I Ching / Ten Wings / Shuo Kua / Chapter III

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The third chapter deals with the eight trigrams separately and presents the symbols with which they are associated. It is important inasmuch as the words of the text on the individual lines in each hexagram are very often to be explained against the background of these symbols. A knowledge of these associations is important as a tool in understanding the structure of the Book of Changes.


7. The Attributes

The Creative is strong. The Receptive is yielding. The Arousing means movement. The Gentle is penetrating. The Abysmal is dangerous. The Clinging means dependence. Keeping Still means standstill. The Joyous means pleasure.

8. The Symbolic Animals

The Creative acts in the horse, the Receptive in the cow, the Arousing in the dragon, the Gentle in the cock, the Abysmal in the pig, the Clinging in the pheasant, Keeping Still in the dog, the Joyous in the sheep.


The Creative is symbolized by the horse, swift and tireless as it runs, and the Receptive by the gentle cow. The Arousing, whose image is thunder, is symbolized by the dragon, which, rising out of the depths, soars up to the stormy sky — in correspondence with the single strong line pushing upward below the two yielding lines. The Gentle, the Penetrating, is symbolized by the cock, time's watchman, whose voice pierces the stillness — pervasive as the wind, the image of the Gentle. Water is the image associated with the Abysmal, of the domestic animals, the pig is the one that lives in mud and water. In Li as its trigram, the Clinging, brightness, has originally the image of a pheasant-like firebird. The dog, the faithful guardian, belongs to Kên, Keeping Still. The Joyous is linked with the sheep, which is regarded as the animal belonging to the west; the two parts of the divided line at the top are the horns of the sheep.


9. The Parts of the Body

The Creative manifests itself in the head, the Receptive in the belly, the Arousing in the foot, the Gentle in the thighs, the Abysmal in the ear, the Clinging (brightness) in the eye, Keeping Still in the hand, the Joyous in the mouth.


The head governs the entire body. The belly serves for storing up. The foot steps on the ground and moves; the hand holds fast. The thighs under their covering branch downward; the mouth in plain sight opens upward. The ear is hollow outside; the eye is hollow inside. All these are pairs of opposites corresponding with the trigrams.


10. The Family of the Primary Trigrams

The Creative is heaven, therefore it is called the father. The Receptive is earth, therefore it is called the mother.

  In the Trigram of the Arousing she seeks for the first time the power of the male and receives a son. Therefore the Arousing is called the eldest son.

  In the trigram of the Gentle the male seeks for the first time the power of the female and receives a daughter. Therefore the Gentle is called the eldest daughter.

  In the Abysmal she seeks for a second time and receives a son. Therefore it is called the middle son.

  In the Clinging he seeks for a second time and receives a daughter. Therefore it is called the middle daughter.

  In Keeping Still she seeks for a third time and receives a son, Therefore it is called the youngest son.

  In the Joyous he seeks for a third time and receives a daughter. Therefore it is called the third daughter.


In the sons, according to this derivation, the substance comes from the mother--hence the two female lines — while the dominant or determining line comes from the father. The opposite hold in the case of the daughters. The child is opposite in sex to the parent who "seeks" it.

Here we note a difference between the Inner-World Arrangement and the Primal Arrangement with respect to the sex of the derived trigrams. In the Primal Arrangement the lowest line is always the sex determinant and the sons are: (1) Chên, the Arousing [&9779;]; (2) Li, the Clinging (the sun) []; (3) Tui, the Joyous []. In the arrangement shown in the diagram [fig. 1] they stand in the eastern half. The daughters are: (1) Sun, the Gentle []; (2) K'an, the Abysmal (the moon) []; (3) Kên, Keeping Still []; They stand in the western half. In the Inner-World Arrangement, therefore, only Chên and Sun have not changed in sex. The diagram [fig. 2] shows the three sons to the left of Ch'ien, the Creative, while K'un has the two elder daughters at the

right and the youngest daughter at the left between itself and Ch'ien.


11. Additional Symbols

The Creative is heaven. It is round, it s the prince, the father, jade, metal, cold, ice; it is deep red, a good horse, and old horse, a lean horse, a wild horse, tree fruit.


Most of these symbols explain themselves. Jade is the symbol of spotless purity and of firmness; so likewise is metal. Cold and ice are accounted for by the positions of the trigram in the northwest. Deep red is the intensified color of the light principle (in the text itself, midnight blue is the color of the Creative, according with the color of the sky). The various horses denote power, endurance, firmness, strength (the "wild" horse is a mythical saw-toothed animal, able to tear even a tiger to pieces). Fruit is a symbol of duration in change.

Later commentaries add the following: it is straight, it is the dragon, the upper garment, the word.


The Receptive is the earth, the mother. It is cloth, a kettle, frugality, it is level, it is a cow with a calf, a large wagon, form, the multitude, a shaft. Among the various kinds of soil, it is the black.


The first of these symbols are intelligible at a glance. Cloth is something spread out; the earth is covered with life as with a garment. In the kettle, things are cooked until they are done; similarly, the earth is the great melting pot of life. Frugality is a fundamental characteristic of nature. "It is level" means that the earth knows no partiality. A cow with a calf is a symbol of fertility. The large wagon symbolizes the fact that the earth caries all living things. Form and ornament are the opposite of content, which finds expression in the Creative. The multitude, plurality, is the opposite of the oneness of the Creative. The shaft is the body of the tree, from which the branches spring, as all life sprouts forth from the earth. Black is intensified darkness.


The Arousing is thunder, the dragon. It is dark yellow, it is a spreading out, a great road, the eldest son. It is decisive and vehement; it is bamboo that is green and young, it is reed and rush.

  Among horses it signifies those which can neigh well, those with white hind legs, those which gallop, those with a star on the forehead.

  Among useful plants it is the pod-bearing ones. Finally, it is the strong, that which grows luxuriantly.


Dark Yellow is a mixture of the dark heavens and the yellow earth. A "spreading out" (perhaps to be read "blossoms") suggests the luxuriant growth of spring, which covers the earth with a garment of plants. A great road suggests the universal way to life with spring. Bamboo, reed, and rush are especially fast-growing plants. The neighing of horses denotes their relationship to thunder. White hind legs gleam from afar as the horses run. The gallop is the liveliest gait. The seedlings of pod-bearing plants retain the pods.


The Gentle is wood, wind, the eldest daughter, the guideline, work; it is the white, the long, the high; it is advance and retreat, the undecided, odor.

  Among men it means the gray-haired, it means those with broad foreheads, it means those with much white in their eyes; it means those close to gain, so that in the market the get threefold value. Finally, it is the sign of vehemence.


The first of these meanings need no further explanation. The guideline belongs to this trigram in that it refers to a windlike dissemination of commands. White is the color of the yin principle Here yin is in the lowest place at the beginning. Wood grows long; the wind goes up to great heights. Advance and retreat refer to the changeableness of the wind; indecision and the odor wafted by the wind belong in this same context. Gray-haired, scanty-haired people have a great deal of white in their hair. People with much white in their eyes are arrogant and vehement, those who are eager for gain are likewise vehement, so that finally the trigram turns into its opposite and represents vehemence, Chên.


The Abysmal is water, ditches, ambush, bending and straightening out, bow and wheel.

  Among men it means the melancholy, those with sick hearts, those with earache.

  It is the blood sign; it is red.

  Among horses is means those with beautiful backs, those with wild courage, those which let their heads hang, those with thin hoofs, those which stumble.

  Among chariots it means those with many defects.

  It is penetration, the moon.

  It means thieves.

  Among varieties of wood it means those which are firm and have much pith.


The first of these attributes are again self-explanatory. Bending and straightening out are implied by the winding course of water; this leads to the thought of something bent, of bow and wheel. Melancholy is expressed by the fact that one strong line is hemmed in between two weak lines; thus also sickness of the heart. The trigram signifies toil and also the ear. Pains in the ear come from laborious listening.

Blood is the fluid of the body, therefore the symbolic color of K'an is red, though a somewhat brighter red than that of Ch'ien, the Creative. Because of its penetrating quality K'an, when applied to a carriage, is made to symbolize a broken-down vehicle that serves as a wagon. Penetration is suggested by the penetrating line in the middle wedged in between the two weak lines. As a water element, K'an means the moon, which therefore appears as masculine. Persons who secretly penetrate a place and sneak away are thieves. The pithiness of wood is also connected with the attribute of penetration.


The Clinging is fire, the sun, lightning, the middle daughter.

  It means coats of mail and helmets; it means lances and weapons. Among men it means the big-bellied.

  It is the sign of dryness. It means the tortoise, the crab, the snail, the mussel, the hawkbill tortoise.

  Among trees it means those which dry out in the upper part of the trunk.


Where the various symbols are not self-explanatory, they are suggested by the meaning of fire, of heat and dryness, and further by the character of the trigram, which is firm without and hollow, or yielding, within. This aspect accounts for the weapons, the fat belly, the shell-bearing creatures, and the hollow trees beginning to wither at the top.


Keeping Still is the mountain; it is a bypath; it means little stones, doors and openings, fruits and seeds, eunuchs and watchmen, the fingers; it is the dog, the rat, and the various kinds of black-billed birds.

  Among trees it signifies the firm and gnarled.


A bypath is suggested by the mountain path, and so are stones. A gate is suggested by the form of the trigram. Fruits and seeds are the link between the end and the beginning of plants. Eunuchs are doorkeepers, and watchmen guard the streets; both protect and watch. The fingers serve to hold fast, the dog keeps guard, the rat gnaws, birds with black beaks grip things easily; likewise, gnarled tree trunks possess the greatest power of resistance.


The Joyous is the lake, the youngest daughter; it is a sorceress; it is mouth and tongue. It means smashing and breaking apart; it means dropping off and bursting open. Among the kinds of soil it is the hard and salty. It is the concubine. It is the sheep.


The sorceress is a woman who speaks. The trigram is open above, hence it denotes mouth and tongue. It stands in the west and is therefore connected with the idea of autumn, destruction, hence the smashing and breaking apart, the dropping off and bursting open of ripe fruits. Where lakes have dried up, the ground is hard and salty. The concubine derives from the idea of the youngest daughter. The sheep, outwardly weak and inwardly stubborn, is suggested by the form of the trigram, as already mentioned. (It should be noted that in China sheep and goats are regarded as practically the same animal and have the same name.)