Bob Schwartz

Tag: I Ching

I Ching Pandemic Edition: Hexagram 13 – Seeking Harmony

An ancient Chinese maxim says, “People in the same boat help each other, sharing weal and woe.”

I have been regularly consulting the I Ching during these strange days. The I Ching embodies the wisdom of thousands of years, from a civilization that has seen it all. Bright days and dark, order and chaos, wise men and fools, humility and arrogance, life and death. They have learned that we do not escape the truth of everything changes.

This is what the I Ching says today.

The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by Taoist Master Alfred Huang




Wilhelm translates Tong Ren as Fellowship with Men, and Blofeld translates it as Lovers, Beloved, Friends, Like-Minded Persons, Universal Brotherhood. In Chinese, tong means similar, alike, the same. Ren means person or people. When the two characters are put together as a unit, it means to treat people alike. In ancient China, tong ren also meant people with the same interests. Herein, Tong Ren is translated as Seeking Harmony. It has the connotation of forming alliances. To break through a tough situation, people need to work together in harmony, as in an alliance.

The ideograph of the first character, tong, consists of three parts. The first part looks like an upright rectangle without the bottom line, symbolizing a door frame or a house. Within the house, there is a single horizontal stroke representing the number one. Underneath this is a little square symbolizing a mouth. In ancient China, people were counted by mouths. For instance, if someone wanted to know how many people there were in your family, they would ask “How many mouths are there in your family?” The three parts of the ideograph come together to depict a group of people gathered together as a single unit. Here, the mouth indicates that they are thinking or speaking as one. The Chinese can feel the harmony in the group. The ideograph of the second character, ren, suggests a person standing.

SEQUENCE OF THE GUA: Events cannot remain hindered; thus, after Hindrance, Seeking Harmony follows.

The image of this gua is Heaven above, Fire below. Heaven suggests ascension. The flame of fire moves upward. Fire approaching Heaven gives an image of people with the same interests working together in harmony. There is only one yielding line, at the second place. The ancient sage saw this as a picture of harmony; the one at the second place treated the other five elements at different places equally, with the same attitude. An ancient Chinese maxim says, “People in the same boat help each other, sharing weal and woe.”

According to the I Ching, however, there is no absolute sameness. The ancient sages passed on the secret of obtaining harmony, that is, seeking common ground on major issues while reserving differences on minor ones. Tong Ren teaches that the wise classify people according to their natures, not for the purpose of treating them differently, but to seek common ground. If there is common ground, each one is able to act in harmony with the others. The ancient Chinese dreamed day and night that the world would belong to the majority and the government would serve the common interest of its countrymen. This is Seeking Harmony.


Seeking harmony among people,
Prosperous and smooth.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
Favorable for the superior person
To be steadfast and upright.


Seeking Harmony.
The yielding obtains the proper place.
It is central
And corresponds with Qian, the Initiating.
This is Seeking Harmony.

Seeking Harmony says:
Seeking harmony among people.
Prosperous and smooth.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
It is because Qian, the Initiating,
Is progressing and advancing.

Brilliance with strength,
Central and corresponding.
This is the correct way for the superior person.
Only the superior person is able
To convey the wills of all under Heaven.


Heaven with Fire.
An image of Seeking Harmony.
In correspondence with this,
The superior person makes classifications of people
According to their natures
And makes distinctions of things
In terms of their categories.


The Decision says, “Seeking harmony among people.” This is the main theme of the gua. Seeking harmony should be done with absolute unselfishness and among the majority. This was the ancient lofty ideal of a world of harmony. Seeking harmony among people, in Chinese, is tong ren yü ye. Tong ren means seeking harmony. Yü means at, in, or among. And ye is the place beyond the suburbs. Thus, most English translations give ye as “the open.” However, ye also means the folk or the people, as contrasted with the government. Considering the theme of this gua, it is more suitable to employ people for ye. In this way, it brings more sense to the Decision: “Seeking harmony among people. Prosperous and smooth.”

The outer gua is Qian (Heaven), symbolizing firmness and strength. With this quality, it is favorable for a person to cross great rivers, to overcome difficulties. The inner gua is Li (Fire), symbolizing a quality of inner brightness. In this situation, the host is the yielding line at the second place. It plays a leading role. It is a yin element at a yin place, central and correct. Thus, Confucius’s Commentary on the Decision explains that the yielding obtains the proper place and corresponds with Qian. This yin line in the center of the lower gua indicates that one at this place possesses a high morality and is gentle and sincere, humble and modest, and willing to seek harmony with other people. It corresponds to the solid line at the fifth place, which is also central and correct. These two lines symbolize an ideal condition where the time is auspicious, the situation is favorable, and the people are in harmony. This ideal situation results from the circumstance of overcoming hindrance.

Tong Ren reveals the truth that if people deal with each other in a spirit of equality, then peace and advancement are possible. Otherwise, there will be conflict and obstruction. The first three lines of this gua represent the fact that from sameness differences originate. The next three lines tell us that sameness derives from differences. Thus, at the fifth line, people are at first weeping and full of regret and then laughing to celebrate the victory. In ancient times, people called the piping time of peace the Great Harmony.

This gua symbolizes the historical incident in which King Wen formed alliances with neighboring clans to battle the rebellious Rong clan. King Wen proclaimed that seeking harmony with people of other clans would be prosperous and smooth. The Duke of Zhou recounts how there was no hindrance in seeking alliances with different clans, yet seeking alliances exclusively within his own clan caused isolation and brought about unfavorable results. At the very beginning, the alliance took defensive action by placing troops on a high hill and hiding fighters in the bushes. For three years there was no trouble. Later, the alliance besieged Rong’s city walls. After great struggles it was victorious. What began with weeping ended with laughing. At last, the alliance gathered in Zhou’s countryside. There was no regret about the struggles that resulted in success.

The binary and the infinite: What we learn from computers, the I Ching, the Bible and breathing.

We live today and have long lived in what seems to us, at first glance, a binary world. So it seems.

At their most basic, computers are binary machines. Countless combinations of yes/no, on/off decision circuits, adding up, as speed and the number of decisions increase exponentially, to processes that mimic (or exceed) human thought.

The I Ching begins its panoramic presentation of world with a simple binary calculation: either a solid yang line or a broken yin line, combined into eight trigrams and sixty-four hexagrams, from which the entire nature of life and time is profiled, if not actually predicted.

Traditions, such as Taoism, Zen and others, suggest non-duality. That reality exists between those choices we are so attached to. That it is not either/or, not neither/nor. Computers agree. Reduced to each of the billions of digital decisions, binary means nothing. The I Ching reduced to a single line means little. The meanings, all of them, are in the matrix of combinations.

The Bible agrees. It would seem, in its rules and lists, to promote binary behavior. The Ten Commandments are a prime example. But at the literal first moment, if we immerse ourselves in the question of what is between existence and non-existence at creation (contemplation that according to one legendary interpretation drove the Talmudist Ben Zoma crazy), the answer may be everything. The Book of Ecclesiastes, famous for saying that all is ephemeral vapor and listing the binary poles (a time to laugh, a time to weep…), is telling us we live now and ever in the changes in between. Not unlike the I Ching.

Physics has also given up on the binary. Simplistic analysis has given way to acknowledgement that as much as we would like to hold on to a concept of this or that, now or then, the physical world at a foundational level exists in simultaneous multiple states.

Not everything about our organic human lives is binary, but plenty of it is. Ten has its place (fingers, toes), but a distinct second place to two. Two arms and hands, legs and feet, eyes, ears, lungs.

Lungs bring us to breathing, the penultimate binary. Inhale, exhale. There is nothing in between. The failure of that binary leads to the ultimate: life, death. Some do posit an alternative to that binary, a third option. But if we just stick to life/death, what do we learn about either one from this discussion of binary?

Things as they are are not exactly binary, except we make them so. This doesn’t mean that one can think away breathing or death. No inhale/exhale, no life happens. But the values in between—the digital fabric, the I Ching, the space between existence and non-existence, the time between laughing and weeping, the quantum states—are where it is at.

Brightness (Li)

Hexagram 30

Li • Brightness

The structure of the gua is Fire above, Fire below. The attribute of Fire is attachment as well as brightness. When two Fire gua are combined, the Brightness is doubled. During times of darkness and danger people should cling to one another. When they do, things get brighter.


Favorable to be steadfast and upright.
Prosperous and smooth.


The attribute of Li is brightness, which symbolizes intelligence and wisdom. Being embarrassed by unresolved problems feels like falling into darkness. Finding a solution is compared to a light that casts out the darkness. This gua, Brightness, sheds light upon the distinction between right and wrong. If one’s attitude is not sincere and wholehearted, one is not able to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.

Master Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching

Li • Radiance

Inexhaustible and penetrating everywhere, radiance brings forth wild bounty. Nurture it like the docile strength of an ox, and good fortune will prevail.

Radiance is all beauty, beauty of heaven’s sun and moon, beauty of the land’s hundred grains and grasses and trees.

Sun and moon, fire and fire—using the beauty at the hinge of things, they transform and perfect all beneath heaven. And because the tender assent of this beauty is centered at the very hinge of things, it penetrates everywhere. And so: nurture it like the docile strength of an ox, and good fortune will prevail.

David Hinton, I Ching: The Book of Change

Li • Fire

Sun and Moon
Are attached to Heaven.
The Hundred Grains,
The grasses and trees,
Are attached to Earth,
To the soil.
Double Brightness
Is attached to Truth,
Which transforms and perfects

This Hexagram is formed by doubling the Li Trigram: Fire, Light, and Sun: also warmth, radiance, and clarity; Outer and Inner Illumination; and Attachment.

What is Illumination? It is the ability to see “with continuous clarity” the original Strength or Essence of things. This Vision itself comes from Inner Strength, from Sincerity at the Center of Being, reaching out and connecting with the outside, with “the Four Quarters.” Nothing can deceive it. It sees things as they are. It sees that everything, everywhere, to left and right, is the Tao, Connected, Attached. Illumination itself spreads like Fire. It is a chain reaction. Fire is not a substance, it is an event, an interaction.

John Minford, I Ching: The Book of Change

Li • The Clinging, Fire

What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter. A luminous thing giving out light must have within itself something that perseveres; otherwise it will in time burn itself out. Everything that gives light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may continue to shine.

Thus sun and moon cling to heaven, and grain, grass, and trees cling to the earth. So too the twofold clarity of the dedicated man clings to what is right and thereby can shape the world. Human life on earth is conditioned and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself dependent upon the harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he achieves success. The cow is the symbol of extreme docility. By cultivating in himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world.

Each of the two trigrams represents the sun in the course of a day. The two together represent the repeated movement of the sun, the function of light with respect to time. The great man continues the work of nature in the human world. Through the clarity of his nature he causes the light to spread farther and farther and to penetrate the nature of man ever more deeply.

Wilhelm/Banes, The I Ching or Book of Changes

The I Ching on Hardship

The ancient sages experienced the hardship of climbing a mountain as well as crossing a river. They also experienced all kinds of hardship in their life journey. Some hardships were avoidable, but others were unavoidable. If one has the right attitude, no matter what kind of hardships there are, they can be overcome….If it is not the right time to overcome hardship, one should keep still. Keeping still does not mean giving up. It is just yielding to the situation and waiting for a more auspicious time.
Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching, Hexagram 39

There are so many sincere, good-hearted and helpful messages being generated at this sad moment of some very public suicides. There is no need for me to add my own thoughts.

But I did wonder if the I Ching, that trusted well of wisdom, might have something to say. It never fails; it didn’t this time.

In answer to the question of suicide, the answer was Hexagram 39—Jian/Hardship.



Originally, Jian meant lame or a lame person. From lame, its meaning extends to encompass difficulty in walking or hardship. Wilhelm translates Jian as obstruction; Blofeld translates it as Trouble. In this book I use Hardship.

Sequence of the Gua: If there is misunderstanding and diversity in a household, surely hardship will result. Thus, after Diversity, Hardship follows.

The ideograph of the gua shows its original meaning—a lame person having difficulty walking. At the top of the ideograph is the roof of a house with a chimney. Below it there is an ideograph of a person, ren. Between the roof and the person, there are two bundles of grass, representing bedding. These images form the upper part of the ideograph: a picture of a person under the roof of a house covered with two pieces of thick bedding to resist the cold. At the bottom, there is an ideograph of a foot. On each side of the foot and underneath the person a pair of crutches is drawn. One can visualize the crutches under the armpits of the person with a lame leg. The blood circulation of a lame leg is poor, thus the image of a cold foot was used to demonstrate a lame person’s difficulty with walking.

The structure of the gua is Water above, Mountain below. It represents a situation of hardship following hardship. Climbing a mountain and crossing a river are arduous undertakings. The attribute of Water is darkness and of Mountain is keeping still. If it is not the right time to overcome hardship, one should keep still. Keeping still does not mean giving up. It is just yielding to the situation and waiting for a more auspicious time. If the proper time comes, it is favorable to seek union or to consult a noble person for constructive advice. Any premature advance will entail risk. Overcoming hardship depends on the correct time, situation, and companions—in Chinese terms Heaven, earth, and human beings, the three primary elements….


Favorable to the southwest.
Unfavorable to the northeast.
Favorable to see a great person. Being steadfast and upright: good fortune.

Commentary on the Decision

Jian is Hardship.
Danger in front.
Seeing the danger and knowing to stand still,
Being conscious and wise.

Favorable in the southwest.
Going forward obtains the central place.
Unfavorable in the northeast.
There is no way out.

Favorable to see a great person;
Going forward, there is achievement.

Proper position,
Being steadfast and upright,
Good fortune,
Rectifying the country.
Great indeed is the function and time of hardship!

Commentary on the Symbol

Water on the Mountain.
An image of Hardship.
In correspondence with this,
The superior person is introspective to cultivate his virtue.


Water above Mountain is an image of hardship following hardship. There is no way to totally avoid hardship in one’s life. Hardship should be overcome; calamity can be prevented. One should not always let things take their own course and resign oneself to one’s fate. This gua tells us how to deal with hardship. The ancient sages experienced the hardship of climbing a mountain as well as crossing a river. They also experienced all kinds of hardship in their life journey. Some hardships were avoidable, but others were unavoidable. If one has the right attitude, no matter what kind of hardships there are, they can be overcome.

Politely Ask Trump to Resign

The majority of Americans think that Trump is a threat to civility, to honesty, to American values, democracy and institutions, and to American and global peace and progress. As one new and untried tactic, we should simply, politely and plainly ask him to resign.

This is not a replacement for any of the other ongoing approaches, including investigation of his wrongdoing, ridicule, humor, and calls for impeachment or action under the 25th amendment. And of course, voting.

It is, however, a civilized way of doing something it is increasingly hard to do: be a better and more civilized person than Trump himself. It is hard not to fall into the sinkhole of being as terrible as our worst nemesis—that is an ancient theme. The pragmatic fact is that it is sometimes unavoidable, if the better is to triumph over the lesser. But when that happens, we are in danger of being just as bad, and our remaining upright and our job of healing and recovering is made that much more difficult.

So let us ask Trump to resign, politely explaining the many reasons it is best for America and Americans, and for the world. Of course he will not do it or consider it, and will mock it, since in his mind any show of decency and quiet reason is a show of weakness. Instead, though, it is a small demonstration that we still believe that decency is a show of strength. Which is something we are understandably starting to forget.


As is my practice, I asked the I Ching about this proposal. It is appropriate to do that for two reasons. The I Ching itself is in part a philosophical response to centuries of national political changes in China, cataclysms that make a few years of Trump look like a picnic. Second, China itself in 2018 still uses the I Ching for guidance. So why shouldn’t we?

The I Ching says (Alfred Huang translation):

Huan • Dispersing


Originally Huan meant ice breaks, melts, and vanishes. Later on, it came to mean to separate and scatter.

Sequence of the Gua: After happiness and joyfulness, there comes dispersing. Thus, after Joyful, Dispersing follows.

The ideograph of Huan expresses its original meaning. The image on the left represents water. It resembles the primary gua for Water, turned vertically. On the top right is a knife, and on the bottom are two hands with fingers and arms. In the middle are two pieces of ice. Taken as a whole, this ideograph pictures a knife used to break up the ice, with two hands separating the pieces of ice. The ice melts and becomes water, at last dispersing and vanishing. The structure of the gua is Wind   above, Water   below. The wind blows over the water and disperses the waves. The inner gua is Water; its attribute is danger. It symbolizes one’s vital energy blocked within. The outer gua is Wind; its attribute is penetration. Penetrating and breaking the blockage leads to dispersion.


Prosperous and smooth.
The king arrives at the temple.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
Favorable to be steadfast and upright.

Commentary on the Decision

Prosperous and smooth.
The firm comes without hindrance.
The yielding is at the proper place.
It goes out to meet its similarity above.
The king arrives at the temple.
He is in the central place.
Favorable to cross great rivers.
The merit comes from mounting on the wood.

Commentary on the Symbol

The wind moves over the water.
An image of Dispersing.
In correspondence with this,
The ancient king offers sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven
And establishes temples.


The gua takes the image of the wind moving over the water to demonstrate the act of dispersing people’s resentment. During the time of dispersing, having a leader with wisdom and foresight is crucial. The king approaching his temple gives us an image of his connection with the spiritual world. Crossing great rivers signifies the hardship and difficulty of the work. Steadfastness and uprightness should be the virtue of a great leader. He has self-confidence, so he is able to live and work in peace. The host of the gua is the solid line at the fifth place. This line represents the king who approaches his temple to connect himself with the Lord of Heaven. During the time of dispersing he is the only one who, in the honored place, is able to establish order throughout his nation. The fourth line represents the king’s minister, while the second line is his officer. They faithfully assist the king to unite the people in the time of dispersing.

During King Wen’s sitting in stillness he meditated upon joyfulness and dispersion. After people had been joyful, their energy dispersed, and their focus was scattered. At such a time, a leader with wisdom and foresight was needed. He arrived at his temple and communicated with the deity. His sincerity and trustworthiness encouraged people to work in full cooperation and with unity of purpose. The Duke of Zhou narrates that to be of help at such a time, one should have the speed of a strong horse. Dispersing self-serving groups led to a union as solid as a mound.

Sake Telegram

Sake Telegram

Sake chilled or warm?
Glass or cup?
Why flip one coin
When you can toss three?
The I Ching will know.
6 9 7 9 7 8
A hexagram telegram:
“During a time of great exceeding,
inevitably there is extraordinary action.
Extraordinary action needs great nourishment.
The roof is about to fall and
it is time to go somewhere or to do something
to remedy the situation.”
A glass of chilled sake
I read it again
A cup of warm sake
I read it again.
Great nourishment.
The roof is not falling
But the moon is fulling.
More sake
Not chilled or warm.
I toss the coins in the jar
But can’t read the wet heads or tails.
It is time
To go somewhere or do something
To remedy the situation.
What time is it?
Where should I go?
What should I do?
Time for another telegram.


Turning Back: Good News from Today’s I Ching (Hexagram 24)


Today’s I Ching hexagram (Hexagram 24, Fu/Turning Back) brings good news, for individual lives and for any bigger concerns we might have about the way some things seem to be going in the world:

“During the time of decay, the dark forces proceed one after another until they reach the uppermost position. The situation seems hopeless. However, the Chinese believe that turning back and starting again is a universal and everlasting truth. When decaying has reached its extreme, a turning point comes. Then the light shines in the darkness, and the bright situation begins again….

This gua indicates that, through the influence of King Wen and King Wu, decaying was corrected in a short period of time. The social norm was reestablished. The courtesy and etiquette created by the Duke of Zhou was put back in place immediately. King Wen was happy about the situation; he claimed that turning back brought success. There was no harm for people going out and coming back. There was no harm in people of different kingdoms arriving and departing.”

Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching:

Hexagram 24
Fu • Turning Back

Fu plays an important role in the I Ching. It is one of the twelve tidal gua used to explain the cosmology of the changing of the seasons—to go around and begin again….

Things cannot go beyond the extreme. When they reach the limit, they turn back to the origin. Thus, after Falling Away comes Turning Back.

The situation seems hopeless. However, the Chinese believe that turning back and starting again is a universal and everlasting truth. When decaying has reached its extreme, a turning point comes. Then the light shines in the darkness, and the bright situation begins again….

This gua, together with the preceding one, displays the truth of changing. When things proceed to their extreme, they alternate to the opposite. Thus, after the period of falling away comes turning back. The light that has been banished returns. The change is not brought about by force—it accords with the law of Nature. The turning back arises spontaneously, like a bright spring returns after a severe winter. It is a matter of circumstance due to the appropriate time and situation. Because it is the law of Nature, no human force can alter it….

The Commentary on the Decision says, “From this gua, Fu, one can see the heart of Heaven and earth.” It reveals the cosmology of the Confucian school. Once Confucius said, “Heaven and earth have a heart fond of creating and propagating.” Confucian scholars advocate that one should follow the Tao of Heaven and Earth, that is, to be creative and propagate without ceasing. But the Taoists embrace a different view. Lao Tze says,

Attain the highest void;
Maintain the deepest stillness.
When ten thousand beings rise and fall,
Watch their turning back.

Taoists accept the idea of the cyclic motion of Falling Away and Turning Back and Falling Away again and Turning Back again, but they hold that existence originates from nonexistence and motion from nonmotion. Only when one reaches a state of total nonattachment is one able to see the heart of Heaven and earth. In Chinese culture, the Confucian and Taoist schools constitute a yin-yang complement. The philosophy of the Confucian school is moving and doing. That of the Taoist school is retreating and doing nothing. Yet both philosophies originate from the I Ching.

This is an auspicious gua, because the yang energy returns. Yet the Decision does not mention its auspiciousness because the yang energy is still weak. Its achievement depends on effort. But the first line bodes supreme good fortune. In reality, no one is perfect. If one is able to turn back from not going too far toward the evil, it brings supreme good fortune….

This gua indicates that, through the influence of King Wen and King Wu, decaying was corrected in a short period of time. The social norm was reestablished. The courtesy and etiquette created by the Duke of Zhou was put back in place immediately. King Wen was happy about the situation; he claimed that turning back brought success. There was no harm for people going out and coming back. There was no harm in people of different kingdoms arriving and departing. Falling away and turning back moved in accordance with the Tao of waxing and waning.

I Ching for 2018

“Following the wind” suggests proceeding, but the proceeding should be gentle, flowing easily into wherever the wind goes.

The year 2017 was a year of change. The year 2018 will be another year of change. What year isn’t?

The I Ching—known in English as the Book of Change, Book of Changes, Canon of Change, Classic of Change, etc.—has served as a guide to changing times for thousands of years.

Today as the New Year arrives, I have asked for guidance—for myself and for people everywhere—with the simple question “What will 2018 be like?” While not a typically specific question, this should cover just about everything and everyone.

I have selected one of the 64 hexagrams by using a random number generator. There are other more traditional methods used and recommended by some, including the well-known tossing of coins or counting of yarrow stalks. I’ve used both those methods many times. Purists frown on the random number method, saying that it doesn’t allow the time and contemplative frame of mind needed to appreciate what the text says.

In general, I believe that all methods have value, since the value is in the text, not in the method. And in particular for this year and the year to come, I and many others have had plenty of time to contemplate the changes we are witnessing. We just need somebody or something wise to put it in perspective.

Hexagram 57 (Xun /Wind above, Wind below) is the generated answer. Below are excerpts from six different translations.

My best wishes for your New Year. Thank you sincerely for reading.

Hexagram 57 – Xun

The Complete I Ching by Alfred Huang 

Xun • Proceeding Humbly


Xun is one of the eight primary gua; doubled, it forms this accomplished gua. As a primary gua it represents Wind or Wood. The Commentary on the Symbol says, “Following the wind; an image of Proceeding Humbly.” “Following the wind” suggests proceeding, but the proceeding should be gentle, flowing easily into wherever the wind goes. Applied to human affairs, it means to proceed humbly, or to resign sovereign authority.

Sequence of the Gua: When the traveler has no place to take shelter, Proceeding Humbly follows.

Wilhelm translates Xun as The Gentle (The Penetrating, Wind). Blofeld calls it Willing Submission, Gentleness, Penetration. Xun is an action, a proceeding. The ideograph employs the image of two snakes to represent the act of continuing. The upper part of the ideograph depicts two snakes, si. The lower part is an ideograph of gong, which means “together.” Two snakes proceed together—the power of proceeding is doubled.

The structure of the gua is Wind above, Wind below, or Wood above, Wood below. According to the structure, a yielding line lying underneath two solid lines shows the submissive, humble, and obedient personality of the yielding element. The attribute of the wind is to proceed gently. The Chinese consider a gentle breeze with bright sun or a gentle breeze with mild rain to be the best weather. When the wind blows softly, it goes everywhere. When the wood proceeds gently, it penetrates the soil deeply. Gently proceeding is the most effective way to influence events. It never violates and is therefore easily accepted.


Proceeding Humbly.
Little prosperity and smoothness.
Favorable to have somewhere to go.
Favorable to see a great person.

Commentary on the Decision

The symbol of Wind is doubled.
It is to repeat one’s order once more.
The firm proceeds humbly to the central and to the correct position.
Its will is able to be fulfilled.
The yieldings submit to the firm.
Only little prosperity and smoothness are available.
It is favorable to have somewhere to go.
It is favorable to see a great person.

Commentary on the Symbol

Following the wind;
An image of Proceeding Humbly.
In correspondence with this,
The superior person repeats his order
And carries out his command.


This gua is one of the eight gua among the sixty-four accomplished gua that is made by doubling the primary gua, here, Wind  . Proceeding Humbly explains the reason to be humble and gentle. In an unstable situation, if one is humble and gentle one is able to make friends with people, gaining their trust and obtaining their support. The ancients believed that humility and gentleness were the basic moral qualities which one should possess, but that these did not equate with inferiority and weakness.

This gua takes the image of a yielding line humbly lying underneath two solid lines. It symbolizes that one is waiting with patience for the right time to accomplish an aim. On the other hand, the winds following one upon the other symbolize the driving force continuously pushing one forward to achievement. In his Analects, Confucius says:

Before one’s mood of pleasure or anger, sorrow or joy, is released, one’s mind is in a state of equilibrium. When those feelings have been released and are at an appropriate degree, they are in a state of harmony. This equilibrium is the great basis of all human activities, and this harmony is the universal path for all to pursue. We must devote ourselves to achieving this state of equilibrium and harmony and to establishing the proper order between Heaven and Earth. Then all things will be nourished and will flourish.

Thus, equilibrium is the potential before it has been released, and harmony is the result of the proper way of releasing the potential. When we intend to do something, both before and afterward every step should be taken in the proper way. The host of the gua is the solid line at the fifth place. The Commentary on the Decision says, “The firm proceeds humbly to the central and to the correct position. Its will is able to be fulfilled.”

During King Wen’s sitting in stillness he meditated upon traveling, being humble, and proceeding. He realized that one should proceed with humility on a life journey. When only a little success can be achieved, there is still room for more. Great success is the result of the building up of little successes. The Duke of Zhou records the results of different attitudes of proceeding humbly. Progressing in this way, one still needs a warrior’s firmness and steadfastness. Being too humble and meek makes one lose self-confidence. Proceeding humbly with sincerity and trust brings good fortune. When one intends to make a change, one should consider matters carefully before taking action and reconsider after the action is completed.

The I Ching or Book of Changes by Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes

57. Sun / The Gentle (Penetrating, Wind)

Sun is one of the eight doubled trigrams. It is the eldest daughter and symbolizes wind or wood; it has for its attribute gentleness, which nonetheless penetrates like the wind or like growing wood with its roots.

The dark principle, in itself rigid and immovable, is dissolved by the penetrating light principle, to which it subordinates itself in gentleness. In nature, it is the wind that disperses the gathered clouds, leaving the sky clear and serene. In human life it is penetrating clarity of judgment that thwarts all dark hidden motives. In the life of the community it is the powerful influence of a great personality that uncovers and breaks up those intrigues which shun the light of day.


THE GENTLE. Success through what is small.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.
It furthers one to see the great man.

Penetration produces gradual and inconspicuous effects. It should be effected not by an act of violation but by influence that never lapses. Results of this kind are less striking to the eye than those won by surprise attack, but they are more enduring and more complete. If one would produce such effects, one must have a clearly defined goal, for only when the penetrating influence works always in the same direction can the object be attained. Small strength can achieve its purpose only by subordinating itself to an eminent man who is capable of creating order.


Winds following one upon the other:
Thus the superior man
Spreads his commands abroad
And carries out his undertakings.

The penetrating quality of the wind depends upon its ceaselessness. This is what makes it so powerful; time is its instrument. In the same way the ruler’s thought should penetrate the soul of the people. This too requires a lasting influence brought about by enlightenment and command. Only when the command has been assimilated by the people is action in accordance with it possible. Action without preparation of the ground only frightens and repels.

I Ching: The Essential Translation by John Minford 




Slight Fortune.
A Destination
It Profits
To see a Great Man.

On the Judgment

Wind doubled,
Ventus repetitus.
Commands are issued.
Firm Lines are Centered,
In True Place.
Are fulfilled.
The Yielding
Flows with the Firm.
Slight Fortune.

On the Image of the Hexagram

Wind follows Wind,
Ventus ventum sequens.
The True Gentleman
Issues commands
In conducting his affairs.

The Trigrams Expounded

Xun is Wood,
It scatters,
Arrays things evenly.
It is South-East,
Eldest daughter.
It enters.
It is cockerel,
Plumb line,
Carpenter’s square.
It is white,
It is Advance,
Xun has no fruit.
It has a strong odor.
Of men, it is
Broad of forehead,
Showing the whites of the eyes.
Pursuit of gain,
Seeking threefold profit.
A forceful Trigram.

Wind above Wind. The early graph shows two men Kneeling. The Yin Lines in First and Fourth Places “kneel” below the Yang Lines above them. This Hexagram is made up of the Doubled Trigram Xun, symbolizing both Wind and Wood (the gentle processes of Infiltration and Vegetation). It is both flexible and penetrating, writes Legge, following Cheng Yi. Wind finds its way into every nook and cranny. Superiors are in Harmony with the needs of inferiors; they “issue” the necessary “commands.” Inferiors, for their part, are in Harmony with the wishes of superiors; they obey them. When a Ruler is in tune with what is right, then he is in accord with the Hearts-and-Minds of the Folk. They will obey him and follow (“flow with”) him. Superiors and inferiors “kneel” to one another. The Wind blows further and further into the distance, writes Magister Liu, rising ever higher, penetrating everywhere, entering into the Tao. Its Work is unremitting, reaching a deep level of Self-Realization. This is its “Slight Fortune.” Some need a “Destination.” They need to “see a Great Man,” one who considers Inner Nature and Life-Destiny to be of supreme importance, one who values the Tao and the Power above all, one to whom the illusory body is so much dry wood, worldly wealth a mere floating cloud. His Inner Self is rich, although his Outward Appearance may seem insufficient. His Heart-and-Mind is firm; his Aspirations have distant horizons. He never ceases until he reaches the Great Tao. Such is the Great Man. Yang in Second Place and Yang in Fifth Place indicate a strong Leader, writes Professor Mun. Strong Leaders dominate their Organization. They understand the views and needs of their subordinates (the Yin Lines in First and Fourth Places). With a softer approach, the Leader can achieve greater Harmony.

The I Ching or Book of Changes by Brian Browne Walker


Consistent correctness turns every
situation to your advantage.

The image of this hexagram is that of a gentle wind dispersing storm clouds. A wind that changes direction often, even a very powerful one, will disperse nothing – it only stirs up the sky. The wind that causes real change is the one that blows consistently in the same direction. There is an important lesson for us in this example.

When faced with a difficult problem to resolve or a goal we wish to achieve, we often are tempted to take striking and energetic actions. Though it is possible to achieve temporary results in this fashion they tend to collapse when we cannot sustain the vigorous effort. More enduring accomplishments are won through gentle but ceaseless penetration, like that of a soft wind blowing steadily in the same direction. The truth of the Sage penetrates to us in this way, and this hexagram comes now to remind you that this is how you should seek to penetrate to others.

The advice given to you by the I Ching is threefold. First, establish a clear goal; the wind that continually changes direction has no real effect. Second, apply the principle of gentle penetration to yourself; by eliminating your own inferior qualities you earn an influence over others. Third, avoid aggressive or ambitious maneuvers now; those are rooted in desire and fear and will only serve to block the aid of the Creative. The desirable influence is the one that flows naturally from maintaining a proper attitude.

In your interactions with others, bend like the willow. By remaining adaptable, balanced, accepting, and independent, and by steadily moving in a single direction, you gain the clarity and strength that make possible a series of great successes.

I Ching: The Book of Change by David Hinton


Through inward reverence, you penetrate everywhere in the smallest ways. Setting out toward a destination brings forth wild bounty, and seeking advice from a great sage also brings forth wild bounty.


Inward reverence layered through reverence, that is how you further the inevitable unfolding of things.

If you live all inward reverence steely as a mountain in cloud, you live centered at the hinge of things, and your purposes will be realized.

All tender assent, you move yielding and devoted as a river through everything steely as a mountain in cloud. If you move like this, you penetrate everywhere in the smallest ways. If you move like this, setting out toward a destination brings forth wild bounty, and seeking advice from a great sage also brings forth wild bounty.


A succession of wind through wind: that is Reverence. Using it, the noble-minded further the inevitable unfolding of things, and so realize their life’s work.

Original I Ching: An Authentic Translation of the Book of Changes by Margaret J. Pearson

(xùn) Calculation, Choosing

Calculation, compliance: In what is small, success. It is effective to have a destination and to meet with a great one.


Wind follows wind: the image called compliance or calculation. You should fulfill your destiny by doing what you are called to do.

The various translations for the name of this hexagram (calculation, compliance, divining) are all similar in that they refer to a time when we seek to comply with what is right by consulting the oracle through a method of divination which uses numbers. The insights derived in this way may be as hard to grasp as the wind, as subtle as a gentle breeze. Yet they can help to lead us in the direction we should go if we listen with courage rather than cringing, and if we persist in moving toward this direction over time.

Another way to put this is: Wind follows wind: this is the image of true compliance. You should reiterate what you are called to do, then do it. Though air is invisible and winds are intermittent, few forces are stronger over time. A continuing wind can bend giant trees, erode earth and stone, shape landscapes and vegetation. To accomplish your greatest task, the work you are truly called to do, you must do many small things, travel, seek and heed advice, again and again. As you do this, do not look for great leaps forward, but think of one wind following another; that is, pushing softly again and again. This can be hard to do. When progress seems to be leading into danger or is blocked by more pressing demands, you may feel like hiding under your bed, and doing nothing but the bare essentials. But such slavish compliance with the more obvious powers of your world often leads in the end to regrets and personal promise unfulfilled. This is not what you are called to do. While remaining prudent, we need to remember the immense power of persistent winds. Listen to the still small voice within you, especially when a careful process of divination, consultation, and planning has led to a recognition of something you are called to do. Find another small step toward that goal and do it, and keep repeating this process. If you define your goal carefully, and persist in it, you will inevitably make progress towards it.

All this is posited on the belief that each of us, being unique, is called to do something that no one else can do as well. Identifying this goal may seem to take forever; achieving it even longer! But thoughtful, balanced seeking, without repeated seeking for a different answer, can usually help us discern whether a given action is likely to move us in the right direction or not. Repeating such steps is worthwhile, even if each one seems as small and as evanescent in effect as a puff of wind. As Xunzi said, “Achievement consists of never giving up.”

A Hundred Uglinesses or A Thousand Stupidities: The Upright Cauldron


Despite a hundred uglinesses or a thousand stupidities, the upright cauldron is naturally beneficent.
Zen Master Hongzhi

A note in Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi says:

As an idiom, “cauldrons,” means simply “uprightness.” The cauldron is a traditional Chinese implement for alchemy and cooking and so is associated with spiritual transformation. Here it is an image for the context of meditation practice and its yogic reliability. Cauldron is the name of hexagram 50 in the ancient Chinese classic Book of Changes, or I Qing: “To change things nothing compares to the cauldron; this is the vessel used to refine the wise, forge sages, cook buddhas, and purify adepts. How could it not be very auspicious and developmental?”

About I Ching Hexagram 50—Ding (Cauldron), Establishing the New—Master Alfred Huang says:

This gua [hexagram] takes the image of a sacrificial vessel to expound upon the importance of honoring and nourishing wise and virtuous persons for the growth of a new country or a new situation. The image of the gua is an inverse form of the preceding one. The preceding one is an act of revolution to abolish the old system or condition. The purpose of revolution is not merely to overthrow the old but, more important, to establish a new situation and a better order. Abolishing the old is difficult; establishing the new is even more so. Both abolishing the old and establishing the new need qualified personnel of extraordinary ability. This gua offers a proper way to reorganize the old order. The key point is to respect wise and virtuous persons and rely on them to establish the new order. On the other hand, eliminating those who are mean and unqualified for their position is equally important.

Good Fortunes


Good Fortunes

A mountain of fortune cookies
For a feast.
Cracking one then another
All good.
One then another
All bad.
You have missed
The real meal.