Upper trigram: K'an The Abysmal, Water
Lower trigram: Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven
Waiting. If you are sincere,
You have light and success.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Clouds rise up to heaven:
The image of Waiting.
Thus the superior man eats and drinks,
Is joyous and of good cheer.
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:
Waiting in the meadow.
It furthers one to abide in what endures.
The 2nd line marked means:
Waiting on the sand.
There is some gossip.
The end brings good fortune.
The 3rd line marked means:
Waiting in the mud
Brings about the arrival of the enemy.
The 4th line marked means:
Waiting in blood.
Get out of the pit.
The 5th line marked means:
Waiting at meat and drink.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
The top line marked means:
One falls into the pit.
Three uninvited guests arrive.
Honor them, and in the end there will be good fortune.
The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.
Comments on the Hexagram
All beings have need of nourishment from above. But the gift of food comes
in its own time, and for this one must wait. This hexagram shows the clouds
in the heavens, giving rain to refresh all that grows and to provide mankind
with food and drink. The rain will come in its own time. We cannot make it
come; we have to wait for it. The idea of waiting is further suggested by the
attributes of the two trigrams - strength within, danger in from. Strength in
the face of danger does not plunge ahead but bides its time, whereas weakness
in the face of danger grows agitated and has not the patience to wait.
Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the
goal. Such certainty alone gives that light which leads to success. This leads
to the perseverance that brings good fortune and bestows power to cross the
great water. One is faced with a danger that has to be overcome. Weakness
and impatience can do nothing. Only a strong man can stand up to his fate,
for his inner security enables him to endure to the end. This strength shows
itself in uncompromising truthfulness [with himself]. It is only when we
have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self-
deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the
path to success may be recognized. This recognition must be followed by
resolute and persevering action. For only the man who goes to meet his fate
resolutely is equipped to deal with it adequately. Then he will be able to cross
the great water - that is to say, he will be capable of making the necessary
decision and of surmounting the danger.
When clouds rise in the sky, it is a sign that it will rain. There is nothing to
do but to wait until after the rain falls. It is the same in life when destiny is at
work. We should not worry and seek to shape the future by interfering in
things before the time is ripe. We should quietly fortify the body with food
and drink and the mind with gladness and good cheer. Fate comes when it
will, and thus we are ready.
The bottom line marked
The danger is not yet close. One is still waiting on the open plain.
Conditions are still simple, yet there is a feeling of something impending.
One must continue to lead a regular life as long as possible. Only in this way
does one guard against a premature waste of strength, keep free of blame and
error that would become a source of weakness later on.
The 2nd line from the bottom marked
The danger gradually comes closer. Sand is near the bank of the river, and
the water means danger. Disagreements crop up. General unrest can easily
develop in such times, and we lay the blame on one another. He who stays
calm will succeed in making things go well in the end. Slander will be
silenced if we do not gratify it with injured retorts.
The 3rd line from the bottom marked
Mud is no place for waiting, since it is already being washed by the water of
the stream. Instead of having gathered strength to cross the stream at one try,
one has made a premature start that has got him no farther than the muddy
bank. Such an unfavorable position invites enemies from without, who
naturally take advantage of it. Caution and a sense of the seriousness of the
situation are all that can keep one from injury.
The 4th line from the bottom marked
The situation is extremely dangerous. It is of utmost gravity now - a matter
of life and death. Bloodshed seems imminent. There is no going forward or
backward; we are cut off as if in a pit. Now we must simply stand fast and let
fate take its course. This composure, which keeps us from aggravating the
trouble by anything we might do, is the only way of getting out of the
The 5th line from the bottom marked
Even in the midst of danger there come intervals of peace when things go
relatively well. If we possess enough inner strength, we shall take advantage
of these intervals to fortify ourselves for renewed struggle. We must know
how to enjoy the moment without being deflected from the goal, for
perseverance is needed to remain victorious.
This is true in public life as well; it is not possible to achieve everything all
at once. The height of wisdom is to allow people enough recreation to
quicken pleasure in their work until the task is completed. Herein lies the
secret of the whole hexagram. It differs from Chin OBSTRUCTION (39), in
the fact that in this instance, while waiting, we are sure of our cause and
therefore do not lose the serenity born of inner cheerfulness.
The top line marked
The waiting is over; the danger can no longer be averted. One falls into the
pit and must yield to the inevitable. Everything seems to have been in vain.
But precisely in this extremity things take an unforeseen turn. Without a
move on one's own part, there is outside intervention. At first one cannot be
sure of its meaning: is it rescue or is it destruction? A person in this
situation must keep his mind alert and not withdraw into himself with a
sulky gesture of refusal, but must greet the new turn with respect. Thus he
ultimately escapes the danger, and all goes well. Even happy turns of fortune
often come in a form that at first seems strange to us.
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 Heaven
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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