abstract patterns, while text is clearly more meaningful. In such a case, text being the more definite, then the hexagrams should be appended to the text.

The assumption, however, is false. When King Wen finished, the hexagrams had definite meanings. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. We can know this because we have the canons, the sequence, and the gestalts that King Wen used. The hexagrams have an intrinsic meaning that appended text should exemplify. Most I Ching people, though, neglect these hexagram features, so the hexagrams do seem to be meaningless, abstract patterns. They put the text first and ignore the hexagram meanings that give the text context and make it fully intelligible.

Although I don't have the background in Chinese culture I need, I'll attempt your text example. The question I want to answer is, Why was the story of Prince Kang appended to the babyhood hexagram?

"Arrows and a quiver don't seem too suitable for baby, and nor do the activities of Prince Kang's horses. The question with line 2 is, 'Whose royal mother?' We don't know, of course - but there is a prince in the text."

Whincup has nearly a page on this very topic. The Marquis of Kang (King Wu's younger brother) was the son of King Wen by the Shang princess of line 2. The hexagram concerns his enfeoffment as ruler of Wei, where he ruled over the remnant of the Shang.

According to Michael Nylan, in the ritual of enfeoffment the vassel was invested with the "Nine Conferrals," which included a bundle of arrows. This, I believe, explains the arrows and quiver. The horses and reception into the royal presence were signs of extraordinary royal favor.

The favor really was extraordinary because historically it is not unusual for new rulers to kill off relatives that might replace them, and probably it was a public signal that the Zhou intended to rule humanely.

From here on I'm guessing because, among other things, I don't know the details of the enfoeffment ritual. However, the ritual should have some similarity to an adoption: the vassel was being made royal (receiving te from the king), taken into government and given a major role in state power. The Marquis of Kang was in effect becoming a royal son. Thus, his state of babyhood, and the appropriateness of linking this story to hexagram 35. Is this too much of a stretch?

Think of the addition it makes to the text when we know that babyhood is the context of the Prince Kang story. We know to look for the humane quality that is missing in a purely political narrative.

Tom

Pierre, Candid -- Ahoy mates! After some 30 years at sea my imagination is now bumping on solid ground.
 

pocossin

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Chapter 5 (hexagram 5)

"Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs;
the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs." (D.C. Lau)

Chapter 5 is based on hexagram 5 and is clearer if the meaning King Wen assigned to hexagram 5 (H5) is considered, although the same information is apparently hidden in the appended text. H5 is titled "Waiting" in Wilhelm/Baynes, but what are they waiting for?

H1 represents the government as well as heaven, and H2 the people as well as earth. In H3 recruits are drafted, in H4 trained, and in H5 posted to the border. In H6 a hostile incursion forces them to give ground, for which an army expeditionary force is dispached in H7, to be recall in H8 when lost territory is recovered. For thousands of years this was the inevitable cycle of life at the national level. The wait of the person in H5 is guard duty on the border.

Being drafted was a death sentence. Many departed, few returned. They were the sacrificial victims for the good of the nation. Lao Tzu used this idea in his chapter 5. Also he used the idea of soldiers as dogs of war -- 'dogfaces' in American slang -- and thus the idea of straw dogs, sacrifical models burned (accounts vary) in ancestor worship.

So why are heaven and earth ruthless? They are ruthless because whatever is born dies, including, dear Reader, each of us. And why is the sage ruthless? I think it is because he remembers the fact of human limitation (which we like to forget) and does not let us get too far above ourselves. Like the prompter who rode in the chariot of the victor in a Roman triumphal procession, the sage reminds us, "Be humble, for you too shall die."

Tom

http://www.hermetica.info/LZASimp.htm
Bradford Hatcher's Lao Zi, Simple Translation

http://www.hermetica.info/
Lao Zi zhi Dao De Jing Section B: Scholar?s Version
 

pocossin

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To adapt the 64 to the 81, seventeen hexagrams were used twice. Hexagram 5 was used both in chapter 5 and in chapter 12:

"The five colors make man's eyes blind;
The five notes make his ears deaf;
The five tastes injure his palate;
Riding and hunting
Make his mind go wild with excitement;
Goods hard to come by
Serve to hinder his progress.

Hence the sage is
For the belly
Not for the eye.

Therefore he discards the one and takes the other." (Lau)

Hexagram 5 relates to guarding the borders. Rather than the borders of the state, chapter 12 concerns guarding the borders of the person. Sensations, excitements, and status symbols are the invaders that threaten a person's self-government. Just as the ruler guards the state against ever-lurking barbarians, so the sage guards the self against ever-present and harmful psychological influences.

Chapter 12 is a fine example of how difficult it can be to go from chapter to hexagram but how easy to go from hexagram to chapter. Read as an isolated unit, chapter 12 does not suggest the presence of hexagram 5 as hidden context.

Tom
 

pocossin

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Two different translations are given for the beginning of chapter 15 (hexagram 8):

I. Sages

"The skilful masters (of the Tao) in old times, with a subtle and exquisite penetration, comprehended its mysteries, and were deep (also) so as to elude men's knowledge." (Legge)

"Of old he who was well versed in the way
Was minutely subtle, mysteriously comprehending,
And too profound to be known." (Lau)

"The ancients who had skill at practicing the way
Were subtle & mysterious, profound & penetrating
A depth not easy to fathom" (Hatcher)

II. Officials

"Of old those that were the best officers of Court
Had inner natures subtle, abstruse, mysterious, penetrating,
Too deep to be understood." (Waley)

"Of old those there were the best rulers were subtly
mysterious and profoundly penetrating;
Too deep to comprehend." (Wing-Tsit Chan)

"Those in antiquity who excelled as officers
Were subtle, ethereal, dankly mysterious, and penetrating,
Profound beyond recognition." (Sawyer)

The difference between these two sets of quotes is, Who is being talked about? Is it ancient sages? Or is it government officials? Chapter 15 is based on hexagram 8. By referring to hexagram 8 we might expect guidance in deciding this question.

Unfortunately hexagram 8 is translated rather vaguely. The Image, though, seems to sum it up:

On the earth is water:
The image of Holding Together.
Thus the kings of antiquity
Bestowed the different states as fiefs
And cultivated friendly relations
With the feudal lords.

Here we have more enfeoffments, as in hexagram 35. That is, persons are being brought into the government, so the hexagram Image tells us 'officials'; and, as the chapter is giving us a choice between sages and officials, and only 'officials' is relevant to hexagram 8, the conclusion again is 'officials'. That is, we can play chapter and hexagram against each other for clarification on both.

The source of this Sages/Officials confusion is explained in a note by Wing-Tsit Chan: "Both the Wang Pi [Wang Bi] and Ho-shang Kung [Heshang Gong] texts have 'shih' (ruler), but the Fu I [Fu Yi] text has 'tao'." (Also noted in Hatcher's Section B: Lao Zi zhi Dao De Jing.)

Understanding that 'making officials' is the topic of hexagram 8 also permits a clearer hexagram text. In Wilhelm's commentary, the fifth line metaphorically refers to the king's not drafting unwilling persons into government office but instead selecting from among volunteers. The sixth line might refer to a person who lacks the cultural skills to hold office; that is, he has no head for it.

Tom
 

pocossin

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Hexagram 7 is used in both chapters 7 and 14. I had understood hexagram 7 to refer to mobilization in response to invasion but must eat a little Shang crow on this one, since Lao Tzu is much more specific. The issue is leadership:

"Therefore the sage puts his person last and it comes first,
Treats it as extraneous to himself and it is preserved" (Lau, ch.7).

The sage commands by nearly undetectable background influence -- implicit, indirect, subtle, as is the ddj itself. When the war chariots begin to roll, survival hangs in the balance. The sage survives because, being implicit, he neither gives offense nor offers a target. The thought in chapter 14 is similar:

"This is called the shape that has no shape,
The image that is without substance.
This is called indistinct and shadowy.
Go up to it and you will not see its head;
Follow behind it and you will not see its rear.

Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the realm of today" (Lau, ch.14).

An army has one commander, and it appears to me that the translation of the Chinese character Shih in hexagram 7 should be 'commander', as is referenced in the Judgment:

7. Shih / The Army

The Judgement

The Army. The army needs perseverance
And a strong man.
Good fortune without blame.

This might read:

The Commander. The commander should be solid
and an experienced man.
Good fortune, no blame.

Line 1. "An army must set forth in proper order" could be read as "The commander sets forth according to rules." Singular and plural are indefinite in classical Chinese.

Such an interpretation brings hexagram 7 in line with Lao Tzu's use of hexagram 8. As hexagram 8 concerns the appointment of civilian leadership, so hexagram 7 concerns the appointment of military leadership.

Tom
 

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www.onlineclarity.co.uk/I_Ching_resources/gift.pdf - Similar pages
?Answers? of 2003: Extracts from Clarity?s I Ching newsletter

"The old ideogram for 'army' is not as clear as some, but seems to show a
rolling, waving banner, or movement surging around a pivotal point. This is
the character of the hexagram: everything focussed on a single centre and
organised around it. The same character also signifies leaders, masters and
specialists: in Hexagram 13, it represents military leaders."

"That word 'poison' is widely held to be a copyist's error. I'm not so sure.
When peasant armies marched in old China, the fields were left
uncultivated; invading armies used to salt fields to render them sterile.
With no other options, what could people do but follow?"

From Tao Te Ching, chapter 30:

"(In) a place where an army has camped
Thorns and brambles grow now
A great army?s aftermath is sure to bring bad harvests" (Hatcher)

Tom
 

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Hexagram 1 gives rise to chapters 1 and 8, and hexagram 2 gives rise to chapters 2 and 9. Relating chapters to hexagrams is not difficult. The "way" of the first line of chapter 1 is the Way of Heaven (Qian), and chapter 8 begins with "Highest good is like water" (Lau). The 'highest' is Heaven, Qian again.

Chapter 2 begins "The whole world [all the people] recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful...." Beauty is a feminine (Kun) excellence, and the people are Kun with respect to the ruler as Qian. Kun is also the unclaiming source of the "myriad creatures", mentioned futher down. Lau's footnote to the beginning of Chapter 9 says that "the moral is that humility is a necessary virtue, especially for those in high position." Humility is the virtue of Kun. This is the topic of the whole of chapter 9.

That, in brief, covers the first eight hexagrams that make up the Cycle of the Nation. "What cycle?" you may be asking yourself if you have never heard my preaching on The Architecture of the I Ching. Kindly bear with my structure mania for a short while, and I will attempt to show you King Wen's magnificent structure, although, really, you don't have to pay attention to structure if you don't want to since its information is duplicated in trigrams and text.

This is the truly Great Plan:

First Canon: The Cycles of Human Groups
The Nation. Hexagrams 1 - 8. The 8 Trigrams.
The Clan. Hexagrams 9 - 18. The 10 Stems.
The Family. Hexagrams 19 - 30. The 12 Branches.

Second Canon: The Cycle of The Human Individual
Childhood. Hexagrams 31 - 40. |
Religion. Hexagrams 41 - 50. }Probably the 30 days of the lunar month.
Adulthood. Hexagrams 51 - 60. |
Afterlife. Hexagrams 61 - 64. Possibly the moon's nodes.

[The Clarity editor refuses to recognize my table spacing. If this topic is of value to you, then copy the table to a wordprocessor and put the word "Hexagrams" in a neat column.]

That's it. It's what King Wen did, and it is how Heaven is brought to Earth.
Each hexagram represents a stage in the cycle of human life. As a practical example, let's consider hexagram 29 The Pit.

Hexagram 29 symbolizes the death of a family elder. In H27 the elder is fed, in H28 declines, in H29 dies, and in H30 is mourned by the calling back of the dead ritual. There is evidence in the text of hexagram 29 for its interpretation as death of a family elder, but if structure is neglected the evidence does not stand out:

29.4
Six in the fourth place means:
A jug of wine, a bowl of rice with it;
Earthen vessels
Simply handed in through the window.
There is certainly no blame in this.

29.6
Six at the top means:
Bound with cords and ropes,
Shut in between thorn-hedged prison walls:
For three years one does not find the way.
Misfortune.

These two hexagram lines refer to the Chinese 'mourning hut' ritual. For the details of this tradition-enforced ritual, see The Mandate of Heaven, p.39. Basically, a son whose parent had died went into a tomb-like solitary confinement with a starvation diet for a period extending into the third year after the death. The "window" of line 4 is the window of the mourning hut through which food is passed. The hut's inhabitant was to see no one, not even the person who brought the food.

Hexagram 29 is the inspiration for chapter 36 of the Tao Te Ching:

36.
"When desiring to contract a thing,
First be sure to expand it.
When desiring to weaken a thing,
First be sure to empower it.
When desiring to abolish a thing,
First be sure to promote it.
When desiring to despoil a thing,
First be sure to endow it.

This may be called "subtle discernment."
The adaptable & gentle overcome the firm & strong.

Fish should not be removed from the depths.
The sharpest instruments of the state
Should not be for showing to others."
(Hatcher. Punctuation and paragraphing mine.)

What is contracted, weakened, abolished, and despoiled is dead. The point of the first paragraph is how not to kill the spirit of the people. The "depths" idea comes from "The Pit." Fish [the common people] should not be removed from the depths -- their original human nature -- by bread and circuses. Executions and military exhibitions should not be festive occasions of public display.

Tom
 

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Potent hexagram 23 is the parent of chapter 30 of the Tao Te Ching, and the filial chapter returns the favor by clarifying some of the mystery in the hexagram's appended text. The text refers to a bed being split in various places, a shoal of fishes, court ladies, a large fruit, The superior man receiving a carriage, and the house of the inferior man being split apart. Whatever could be going on here?

Well, short of kidnapping a certain cello and holding it for ransom, I am unlikely to extract an admission that references to the bed obviously come from the visual appearance of the hexagram, though such an admission would be music to my ears. So let's 'just pretend' and then proceed to sort out the above ideas.

The splitting apart of the bed in lines 1, 2, and 4 refers, I think, to conflict among the offspring of the royal bed. The ruler's bed companions, the court ladies through whom favor comes, are the mothers of this contentious brood, the favor being that the first son of the first wife had a special claim to kingship.

The "shoal of fishes" in W/B is "strung fish" in Shaughnessy. The "fish on a string" idea makes sense. Somewhere I have seen a picture of a mourning procession in contemporary Hong Kong. Descendents, their faces whitened, were lined up by size and holding onto a long rope representing the family line, the appearance being much like fish on a string. I have no evidence that this practice extends back to the Shang, but if it does then it would explain the string of fish as lineal descendents of the king and as therefore in line for the throne.

According to The Mandate of Heaven, p.155, after the conquest of the Shang the third son of King Wen conspired with two younger brothers against the new Zhou dynasty. The Mandate of Heaven does not cover hexagram 23, but of these "small men" of line 6, one was put to death, one was confined, and one was reduced to a private citizen. The composer of the appended text may be referring to some such event. The sequel to The Mandate of Heaven will give us the specific details, I imagine.

So what do the bed and the misdeeds of the royal sons have to do with my devoutly believed doctrine of the Stages of Life interpretation of the I Ching? Nothing directly. Unlike the composer of the appended text, King Wen could not have know of his sons' misdeeds as they occurred after his death, and -- as can be gathered from canon, sequence, and hexagram gestalts -- the meaning of hexagram 23 for him concerned tilling and sowing the soil. The 'cutting' and 'splitting' ideas in this hexagram come from the cutting and splitting that has to be done to clear and loosen the soil for spring planting. No farming, no food; and most people through most of human history have been workers of the soil.

Preparing and sowing the soil has sexual associations: "When Adam delved and Eve spawned, who was then the gentleman?" This link between agriculture and sex supported the composer of the appended text in his interpretation of the bed gestalt.

King Wen's meaning for hexagram 23 apparently comes from the idea of the plow. The Shang had ox-drawn plows, but most of the work was probably done with knife tools (radical 18: see Lindqvist, pp.250-2) and foot plows (radical 19: now 'power', 'strength': see Lindqvist, pp.165-6), both of which radicals resemble the gestalt of hexagram 23. The image of the foot plow (Gen) over the soil (Kun) very well suggests what the hexagram meant to King Wen.

Chapter 30 says:

"Where troops have encamped
There will brambles grow;
In the wake of a mighty army
Bad harvests follow without fail." (Lau)

Lao Tzu has returned to the agriculture interest of King Wen. That's not all he has returned to: he has inverted the 'superior man' emphasis of the composer of the appended text:

23.6 The superior man receives a carriage.

Ancient Chinese society was a system for collecting and distributing te. Te (the influence of Heaven) entered society through the priest-king and percolated down to lower members. To receive a carriage is to subordinate oneself to this system. The inferior man stands in rebellion and is without virtue.

By Lao Tzu's time the superior men were no longer superior recipients of te. The class system has become a system of material predation. The mandate of heaven had come to reside with the 'small fish', the new sons of the Tao. They are the ones who suffer from the high taxes and military adventures of the nobility.

What is the 'large fruit' of line 6? Apparently, ideally this fruit should be eaten. It suggests that things are not entirely as they should be. Among the meanings Karcher's I Ching (p.299) gives for the two characters for 'large fruit' are 'full-grown' 'annual produce'.

Apparently the rebellion and its suppression have not occurred at the ritual time for war. That is, rather than occurring after the harvest or at least after planting, the war has violated the agricultural cycle of the peasant-soldiers. Though the superior man get his carriage, society pays with famine.

Tom

Cecilia Lindqvist. China: Empire of Symbols. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1989.

The Sawyers' translation of the Ling Ch'i Ching contains a trigraph gestalt of a plow on p.129.
 

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