10 Lu3



The lower: Dui (joy, the marsh). The upper: Qian (perseverance, heaven).

Lu: to tread on, to put into practice (in compliance with etiquette, i.e. the order of a system); the weak one learns how to live with the strong one.






Things (like livestock) will act in accordance with etiquette (i.e. in an orderly manner) after having been herded (chu4 or xu4); therefore Lu is granted. Lu signifies a shoe and to tread on; its extended meaning is to carry out (a plan, step by step), i.e. fulfilment. The pronunciation of lu3 in Chinese is similar to that of etiquette, li3; hence hexagram Lu is annotated as ‘to act in accordance with etiquette’ which here can also be referred to as the order of a system. Lu is the reverse hexagram of Xiao Chu, (9). There it symbolises scarcity as it lacks resources; Lu of hexagram 10 signifies not to halt, i.e. to proceed without stopping, as it walks behind a tiger.

The upper trigram Qian is heaven and stays above, while the lower trigram Dui is the marsh and stays below. This depicts superiority and inferiority arrayed in a hierarchical order, i.e. according to etiquette. Dui is feminine, tender and fragile, while Qian is masculine, rigid and dignified. Lower trigram Dui walks behind upper trigram Qian as if walking behind a tiger. Therefore, what hexagram Lu emphasises is to act prudently in accordance with etiquette. After the small learned how to deal with the large in hexagram Xiao Chu (9), it will avoid being bitten when it treads on the tiger’s tail.

The inner hexagram of Lu is Jia Ren (37), the household, wherein family members respect seniors and love juniors; therefore Lu can carry out its mission according to etiquette. Its changing hexagram is Qian1 (15), humility; once actions are undertaken with decorum, one becomes modest.

According to the Confucian remarks, hexagram Lu is the foundation of virtue, to act in a harmonious manner and peacefully carry out one’s mission.


Text: Lu (to tread on) the tiger’s tail, (but the tiger) does not bite people; (along this course one will reach) smooth progress.

Commentary on the text: Lu (to carry out with etiquette), (signifying) tenderness (i.e. the lower trigram Dui) Lu (treads on) rigidity (the upper trigram Qian) (Lu exhibits its norm in the form of) joy (as the lower trigram Dui appears) correlating with Qian (of the upper trigram); thus, Lu (to tread on) the tiger’s tail, (but the tiger) does not bite people, (along the course of which one will reach) smooth progress.  (Line 5, the one of) rigidity (occupies) the middle (position of the upper trigram which possesses the principle of moderation and acts with) righteousness; Lu (to carry out the task) at the king’s position without remorse, (which is of) brilliance.

Text explanation:

Treading on the tiger's tail is very dangerous. But the tiger doesn’t bite because the lower trigram Dui is tender and follows the upper trigram Qian with joy. As long as a person acts with etiquette and behaves towards rigid masculinity with feminine tenderness and joy, he won’t be hurt no matter what the crisis.

King Zhou of Shang (紂王) was much more dangerous than a tiger. Duke Ji Chang (姬昌 known posthumously as King Wen of Zhou) owned two thirds of the Chinese states during the Shang dynasty but behaved with propriety, like a courtier. Therefore he was able to avert injury by King Zhou.

Etiquette works both ways. In addition to lower Dui behaving properly toward Qian, Confucius commented on how Qian, above, should act to avoid faulting and remorse. Line 5, the representative line of trigram Qian at the king's position, is the masculine axle centre at its right place, like a dignified king; it is firm and strong yet moderate and righteous. With such qualities he won’t arbitrarily hurt others nor do anything that will cause remorse.

To serve the king is like accompanying a tiger. The courtier must wholeheartedly devote himself to his tasks and serve the king. On the other hand, the king should not abuse his power even though he is in a strong position. They should both treat each other according to etiquette.

Since the tasks trigrams Dui and Qian carry out follow the propriety of monarch and subject, the norm of hexagram Lu (i.e. to tread on the tiger's tail but the tiger doesn't bite) will radiate at all times.

Commentary on the image: The one above is heaven and the one below is the marsh; Lu.  A gentleman in accordance with this discriminates between the one above and below and determines people’s aspirations.

Superiority and inferiority are arrayed in order; people’s aspirations should conform to propriety, i.e. their status and capabilities.


To tread on the tiger’s tail without being bitten is like serving the king and not getting hurt. This is the result of behaving with tenderness and joy towards rigidity and acting prudently according to etiquette. Hexagram Lu demonstrates how the tender feminine wins the acceptance of the rigid masculine; it is a prerequisite of smoothly carrying out its aspirations or mission.

The virtue of hexagram Lu is limited to smooth progress. This stems from Lu highlighting the importance of smoothly following behind the tiger.

Its tail is tread upon but the tiger won't bite. Similarly, a king doesn't abuse his power and won't arbitrarily hurt others. This is the result of acting in accordance with etiquette, righteously and moderately; it will radiate the norm of monarch and subject, employer and employee, the strong and the weak.

The duke submits to the king's call in hexagram Bi (8); then they learn how to get along in hexagram Xiao Chu (9). In hexagram Lu the king won't hurt the courtier if both abide by etiquette. After Lu is carried out accordingly, its changing hexagram becomes Qian1 (15), humility, a hexagram with no ominous signs. The next hexagram is Tai (11) where those above and below interact smoothly without obstruction.





The tender one walks behind the rigid one but won’t get hurt because both follow etiquette. Two lines at their right positions righteously correlate with each other, signifying etiquette. In addition to getting along in accordance with propriety, hexagram Lu also emphasises that people should carry out their aspirations by respecting the order of a system.

Because line 3 (the representative line of Lu) doesn't behave as advised, line 5 (the host line) shows the natural instincts of a tiger-like king. A person must be pragmatic, without undeserved ambition and do what he can, prudently and with apprehension. That way, after undergoing all his ordeals, he will have no regrets in the end. Provided that both lines 3 and 5 change together, the hexagram will become Da You (14), abundant possessions, wherein a tender feminine possesses all the masculine lines. If both lines 1 and 2 change, the hexagram will become Pi (12), blockage and stagnation.


The 1st line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) plain Lu (fulfillment) (素履); to go forward is of no fault (or calamity).

Text explanation:

Carrying out what is intended with a plain (i.e. pragmatic) attitude signifies acting in accordance with one’s status and capability (as paraphrased in the commentary on the hexagram image), i.e. not doing what is undeserved. That way it can proceed without fault or calamity. su4 of 素履lu3 (plain Lu) is white silk, i.e. silk in its natural form (without dye). Acting according to etiquette should focus upon essence rather than brilliant appearance. The essence of etiquette is the order of a system.

Line 1 is in the initial phase of carrying out (its aspirations). It's clear that it must pursue its aim with a pragmatic attitude; otherwise it won't be able to move through the hexagram and reach the end. Line 1 is masculine and masculine tends to move (forward). However it doesn’t have any correlate in front of it. If it intends to advance with etiquette, it must receive permission from the one above, i.e. line 4 must change to feminine (to righteously correlate with it). Then the hexagram will become Zhong Fu (61), sincerity and trust carried out through the principle of moderation. At that point it can move forward to position 4 without offending the upper trigram Qian which therefore remains intact.



Commentary on the image: The going-forth of plain Lu (fulfilment), (which is) just for carrying out one’s will.

After line 1 exchanges positions with line 4, the lower trigram becomes Kan (the abyss, water) which denotes the heart where the will originates. The will appears, signifying that its action realises it. Even though the hexagram appears in the form of Song (6), litigation, reconciliation can be attained as long as it has no intention to conflict.



Enlightenment through nine one: to act with a pragmatic attitude and carry out aspirations according to the order of a system. Acting with a pragmatic attitude while carrying out one's will can avoid calamity. Initially there is the potential for calamity as a tiger is in front. But it can avoid calamity if correct actions (according to etiquette, i.e. the order of a system) are taken. Even if the hexagram changes to Song (6) when this line becomes feminine, it will eliminate conflict through clarification.


The 2nd line

Text: The path of Lu (fulfilment) is wide and flat (坦坦), which is auspicious for a hermit (i.e. an unambitious person or a detainee) (幽人) to persist.

Text explanation:

Line 2 is masculine which tends to move (forward); it is at a phase for taking action but its options are limited. However, if it can change to feminine, capable of remaining still like an unambitious person, the lower trigram will become Zhen (to move, the thunder) which is signified as an avenue, and the hexagram will appear in the form of Wu Wang (25) which suggests refraining from undeserved thought and action. In this way line 2 will stay in its right place and correlate with line 5 according to etiquette.



Line 2 can be seen as Duke Ji Chang who was imprisoned by King Zhou at You Li (羑里). It is auspicious for detainees to be content with their status and persist in acting according to etiquette; this way their future becomes smooth. Duke Ji Chang tenderly abided by right action when dealing with King Zhou and avoided being killed during detention.

tan3tan3 (wide and flat) also describes (a person in) a calm and open state. you of 幽人ren2 (a person) means to conceal, and further signifies withdrawing from society to live in solitude, or to be put in jail.

Commentary on the image: It is auspicious for a hermit (i.e. an unambitious person or a detainee) to persist, (as) moderation won’t make one disordered.

Although masculine line 2 tends to move, the principle of moderation (i.e. masculine aggression balanced by feminine restraint) allows it to act properly in a righteous manner. Therefore it won't panic when facing danger.

Enlightenment through nine two: not being ambitious but seeking self-protection. While walking behind a tiger one acts without any ambition to overtake it. This is like a hermit who doesn't strive for fame and wealth. Then the road ahead is flat and the future will be smooth, thus it is auspicious to persist. The hexagram that appears while this line acts accordingly and change to feminine is Wu Wang (25), refraining from undeserved thought and action.


The 3rd line

Text: One eye is blind but one can still see; the cripple (has difficult walking but can still) Lu (tread); (the subject is in a state of) Lu (treading on) the tiger’s tail (and the tiger) biting people, which is misfortune.  A warrior (a person with martial power but lacking etiquette) served the ancestral king.

Text explanation:

One eye is blind; one can see but not clearly. The cripple still can walk but not quickly. A handicapped person walks behind a tiger, steps on its tail, can't run away in time so is bitten by the tiger. The inner lower trigram Li (clinging, fire) denotes the eyes but line 3, its representative line, is not at its right position which signifies an unhealthy eye. If line 4 changed to feminine, the inner lower trigram would become Zhen (to move, the thunder) which is a foot and signifies to walk. But here only feminine line 3 exists and therefore shows a cripple.


Line 3, the representative line of trigram Dui, is the tender feminine staying behind dignified trigram Qian; it seemingly conforms to etiquette. However in addition to not being at a position right to it, it sustains line 4 and correlates with line 6, but has no link to line 5. This signifies that it overlooks line 5, the king. It walks behind the tiger but doesn't act according to etiquette in dealing with line 5, the representative line of trigram Qian; it steps on the tiger’s tail and is bitten by it.

The inner lower trigram Li also denotes armour and weaponry. Line 3, its representative line, is taken here for a person with martial power but little etiquette. It correlates with line 6, at the position of the shrine where all ancestral kings are worshipped.



Though the feminine should supposedly remain still, line 3 is at the position for marching to the upper trigram. If it marches up to position 6, the upper trigram will become Dui which denotes the mouth. The inner upper trigram Qian is the tiger so line 3 moves into the tiger’s mouth, which is ominous. On the other hand, the hexagram would change to Guai (43), where masculine (or goodness) gets rid of feminine (evil); it is the result of an ancestral king recruiting brave warriors to topple evil powers.



Commentary on the image: One eye is blind; one can still see but not clearly. The cripple can Lu (tread) but not walk properly; the misfortune of being bitten, (which is due to the fact that) the position (where it stays) is inappropriate to it. A warrior (with martial power but little etiquette) served the ancestral king (武人為于大君), (as) his aspirations were rigid.

wu3ren2 (a warrior) wei2 (to do) or wei4 (for) ju2 (in, at, by, to) da4jun (the ancestral king) is not common syntax. wei2yu2 is interpreted here as 'to serve' according to the next sentence: his aspirations were rigid (in terms of toppling the tyrannical regime). Even though line 3 is tender (in comparison with the masculine Qian above), its position is for masculine rigidity, with which it marches upward to join the ancestral king.

Enlightenment through six three: 1) to do what is permitted and act according to etiquette, or 2) to act like a warrior and fight for what is worthy. A person without etiquette is like a handicapped man walking behind a tiger. He considers everyone beneath him and therefore doesn't see clearly and steps on the tiger's tail. He advances and retreats with little care so isn't able to retreat in time. Therefore he is bitten; this is ominous. On the other hand, he is bold and can serve the ancestral king who needed brave and determined warriors to topple a tyrannical regime. If this line is fully activated changing to masculine, the hexagram will become Qian (1), perseverance. Here it is advised to remain alert while striving upwards.


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Lu (treading on) the tiger’s tail; to be prudent and apprehensive will end with auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Position 4 is the place of a courtier and full of fear as it is located next to the king, line 5. One should behave prudently, be apprehensive and act according to etiquette, like a person walking behind a tiger or a courtier serving a king. This way the situation can end with auspiciousness.

Masculine line 4 is at the position appropriate for feminine and it doesn’t sustain masculine line 5 above. Therefore it should change to feminine, become right for its position and sustain line 5, which is auspicious. This can also be taken as a reference to the behaviour of Duke Ji Chang who was imprisoned.

Commentary on the image: To be prudent and apprehensive will end with auspiciousness, (as one's) aspiration will be realised.

If line 4 exchanges positions with line 1 after it becomes feminine, the lower trigram will become Kan (the abyss, water, aspiration). The aspiration is formed after line 4 acts with etiquette and succeeds in retreating, as when Duke Ji Chang finally got the opportunity to leave prison and return to his home state; his aspiration was realised.



Enlightenment through nine four: to be prudent in attaining what one wishes. To act prudently with apprehension, like walking behind a tiger or serving a king, and carry out aspirations in accordance with etiquette will lead to auspiciousness in the end. The hexagram that forms after this line is activated and changes to feminine is Zhong Fu (61), sincerity and trust carried out through the principle of moderation. This is the best policy in serving the large one, as mentioned in line 4 of hexagram Xiao Chu (9), the feminine serving the masculine.


The 5th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) opinionated () Lu (fulfilment); to persist is stern and cruel.

Text explanation:

The upper trigram Qian represents the king and the lower trigram Dui approaches it with joy. This shows that the king is pleased by those below. Additionally, given the line's status (the king staying high at the core of power) it is a place of masculine rigidity and surrounded by masculine rigidity. This signifies that it is powerful but overly rigid, becoming headstrong and dictatorial. To continually act from an opinionated stance will lead to a stern and cruel state. This is from a lack of self-reflection which leads to repeatedly committing faults, like the behaviour of King Zhou of Shang.

quai4 is torrential water which sweeps away everything in its path. Here it is signified as acting willfully without considering the consequences, which eventually destroys everything.

Commentary on the image: (Line 5 is in a state of) opinionated Lu (fulfilment) and to persist is stern and cruel; (this is because) the position (it occupies) is right and appropriate (for it).

Position 5, the masculine and king's position, is right and appropriate for it. This causes it to believe that it is always righteous, but it is misleading. Therefore to persist in carrying out what is intended in an opinionated way, i.e. without correlation with those below in a moderate manner, is stern and cruel.

Enlightenment through nine five: not to be self-willed but correlate with those below according to etiquette. To persist in acting dictatorially is stern and cruel. It is like a king isolated by masculine rigidity and lacking association with those below which causes him to become opinionated and act like a tiger. When this line is triggered to move (toward femininity transforming along the way), the hexagram tends toward hexagram Kui (38), alienation, which is caused by one’s thoughts (or interests, etc) differing from others'. On the other hand, alienation will be eliminated and reconciliation achieved if common ground is attained in hexagram Kui which forms after line 5 changes to feminine.


The 6th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) viewing Lu (fulfilment) and assessing (whether there is a sign of) good fortune; its (free) circling is greatly auspicious.

Text explanation:

Line 6 reaches the end of the hexagram; it is at the position for reviewing what has been carried through. A person can freely move between the past and present while reviewing; this symbolises that he is aware of the causal relationship.

The inner lower trigram Li represents the eyes. Its representative line, line 3, is located at the back of line 6, which signifies viewing its past. If line 6 goes back to position 3, like reflecting over what could be better, both lines 6 and 3 would be at their right positions. Then they would righteously correlate with each other and interact in conformity to etiquette. It is auspicious once it returns to position 6 and knows what is right to do.



Commentary on the image: Great auspiciousness is at the top; there will be a splendid celebration.

If one need not feel remorseful when reflecting on the past (at position 3), or confesses to faults with heartfelt repentance, a great celebration is in order. The masculine line denotes brightness without shade which symbolises happiness with no sadness. Once the happiness of an individual is extended to others, like the masculine lines grouping when lines 6 and 3 change positions, it becomes a celebration.

The line text of hexagram Lu starts with carrying out one’s will in a plain and pragmatic manner at position 1; it ends with reflection and knowing what is right to do in the future; this also deserves a great celebration. The hexagram following Lu is Tai (11) where those above and below engage smoothly and peacefully.

Enlightenment through nine six: to reflect over what has been done in order to perform well in the future. To review what has been done and assess it for future use is greatly auspicious. If one can do this by freely circling between past, present and future, with no doubts, then it is worthwhile to celebrate. The hexagram that forms after this line is activated becoming righteous is Dui (58), joy.





Usually the hexagram name is presented separately from the hexagram text. Hexagram Lu, to tread on the tiger's tail, is one of three hexagrams where the name is an integral part of the text. The other two hexagrams are: Pi (12, a blocked and stagnant state between masculine and feminine, or those above and below) is in possession of no human (relationship and code of conduct), and Tong Ren (13, fellowship) is in the countryside.

The hexagram name is very often used in the line text as well. Its appearance can provide additional information, especially when an irregular expression appears. All six lines of hexagram Lu contain the character Lu in their text, signifying that its mission must be carried out from the beginning to the end. Some hexagrams have only one line without the hexagram name in its text, which has an implicit significance. For example, line 6 of hexagram Xu (5), to wait, is the only one without the hexagram name in its text, signifying that line 6 need not wait any longer.