7 Shi1



The lower: Kan (the abyss, water). The upper: Kun (submissiveness, earth).

Shi: an army, troops; the success and failure of using the force of multitudes.






Litigation (Song) will make people gather together (to confront their opponent with a joint force); therefore Shi is granted after Song.  Shi signifies multitudes and here refers mainly to troops. According to the Zhou's military organization, Shi is a division composed of 2,500 soldiers.  

Water underground is an image of troops. Troops suggest peril like the lower trigram Kan; they are civilians during peacetime but are conscripted during a war, like water (Kan) kept in reserve underground (Kun). Hexagram Shi is constituted by one masculine line (the representative line of Kan, sincerity and trust, and the inner lower trigram Zhen, to move) and five feminine lines. This is like a marshal commanding a group of soldiers, and sincerely and trustworthily correlating with the king, line 5.

The inner hexagram of Shi is Fu (24), to recover, wherein masculine returns and battles feminine to recover its position. Its changing hexagram is Tong Ran (13), fellowship, i.e. to put differences aside and befriend others. Following battle, hostility must be transformed into friendship. Conversely, troops are a joint force of individuals.


Text: Shi (an army), (which requires) persisting (in righteousness, or being loyal), (and which in possession of) a person of age and experience (丈人) is auspicious, and (then it will be of) no fault (or calamity).

Commentary on the text: Shi (troops), (signifying) multitudes. To persist, (signifying to remain with) righteousness; in leading multitudes to carry out what is righteous, one can rule the world.  (The one of) rigidity (i.e. line 2) in the middle (of the lower trigram) has a correlation (with line 5), moves in peril but smoothly (or, with submissiveness), and ravages the world by means of this, but the people will still follow, (which is of) auspiciousness; what fault (or calamity) does it have?

Text explanation:

Troops are latent peril. However, if war is waged to protect righteousness and the troops are led by a leader of maturity and experience, it will become auspicious and won’t cause any fault or calamity.

Line 2, the representative line of hexagram Shi, is the rigid masculine in the middle of the lower trigram Kan, peril. It correlates with line 5, the representative line of the upper trigram Kun (submissiveness, troops or the people). This signifies that it is a strong and firm commander engaging in war and receiving submission, i.e. the troops obey him and the people support him; this is the auspiciousness of hexagram Shi.


The inner lower trigram represented by line 2 is Zhen (to move), while the inner upper and the upper trigrams (both Kun) are signified as the plains. Therefore line 2 will carry through its assigned mission smoothly.


Although line 2 isn’t at its right position, signifying that the war it carries out isn't righteous, it acts moderately and heads to position 5 which is right to it. How could it be blamed? Or, how could calamity befall it?

Commentary on the image: Under the ground there is water; Shi.  A gentleman, in accordance with this, generously accommodates people to gather them together.

To reserve an army among civilians is like reserving water underground, in accordance with which a gentleman should generously accommodate people in order to gather them together as a reserve of force.


Troops can ravage the world but may destroy themselves (if defeated). Therefore what they carry out must be in pursuit of righteousness, and under a leader who possesses intelligence, courage, leadership skills and experience. This indicates that the undertaking requires the right target and good leadership; this will bring auspiciousness and can lead to no fault or calamity.

zhang4 (elder or a unit of 3.3 metres) ren2 (man), a man of age and experience, can be also interpreted as a man with the strength of a military force. Loyalty is a prerequisite when such a man is dealing with political power (i.e. the king, line 5). He must seek auspiciousness, and then he can be free from fault or calamity. Or, he can be free from calamity or fault following the auspiciousness associated with successfully completing an assigned perilous task.

Shi possesses no other virtue but persistence (in righteousness or in loyalty). When it comes to dispatching troops, it is the most important requirement for a person with military power. This signifies that those with political power must trust him, and there must be a proper cause for the troops to fight. Persistence, in terms of remaining steadfast, also implies that troops are preferably used for defence rather than offence.

The changing hexagram is Tong Ran (13), fellowship, signifying it becomes friendly after fighting, or the aim of hexagram Shi is to turn hostility into friendship. The aim of hexagram Tong Ran is for people around the world to become one family.

The commentary on the image suggests that a gentleman should build up his strength by gathering people and consolidating forces.  






Line 2 is the only masculine line in hexagram Shi. It is the representative line and the marshal. Line 5 at the king’s position is the political leader with whom line 2 interacts through the correlation between them. Line 1 occupied by line 2 is the commoner who is conscripted as a soldier.

From a holistic view of the texts, it can be understood that loyalty is the most important thing for a person with military power as it is clear that the king will keep an eye on him. Line 3 is king's auditor, riding over line 2 and interrupting its leadership. The troops of line 4 must retreat when they approach the king's position along the timeline; the award is located at position 6, behind the king.

The text also highlights the importance of some fundamental aspects of military affairs: discipline at position 1, the virtues of the marshal at position 2, the consequences of disordered leadership at position 3, the necessity of retreat tactics at position 4, the essential requirements for starting a war, and the importance of honouring an experienced commander at position 5, and the reward after the war at position 6.


The 1st line

Text: Shi (troops) (require) being dispatched by means of discipline; (discipline becoming) not good is ominous.

Text explanation:

The lower trigram Kan denotes discipline, as water can be used as a measurement ruler to check levels. The upper trigram Kun represents the troops which are driven by Zhen (to move). They rest on Kan, signifying that dispatching troops must be based on discipline. However, line 1 remains outside the disciplined troops, signifying that it has no discipline.




Training civilians to become soldiers is necessary to build a fighting force. Line 1 at the commoner's position isn't in the place right to it; therefore it won't act righteously or abide by the norm of hexagram Shi. Whether it is possible to win the war is still not known at this time; however it is definitely ominous if the troops are dispatched without discipline.

Commentary on the image: Shi (troops) (require) being dispatched by means of discipline; losing discipline is ominous.

Enlightenment through six one: to enforce discipline. The most important thing in leading troops is discipline, which must be established from the beginning. It is definitely ominous if discipline is overlooked and troops are dispatched without it. Misfortune is caused when a crisis is emerging but corrections aren’t made in time. If this line changes to masculine and acts righteously, the hexagram will appear in the form of Lin (19), to approach, where those in positions above approach those below, signifying supervision and management.


The 2nd line

Text: (The subject is) at the core position of Shi (troops), (which entails) auspiciousness, (and then there will be) no calamity (or fault); the king offers (a government post and gifts) three times.

Text explanation:

After the armed forces have gathered and trained, there must be an honoured person to lead them. That person must possess talent, courage, loyalty and leadership skills. Line 2, the representative line of hexagram Shi, is a marshal as it occupies the core position of the lower trigram Kan (i.e. the commander's position on the battlefield) and correlates with line 5, the troops on the front line. Masculine is solid and rigid, thus he is talented and brave; by being at the middle position (of the lower trigram) he also leads the troops through the principle of moderation, i.e. he neither uses all his armed might in wars of aggression, nor is he overly lenient in which case evil would breed evil.

Line 5 is also at the king’s position while line 2 represents the lower trigram Kan and exhibits sincerity and trust. Therefore line 2 is sincere and serves the king with loyalty. Gifts are bestowed three times by the king for its performance.

The interaction between the king and the marshal is seen in the association between lines 2 and 5: if they can exchange positions, the inner upper trigram would become Gen (keeping still, the mountain) and the lower trigram would become Kun. Gen is a hand, which faces downward like handing over gifts, while Kun is signified as receptiveness, i.e. receiving gifts.



In accordance with the etiquette of Zhou, the so-called triple bestowal is the most honored offer: the first is to offer a noble post; the second, clothing; and the third, horses and a carriage.

Commentary on the image: At the core position of Shi (troops) it is auspicious, (which enables one) to receive the king’s devotion and care.  The king offers (a government post and gifts, respectively) three times, (by virtue of which) he embraces the world.

The marshal receives the king’s devotion and care, which are bestowed in recognition of his many feats; because of them the king is able to possess the world as indicated above by hexagram Bi (8).

Enlightenment through nine two: to achieve the mission and remain submissive to those above. The marshal is talented and brave and rules his troops moderately, which is auspicious. However he can be free from calamity only after successfully achieving his mission, after which the king will trust and reward him. Auspiciousness will facilitate the achievement of what is intended but can't prevent fault or calamity after success. A state of no fault or calamity is what the marshal must pursue. The hexagram appears as Kun (2), submissiveness, when this line is activated and becomes feminine. Submissiveness is the norm of the marshal.

The 3rd line

Text: As if Shi (an army) is riding on a cart heavily loaded with cadavers, (which is) an ominous omen.

Text explanation:

Soldiers who died fighting were usually buried on the battlefield. Cadavers carried back by cart were those of noblemen and leaders. Here the troops are badly defeated with a great number of casualties.

The shaded feminine lines of the inner upper trigram Kun, a crowd of people, here are taken for corpses. Kun also denotes a cart. Line 3 rides on line 2, the representative line of the inner lower trigram Zhen (to move), showing that it is driving a cart heavily loaded with cadavers.



Line 3 isn’t at the position right for it; therefore it won’t act righteously. In particular, it rides over masculine line 2 and interrupts its leadership; this is an ominous omen. Hence the defeat is attributed to an interruption in leadership. Line 3 is at the duke's position but functions like line 5, the king; it here is seen as the king’s auditor.

Commentary on the image: As if Shi (an army) is riding on a cart heavily loaded with cadavers; it won’t achieve anything.

Enlightenment through six three: 1) to guard against the villain, or 2) to establish clear and fixed leadership. The cart is loaded with cadavers, signifying that the troops have been roundly defeated due to an interruption in leadership, or confusing orders; this is ominous. If this line can change to masculine, acting righteously and not riding over line 2, the hexagram will become Sheng (46), to rise, where lines 1, 2 and 3 move in one direction.


The 4th line

Text: Shi (an army) retreats (左次), (which will lead to) no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

 The troops were badly defeated at position 3; they are now approaching the king's position, position 5, where the decisive battle will take place. If it can't be sure of winning, it should retreat which will allow it to be free from calamity through avoidance.

The troops march along the timeline and arrive at position 4, a place for resting yet full of fear. Feminine tends to remain still. Should line 4 change to masculine and move forward by exchanging positions with line 5, the upper trigram would become Kan, peril, which would surround it. However if it moves backward by exchanging positions with line 3 after it changes to masculine, the lower trigram Kan would disappear and the hexagram would appear in the form of Sheng (46), to rise, signifying it can advance again.



In the military zuo3 (the left) position is inferior, in terms of rank, to the right. Moving to the left suggests a demotion or an ousting. ci4 means to station (troops). Shi 左次 is interpreted here as: the troops are released from their duty and re-stationed, i.e. in retreat.

Commentary on the image: Shi (an army) retreats (which will lead to) no calamity (or fault), since it does not deviate from normality.

When forward movement results in peril, it is normal to retreat. The mission of troops is to win the war; advance and retreat are both tactical manoeuvres in battle.

Enlightenment through six four: to retreat. By retreating, one can be free from calamity. The hexagram that appears while this line changes to masculine is Xie (40), alleviation, signifying that it will be delivered from peril or crisis.


The 5th line

Text: There are animals on the farmland; it is instrumental in insisting on what is declared, (there will be) no fault (or calamity).  The eldest son (i.e. an experienced person) leads Shi (troops), (while) the son of the younger brother (i.e. an inexperienced person) rides on a cart heavily loaded with cadavers (due to his disrupting the leadership); to persist is ominous.

Text explanation:

Line 5 at the king’s position is a political leader who is responsible for declaring war and appointing marshals. Launching a war requires an appropriate reason for the troops to fight; there must also be clear leadership so that the troops know whose instructions to follow.

Animals treading on farmland will damage the crops, signifying the enemy is invading and the country is in danger. It is clear that they must be beaten and repelled. There is no fault. The lower trigram Kan represented by line 2 denotes a pig, which is approaching the farmland of the upper trigram Kun. Line 5 correlates with line 2, signifying it is entitled to catch it.




However if the troops, led by an experienced person, become confused through the interference of an inexperienced person, the result will be failure; this is like the cart of the inexperienced person loaded with cadavers. It is ominous to persist in disrupting the leadership.

Line 5, the representative line of the upper trigram Kun (troops), is in correlation with line 2, the marshal and the representative line of the inner lower trigram Zhen (to move, the eldest son). This signifies that the troops are legitimately led by the eldest son. However line 3, the son of the younger brother, i.e. an inexperienced person delegated to audit the marshal, rides over line 2 and creates confusing orders (see line 3).


Trigram Kan denotes the second son; therefore it is the younger brother of trigram Zhen. Line 3 belongs to trigram Kan and here it is regarded as the son of the younger brother.

Commentary on the image: The eldest son (i.e. an experienced person) leads Shi (troops); he acts at the core position (or, according to the principle of moderation).  The son of the younger brother (i.e. an inexperienced person) rides on a cart heavily loaded with cadavers (due to his disrupting the leadership); authorisation is inappropriate.

The eldest son is the experienced marshal, while the son of the younger brother is the inexperienced auditor. The king delegates an auditor to secure the loyalty of the troops, but he negatively interferes with the marshal's leadership.

Enlightenment through nine five: to set a right target, as well as trust and fully authorise the person who is in charge. To protect the country from invasion is a good reason to dispatch troops, and the troops are willing to fight; there is no fault. However, confusing leadership will lead to defeat; it is ominous to persist in disrupting the leadership. If this line acts accordingly, it will lose correlation with line 2 when it changes to masculine; then the hexagram will become Repeated Kan (29), multiple peril.


The 6th line

Text: The ancestral king ordered, (in accordance with achieved merit, the troops to be offered) posts of duke or clan leader; the villain should not be employed.

Text explanation:

Line 6 reaches the end of hexagram Shi, i.e. the end of war. It is the time to reward in accordance with merit. Line 2, the commander, receives a promotion and gifts twice. However the villain, line 3, should no longer be employed.

Line 6, the position of the shrine where ancestral kings are worshiped, represents the regime (where feudalism takes place). Because of the great number of villains, the Shang dynasty collapsed. Hence the ancestral king of Zhou gave the order to never use villains.

Commentary on the image: The ancestral king ordered (that those who had achieved greatly be offered posts of duke or clan leader); this way merit was recognized.  Villains should not be employed, (as) they will definitely disturb the country.

Enlightenment through six six: to evaluate services and grant rewards accordingly. After victory, people who performed well during the war must be rewarded accordingly with government posts. However, villains can only be rewarded with money, not government posts as they will disrupt the country. When this line is activated, the hexagram appears as Meng (4), to dispel ignorance and illuminate intelligence. This signifies that rewards and punishments must be meted out with clarity.