6 Song4

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

Song: litigation (due to conflict); the mission of hexagram Song is to avoid litigation and seek harmony.






Once food and drink (Xu) come into existence, conflict will inevitably occur (as people will fight over them); therefore Song is granted after Xu. song4 (yan2, to speak bluntly and gong, in public) signifies a dispute and extends to include litigation (due to conflict). It is the reversal of hexagram 5, Xu which signifies not to advance, i.e. to wait. Song is taken as not getting close to.

The upper trigram Qian is heaven which stays high above while the lower trigram Kan is water which flows downward; therefore they move away from each other. Kan is peril and Qian is perseverance. A person acts with peril inside (as Kan is the internal trigram and peril is the root of trouble) and perseverance outside (as Qian is the external trigram, and perseverance creates trouble under these conditions); this will clearly lead to litigation.

The mission of hexagram Song is to advise people how to avoid litigation and seek harmony. Its inner hexagram Jia Ren (37), the household, reveals that the sincere way to reduce conflict is to treat others as part of the household. Its changing hexagram is Ming Yi (36), brightness being tarnished; conflict and litigation will cause brightness (i.e. civilisation) to become tarnished.


Text: Song (litigation), sincerity and trust are obstructed; to be vigilant and cautious with (the principle of) moderation is auspicious; to go through (with litigation) is ominous.  It is advantageous (or appropriate) to see a great lord (i.e. a person administering justice); it is not instrumental in crossing a great river.

Commentary on the text: Song (litigation), the upper is of rigidity (while) the lower is of peril; (Song is exhibited in the form of) being perilous but (still) persevering; Song.  Song, sincerity and trust are obstructed; to be vigilant and cautious with (the principle of) moderation is auspicious, (as the one of) rigidity comes and attains the middle position (of the lower trigram, where the principle of moderation is available).  To go through (with litigation) is ominous; litigation won’t be successful.  It is advantageous (or appropriate) to see a great lord (i.e. a person administering justice), (because) he advocates (the principle of) moderation and righteousness.  It is not instrumental in crossing a great river (since) it will enter a deep pond.

Text explanation:

A person has internal peril (i.e. tendency to take risks) but still perseveres; this will lead to litigation. Within one there is peril, while the other is rigid and perseveres, signifying that there will be litigation between them.

From the perspective of viewing the structure of hexagram Song, line 2 represents the lower trigram Kan, sincerity and trust. It has no correlation with line 5, the representative line of the upper trigram Qian. Therefore sincerity and trust are obstructed and litigation ensues. From the perspective of the hexagram forming, masculine line 2 is the founding line. It is the one of rigidity coming and occupying the middle position of trigram Kun (submissiveness, earth) and changing it to Kan, peril. It must be vigilant and cautious with the principle of moderation as peril has formed. To go through with litigation would be ominous and unsuccessful as its opponent, line 5, is a masculine line at the king’s position.


Line 5, the host line, is a masculine axle centre at a position appropriate for masculine. This signifies that it acts righteously and moderately; it is a great lord, i.e. a person who administers justice and who can settle disputes. It is advantageous to meet a person of justice to seek resolution.

It is not instrumental in crossing a great river, i.e. one should not risk litigation as one would sink into a deep pond, i.e. a place with no exit. Crossing a river is signified here by trigram Kan with water reaching the sky; the inner upper trigram Xun (to enter, wind), represented by line 3, is an entrance.

Duke Ji Chang 姬昌 is commonly known as King Wen of Zhou which was a posthumous title given to him by his descendants. He was alarmed by the injustice and tyranny carried out by King Zhou of Shang (紂王) when he was captive there. After he was released from imprisonment and returned to his home state, he presented King Zhou with fertile land west of the Lou River in exchange for ending the cruel punishment Pao Luo (炮烙); he was successful in abolishing it. Pao Luo involved a metal beam smeared with grease above burning coals. Those condemned were forced to walk across the beam barefoot; if they slipped, they would fall onto the burning coals and burn to death. Thereafter dukes, who admired Ji Chang for abolishing the practice, sought him out to act as a judge in disputes with each other.

Commentary on the image: Heaven and water move in opposite directions; Song.  A gentleman, in accordance with this, contemplates (what is intended) before taking action.

Heaven is above but water flows downward, they move in opposite directions. A gentleman realises this opposing tendency and considers all details very carefully at the beginning, i.e. before taking action.


Hexagram Song possesses no virtue after advantage and disadvantage (expressed in form of not being instrumental) are counterbalanced.

Sincerity and trust encounter obstruction, therefore conflict and litigation occur. It is auspicious to be cautious and to deal with disagreement through the principle of moderation (i.e. to think and act in the middle). It will be ominous in the end if one goes through with litigation. It is advantageous to meet an administrator of justice who can make a fair judgment to settle the dispute; it is not instrumental in taking risky action since the opponent is the one above. Therefore eliminating the dispute and seeking reconciliation is what hexagram Song recommends.

The commentary on the image suggests people thinking twice before action, i.e. to look before leaping.

The hexagram after this hexagram changes is Ming Yi (36), brightness being tarnished; after litigation occurs brightness (i.e. civilisation) is tarnished as tyranny prevails.






If two lines correlate with each other but are not at their right positions, this will cause conflict and lead to litigation as they do not associate through righteousness. Except for line 5, none are at the positions right to them. Line 5 knows what is right and wrong, and is the only one competent to render a fair judgment.

Line 2 initiates conflict and litigation. The entrance to a deep pond is at position 3; therefore people are advised not to undertake litigation in hexagram Song. Line 1 is at the outset of conflict; it is inclined to seek reconciliation. Line 2 can still secure what it owns if it can forgo litigation. Line 3 should not be in conflict or contend with those who are above and rigid. While litigation is not what the other party intends, one should change one's litigation-minded attitude like line 4. All the lines seek reconciliation except for line 6, which therefore wins and believes in litigation; but it will lose all shortly as people sharing the same beliefs group and join forces to defend their interests in the next hexagram Shi (7).

The 1st line

Text: Do not (involve oneself) for a long time over what is being done (i.e. conflict); (there is) some little criticism (or complaint while disputing) (but) eventually this will become auspicious.

Text explanation:

Line 1 is at the beginning of litigation; it is the tender feminine and stays at a place where the line is less energetic (as it has just started acting after Xu, waiting). Therefore it should not engage in conflict for very long but rather seek reconciliation.

Lines 1 and 4 correlate with each other but neither are at their right positions. This signifies they have an association, but not one based on righteousness, therefore they are in conflict. If line 1 can go to position 4 and view the situation from the other party's position, then both lines occupy their right places. This signifies that reconciliation can be reached through a righteous association. Even though there is still some minor criticism and complaint while disputing, this will end up with auspiciousness as the hexagram becomes Zhong Fu, just right (i.e. balanced) sincerity and trust (61).


It is suggested that Dukes Yu () and Jui () disputed ownership of a tract of land and couldn’t find a compromise to resolve the disagreement. So they went to dukedom Zhou together intending to ask Ji Chang to arbitrate. After reaching the dukedom, they saw that farmers there created wide raised paths between their fields, yielding to each other and not contending ploughing and sowing. They felt ashamed and worried that if the Zhou discovered their dispute, they'd be held in contempt. “When we meet Ji Chang, won't we humiliate ourselves?” they wondered. Thereupon, they returned home. As for the tract of land in dispute, neither side wanted it and both relinquished all claim to it.

Commentary on the image: Do not (involve oneself) for a long time over what is being done (i.e. conflict); litigation must not be (engaged in for) a long time.  Although there is a little criticism (or complaint while disputing), what is disputed can be clarified.

After lines 1 and 4 exchange positions, the lower trigram becomes Dui (joy, the marsh) which denotes a mouth and signifies 'to speak', and the upper trigram changes to Xun (to enter, the wind), the reversal of Dui, which symbolises their quarreling. However the hexagram exhibits the image of trigram Li (clinging, fire) which signifies brightness. This means that even though there are disputes, issues of right and wrong can be clearly justified through face to face conversation and consideration of the other's views.


Enlightenment through six one: to eliminate conflict through clarification. When this line is triggered to move (toward masculinity transforming along the way), it signifies that conflict is just beginning; one should not engage in it a long time but rather clarify what is misunderstood. Although there is some little criticism or complaint while disputing, it will end in auspiciousness. Litigation won't do anything good to each side. Even if this line changes to masculine becoming righteous, the hexagram will appear as Lu (10), to tread on the tiger’s tail, where it must act cautiously and prudently to avoid being hurt (because its counterpart still is not righteous).

The 2nd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of being) incompetent at Song (litigation); (it is better) to retreat and flee, (and to where) the inhabitants of its home town are three hundred households; (this will result in) no man-made calamity (or fault, or eye ailment) ().

Text explanation:

Lines 2 and 5 are both masculine and in a hostile correlation. Although they are equal in power, line 5 stays at its right position, i.e. it acts righteously while line 2 does not. Line 2 has no chance to defeat line 5, so it should retreat, especially as it remains in the middle of peril, the lower trigram Kan. After line 2 retreats by exchanging positions with line 1, the peril disappears signifying that it can be free from the calamity caused by its unrighteous actions.

After line 2 retreats to position 1, the inner lower trigram becomes Gen (keeping still, the mountain) which resembles a door; behind every door there exists a household and Gen is composed of three lines. This signifies that it is a clan of three hundred households; with line 2 hiding beneath it (i.e. inside) the hexagram changes to Wu Wang, to be pragmatic (25).


A clan of three hundred households is comparatively small. It is not possible to succeed at litigation, so it should stop and retreat. Otherwise, should it be defeated, its clan might flee. Then it would lose its foundation and never be able to recover again.

The original meaning of sheng3 (man-made calamity or fault) is an eye (mu4) ailment (sheng1yi4), i.e. the eye is covered with an opaque film of germs which prevents clear sight and leads to making mistakes.

Commentary on the image: (Line 2 is in a state of being) incompetent at Song (litigation); (it ought) to retreat and flee as well as hurry.  Song (litigation) is in a state of the one below against the one above; crises (trouble and misery) can be (easily) created as if picking up something.

Enlightenment through nine two: do not litigate. It won't succeed, as the one below sues the one above; the one not righteous sues the righteous. As calamity could easily result, it is better to retreat and escape to one’s home town, to find cover and also secure one’s home ground; then one can be free from self-made calamity. Even if this line changes to feminine becoming righteous and goes to law again, the hexagram will become Pi (12), blockage and stagnation, where there is no interplay between those above and below.


The 3rd line

Text: (It is better) to carry on the former job (食舊德); to persist (in the current post and litigate) is stern and cruel; eventually it will become auspicious; as if one serves the king, but does not seek merit.

Text explanation:

Line 3 correlates with line 6; both lack righteousness as they are not at their right positions. Masculine line 6 reaches the extremity of litigation. Feminine line 3 conflicts with it and stays at the position for marching upward; it is stern and cruel to persist in remaining at the current position. By exchanging positions with line 2, i.e. carrying on the job of its former post, it can become righteous and no longer engage in litigation, i.e. it has no more correlation with line 6. Additionally the lower trigram Kan, peril, disappears, so it ends with auspiciousness.


Position 5 is the place of the king and full of merit. After exchanging positions with line 2, it becomes the representative of the inner lower trigram Xun (to enter, the wind) and prostrates itself, exhibiting submissiveness and obedience. It also correlates with line 5, like a courtier submissively serving the king. The lower trigram becomes Gen (keeping still, the mountain) which acts like a hand grabbing something in a downward motion, while the merit stays above it. This signifies that it has no intent to seek merit.

Position 3 is above moderation (i.e. the middle position of the lower trigram) and a place for marching upward to the upper trigram. However a tender person should not contend or conflict with those above who are rigid. Therefore he should retreat, act properly and live with what he rightly deserves.

Commentary on the image: (It is better) to carry on the former job; to follow those above is auspicious.

 shi2 (to eat) jiu4de2 (the old virtue) literally means to live on preceding virtue, which is interpreted here as 'to carry on the former job'. This refers to position 2, the former position of feminine line 3, which is where a feminine line can act righteously and moderately. Righteousness and the principle of moderation are the virtues of the line.

After it exchanges positions with line 2, the hexagram becomes Dun (33), to retreat. It has no conflict anymore with line 6, but submissively correlates with line 5 based on righteousness.

Enlightenment through six three: not to engage in conflict over power and benefit. One should not contend with those above for power and profit, but rather retreat one step back and carry on the former job; to persist in conflict is stern and cruel (i.e. dangerous). This will end auspiciously if one can behave as if serving a king without seeking merit. Usually position 3 is a place full of ill omens. Should this line change its attitude becoming rigid masculine with righteousness and conflict with line 6, the hexagram would become Gou (44), to meet (unexpectedly), where the masculine encounters a powerful feminine, signifying an crisis emerging. This is possibly the outcome (of being unforgiving when finding other in the wrong) and must be prevented. 


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of being) unable to Song (litigate); (it is better) to return to the destined state (i.e. righteousness), (and) to change (the litigation-orientated instinct), (then) to persist contentedly; (this is of) auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Lines 4 and 1 correlate with each other, but neither of them stay at their right position. This signifies that they are in conflict. In actuality, line 1 has no intention of engaging in conflict for any length of time; therefore line 4 should change its instinct and recover its essence, becoming feminine. Feminine line 4 then stays contentedly at the position right to it and isn't in correlation with line 1 any longer, signifying no litigation, which is auspicious.


Position 4 is a place designated for feminine and for resting after marching up from the lower trigram; masculine tends to move, while feminine tends to remain still. Therefore femininity is its destined state and line 4 should change the litigation-orientated instinct of rigid masculine to the tender feminine and remain contentedly righteous.

Commentary on the image: (It is better) to return to the destined state, (signifying) to change (the litigation-orientated instinct) and to persist contentedly; (it suffers) no loss.

Enlightenment through nine four: to change to, and act according to, what is right. Because litigation cannot proceed, one must change one’s belligerent attitude and resort to the norm of hexagram Song. To persist contentedly is auspicious. The hexagram that forms after this line changes from masculine to feminine is Huan (59), to disperse, signifying to dispel its litigation-orientated instinct and regain what has been lost.


The 5th line

Text: (The subject is in a position to reconcile) Song (litigation), (which is of) great auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Line 5 is a masculine axle centre at its right position, signifying it acts righteously and moderately. It is a great lord (i.e. a person of justice) who knows right from wrong and is competent to render correct judgment in litigation, as well as foster reconciliation in a fair manner. Its acting righteously and moderately will lead to great auspiciousness.

Commentary on the image: (Line 5 in a position to reconcile) Song (litigation) is greatly auspicious, (which is because) it acts moderately and righteously.

The text can be also understood as: the great auspiciousness of Song (litigation) is moderation and righteousness.

Enlightenment through nine five: be just and impartial. To reconcile litigation righteously and moderately is greatly auspicious. Should this line not abide by its mandate and change to feminine, the hexagram would appear in the form of Wei Ji (64), not completed yet, where the order must be rebuilt as none of its lines are at their right positions.


The 6th line

Text: As if a large leather belt is bestowed, (but it is) taken away three times by the end of the morning.

Text explanation:

A large leather belt was an item of governmental clothing indicating official rank. When it was given but taken away three times, it meant that a government post was conferred, but then removed by three consecutive demotions.

Line 6 is in conflict with line 3. It reaches the upper extremity of litigation; therefore it is adept at litigation and persists in it. Even if it wins and obtains what it wants, it will shortly lose everything.

The inner upper trigram Xun (to enter, the wind) represented by line 3 is signified as an order (of the king as indicated below) and is taken here as an appointment. Line 6 is linked to it but conflicts with line 3 over it. If line 6 wins, line 3 will give up its position and retreat, and the inner upper trigram Xun, the award, will go as well.


Commentary on the image: The award resulting from Song (litigation), (which is) not worthy of respect.

Even if line 6 goes through with litigation and wins, it doesn’t deserve respect.

Enlightenment through nine six: do not indulge in litigation (or conflicts). One is adept at litigation and persists in completing it. Even if he wins, he will lose everything within a short period of time, like someone acquiring a government post but being demoted three times by the end of the morning. If this line is activated this way, the hexagram will become Kun4 (47), to be besieged. Here it is advised to reflect over what has been done wrong and take corrective action in order to leave Kun4.