2 Kun 坤

2 Kun1

The lower: Kun (submissiveness, earth). The upper: Kun (submissiveness, earth).

Kun: submissiveness and receptiveness, earth; the qualities of a follower and assistant.





Hexagram Kun is composed of two Kun trigrams. It is pure feminine YIn, which is the opposite of the masculine hexagram Qian, yet they are symbiotic. Qian (perseverance, heaven) originates the world while Kun receives the world as earth sustains the heavens and accommodates the whole of creation. Kun follows Qian in the sequence of 64 hexagrams stepping onto the stage of the I Ching, symbolising the primacy of Qian and the secondary nature of Kun.

The image of trigram Kun is earth and its instinct is submissiveness and receptiveness. , the Chinese character for Kun, means tu3 (earth) at the position of shen, the ninth branch of the twelve Earthly Branches which is 15:00 to 17:00 on a 24-hour clock, i.e. the southwest where trigram Kun is positioned in the Wen Wang diagram.

Kun is the changing hexagram of Qian. According to Za Gua Zhuan (i.e. the commentary on the paired hexagrams), Qian is rigid, while Kun is soft. In addition to these features, Qian as the first hexagram leads, shows perseverance (i.e. strength and firmness), exhibits largeness (like the heavens) and roundness (like the heavens endlessly circling). Hexagram Kun acts in a supporting role, tenderly and submissively, and is signified as wideness (like the earth accommodating all creatures). It also exhibits a square shape, which is motionless like the earth we inhabit.

Hexagram Qian is characterized as a dragon which flies in the heavens of Qian. Hexagram Kun is a mare, which gallops on earth and follows the stallion.


Text (of Zhou Yi): Kun (submissiveness and receptiveness, earth); origination (i.e. a great and new start full of executive power), smooth progress, it is advantageous (or appropriate) (to possess) the fidelity (i.e. the persistence) of a mare.  A gentleman goes somewhere; he loses his way at first but later will attain (the recognition of) the master.  It is advantageous (or appropriate) to go southwest in attaining friendship, while going northeast leads to losing friends.  To contentedly persist (in the norm of hexagram Kun) is auspicious.

Commentary on the text (Tuan Zhuan): Kun (submissiveness and receptiveness, earth); the utmost of Kun’s origination!  The whole of creation relies on it for nurturance and growth, in this way it sustains the heavens.  Kun’s sturdiness bears the load of all creatures, and (its) combined virtue (with Qian) is unlimited; it possesses all (resources) and brings them into full play, (whereby) all class of substance attain smooth progress.  The mare is like Kun, galloping on earth without limit (like the earth); tenderness and submissiveness are advantageous in its fidelity.  A gentleman goes somewhere; he gets lost at first when he loses the norm (of hexagram Kun, or the course), but later after he becomes submissive (like hexagram Kun following Qian), he attains normality.  Friends will be made on a trip to the southwest, as it goes with those who are similar; friends will be lost in the northeast, but this will end in celebration (when Qian appears as the desired goal).  The auspiciousness of contented persistence, (signifies that) it conforms without end to (the norm of) earth.

Text explanation:

Hexagram Kun is the start of femininity, a great and new start full of executive power. Like hexagram Qian (perseverance, heaven), its feminine lines appear one after another, advancing in a straightforward way to the top; therefore Kun is the smooth progress (of feminine). However the advantage (or the appropriateness) of Kun differs from the unconditional advantage of Qian. The advantage (or appropriateness) of Kun comes from its submission to Qian. Hence, Kun must submit to Qian, like the mare tamely following the stallion; like the adherent loyally supporting the leader; and like the earth submissively sustaining the heavens.

Trigram Kun locates in the southwest; Kun will find friends, i.e. increased submissiveness, in going southwest. Trigram Gen (keeping still, the mountain) in the northeast is a masculine trigram (i.e. a trigram consisting of an odd number of line strokes). Although feminine Kun is designated to mate with the masculine in order to give birth to life, Kun will lose its submission to Qian if it goes northeast to Gen.  

Celebration is a joyous occasion for all concerned. A masculine line denotes brightness which is symbolic of happiness as there is no somber shade. Once the happiness of an individual extends to all others, it becomes a celebration. Qian is a convergence of masculine and here represents a celebration. This signifies that if Kun remains submissive to Qian, there will be a celebration at the end of hexagram Kun with all lines starting to change to masculine (i.e. the desired goal of feminine). Qian and Kun mate; all creatures are given life. Hence, contentedly persisting in the norm of hexagram Kun, i.e. submitting to Qian, is auspicious.

Commentary on the image (Da Xiang Zhuan): Earth is shaped according to Kun; a gentleman, in accordance with this, accommodates all things with a breadth of virtue (which signifies receptiveness).


Hexagram Kun emphasizes submissiveness. It will become more submissive (but nothing else) if it joins with Kun in the southwest. And it will lose its submission to Qian if it goes northeast to Gen. To persist in following and submitting to Qian is auspicious as it will result in a joyous occasion celebrating (the birth of all creatures). Kun also highlights receptiveness, i.e. following the trend of the times with tenderness and accommodating everything with a breadth of virtue.

Hexagram Kun has the same virtues of origination and smooth progress as hexagram Qian, but its appropriateness or advantage must come from its persistence in remaining submissive to Qian.

Qian denotes a founder and leader. Kun follows it as the next step in the I Ching, designating its role as an adherent and assistant which must loyally support the founder and leader. When all the feminine lines of Kun start changing to masculine at the end of the hexagram, it signifies that Qian is the desired goal of Kun.

Does hexagram Kun really conform to its norm and submit to Qian rather than Gen (which is a masculine trigram but consists of only one masculine line)? Yes or no? Along the sequence the feminine will be seeking masculine (momentum) in order to give birth in the next hexagram Zhun (3).




(The earth of) Kun is designated to sustain (the heavens of) Qian and submit to Qian, as adherents and assistants must submissively follow founders and leaders. The lines of hexagram Kun follow this rule and present their different characteristics in three domains: earth, humanity and heaven, in sequence, until Kun reaches its final goal. Lines 1 and 2 in the earthly domain exhibit the feature and norm of Kun. Lines 3 and 4 in the human domain perform their roles according to the norm of Kun. Lines 5 and 6 reach the heavenly domain and their full development revealing different self-cultivation in relation to Qian. When all the lines of Kun start changing to masculine, the changing Kun reaffirms that masculine is the desired goal of feminine.

The 1st line

Text: (Once) stepping onto the frosted (ground), the hard ice is coming (next).

Text explanation:

When a person first steps onto frosted ground, he is aware that according to the order of Nature cold weather is ahead. shun4 (submissiveness in Chinese) also signifies to move along a designated route. The text uses the natural law to illustrate that the submissiveness () of Kun is possible if it abides by its designated role until the end.

 The arrogant dragon (of hexagram Qian) seeks more after having achieved success and won dominant position. This leads to regret. However it becomes auspicious when Qian is changing to Kun. All the dragons possess the quality of submissiveness and live together in peace. Submissiveness is the course paved in front of hexagram Kun.  

Commentary on the image (Xiao Xiang Zhuan): (Line 1 is in a state of) stepping onto the frosted (ground) and the hard ice is coming (next), (signifying) Yin (feminine, coldness) starting to freeze.  (In moving) submissively along its route, it will reach the hard ice.

Line 1 is the first of the six feminine lines in hexagram Kun. If the first line yields to the submissiveness assigned to it, and deepens (like coldness), heartfelt submission (hard ice) will form at the end.

Enlightenment through six one (i.e. line 1 when it is cast as the old feminine (6) and starts changing to masculine): 1) there is definitely a cause for what has happened, and the outcome unfolds gradually from it, or 2) one should abide by what is assigned and be submissive in following the course; in the end one will achieve what is assigned. Line 1 must learn what submissiveness means and be submissive in following the course assigned to it; then it will be led to the end right for it. Should line 1 not abide by the advice and change to masculine, the hexagram would become Fu (24), return of masculine.

The 2nd line

Text: (The subject is in a position to become) straight, square, and large; (it ought) to disregard what has been learned (不習) (in hexagram Kun, but follow Qian); nothing is unfavourable.

Text explanation:

Hexagram Qian consists of six masculine lines which are straight and tend to move. Qian moves and Kun follows. Movement in two dimensions forms the square of earth, or Kun. When Qian continues moving to the third dimension, the square expands and becomes large. The masculine is large and Qian signifies the largeness (of the heavens); this is what Kun needs to learn to enhance itself.

Kun is earth which stays below. Therefore line 2, the representative line of the lower trigram Kun, is the representative line of the hexagram and exhibits Kun's norm and what it means to be submissive in following. As line 2 already possesses the principle of moderation and righteousness, and all the other lines of Kun are feminine as well, it has no need to learn from them. What it needs to do is simply follow Qian in receiving what it creates; then it can become straight (i.e. to be righteous internally), square (i.e. to rectify behaviour externally) and large (in order to accommodate the whole of creation).

Commentary on the image: The movement of line 2, (signifying to go) straight with the square (i.e. earth, Kun)(Line 2 ought) to disregard what has been learned (in hexagram Kun but follow Qian); nothing is unfavourable as the norm of earth radiates.

xi2 of 不習 signifies to review what one has learned. bu4 (not) , not to review what one has learned, is paraphrased as “to forget what one has learned before but follow Qian in accordance with the submissiveness of Kun”. 

Enlightenment through six two (i.e. line 2 when it is cast as the old feminine (6) and starts changing to masculine): 1) to learn everything from whom one is designated to follow, or 2) be submissively receptive in order to properly perform one's job. When this line is triggered to move, this signifies that in following and learning from someone to whom one is designated to submit, one can become capable of performing one's job. Nothing is unfavourable as one's natural endowments can be fully brought into play. After this line gets through with its assignment, the hexagram changes to Shi (7), troops, where it becomes a marshal who royally correlates with the king. This brings him no calamity but good fortune.

The 3rd line

Text: (The subject in a state of) possessing brilliance internally can properly persist (in the norm of hexagram Kun); like serving a king, (one ought to seek) no achievement (for oneself but perform one's job) with a (good) ending.

Text explanation:

Line 3 should act like a duke serving the king. This signifies that it has the talent but doesn't boast. It fulfills its duty, completes the job but does not seek merit. This is because all achievement belongs to the king, Qian. This is the code of conduct for hexagram Kun.

Kun (i.e. earth) sustains and submits to Qian (i.e. the heavens) as if serving the king. Line 3 is at the position of a duke who has his own dukedom and functions like the king; this brings merit. Position 3 is a place of masculine, i.e. brightness. Therefore, feminine line 3 should conceal masculinity, i.e. be brilliant internally and maintain feminine Yin (i.e. darkness) externally.

What would occur if masculine appeared at position 3? The inner lower trigram would become Kan (the abyss, water) signifying peril, and line 3 would remain in the middle.


Commentary on the image: (Line 3 in a state of) possessing brilliance internally can properly persist (in the norm of hexagram Kun), (signifying) carrying out (its talent) in an opportune manner.  As if serving the king (line 3 is in a position of) knowing how to bring its actions into full play.

Line 3 is at the position for marching upward from the lower trigram to the upper, as if entering a higher society; the text advises how to act in order to move forward and upward.

Enlightenment through six three (i.e. line 3 when it is cast as the old feminine (6) and starts changing to masculine): to conceal one's brilliance, act in an opportune manner and achieve what has been assigned, all without seeking merit. Possessing talent to achieve without self-aggrandizement must be done properly and persistently. This signifies that one must act in an opportune manner to accomplish one's task without seeking merit, as in serving the king. The hexagram that appears when this line acts accordingly is Qian1 (15), humility.


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of hiding in) a tied bag, (which is of) neither fault (nor calamity) nor praise.

Text explanation:

One must be discreet in word and deed, like hiding in a tied bag. This won’t bring praise but neither will it result in fault (or calamity).

Line 4 arrives at the courtier’s position, a position full of fear as it is next to the king. Here Kun sustains and submits to Qian like a courtier serving the king, line 5. Position 4 is a place for resting after its line has expended all effort and reaches the upper trigram (i.e. a higher society). Line 4 is feminine and feminine tends to remain still; therefore it should prudently remain still at its post.

The inner upper trigram Kun can be taken for a bag as Kun is receptive. Once line 5 changes to masculine, i.e. the master of feminine, the bag is fastened by the inner upper trigram Gen, to stop (keeping still, the mountain). Then line 4 sustains line 5, like a courtier concealing his intent and acting submissively, according to the will of the king.


The upper trigram would become Kan (the abyss, water) if line 5 changed to masculine. Kan, represented by line 5, signifies peril which will cause calamity. Line 4 doesn’t in fact sustain line 5, signifying no praise. Neither does trigram Kan exist, i.e. no calamity or fault. Even so, it must always behave prudently, like hiding in a bag and preparing itself to serve the masculine.

Commentary on the image: (Line 3 is in a state of hiding in) a tied bag, (which is of) no fault (or calamity).  Prudence can prevent harm.

After having sought no merit at position 3, here one should pursue freedom from calamity. Freedom from calamity, or fault, is the basic and most important concern in the I Ching.

Enlightenment through six four (i.e. line 4 when it is cast as the old feminine (6) and starts changing to masculine): to conceal one's intent and act submissively in accordance with what is assigned. When what is done might easily get blamed, to behave prudently like tying a bag and hiding inside causes no praise and no fault (or calamity) either. Should this line change to masculine, the hexagram would appear as Yu (16), taking precaution against calamity, as it becomes a person staying next to the king and wining all people's support. 


The 5th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of wearing) a yellow skirt, (which is of) great auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Yellow is the colour of the centre where the principle of moderation is available. Line 5 is at the middle position of the upper trigram, i.e. it occupies the dominant position but acts moderately. Skirts are for dressing the lower part of the body, like one keeping a low profile. Kun reaches the domain of the heavens, i.e. the realm of Qian and the king’s position. However line 5 still behaves moderately and humbly, like a yellow skirt, or a person occupying a high-ranking position but acting moderately according to the norm of hexagram Kun. This is greatly auspicious.

Commentary on the image: A yellow skirt is greatly auspicious, (which is due to those of) culture in the middle (of the upper trigram, or within it).

Culture is a quality attained through self-cultivation and self-restraint and demonstrated through noble and decent behaviour. Line 5 possesses not only the norm of Kun, but also the principle of moderation, which allows it to behave properly at its position.

Enlightenment through six five (i.e. line 5 when it is cast as the old feminine (6) and starts changing to masculine): to be humble at the core position in order to receive support from others. To occupy a high-ranking position with a low profile, i.e. in submission to Qian (heaven), the dominator, through the principle of moderation is greatly auspicious. The hexagram that forms when this line acts accordingly and changes to masculine is Bi3 (8), intimate interdepen-dence, where a competent king gathers all people around him.


The 6th line

Text: Dragons are battling in the wild; their blood (is a blend of) dark blue and yellow.

Text explanation:

Qian is heaven and the leader. The heavens are where the dragon of hexagram Qian soars to demonstrate its prestige and claim its sovereignty. Dark blue is the colour of the heavens, and yellow is the colour of earth.

Line 6 is approaching to the end of hexagram Kun and is losing the norm of hexagram Kun, submissiveness. It reaches the top of the hexagram and proclaims itself the leader. It is in the heavenly domain and encounters Qian. These two are in battle and bleeding; their blood blends together.

Commentary on the image: Dragons are battling in the wild as (line 6) is destitute of the norm.

Enlightenment through six six (i.e. line 6 when it is cast as the old feminine (6) and starts changing to masculine): forsaking arrogance to avoid calamity. When this line starts changing to masculine, it signifies that the feminine is losing its norm and starts to fight the masculine. Should it change to masculine, the hexagram would become Bo (23), to peel off, where line 6 is the only masculine line remaining after all others have been overpowered, one after another, by the feminine lines. This is a potential outcome and must be prevented.


The changing Kun (as named in the Zhou Yi: using (all lines in) 6)

Like hexagram Qian, Kun also has this extra text. If all six lines are cast as the old feminine, it is known as the changing Kun. All six lines now start changing to masculine and hexagram Qian emerges.

Text: It is advantageous (or appropriate) to persist (in the norm of hexagram Kun) everlastingly.

Text explanation:

The appropriateness or advantage of hexagram Kun is seen in the persistence and steadfastness in its norm. Though all the lines start changing to masculine, the norm of hexagram Kun must remain unchanged.

Commentary on the image: The everlasting persistence of using six, (signifying) to end in largeness (i.e. the masculine).

The masculine Qian is the desired goal of the feminine Kun. This reaffirms that Kun is destined to submissively follow Qian.

There are two different roles in the world: one is that of a leader and founder like Qian, the other is the role of an adherent and assistant like Kun. In this case, it is inevitable that people designated to be adherents or assistants must perform their role to the end.

Enlightenment: to always behave with the norm of hexagram Kun. It is advantageous (or appropriate) to maintain the norm of hexagram Kun (i.e. submitting to Qian) constantly to the end as Qian is the desired goal of Kun.



The commentary on hexagram Kun (Wen Yan Zhuan)


Kun is extremely tender but it is able to act with rigidity (like submissive earth persisting in sustaining the heavens).  It is extremely still but its virtue spreads worldwide (like motionless earth nourishing all life).  It attains normality after it acts (submissively) behind the master (Qian); it accommodates the whole of creation and makes it brilliant.  The norm of Kun is submissiveness, to sustain the heavens (Qian) and perform in an opportune manner.

A household that constantly practices charity will definitely experience many joyous occasions; a household that doesn't constantly practice charity will definitely face many calamities.  A courtier kills the king, or a son kills his father. This is not an event that happens in a single day and night, but definitely accrues from causes over a long period of time.  This is because it was not prevented timely in the early stages. Yi says: "Once stepping onto the frosted ground, the hard ice comes next."  This signifies submissiveness (in following the course of Nature).

(Kun cultivates itself) to straighten in accordance with what is righteous and to square itself in accordance with what is appropriate.  A gentleman sincerely rights himself internally and rectifies his behaviour externally according to appropriateness.  With sincerity and appropriateness, his virtue won’t be his alone.  Straight, square, large; disregard what one has learned and nothing is unfavourable.  There won’t be any doubt about what must be done.

Although the feminine possesses good (talent), it keeps it internally; thereby it serves the king and dares not seek achievement (for itself)This is the norm of earth, the norm of a wife, and the norm of a courtier.  The norm of earth is not to seek achievements for itself but to accomplish the mission (assigned by heaven).

When heaven and earth vary (with the seasons), grasses and trees flourish.  (When variations between) heaven and earth are blocked, the virtuous person becomes a recluse.  Yi says: 'A tied bag; neither fault (or calamity) nor praise.'  This signifies to be discreet (in word and deed).

A gentleman possesses the principle of moderation and behaves reasonably, as well as righteously occupies a position at the core (i.e. the power centre).  This way the good (talent) is conceived internally, carried out through his body, and exhibited in his undertakings; this is the utmost (virtue).

Once the feminine is suspected by the masculine, the masculine will definitely battle (with it in order to quell it). Because of its discontent with the state of having no masculinity (i.e. no longer satisfied with being an assistant and intending to be the leader), it proclaims itself a dragon.  It is still feminine; therefore (the engagement of the feminine and masculine) is called blood.  Dark blue with yellow is the blend of the heavens and earth; the heavens are dark blue and the earth is yellow.