Upper trigram: Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven
Lower trigram: Li The Clinging, Flame
Fellowship with Men in the open.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
The perseverance of the superior man furthers.
Heaven together with fire:
The image of Fellowship with Men.
Thus the superior man organizes the clans
And makes distinctions between things.
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:
Fellowship with men at the gate.
The 2nd line marked means:
Fellowship with men in the clan.
The 3rd line marked means:
He hides weapons in the thicket;
He climbs the high hill in front of it.
For three years he does not rise up.
The 4th line marked means:
He climbs up on his wall; he cannot attack.
The 5th line marked means:
Men bound in fellowship first weep and lament,
But afterward the laugh.
After great struggles they succeed in meeting.
The top line marked means:
Fellowship with men in the meadow.
The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.
Comments on the Hexagram
The image of the upper trigram Ch'ien is heaven, and that of the lower, Li, is
flame. It is the nature of fire to flame up to the heaven. This gives the idea of
fellowship. IT is the second line that, by virtue of its central character, unites
the five strong lines around it. This hexagram forms a complement to Shih,
THE ARMY (7). In the latter, danger is within and obedience without - the
character of a warlike army, which, in order to hold together, needs one
strong man among the many who are weak. Here, clarity is within and
strength without - the character of a peaceful union of men, which, in order to
hold together, needs one yielding nature among many firm persons.
True fellowship among men must be based upon a concern that is universal.
It is not the private interests of the individual that create lasting fellowship
among men, but rather the goals of humanity. That is why it is said that
fellowship with men in the open succeeds. If unity of this kind prevails,
even difficult and dangerous tasks, such as crossing the great water, can be
accomplished. But in order to bring about this sort of fellowship, a
persevering and enlightened leader is needed - a man with clear, convincing,
and inspiring aims and the strength to carry them out. (The inner trigram
means clarity; the outer, strength.)
Heaven has the same direction of movement as fire, yet it is different from
fire. Just as the luminaries in the sky serve for the systematic division and
arrangement of time, so human society and all things that really belong
together must be organically arranged. Fellowship should not be a mere
mingling of individuals or of things - that would be chaos, not fellowship. If
fellowship is to lead to order, there must be organization within diversity.
The bottom line marked
The beginning of union among people should take place before the door. All
are equally close to one another. No divergent aims have yet arisen, and one
makes not mistakes. The basic principles of any kind of union must be
equally accessible to all concerned. Secret agreements bring misfortune.
The 2nd line from the bottom marked
There is danger here of formation of a separate faction on the basis of
personal and egotistic interests. Such factions, which are exclusive and,
instead of welcoming all men, must condemn one group in order to unite the
others, originate from low motives and therefore lead in the course of time to
The 3rd line from the bottom marked
Here fellowship has changed about to mistrust. Each man distrusts the other,
plans a secret ambush, and seeks to spy on his fellow form afar. We are
dealing with an obstinate opponent whom we cannot come at by this method.
Obstacles standing in the way of fellowship with others are shown here. One
has mental reservations for one's own part and seeks to take his opponent by
surprise. This very fact makes one mistrustful, suspecting the same wiles in
his opponent and trying to ferret them out. The result is that one departs
further and further from true fellowship. The longer this goes on, the more
alienated one becomes.
The 4th line from the bottom marked
Here the reconciliation that follows quarrel mover nearer. It is true that there
are still dividing walls on which we stand confronting one another. But the
difficulties are too great. We get into straits, and this brings us to our senses.
We cannot fight, and therein lies our good fortune.
The 5th line from the bottom marked
Two people are outwardly separated, but in their hearts they are united. They
are kept apart by their positions in life. Many difficulties and obstructions
arise between them and cause them grief. But, remaining true to each other,
the allow nothing to separate them, and although it costs them a severe
struggle to overcome the obstacles, they will succeed. When they come
together their sadness will change to joy. Confucius says of this:
Life leads the thoughtful man on a path of many windings.
Now the course is checked, now it runs straight again.
Here winged thoughts may pour freely forth in words,
There the heavy burden of knowledge must be shut away in silence.
But when two people are at one in the inmost hearts,
They shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze.
And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,
Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.
The top line marked
The warm attachment that springs from the heart is lacking here. We are by
this time actually outside of fellowship with others. However, we ally
ourselves with them. The fellowship does not include all, but only those
who happen to dwell near one another. The meadow is the pasture at the
entrance to the town. At this stage, the ultimate goal of the union of
mankind has not yet been attained, but we need not reproach ourselves. We
join the community without separate aims of our own.
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 Flame
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.