Upper trigram: Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven
Lower trigram: K'un The Receptive, Earth
Standstill. Evil people do not further
The perseverance of the superior man.
The great departs; the small approaches.
Heaven and earth do not unite:
The image of Standstill.
Thus the superior man falls back upon his inner worth
In order to escape the difficulties.
He does not permit himself to be honored with revenue.
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 the ribbon grass is pulled up, the sod comes with it.
Each according to his kind.
Perseverance brings good fortune and success.
The 2nd line marked means:
They bear and endure;
This means good fortune for inferior people.
The standstill serves to help the great man attain success.
The 3rd line marked means:
They bear shame.
The 4th line marked means:
He who acts at the command of the highest
Remains without blame.
Those of like mind partake of the blessing.
The 5th line marked means:
Standstill is giving way.
Good fortune for the great man.
"What if it should fail, what if it should fail?"
In this way, he ties it to a cluster of mulberry shoots.
The top line marked means:
The standstill comes to an end.
First standstill, then good fortune.
The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.
Comments on the Hexagram
This hexagram is the opposite of the preceding one. Heaven is above,
drawing farther and farther away, while the earth below sinks farther into the
depths. The creative powers are not in relation. It is a time of standstill and
decline. This hexagram is linked with the seventh month (August-
September), when the year has passed its zenith and autumnal decay is setting
Heaven and earth are out of communion and all things are benumbed. What
is above has no relation to what is below, and on earth confusion and
disorder prevail. The dark power is within, the light power is without.
Weakness is within, harshness without. Within are the inferior, and
without are the superior. The way of inferior people is in ascent; the way of
superior people is one the decline. But the superior people do not allow
themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting
influence is closed to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their
principles and withdraw into seclusion.
When, owing to the influence of inferior men, mutual mistrust prevails in
public life, fruitful activity is rendered impossible, because the fundaments
are wrong. Therefore the superior man knows what he must do under such
circumstances; he does not allow himself to be tempted by dazzling offers to
take part in public activities. This would only expose him to danger, since he
cannot assent to the meanness of the others. He therefore hides his worth
and withdraws into seclusion.
The bottom line marked
The text is almost the same as that of the first line of the preceding hexagram,
but with a contrary meaning. In the latter a man is drawing another along
with him on the road to an official career; here a man is drawing another
with him into retirement form public life. This is why the text says here,
"Perseverance brings good fortune and success," and not "Undertakings bring
good fortune." If it becomes impossible to make our influence count, it is
only by retirement that we spare ourselves humiliation. Success in a higher
sense can be ours, because we know how to safeguard the value of our
The 2nd line from the bottom marked
Inferior people are ready to flatter their superiors in a servile way. They
would also endure the superior man if he would put an end to their
confusion. This is fortunate for them. But the great man calmly bears the
consequences of the standstill. He does not mingle with the crowd of the
inferior; that is not his place. By his willingness to suffer personally he
insures the success of his fundamental principles.
The 3rd line from the bottom marked
Inferior people who have risen to power illegitimately do not feel equal to the
responsibility they have taken upon themselves. In their hearts they begin to
be ashamed, although at first they do not show it outwardly. This marks a
turn for the better.
The 4th line from the bottom marked
The time of standstill is nearing the point of change into its opposite.
Whoever wishes to restore order must feel himself called to the task and
have the necessary authority. A man who sets himself up a capable of
creating order according to his own judgment could make mistakes and end
in failure. But the man who is truly called to the task is favored by the
conditions of the time, and all those of like mind will share in his blessing.
The 5th line from the bottom marked
The time undergoes a change. The right man, able to restore order, has
arrived. Hence "good fortune." But such periods of transition are the very
times in which we must fear and tremble. Success is assured only through
greatest caution, which asks always, "What if it should fail?" When a
mulberry bush is cut down, a number of unusually strong shoots sprout from
the roots. Hence the image of tying something to a cluster of mulberry shoots
is used to symbolize the way of making success certain. Confucius says about
Danger arises when a man feels secure in his position. Destruction threatens
when a man seeks to preserve his worldly estate. Confusion develops when a
man has put everything in order. Therefore the superior man does not forget
danger in his security, not ruin when he is well established, nor confusion
when his affairs are in order. In this way he gains personal safety and is able
to protect the empire.
The top line marked
The standstill does not last forever. However, it does not cease of its own
accord; the right man is needed to end it. This is the difference between a
state of peace and a state of stagnation. Continuous effort is necessary to
maintain peace: left to itself it would change into stagnation and
disintegration. The time of disintegration, however, does not change back
automatically to a condition of peace and prosperity; effort must be put forth
in order to end it. This shows the creative attitude that man must take if the
world is to be put in order.
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:
Heaven upon Earth
Heaven covering Earth, Earth resting below Heaven - that's how it is and how it should be. The original state of things, the order that nature always returns to. When this is the situation, there is no cause for any kind of action.
This is the obvious reason for standstill and no furthering. Why change the optimal order of the universe, why even try?
If this hexagram appears in divination, it means that things are as they should be, so one should be very cautious about acting at all. Nothing big, nothing out of the ordinary. Things have fallen into their places, the puzzle is complete. Only the most minor of adjustments are called for.
The Jugdement is nothing other than this: The situation makes it evident that this is how things should be. It can be compared to the basic arrangement of the cosmos into Heaven above and Earth below. The present situation should be this natural, or there is something wrong. The time is such that what takes place can be compared to the most basic and yet most magnificent of orders - that of Heaven and Earth. So, who's to object or interfere?
Yin and Yang Significances
The hexagram is also the equal blending in a sublime order of Yang (full) and Yin (broken) lines. So, it's a symbol of the Yin and Yang unity. Things are in perfect balance. Again an argument for not disturbing the situation by careless action.
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. 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.
Use the Facebook field on some of these web pages to comment the I Ching or this website.