5 Xu1

The lower: Qian (perseverance, heaven). The upper: Kan (the abyss, water).

Xu: to wait (as peril lies in front); not risking danger in desperation, and sharing during good times and bad are the first lessons before entering the turmoil of the world.






Meng is uncivilized, newborn life. Newborn life must be fed; therefore Xu is granted (after Meng).  Xu is the norm of eating and drinking which are the necessities of life. This is what those above should work on to free people from hunger and thirst, and what everyone must learn in order to yield to one another and thus avoid the conflict found in the following hexagram Song (6). 

In addition to the necessities of life, Xu () is annotated as xu in Tuan Zhuan (Confucian commentary on the hexagram text) and signifies to stop and wait due to rain (yu3) as er2 is the pictographic character of a beard and equivalent to (a beard and also a substitute for the ancient (xu which meant to stop and wait). The lower trigram Qian of hexagram Xu is composed of masculine rigidity and masculine tends to move. However the upper trigram Kan is peril and lies in front. Therefore the stopping and waiting of hexagram Xu advises people not to count on their own strength in taking a risk, but to wait for a better time when they've learned how to share bliss and misfortune to undergo the peril together. 

The changing hexagram of Xu is Jin (35), to advance (toward brightness). After waiting and with the arrival of the right time, one can move forward. Its inner hexagram is Kui (38) where people are alienated from one another because of different interests (or thoughts, positions, etc); this signifies that Xu must learn how to share before taking action.

Text: Xu (to wait), (with) sincerity and trust, (whereby hexagram Xu is able) to progress brightly (i.e. optimistically) and smoothly; to persist is auspicious; it is instrumental in crossing a great river.

Commentary on the text: Xu, (signifying) to wait (xu); peril is in front.  (The internal trigram Qian possesses) rigidity and perseverance, but it won’t get trapped (in the peril of the external trigram Kan), which signifies not to be exhausted in a predicament.  Xu, (with) sincerity and trust, (whereby hexagram Xu is able) to progress brightly (i.e. optimistically) and smoothly; to persist is auspicious.  (Line 5, i.e. the host line) stays at the heavenly position and acts in accordance with (the principle of) moderation and righteousness.  It is instrumental in crossing a great river; there will be merit obtainable in going forth.

Text explanation:

The first two sentences of the commentary explain the phenomenon of hexagram Xu. Peril lies in front, so one must withhold action and wait. Although the lower trigram Qian is rigid and persevering, it can't ensure a successful crossing since no access is available (i.e. there is no correlation between lines 2 and 5, the representative lines of Qian and Kan). Thus it will not take the risk but will wait because it doesn't want to become exhausted in the predicament.

The third sentence is the text of Xu, to wait with sincerity and trust, which will progress smoothly and optimistically. It is auspicious to persist in the norm of Xu. The upper trigram Kan symbolizes sincerity and trust. The waiting of hexagram Xu is not idle and time wasting; there must be a target at which the waiting is aimed and it must be done with sincerity and trust. Sincerity means that one must respect waiting and wait with patience, and trust signifies that the planned action must be taken when the right time arrives.

The fourth sentence describes the virtue of the host line (i.e. line 5 in the heavenly domain, the area of positions 5 and 6). It is an axle centre at the position right to it, signifying that it acts moderately and righteously. Because of its sincerity and trust, the upper trigram Kan represented by it and upheld by it, hexagram Xu can wait calmly with hope.

The fifth sentence refers to the river of the upper trigram Kan and position 5 which is a place full of merit. If line 5 changes to feminine, peril will disappear and the hexagram will become Tai, a smooth, unobstructed, harmonious and peaceful state (11). This signifies that the right time has arrived; then line 2 can move to position 5, and the hexagram will become Ji Ji (63), having succeeded in crossing the river.


Commentary on the image: A cloud above the heavens, Xu.  A gentleman, in accordance with this, enjoys a banquet brimming with food and drink.

Water in the sky is a cloud; the cloud has to wait for a cold wind to produce rain. Likewise, a gentleman takes no action, but enjoys food and drink, i.e. maintains a relaxed attitude while waiting.

The inner upper trigram Li (clinging, fire) is fire, while the upper trigram Kan is water. Fire blazing below and water boiling above depicts cooking and signifies food. Water can be also taken for drink.



Hexagram Xu is annotated as the norm of eating and drinking in the sequence of hexagrams. But it is interpreted as waiting (due to peril lying in front) in the commentary on the hexagram text. This suggests enjoying food and drink while waiting, i.e. having a relaxed attitude. It also suggests enhancing oneself and eating and drinking with others to build friendship and create a base for future cooperation. On the other hand, one must wait with sincerity and trust, i.e. wait patiently with a goal and take action when the right time arrives. Under these conditions, the waiting will progress smoothly and with hope; it is auspicious to persist. To know what to wait for and how, as well as to persist in waiting, is instrumental in overcoming difficulties and undertaking a great mission.

Xu possesses the virtues of smooth progress, advantage (expressed in the form of being instrumental) and persistence, but excludes that of origination, signifying that waiting doesn't allow for on-going increase.

The changing hexagram is Jin (35), to advance with brightness; once the right time arrives, one undertakes the planned action and advances toward the goal.





Trigram Kan is the abyss which signifies peril; it is water, referred to as a river. It is also a trigram of blood, signifying bleeding as a result of being hurt in peril. As it is constituted by a solid line between two tender lines, it represents a reliable heart, the symbol of sincerity and trust.

In the time of waiting where peril lies in front, the line moves along the timeline first approaching the upper trigram Kan then stepping into it. Thus the line exhibits different reactions, while anticipating peril and then when it is in a perilous state. Line 1 is still distant from peril; as long as it can remain still, it will be free from calamity. Line 2 is able to challenge peril, but it doesn’t take the risk. Although it waits with some criticism, its ample heart can bear it. Line 3 is next to peril and trapped; it is exposed to danger and must be very prudent to avoid calamity. Line 4 steps into peril and is hurt; it must follow advice to get out. Line 5 reveals the true essence of hexagram Xu from the perspective of food and drink, as well as waiting. Line 6 at the end of Xu accepts lines 1, 2, and 3, and shares food and drink with them so they too can escape peril. It expresses the necessity of showing mutual care while being in the same boat (crossing the river of Kan). And because line 6 is willing to share food with others, it can live free from the conflict created over food in hexagram 6.

The 1st line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Xu (waiting) in the suburbs; it is advantageous (or appropriate) to make use of endurance and sustainability (i.e. to wait constantly and for a long time), (which results in) no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

Waiting in the suburbs signifies that it is still far from the centre of peril (the upper trigram Kan). Masculine tends to move and masculine line 1 is in correlation with line 4, which favors its advance. However, line 4 is located in peril; in the early stage of Xu it doesn't know how to deal with peril which inclines it to stop. Though peril is distant, it is still accessible. Therefore it is advantageous for line 1 to stay in its place and wait patiently. As a result, it will be free from calamity.

Commentary on the image: (Line 1 is in a state of) Xu (waiting) in the suburbs, (signifying) it doesn't move forward to risk suffering calamity.  It is advantageous (or appropriate) to make use of endurance and sustainability (i.e. to wait constantly and for a long time) and (this results in) no calamity (or fault), (as) it does not deviate from normality.

In the initial stage when action and strategy are still unclear, waiting constantly and for a long time, i.e. keeping a distance from peril, conforms to normality. As line 1 is at the right position, it can act righteously according to the norm of Xu.

Enlightenment through nine one: 1) to wait with patience, and 2) do not mistake peril still in the distance and take reckless action. When this line is triggered to move (toward femininity transforming along the way), it signifies that peril lies in front though still far away; it is advantageous to remain still and wait constantly and for a long time; then one can avoid calamity. Should this line not abide by the advice, changing to feminine and acting not righteously, the hexagram would become Jing (48), the well, where the earthen bucket breaks before it reaches the top of the well, signifying no merit in the end.


The 2nd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Xu (waiting) at the sandbank; (even though there is) some criticism, eventually it will become auspicious.

Text explanation:

In following the timeline, the line reaches position 2, the sandbank of the river. Here it is closer to the upper trigram Kan, the river and peril. Line 2 at the sandbank perceives the peril, stops and waits. Although it is bothered by criticism, like sand in a shoe, it will end with auspiciousness if it can withhold action and wait for a better time.

Masculine line 2, the representative line of the lower trigram Qian, possesses firmness and perseverance. Although masculine tends to move, it isn't in correlation with line 5 and thus sees no way to cross the river. It waits and won't risk crossing the river even though it is criticized by others for not taking action. The inner lower trigram Dui (joy, the marsh, to speak) with its mouth reaching the river is taken here for criticism.


Commentary on the image: (Line 2 is in a state of) Xu (waiting) at the sandbank, (with) expansiveness in the middle (of the lower trigram where the principle of moderation is available, i.e. big-heartedness).  Even though (there is) some criticism, this will end with auspiciousness.

A great river rolls on toward the ocean, symbolising expansiveness which emerges in one's heart while watching the great river. Line 2, standing at the sandbank and watching the great river, is in the middle of the lower trigram. The principle of moderation available at the middle position allows it to be big-hearted, bearing all criticism against its inaction; this will end with auspiciousness.

Enlightenment through nine two: to withhold one's action and remain large-hearted in bearing all criticism. Waiting at the sandbank signifies that the river and peril are nearby in front. One must not risk crossing the river, but should wait. If one can be large-hearted, this will end in auspiciousness although accompanied by some criticism. When the right time comes, i.e. this line changes to feminine occupying its right position, the hexagram will become Ji Ji (63), having succeeded in crossing the river.


The 3rd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Xu (waiting) in the mud, (which will) attract the bandit.

Text explanation:

Instead of staying away from peril or waiting for a better time, the line reaches position 3, where it is next to the upper trigram Kan, the river, and also the bandit. Waiting here is signified as being bogged down in the mud of the riverside. So it becomes an easy target for the nearby bandit to attack.

Commentary on the image: (Line 3 is in a state of) Xu (waiting) in the mud; calamity is located externally.  The bandit will come only if attracted; one won’t be defeated if one remains sincerely prudent.

The peril of trigram Kan will cause calamity. Kan here is the external trigram; therefore calamity remains external. As long as the calamity doesn’t exist inside and one can be prudent in dealing with it, calamity can be avoided.

Masculine tends to move and masculine line 3 is at the position for marching upward. Therefore, if line 3 can change to feminine and remain still instead of moving forward, it won't be hurt.

Enlightenment through nine three: 1) not to invite trouble, and 2) be prudent as peril is near. Being bogged down in the mud and exposed to the bandit (i.e. peril) signifies that calamity is imminent. As calamity comes from the outside, prudence can help in avoiding being hurt. If this line changes to feminine, the hexagram will become Jie (60), to restrict, which suggests optimistically facing the restriction created by outer danger and acting with appropriate self-restraint.


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Xu (waiting) in blood; (it is better) to get out of the cave.

Text explanation:

Blood is a symptom of being hurt. Waiting in blood signifies that it is hurt and the situation will become worse if it remains still. Trigram Kan is peril and a trigram of blood; line 4 reaches the place where peril begins to emerge, so it is hurt and bleeding.

Trigram Kan is also the abyss. The bottom line of the upper trigram Kan is a broken line beneath a solid line, like an opening of sinking earth, i.e. a cave. Line 4 is feminine and feminine tends to remain still; therefore it is hiding in the cave.

Theoretically a cave is a safe place in which one can evade peril, and position 4 is a place for resting. Bleeding, however, is a warning that one can't stay. Line 4 is in correlation with line 1; therefore it must follow a path to retreat.


Commentary on the image: (Line 4 is in a state of) Xu (waiting) in blood; (it ought) to be submissive in listening (to what it is told by line 1, i.e. to stay away from peril).

After line 4 follows the advice of line 1, it retreats and exchanges positions with line 3. Then the hexagram becomes Dui, the symbol of friendship, wherein it finds shelter as friends help each other.


Enlightenment through six four: to abide by the rule and retreat. When this line is triggered to move, it signifies that it is hurt and bleeding. It can’t remain in peril any longer but must follow the call (of the one in safety) to get out from the cave, i.e. peril. Should this line not abide by the advice, i.e. change to masculine and disconnect correlation from line 1, the hexagram would appear in the form of Guai (43), (the masculine) getting rid of (the feminine), where the torrential downpour of water can sweep away everything in its path.


The 5th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Xu (waiting) with food and wine; to persist is auspicious.

Text explanation:

Waiting with food and wine signifies enjoying life while waiting, as well as enhancing oneself and making friends. Food can sustain life, while drinking with others builds friendships and creates the basis for future cooperation.

Although line 5, the host line, is in the middle of peril, it is an axle centre at the position right to it. This signifies that it can act righteously and wait with the principle of moderation (i.e. neither nervous nor slack). It also represents the upper trigram Kan, sincerity and trust, so it will wait with a goal and act with the right time. It is auspicious to persist.

In sequence Xu is also paraphrased as feeding the people. From the viewpoint of ruling a country, freeing people from hunger and not disturbing them were regarded as the two major benevolent practices of a king in ancient China. Hence, letting people live in rest and enjoy-ment is the utmost significance of hexagram Xu.

Commentary on the image: (To wait with) Food and wine (and) to persist is auspicious, (which is achieved) by virtue of moderation and righteousness.

Enlightenment through nine five: to wait patiently with a goal and take action when the right time arrives. Waiting with food and wine signifies being relaxed when it is not the right time to realise one’s aspirations, strengthening oneself and uniting those with the same aspirations while waiting. It is auspicious to persist in waiting with the principle of moderation as well as with sincerity and trust. After this line gets through with its assignment, trigram Kan disappears, and the hexagram becomes Tai (11), which is a state of peace and harmony, smoothness without obstruction.


The 6th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) entering a cave; there come three uninvited visitors; to treat them with reverence will eventually become auspicious.

Text explanation:

As with line 4, position 6 is a cave; therefore line 6 enters a cave seeking shelter from peril. It correlates with line 3. Unexpectedly lines 1 and 2 come together with line 3. Line 6 is feminine and receives three uninvited masculine lines; it is impossible to repel them, so the best approach is to treat them with reverence.


Hexagram Xu reaches the end where it is about to leave trigram Kan, peril, and no longer needs to wait as Xu (to wait) disappears in the text; therefore three masculine lines below come together. As a result of line 6 learning at position 5 (i.e. to share food and drink with others) and paying respect to them, their company evades peril.

Commentary on the image: Uninvited visitors come; to treat them with reverence will eventually become auspicious.  Although (line 6) is not at an appropriate position, this won’t cause too much loss.

Although line 6 is neither at a position for correlating with lines 1 and 2, nor at position 5 where food and drink is available, it accepts them and shares food and drink with them. This way, lines 1 and 2 obtain nurture and are capable of leaving peril, which doesn’t cause line 6 to lose too much; it is also the prerequisite to avoiding litigation and seeking reconciliation in the world of the next hexagram Song (6).

Enlightenment through six six: 1) to respect others without discrimination and be generous with them, or 2) to show mutual concern while being in the same boat and find strength in unity. While hiding in a cave to find shelter from peril, there come three uninvited visitors. There is mutual concern to evade peril together; this will end with auspiciousness. Even if this line changes to masculine, it is still outnumbered by free visitors, and the hexagram appears in the form of Xiao Chu (9), little feeding or restraint, where the small serves and plays games with the large.