Upper trigram: K'an The Abysmal, Water
Lower trigram: Sun The Gentle, Wind
The Well. The town may be changed,
But the well cannot be changed.
It neither decreases nor increases.
They come and go and draw from the well.
If one gets down almost to the water
And the rope does not go all the way,
Or the jug breaks, it brings misfortune.
Water over wood: the image of The Well.
Thus the superior man encourages the people at their work,
And exhorts them to help one another.
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:
One does not drink the mud of the well.
No animals come to an old well.
The 2nd line marked means:
At the well hole one shoots fishes.
The jug is broken and leaks.
The 3rd line marked means:
The well is cleaned, but no one drinks from it.
This is my heart's sorrow,
For one might draw from it.
If the king were clear-minded,
Good fortune might be enjoyed in common.
The 4th line marked means:
The well is being lined. No blame.
The 5th line marked means:
In the well there is a clear, cold spring
From which one can drink.
The top line marked means:
One draws from the well
It is dependable.
Supreme good fortune.
The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.
Comments on the Hexagram
Wood is below, water above. The wood goes down into the earth to bring up
water. The image derives from the pole-and-bucket well of ancient China.
The wood represents not the buckets, which in ancient times were made of
clay, but rather the wooden poles by which the water is hauled up from the
well. The image also refers to the world of plants, which lift water out of the
earth by means of their fibers.
The well from which water is drawn conveys the further idea of an
inexhaustible dispensing of nourishment.
In ancient China the capital cities were sometimes moved, partly for the sake
of more favorable location, partly because of a change in dynasties. The style
of architecture changed in the course of centuries, but the shape of the well
has remained the same from ancient times to this day. Thus the well is the
symbol of that social structure which, evolved by mankind in meeting its
most primitive needs, is independent of all political forms. Political
structures change, as do nations, but the life of man with its needs remains
eternally the same-this cannot be changed. Life is also inexhaustible. It grows
neither less not more; it exists for one and for all. The generations come and
go, and all enjoy life in its inexhaustible abundance.
However, there are two prerequisites for a satisfactory political or social
organization of mankind. We must go down to the very foundations of life.
For any merely superficial ordering of life that leaves its deepest needs
unsatisfied is as ineffectual as if no attempt at order had ever been made.
Carelessness-by which the jug is broken-is also disastrous. If for instance the
military defense of a state is carried to such excess that it provokes wars by
which the power of the state is annihilated, this is a breaking of the jug.
This hexagram applies also to the individual. However men may differ in
disposition and in education, the foundations of human nature are the same
in everyone. And every human being can draw in the course of his
education from the inexhaustible wellspring of the divine in man's nature.
But here likewise two dangers threaten: a man may fail in his education to
penetrate to the real roots of humanity and remain fixed in convention-a
partial education of this sort is as bad as none- or he may suddenly collapse
and neglect his self-development.
The trigram Sun, wood, is below, and the trigram K'an, water, is above it.
Wood sucks water upward. Just as wood as an organism imitates the action
of the well, which benefits all parts of the plant, the superior man organizes
human society, so that, as in a plant organism, its parts co-operate for the
benefit of the whole.
The bottom line marked
If a man wanders around in swampy lowlands, his life is submerged in mud.
Such a man loses all significance for mankind. He who throws himself away
is no longer sought out by others. In the end no one troubles about him any
The 2nd line from the bottom marked
The water itself is clear, but it is not being used. Thus the well is a place
where only fish will stay, and whoever comes to it, comes only to catch fish.
But the jug is broken, so that the fish cannot be kept in it.
This describes the situation of a person who possesses good qualities but
neglects them. No one bothers about him. As a result he deteriorates in
mind. He associates with inferior men and can no longer accomplish
anything worth while.
The 3rd line from the bottom marked
An able man is available. He is like a purified well whose water is drinkable.
But no use is made of him. This is the sorrow of those who know him. One
wishes that the prince might learn about it; this would be good fortune for all
The 4th line from the bottom marked
True, if a well is being lined with sone, it cannot be used while the work is
going on. But the work is not in vain; the result is that the water stays clear.
In life also there are times when a man must put himself in order. During
such a time he can do nothing for others, but his work is nonetheless
valuable, because by enhancing his powers and abilities through inner
development, he can accomplish all the more later on.
The 5th line from the bottom marked
A well that is fed by a spring of living water is a good well. A man who has
virtues like a well of this sort is born to be a leader and savior of men, for he
has the water of life. Nevertheless, the character for "good fortune" is left out
here. The all-important thing about a well is that its water be drawn. The
best water is only a potentiality for refreshment as long as it is not brought up.
So too with leaders of mankind: it is all-important that one should drink
from the spring of their words and translate them into life.
The top line marked
The well is there fore all. No one is forbidden to take water from it. No
matter how many come, all find what they need, for the well is dependable. It
has a spring and never runs dry. Therefore it is a great blessing to the whole
land. The same is true of the really great man, whose inner wealth is
inexhaustible; the more that people draw from him, the greater his wealth
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:
Water upon Wind
This part of the text is being edited. It will be added shortly.
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. Click the image to see what it means for the two trigrams of this hexagram:
The hexagram with the trigrams reversed
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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