Upper trigram: K'un The Receptive, Earth
Lower trigram: K'un The Receptive, Earth
The Receptive brings about sublime success,
Furthering through the perseverance of a mare.
If the superior man undertakes something and tries to lead,
He goes astray;
But if he follows, he finds guidance.
It is favorable to find friends in the west and south,
To forego friends in the east and north.
Quiet perseverance brings good fortune.
The earth's condition is receptive devotion.
Thus the superior man who has breadth of character
Carries the outer world.
These texts apply only for the lines that were marked, when the hexagram was cast. Note that the lines are counted from the bottom up.
The bottom line marked means:
When there is hoarfrost underfoot,
Solid ice is not far off.
The 2nd line marked means:
Straight, square, great.
Yet nothing remains unfurthered.
The 3rd line marked means:
One is able to remain persevering.
If by chance you are in the service of a king,
Seek not works, but bring to completion.
The 4th line marked means:
A tied-up sack. No blame, no praise.
The 5th line marked means:
A yellow lower garment brings supreme good fortune.
The top line marked means:
Dragons fight in the meadow.
Their blood is black and yellow.
All six lines marked means:
Lasting perseverance furthers.
The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.
Comments on the Hexagram
This hexagram is made up of broken lines only. The broken lines represents
the dark, yielding, receptive primal power of yin. The attribute of the
hexagram is devotion; its image is the earth. It is the perfect complement of
THE CREATIVE — the complement, not the opposite, for the Receptive does
not combat the Creative but completes it . It represents nature in contrast to
spirit, earth in contrast to heaven, space as against time, the female-maternal
as against the male-paternal. However, as applied to human affairs, the
principle of this complementary relationship is found not only in the relation
between man and woman, but also in that between prince and minister and
between father and son. Indeed, even in the individual this duality appears
in the coexistence of the spiritual world and the world of the senses.
But strictly speaking there is no real dualism here, because there is a clearly
defined hierarchic relationship between the two principles. In itself of course
the Receptive is just as important as the Creative, but the attribute of
devotion defines the place occupied by this primal power in relation to the
Creative. For the Receptive must be activated and led by the Creative; then it
is productive of good. Only when it abandons this position and tries to stand
as an equal side by side with the Creative, does it become evil. The result
then is opposition to and struggle against the Creative, which is productive of
evil to both.
The four fundamental aspects of the Creative — "sublime success, furthering
through perseverance" — are also attributed to the Receptive. Here, however,
the perseverance is more closely defined: it is that of a mare. The Receptive
connotes spatial reality in contrast to the spiritual potentiality of the Creative.
The potential becomes real and the spiritual becomes spatial through a
specifically qualifying definition. Thus the qualification, "of a mare," is here
added to the idea of perseverance. The horse belongs to earth just as the
dragon belongs to heaven. Its tireless roaming over the plains is taken as a
symbol of the vast expanse of the earth. This is the symbol chosen because
the mare combines the strength and swiftness of the horse with the
gentleness and devotion of the cow.
Only because nature in its myriad forms corresponds with the myriad
impulses of the Creative can it make these impulses real. Nature's richness
lies in its power to nourish all living things; its greatness lies in its power to
give then beauty and splendor. Thus it prospers all that lives. IT is the
Creative that begets things, but they are brought to birth by the Receptive.
Applied to human affairs, therefore, what the hexagram indicated is action in
conformity with the situation. The person in questions not in an
independent position, but is acting as an assistant. This means that he must
achieve something. It is not his task to try to lead — that would only make him
lose the way-but to let himself be led. If he knows how to meet fate with an
attitude of acceptance, he is sure to find the right guidance. The superior man
lets himself be guided; he does not go ahead blindly, but learns from the
situation what is demanded of him and then follows this intimation from
Since there is something to be accomplished, we need friends and helpers in
the hour of toil and effort, once the ideas to be realized are firmly set. The
time of toil and effort is indicated by the west and south, for west and south
symbolize the place where the Receptive works for the Creative, as nature
does in summer and autumn. If in that situation one does not mobilize all
one's powers, the work to be accomplished will not be done. Hence to find
friends there means to find guidance. But in addition to the time of toil and
effort, there is also a time of planning, and for this we need this solitude. The
east symbolized the place where a man receives orders from his master, and
the north the place where he reports on what he has done. At that time he
must be alone and objective. In this sacred hour he must do without
companions. So that the purity of the moment may not be spoiled by fictional
hates and favoritism.
Just as there is only one heaven, so too there is only one earth. In the
hexagram of heaven the doubling of the trigram implies duration in time,
but in the hexagram of earth the doubling connotes the solidity and extension
in space by virtue of which the earth is able to carry and preserve all things
that live and move upon it. The earth in its devotion carries all things, good
and evil,, without exception. In the same way the superior man gives to his
character breadth, purity, and sustaining power, so that he is able both to
support and to bear with people and things.
The bottom line marked
Just as the light-giving power represents life, so the dark power, the shadowy,
represents death. When the first hoarfrost comes in the autumn, the power
of darkness and cold is just at its beginning. After these first warnings, signs
of death will gradually multiply, until, in obedience to immutable laws, stark
winter with its ice is here.
In life it is the same. After certain scarcely noticeable signs of decay have
appeared, they go on increasing until final dissolution comes. But in life
precautions can be taken by heeding the first signs of decay and checking them
The 2nd line from the bottom marked
The symbol of heaven is the circle, and that of earth is the square. Thus
squareness is a primary quality of the earth. On the other hand, movement
in a straight line, as well as magnitude, is a primary quality of the Creative.
But all square things have their origin in a straight line and into turn form
solid bodies. In mathematics, when we discriminate between lines, planes
and solids, we find that rectangular planes result from straight lines, and
cubic magnitudes from rectangular planes. The Receptive accommodates
itself to the qualities of the Creative and makes them its own. Thus a square
develops out of a straight line and a cube out of a square. This is compliance
with the laws of the Creative; nothing is taken away, nothing added.
Therefore the Receptive has no need of a special purpose of its own, nor of
any effort' yet everything turns out as it should.
Nature creates all beings without erring: this is its foursquareness. It
tolerates all creatures equally: this is its greatness. Therefore it attains what is
right for all without artifice or special intentions. Man achieves the height of
wisdom when all that he does is as self-evident as what nature does.
The 3rd line from the bottom marked
If a man is free of vanity he is able to conceal his abilities and keep them from
attracting attention too soon; thus he can mature undisturbed. If conditions
demand it, he can also enter public life, but that too he does with restraint.
The wise man gladly leaves fame to others. He does not seek to have credited
to himself things that stand accomplished, but hopes to release active forces;
that is, he completes his works in such a manner that they may bear fruit for
The 4th line from the bottom marked
The dark element opens when it moves and closes when at rest. The strictest
reticence is indicated here. The time is dangerous, because any degree of
prominence leads either to the enmity of irresistible antagonists if one
challenges them or to misconceived recognition if one is complaisant.
Therefore a man ought to maintain reserve, be it in solitude or in the turmoil
of the world, for there too he can hide himself so well that no one knows
The 5th line from the bottom marked
Yellow is the color of the earth and of the middle; it is the symbol of that
which is reliable and genuine. The lower garment is inconspicuously
decorated — the symbol of aristocratic reserve. When anyone is called upon to
work in a prominent but not independent position, true success depends on
the utmost discretion. A man's genuineness and refinement should not
reveal themselves directly; they should express themselves only indirectly as
an effect from within.
The top line marked
In the top place the dark element should yield to the light. If it attempts to
maintain a position to which it is not entitled and to rule instead of serving,
it draws down upon itself the anger of the strong. A struggle ensues in which
it is overthrown, with injury, however, to both sides. The dragon, symbol of
heaven, comes to fight the false dragon that symbolized the inflation of the
earth principle. Midnight blue is the color of heaven; yellow is the color of
earth. Therefore, when black and yellow blood flow, it is a sign that in this
unnatural contest both primal powers suffer injury.
All six lines marked
When nothing but sixes appears, the hexagram of THE RECEPTIVE changes
into the hexagram of THE CREATIVE. By holding fast to what is right, it
gains the power of enduring. There is indeed no advance, but neither is there
Here I add some perspectives on this hexagram, as well as other methods to read its meaning, in additon to what Richard Wilhelm derives from it above.
Meaning of the Trigrams Combined
Each hexagram combines two trigrams, making one the upper and the other the lower. The meaning of the hexagram is mainly derived from that combination. Here's what it means for this hexagram:
Earth upon Earth
The basic polarity in ancient Chinese cosmology is that of Heaven and Earth, what's above and what's below. This hexagram is all about Earth. It's regarded as receptive, because it receives its powers and its laws from Heaven above.
Day and night, rain and draught, storm and calm — all the mightiest forces are those coming from above. Earthly life simply has to adapt. But when doing so, it gives birth to all the creatures moving on its surface and all the plants growing from it. By receiving, the Earth becomes fertile and abundant.
When the receptive rests on the receptive, we must learn to let things have their course. If we do, we succeed splendidly and there is great gain. If we don't, we must fail utterly. It's close to the Taoist idea of wu-wei, non-action, but that doesn't necessarily mean doing nothing — but doing what's called for, and nothing else.
It's not easy to settle for accepting what can be done, instead of struggling for what can't. Sometimes, fate allows for the latter, but that's not the case if this hexagram appears in divination. It states firmly that now is the time to adapt one's ambition to what's realistic. Then, success will follow, and it will be both tangible and sweet.
Yin and Yang Significances
This hexagram consists of only Yin lines (broken instead of full), which makes it the most Yin of all I Ching hexagrams. Yin is the earthly, the dark, cold and moist. It's also the female.
Read more about the polarity of Yin and Yang here:
Yin and Yang
Compare to the Reversed Trigrams
It's common to compare a hexagram to the one where the lines are the opposite: a full line is broken and a broken line full. But I find it much more interesting to compare hexagrams with the trigrams reversed: the upper trigram becomes the lower, and the lower trigram becomes the upper. That deepens the understanding of the trigrams at work — when they're not identical.
Since these two are identical, it makes more sense to compare with the hexagram that has reversed lines (see below) — especially in this particular case, as you will see.
Compare to the Reversed Lines
You can also compare this hexagram to its opposite according to the six lines, where each broken line is full, and vice versa. In some cases it leads to the same hexagram as the one where the trigrams are switched. Here is the hexagram with reversed lines (click it to get to its webpage):
Hexagram with opposite lines
Click the header to read more about the eight trigrams that are combined into the 64 hexagrams.
The 64 I Ching Hexagrams
An I Ching hexagram is composed of two trigrams. Each of the 64 hexagrams has its own name, meaning, and divinatory text. Here they all are, in the traditional order. Click on the image of an I Ching hexagram to get to its webpage.
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