Upper trigram: Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven
Lower trigram: Tui The Joyous, Lake
Treading. Treading upon the tail of the tiger.
It does not bite the man. Success.
Heaven above, the lake below:
The image of Treading.
Thus the superior man discriminates between high and low,
And thereby fortifies the thinking of the people.
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:
Simple conduct. Progress without blame.
The 2nd line marked means:
Treading a smooth, level course.
The perseverance of a dark man
Brings good fortune.
The 3rd line marked means:
A one-eyed man is able to see,
A lame man is able to tread.
He treads on the tail of the tiger.
The tiger bites the man.
Thus does a warrior act on behalf of his great prince.
The 4th line marked means:
He treads on the tail of the tiger.
Caution and circumspection
Lead ultimately to good fortune.
The 5th line marked means:
Perseverance with awareness of danger.
The top line marked means:
Look to your conduct and weigh the favorable signs.
When everything is fulfilled, supreme good fortune comes.
The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.
Comments on the Hexagram
The name of the hexagram means on the one hand the right way of
conducting oneself. Heaven, the father, is above, and the lake, the youngest
daughter, is below. This shows the difference between high and low, upon
which composure correct social conduct, depends. On the other hand the
word for the name of the hexagram, TREADING, means literally treading
upon something. The small and cheerful [Tui] treads upon the large and
strong [Ch'ien]. The direction of movement of the two primary trigrams is
upward. The fact that the strong treads on the weak is not mentioned in the
Book of Changes, because it is taken for granted. For the weak to take a stand
against the strong is not dangerous here, because it happened in good humor
[Tui] and without presumption, so that the strong man is not irritated but
takes it all in good part.
The situation is really difficult. That which is strongest and that which is
weakest are close together. The weak follows behind the strong and worries
it. The strong, however, acquiesces and does not hurt the weak, because the
contact is in goof humor and harmless.
In terms of a human situation, one is handling wild, intractable people. In
such a case one's purpose will be achieved if one behaves with decorum.
Pleasant manners succeed even with irritable people.
Heaven and the lake show a difference of elevation that inheres in the
natures of the two, hence no envy arises. Among mankind also there are
necessarily differences of elevation; it is impossible to bring about universal
equality. But it is important that differences in social rank should not be
arbitrary and unjust, for if this occurs, envy and class struggle are the
inevitable consequences. If, on the other hand, external differences in rank
correspond with differences in inner worth, and if inner worth forms the
criterion of external rank, people acquiesce and order reigns in society.
The bottom line marked
The situation is one in which we are still not bound by any obligations of
social intercourse. If our conduct is simple, we remain free of them We can
quietly follow our predilections as long as we are content and make not
demands on people.
The meaning of the hexagram is not standstill but progress. A man finds
himself in an altogether inferior position at the start. However, he has the
inner strength that guarantees progress. If he can be content with simplicity,
he can make progress without blame. When a man is dissatisfied with
modest circumstances, he is restless and ambitious and tries to advance, not
for the sake of accomplishing anything worth while, but merely in order to
escape from lowliness and poverty by dint of his conduct. Once his purpose is
achieved, he is certain to become arrogant and luxury-loving. Therefore
blame attaches to his progress. On the other hand, a man who is good at his
work is content to behave simply. He wishes to make progress in order to
accomplish something. When he attains his goal, he does something worth
while, an all is well.
The 2nd line from the bottom marked
The situation of a lonely sage is indicated here. He remains withdrawn from
the bustle of life, seeks nothing, asks nothing of anyone, and travels through
life unassailed, on a level road. Since he is content and does not challenge
fate, he remains free of entanglements.
The 3rd line from the bottom marked
A one-eyed man can indeed see, but not enough for clear vision. A lame
man can indeed treat, but not enough to make progress. If in spite of such
defects a man considers himself strong and consequently exposes himself to
danger, he is inviting disaster, for he is undertaking something beyond his
strength. This reckless way of plunging ahead, regardless of the adequacy of
one's powers, can be justified only in the case of a warrior battling for his
The 4th line from the bottom marked
This text refers to a dangerous enterprise. The inner power to carry it through
is there, but this inner power is combined with hesitating caution in one's
external attitude. This line contrasts with the preceding line, which is weak
within but outwardly presses forward. Here one is sure of ultimate success,
which consists in achieving one's purpose, that is, in overcoming danger by
The 5th line from the bottom marked
This refers to the ruler of the hexagram as a whole. One sees that one has to
be resolute in conduct. But at the same time one must remain conscious of
the danger connected with such resoluteness, especially if it is to be
persevered in. Only awareness of the danger makes success possible.
The top line marked
The work is ended. If we want to know whether good fortune will follow, we
must look back upon our conduct and its consequences. If the effects are good,
then good fortune is certain. No one knows himself. It is only by the
consequences of his actions, by the fruit of his labors, that a man can judge
what he is to expect.
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 Lake
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.
Use the Facebook field on some of these web pages to comment the I Ching or this website.