4 Meng2

The lower: Kan (the abyss, water). The upper: Gen (keeping still, the mountain).

Meng: ignorance; the mission of hexagram Meng is to dispel ignorance and develop intelligence.





Newborn life (Zhun) is clearly ignorant (Meng); therefore Meng is granted (after Zhun). According to the Xu Gua Zhuan (Confucian commentary on the sequence of 64 hexagrams) Meng signifies ignorance, the young and initial state of a creature. Meng () originally meant a type of lichen growing on a host tree to the point of covering and obscuring it. In this way it refers to human ignorance concealing wisdom. Life is created and needs to be civilized; thus the mission of hexagram Meng is to dispel ignorance and develop intelligence. It is the reverse hexagram of Zhun (3) which signifies that all newly formed life becomes visible while still maintaining its instinct. The Za Gua Zhuan (Confucian commentary on the paired hexagrams) says that Meng represents newborn life, indeterminate (before enlightenment) but prominent (afterward). From the viewpoint of their actions, hexagram Zhun features a pioneer in charge of establishing a new ducal state, while Meng is a cultivator and teacher who enlightens and educates people

The lower trigram Kan denotes water and is signified as peril, while the upper trigram Gen denotes a mountain and means stop. Water flows toward a mountain; it needs enlightenment to know which way to go. Water at the foot of a mountain evaporates and becomes fog which surrounds the mountain and obscures it, making it look vague. It is only the effect of the fog. Once the fog has dissipated, the mountain will reappear. After being educated, Meng will keep peril internal and exhibit self-restraint externally.

The inner hexagram of Meng is Fu (24), return of masculinity, where darkness is dispelled with brightness recovering gradually. Its changing hexagram is Ge (49), reform or revolution, signifying that new perspectives of life are formed after a person is enlightened; conversely ignorance disperses once reform is carried out.


Text: Meng (to dispel ignorance and develop intelligence), (which will provide) smooth progress.  It is not I who look for uncivilized children (to teach them); it is the uncivilized children who look for me (to be educated).  The first (request to explain the) divination will be advised; the second and the third (requests to explain the same) divination are seen as disrespect ().  If disrespect they shall not be advised.  It is advantageous (or appropriate) to persist (in the norm of Meng).

Commentary on the text: Meng (ignorance); (the hexagram illustrates that) at the foot of the mountain there is peril.  (Its norm is exhibited in the form of) peril (existing as the internal trigram Kan) and then stop (in the manner of the external trigram Gen); (this suggests the mission of) Meng (is to be righteous through education).  Meng (to dispel ignorance and develop intelligence), (which will) progress smoothly, (as) it acts in an opportune and moderate manner.  It is not I who look for uncivilized children (to teach), it is the uncivilized children who look for me (for their education). The aspirations (of lines 2 and 5, i.e. the teacher and the student) correlate (with each other).  The first (request to explain the) divination is advised as (line 2 of) rigidity acts moderately. The second and third (requests to explain the same) divination are seen as disrespect.  If disrespect they shall not be advised, as they disrespect Meng.  To nourish righteousness by virtue of Meng (education), which is the saint’s merit.

Text explanation:

After newborn life is civilized, it can definitely progress smoothly. The student who wants to be educated must seek a teacher of his own accord. The student must be earnest in learning and respect his teacher; the student will be taught if he is sincere. In the ancient time du2 was a ditch dug to divide one’s plough-land from others'. As it isn’t used as water channel, it is extended to mean an action of treating others with no respect (to their will, ability, etc).

Gen denotes a mountain and signifies stop; Kan is water and peril. The interior (i.e. the lower trigram) is peril; therefore it isn't suited to remaining that way. On the other hand, as the exterior is the mountain, moving forward isn't possible either. One faces a dilemma and isn't sure how to proceed; this is the phenomenon of Meng (ignorance).

People facing a dilemma need enlightenment. Masculine line 2 is the teacher, while line 5 is the uncivilized child, a feminine axle centre tenderly staying at a higher position. Line 5 correlates with line 2 as if it descends humbly to ask for an education. The student will be taught if he is sincere, as the teacher is strict but moderate like the rigid line 2 acting at the axle centre of the lower trigram.

After being educated, Meng will confine peril internally with self-restraint exhibited externally. This is the behaviour of a disciplined person, and the goal of hexagram Meng (education).

In the time of Confucius, various schools of thought, Ike Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism coexisted and contended with each other. A person who wanted to follow these teachings had to join a school of his own accord and humbly receive tuition and enlightenment.

Confucianism highlights that a gentleman must engage himself in cultivating his virtue and ability and well managing his household. After that he shall aspire to administer the ducal government and then go on to rule the word peacefully. Additionally a gentleman is requested to act righteously, to sincerely and trustworthily treat others, and approach tasks through the principle of moderation.

Therefore, to cultivate one's words and deeds with righteousness is the first step in a gentleman's development. As lines 2 and 5, the representative and host lines of Meng, do not stay at their right positions and act righteously, nourishing righteousness though education is  therefore regarded as the mission of Meng. Once the teacher and uncivilised child behave righteously, the hexagram becomes Guan (20) where those above present a model for those below to follow.

Commentary on the image: A spring wells up at the foot of the mountain, (which create the image of) Meng.  A gentleman, in accordance with this, cultivates his virtue through determined actions.

The spring succeeds in gushing out of the heavy mountain, in accordance with which the gentleman realises that he must cultivate his virtue with determination.


After ignorance is dispelled, progress will be smooth. People who ask for enlightenment must act on their own initiative, believe what is taught and sincerely receive it; then they will be accepted and educated. Even if divination is available for those who need advice, insincere divination on the same subject will result in a refusal to answer. It is appropriate or advantageous to persist in an active, trusting and sincere attitude.

Meng possesses the virtues of smooth progress, advantage and persistence, but not origination. Therefore, it must be enlightened to gain creativity.

The changing hexagram is Ge (49), reform or revolution; after people are enlightened, reform can be carried out.






The masculine line acts as the teacher or the discipline administrato, while the feminine line is the ignorant student.

Students must be disciplined at the very beginning of Meng. When ignorance reaches its extremity at position 6, severe but appropriate measures must be taken. Line 2 is the teacher who embraces all types of students, while line 5 is the student who modestly asks for education. Line 3 misbehaves due to having wrong values; line 4 is completely obscured by ignorance.

 The timeline reveals the importance of the first lesson, discipline. In the time of Confucius, students were first expected to accept the discipline of school; then they could see their teacher. Since line 1 isn't disciplined in time, lines 3 and 4 can't be educated until position 5, where line 5 is educated by a receptive teacher and corrected by a reasonable administrator of discipline.


The 1st line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) starting () Meng (ignorance); it is advantageous (or appropriate) to make use of the convict (to educate him); by using loose shackles, going forward will be resented.

Text explanation:

Using a convict as an example to deter people from wrongdoing signifies enacting and enforcing discipline. If people can't be disciplined from the beginning, like shackles preventing a convict from escaping, they will become difficult to teach later; this will be resented. fa means shooting (an arrow) and is referred to as starting (an event).

Line 1 stays at a position not right to it, signifying that it doesn't behave righteously. If it can be corrected by changing to masculine, it will be in its right place and act properly. Once line 1 is disciplined, the lower trigram appears in the form of Dui (joy, the marsh). This denotes a convict, while the upper trigram Gen looks like a hand which signifies using the convict.


The upper trigram Gen, to stop, is taken here for shackles. If line 1 isn't corrected timely and exchanges positions with line 2 (to do what it thinks is right, as lines 1 and 2 would be at positions right to them), the lower trigram would become Zhen (to move, the thunder). Its movement would be toward the shackles, signaling that they are getting loose.


If a person does something incorrectly and continues, rather than feeling regret, it will lead him to commit more mistakes. This eventually will lead to calamity, i.e. being in the middle of peril. Similarly, the inner upper trigram becomes Kan, peril, after line 1 keeps moving forward along the timeline to exchange positions with line 4 at the correlative position. This will lead to resentment.


Commentary on the image: It is advantageous (or appropriate) to make use of the convict, signifying to rectify (wrongdoing according to) the law (i.e. discipline).

Trigram Kan, represented by line 2, also denotes the law (i.e. discipline) as water can be used as a measuring tool to check levels. A student should abide by the discipline (of the school he wants to attend) and correct himself accordingly. He should not change it to accommodate him, nor create his own school, as it becomes a barrier in the above hexagram Jin (35), to advance toward brightness, and will be removed.

Enlightenment through six one: 1) to state, enact and enforce discipline (i.e. to establish rules), or 2) to stop wrongdoing from the beginning. Students must be disciplined from the beginning; otherwise they will become difficult to correct if allowed to indulge in bad practices, which would be resented. Resentment here means that one continuously commits misdeeds without regret or correction due to one's discontent, anger, etc.; this will lead to misfortune. The hexagram that appears when this line changes to masculine is Sun (41), to diminish. Commentary on the hexagram image suggests that people should restrain their anger and lessen their desire, i.e. minimize the cause of misbehaviour.


The 2nd line

Text: To embrace Meng (ignorance), (this is of) auspiciousness; to accept a female (and educate or marry her), (this is of) auspiciousness; the son is competent for (the job of) supporting (and managing the) household.

Text explanation:

To tolerate the ignorance of students and accept them is auspicious. To accept all kinds of students without discrimination and provide them with an education is auspicious. To accept and educate a female here can be interpreted as ‘accepting all kinds of students with no discrimination’ as education was rarely offered to females in ancient China. The son who is born after marriage to the educated woman is capable of supporting and managing a household; this signifies the outcome of education is successful.

Line 2 is the teacher, a masculine axle centre in correlation with feminine line 5 and friendly next to feminine lines 1 and 3. The feminine lines need to be educated and line 2 is surrounded by them. The feminine line 5 in correlation with line 2 is the woman to marry.

The inner lower trigram Zhen (to move) represented by line 2 is the eldest son. The inner upper trigram Kun (submissiveness, earth) represents people and here is taken for the household as they live together inside the upper trigram Gen which resembles the door of a house. The eldest son staying below and driving them signifies that he is capable of supporting and managing the household.


Commentary on the image: The son is competent for (the job of) supporting (and managing the) household, as it is the intersection of rigidity and tenderness.

The interaction resulting from the correlation between the bright masculine line 2 and the shaded feminine line 5 is regarded as a marriage (see hexagram 53); it can also be seen as a teacher enlightening a student.

Enlightenment through nine two: to tolerate, accept without discrimination, and act according to what is designated. To tolerate the ignorance (of students) is auspicious. To accept all kinds of students with no discrimination and educate them (or to accept and marry a female) is auspicious. Success will come about through education (like the son of the married couple being capable of managing the household). Should this line change its mandate and become feminine, the hexagram would become Bo (23), to peel off, where the feminine (i.e. the ignorant student) has been overpowering the masculine until the last masculine line remains. This could possibly be the outcome if the teacher (masculine line 2) didn't exist.


The 3rd line

Text: Do not take action to marry the woman; while seeing a wealthy man, she does not behave properly; nothing is favourable.

Text explanation:

The ignorance of line 3 is due to its wrong values; it refuses the teacher, and the teacher won’t accept it either.

Feminine line 3 correlates with line 6, a wealthy man, and rides on line 2, the teacher. To be engaged to a man only because of his wealth signifies valuing material worth above everything else; feminine line 3 rides over masculine line 2 signifying that the feminine oppresses the masculine, i.e. it doesn't respect the teacher. It is not the right woman for line 2 to marry, nor is it the right student for line 2 to teach.

Commentary on the image: Do not take action to marry the woman, as her behaviour is not submissive.

Instead of being submissive in following line 2, which it should respect to receive education, line 3 just moves upward along the timeline to marry line 6.

Enlightenment through six three: be single minded in following what is right. Do not marry the woman who doesn't behave when meeting a wealthy man, and do not teach a student who isn't sincere in following the teacher, as there will be nothing favourable. When this line is activated, the hexagram appears as Gu (18), venomous insects which lure people into acting unconsciously to follow the wish of the user. Like wrong values, they must be destroyed, and this is the mission of hexagram Gu. Here masculine line 3 engages itself in removing Gu. 


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) besieged Meng (ignorance), (which is of) resentment.

Text explanation:

Line 4 has no correlation with masculine line 2 and is surrounded by feminine lines 5 and 3. This signifies not only that it has no opportunity to receive education, but that it is completely isolated by ignorance; this will be resented. 

Commentary on the image: The resentment of besieged Meng (ignorance), (which is because it is) lonely and far from solidity (i.e. the masculine).

Enlightenment from six four: to give up what one is engaged in. Line 4 is trapped in ignorance because it has no access to a teacher and is completely surrounded by ignorant people; this will be resented. The hexagram that forms after this line is activated, acting actively as masculine but not righteously, is Wei Ji (64), not completed yet, signifying  a total failure as all that has been done is in vain. 


The 5th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) childlike Meng (ignorance), (which is of) auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Line 5 is the uncivilized child; it sustains masculine line 6, the discipline administrator, and correlates with masculine line 2, the teacher. It abides by discipline and humbly receives education from the teacher; this is auspicious.

Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of childlike Meng (ignorance), (which is because line 5's learning can be of) submissiveness in the form of Xun (i.e. being prostrated, exhibiting modesty and obedience).

Being submissive in the form of Xun (to enter, the wind) is the attitude of a student toward the teacher and tuition. After line 5 descends to position 2 for education and exchanges positions with line 2, the hexagram becomes Guan (20). In Guan those above present a model for those below to follow; both lines 2 and 5 occupy their right positions and act righteously. Guan also appears in the form of Kun (submissiveness, earth) as the lower trigram, and Xun as the upper. Submissiveness signifies being willing to accept the advice of others and Xun suggests integrating the advice of others and exhibiting it in one's own actions; this is the attitude of receiving education.


Enlightenment through six five: 1) to abide by the rule and sincerely receive an education, or 2) to not feel ashamed in asking for advice or help (from those below). The child is ignorant but easily cultivated and moulded. He abides by discipline and humbly receives education; he is submissive in receiving all advice and integrates it into his behaviour; this is auspicious. After this line is activated, changing to masculine and acting righteously, the hexagram becomes Huan (59), to disperse (ignorance). This signifies that the ignorant child is inspired and educated by the teacher in a way like people being inspired and united under a king.


The 6th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) chastising Meng (ignorance); it is not appropriate (or advantageous) to make it become a bandit; it is appropriate (or advantageous) to defend against the bandit.

Text explanation:

Ignorance reaches its upper extremity; it must be dispelled through severe measures. However this must be done properly, to prevent wrongdoing from occurring, as if defending against a bandit. Otherwise ignorance will become like a bandit if chastised too violently.

The upper trigram Gen resembles a hand and the inner lower trigram Zhen (to move, the thunder) denotes bamboo. The lower trigram Kan is a bandit and that which creates ignorance as it generates fog that obscures the mountain. Line 6, the representative line of Gen, holds a bamboo stick and chastises the bandit, i.e. ignorance.


However ignorance remains as the bandit and nothing will change if chastisement is only used to punish it for wrongdoing. Line 6 should descend and move line 3 to its right position (where it can act righteously), i.e. to prevent wrongdoing from occurring as if defending against the bandit.


Commentary on the image: It is appropriate (or advantageous) to make use of defending against the bandit; the one above and below (are friendly with each other in a) smooth (manner).

After lines 6 and 3 exchange positions, both stay at their right positions and act righteously in correlating with each other. This signifies that they will get along well. As a result, the hexagram becomes Sheng (46) where able (i.e. well disciplined and educated) people rise to a higher post in a tender manner.

Enlightenment through nine six: to prevent wrongdoing from occurring rather than punish an ignorant person for wrongdoing. When this line is triggered to move (toward femininity transforming along the way), it signifies that ignorance reaches its upper extremity. Severe measures must be taken but they can’t be violent. They must be done properly in a way of defending against the bandit (i.e. preventing wrongdoing from occurring) rather than offending the bandit (i.e. punishing an ignorant person for wrongdoing, which will create a backlash and become more serious). The hexagram that appears while this line is activated, changing to feminine and acting righteously, is Shi (7), troops. Here rewards are granted according to achievements.