I Ching / Ten Wings / Shuo Kua / Chapter II

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3. Heaven and earth determine the direction. The forces of mountain and lake are united. Thunder and wind arouse each other. Water and fire do not combat each other. Thus are the eight trigrams intermingled.

  Counting that which is going into the past depends on the forward movement. Knowing that which is to come depends on the backward movement This is why the Book of Changes has backward moving numbers.


Here, in what is probably a very ancient saying, the eight primary trigrams are named in a sequence of pairs that, according to tradition, goes back to Fu Hsi—that is to say, it was already in existence at the time of the compilation of the Book of Changes under the Chou dynasty. It is called the Sequence of Earlier Heaven, or the Primal Arrangement. The different trigrams are correlated with the cardinal points, as shown in the accompanying diagram. (It is to be noted that the Chinese place south at the top.)

Shou kua fig1.gif
Figure 1. Sequence of Earlier Heaven, or Primal Arrangement

Ch'ien, heaven, and K'un, earth determine the north-south axis. Then follows the axis of Kên-Tui, mountain and lake. Their forces are interrelated in that the wind blows from the mountain to the lake, and the clouds and mists rise from the lake to the mountain. Chên, thunder, and Sun, wind, strengthen each other when they appear. Li, fire, and K'an, water, are irreconcilable opposites in the phenomenal world. In the primal relationships, however, their effects do not conflict; on the contrary, they balance each other.

When the trigrams intermingle, that is, when they are in motion, a double movement is observable: first, the usual clockwise movement, cumulative and expanding as time goes on, and determining the events that are passing; second, an opposite, backward movement, folding up and contracting as time goes on, through which the seeds of the future take form. To know this movement is to know the future. In figurative terms, if we understand how a tree is contracted into a seed, we understand the future unfolding of the seed into a tree.


4. Thunder brings about movement, wind brings about dispersion, rain brings about moisture, the sun brings about warmth, Keeping Still brings about standstill, the Joyous brings about pleasure, the Creative brings about rulership, the Receptive brings about shelter.


Here again the forces for which the eight primary trigrams stand are presented in terms of their effects in nature. The first four are referred to by their images, the last four by their names, because only the first four indicate in their images natural forces at work throughout time, while the last four point to conditions that come about in the course of the year.

Thus we have first a forward moving (rising) line, in which the forces of the preceding year take effect. According to section 3, following this line leads to knowledge of the past, which is present as a latent cause in the effects it produces. In the second group, named not according to the images (phenomena) but according to the attributes of the trigrams, a backward movement sets in (a jump from Li in the east back to Kên in the northwest). Along this line the forces of the coming year develop, and following it leads to knowledge of the future, which is being prepared as an effect by its causes--like seeds that, in contracting, consolidate.

Within the Primal Arrangement the forces always take effect as pairs of opposites, Thunder, the electrically charged force, awakens the seeds of the old year.  Its opposite, the wind, dissolves the rigidity of the winter ice. The rain moistens the seeds enabling them to germinate, while its opposite, the sun, provides the necessary warmth. Hence the saying, "Water and fire do not combat each other." Then come the backward-moving forces. Keeping Still stops further expansion; germination begins. Its opposite, the Joyous, brings about the joys of the harvest. Finally there come into play the directing forces—the Creative, representing the great law of existence, and the Receptive, representing shelter in the womb, into which everything returns after completing the cycle of life.

As in the course of the year, so in human life we find ascending and backward-moving lines of force from which the present and the future can be deduced.


5. God comes forth in the sign of the Arousing; he brings all things to completion in the sign of the Gentle; he causes creatures to perceive one another in the sign of the Clinging (light); he causes them to serve one another in the sign of the Receptive. He gives them joy in the sign of the Joyous; he battles in the sign of the Creative; he toils in the sign of the Abysmal; he brings them to perfection in the sign of Keeping Still.

Shou kua fig2.gif
Figure 2. Sequence of Later Heaven, or Inner-World Arrangement

Here the sequence of the eight trigrams is given according to King Wen's arrangement, which is called the Sequence of Later Heaven, or the Inner-World Arrangement. The trigrams are taken out of their grouping in pairs of opposites and shown in the temporal progression in which they manifest themselves in the phenomenal world in the cycle of the year. Hereby the arrangement of the trigrams is essentially changed. The cardinal points and the seasons are correlated. The arrangement is represented as in figure 2.

The year begins to show the creative activity of God in the trigram Chên, the Arousing, which stands in the east and signifies the spring. The passage following explains more fully how this activity of God proceeds in nature.

It is highly probably that section 5 represents a cryptic saying of great antiquity that in the passage below has received an interpretation referable no doubt to the Confucian school of thought.


All living things come forth in the sign of the Arousing. The Arousing stands in the east.

  They come to completion in the sign of the Gentle. The Gentle stands in the southeast. Completion means that all creatures become pure and perfect.

  The Clinging is the brightness in which all creatures perceive one another. It is the trigram of the south. That the holy sages turned their faces to the south while they gave ear to the meaning of the universe means that in ruling they turned toward what is light. This they evidently took from this trigram.

  The Receptive means the earth. It takes care that all creatures are nourished. Therefore it is said: "He causes them to serve one another in the sign of the Receptive."

  The Joyous is midautumn, which rejoices all creatures. Therefore it is said: "He gives them joy in the sign of the Joyous."

  "He battles in the sign of the Creative." The Creative is the trigram of the northwest. It means that here the dark and the light arouse each other.

  The Abysmal means water. It is the trigram of due north, the trigram of toil, to which all creatures are subject. Therefore it is said: "He toils in the sign of the Abysmal."

  Keeping Still is the trigram of the northeast, where beginning and end of all creatures are completed. Therefore it is said: "He brings them to perfection in the sign of Keeping Still."


Here the course of the year and the course of the day are harmonized. What is pictured in the foregoing passage as the unfolding of the pine is here shown as it appears in nature. The trigrams are allotted to the seasons and to the cardinal points without schematization, by cursory allusions that result in the diagram shown in figure 2.

Spring begins to stir and in nature there is germination and sprouting. This corresponds with the morning of a day. The awakening belongs to the trigram Chên, the Arousing, which streams out of the earth as thunder and electrical energy. Then gentle winds blow, renewing the plant world and clothing the earth in green; this corresponds with the trigram Sun, the Gentle, the Penetrating. Sun has for its image both wind, which melts the rigid ice of winter, and wood, which develops organically. The Characteristic of this trigram is to make things flow into their forms, to make them develop and grow into the shape prefigured in the seed.

Then comes the high point of the year, midsummer, or, in terms of the day, noontide. Here is the place of the trigram Li, the Clinging, light. Creatures now perceive one another. What was vegetative organic life passes over into psychic consciousness. Thus we have likewise an image of human society, in which the ruler, turned to the light, governs the world. It is to be noted that the trigram Li occupies the place in the south that in the Primal Arrangement is held by the trigram Ch'ien, the Creative. Li consists essentially of the top and bottom lines of Ch'ien, which have taken to themselves the middle line of K'un. To understand fully, one must always visualize the Inner-World Arrangement as transparent, with the Primal Arrangement shining through it. Thus when we come to the trigram Li, we come at the same time upon the ruler Ch'ien, who governs with his face turned to the south.

Thereupon follows the ripening of the fruits of the field, which K'un, the earth, the Receptive, bestows. It is the season of harvesting, of joint labor. Next, as evening follows day, midautumn follows under the trigram of the Joyous, Tui, which, as autumn, leads the year toward its fruition and joy.

Then follows the stern season, when proof of deeds accomplished must be forthcoming. Judgment is in the air. From earth our thoughts return to heaven, to Ch'ien, the Creative. A battle is being fought, for it is just when the Creative is coming to dominance that the dark yin force is most powerful in its external effects. Hence the dark and the light now arouse each other. There is no doubt as to the outcome of this battle, for it is only the final effect of pre-existing causes that comes to judgment through the Creative.

Now winter ensues, in the trigram K'an, the Abysmal. K'an, in the north—the place of the Receptive in the Primal Arrangement—is symbolized by the gorge. Now comes the toil of gathering the crops into the barns. Water shuns no effort, always seeking the lowest level, so that everything flows to it; in the same way, winter in the course of the year, and midnight in the course of the day, are the time of concentration.

The trigram Keeping Still, whose symbol is the mountain, is of mysterious significance. Here, in the seed, in the deep-hidden stillness, the end of every thing is joined to a new beginning. Death and life, dying and resurrection--these are the thoughts awakened by the transition from the old year to the new.

Thus the cycle is closed. Like the day or the year in nature, so every life, indeed every cycle of experience, is a continuity by which old and new are linked together. In view of this we can understand why, in several of the sixty-four hexagrams, the southwest represents the period of work and fellowship, while the northeast stands for the time of solitude, when the old is brought to an end and the new is begun.


6. The spirit is mysterious in all living things and works through them. Of all the forces that move things, there is none swifter than thunder. Of all the forces that bend things, there is none swifter than wind. Of all the forces that warm things, there is none more drying than fire. Of all the forces that give joy to things, there is none more gladdening than the lake. Of all the forces that moisten things, there is none more moist than water. Of all the forces that end and begin things, there is none more glorious than keeping still.

  Therefore: Water and fire complement each other, thunder and wind do not interfere with each other, and the forces of mountain and lake are united in their action. Thus only are change and transformation possible, and thus only can all tings come to perfection.


Only the action of the six derived trigrams is described here. It is the action of the spiritual, which is not a thing among things, but the force that manifests its existence through the various effects of thunder, wind, and so on. The two primary trigrams, the Creative and the Receptive, are not mentioned because, as heaven and earth, they actually are those emanations of the spirit within which, through the action of the derived forces, the visible world comes into being and changes. Each of these forces acts in a definite direction, but movement and change come about only because the forces acting as pairs of opposites, without canceling each other, set going the cyclic movement on which the life of the world depends.