11 Tai4 泰
The lower: Qian (perseverance, heaven). The upper: Kun (submissiveness, earth).
Tai: (to engage in) a smooth, unobstructed, harmonious and peaceful state; the mission of hexagram Tai is to build and maintain Tai.
To act in accordance with etiquette (Lu) will lead to unobstructed and smooth movement (Tai) and then to a state of harmony and peace; therefore Tai is granted (after Lu). Tai is what proceeds smoothly without obstruction, it is the way to reach a harmonious and peaceful state.
The lower trigram Qian is heaven and the upper trigram is Kun, earth. The heavens are designated to remain above and will move upward when placed at the bottom. On the other hand, earth stays below and will move down when placed on top. Therefore Tai is a hexagram where the masculine and feminine intersect smoothly without obstruction. They blend harmoniously and peacefully, which is an ongoing state rather than an end result.
Hexagram Pi (12), stagnation and blockage, and Tai are the reversal of each other, and interchangeable. This signifies that they are cyclical. Pi forms after Tai reaches its extremity along the timeline, and Pi will return to Tai after it is toppled at the end and falls backward against the sequence. Tai usually refers to prosperity, while Pi signifies adversity.
The inner hexagram of Tai is Gui Mei (54) which warns that it is ominous to undertake a venture and that nothing is favourable. This suggests that one must be aware of a crisis and prepare for danger even in times of peace.
Text: Tai (a smooth, unobstructed, harmonious and peaceful state); the small has gone (while) the large comes, (which is of) auspiciousness (and) smooth progress.
Commentary on the text: Tai (a smooth, unobstructed, harmonious and peaceful state); the small has gone (while) the large comes, (which is of) auspiciousness (and) smooth progress. (It is a state where) heaven and earth intersect and thus all beings move without obstruction. The one above and below interact and thus their aspirations become identical. The masculine remains internal while the feminine remains external. The inner one perseveres while the outer one is submissive. The gentleman is (the force) at the core while the villain is on the fringes; the norm of the gentleman increases while the norm of the villain fades.
Tai comes after Pi is toppled. In Pi, trigram Qian stays above while trigram Kun remains below. Kun is composed of feminine lines and feminine is taken for smallness and the villain. Qian is composed of masculine lines and masculine is largeness and the gentleman. After the feminine lines have ascended to the upper position (signifying the departure of the villains) and the masculine lines have descended to the lower position (signifying the arrival of gentlemen), hexagram Tai is formed.
Remarks: when a line moves along the timeline to a position above, the motion is called ‘to go’ and is regarded here as ‘to leave’. When a line moves to a position below, the motion is called ‘to come’ and is regarded here as ‘to arrive’.
Qian represents heaven and the king and is signified as perseverance. Kun denotes earth and the courtier and is submissive. Qian tends to move upward as the heavens are designated to remain above. Kun tends to move downward as earth is designated to remain below. Here the masculine and feminine start to intersect; all creatures come to life and will prosper and reproduce. The upper and the lower trigrams comingle with each other; the king and courtier will associate with one aspiration. Perseverance is maintained internally and submissiveness is exhibited externally, so everything is harmonious and peaceful. Hence, it is auspicious and smooth progress results.
Trigram Qian, the gentleman, stays internally at the core while trigram Kun, the villain, stays externally on the fringes. From the viewpoint of the reciprocal increase and decrease of masculine and feminine, hexagram Tai forms through Fu (24) and Lin (19). This symbolises the norm of the gentleman prevailing with the increase of masculine and the norm of the villain diminishing with the retreat of feminine.
Commentary on the image: Heaven and earth interact; Tai. The ancient (female) ruler (后) in accordance with this tailors the rules of Heaven and earth, and implements them according to the appropriateness of Heaven and earth in order to aid the people.
The land changes according to the behaviour of the heavens. Observing this, the ancient ruler devised a calendar to assist people in farming. 后hou4 can be annotated as either an ancient ruler or queen. In Tai the feminine is in a dominant position; therefore it should be regarded here as a female ruler.
The feminine and masculine are intersecting and associating with each other; all life is reviving and will prosper. It is auspicious and everything will progress smoothly. Tai means to engage in a state of smoothness without obstruction, harmony and peace; it also signifies prosperity.
The small has gone while the large comes, which can also be signified as gain. The villain has left while the gentleman arrives; the norm of the gentleman will prevail.
However, if the hexagram changes, Tai will become Pi (12), stagnation and blockage which signifies adversity. It warns of a possible ending. Hence, one must have a sense of crisis and prepare for danger in times of peace, as suggested by its inner hexagram Gui Mei (54). It warns that undertaking a venture is ominous, and nothing is favourable.
Therefore, it is a good omen if an event ends at hexagram Tai. However, one must be watchful if the subject concerned develops from Tai. The attitude that one should possess in hexagram Tai is to maintain perseverance internally and exhibit submissiveness externally, like a gentleman when facing a villain.
From the perspective of the four virtues passed down by hexagrams Qian and Kun, Tai possesses the virtue of smooth progress, but excludes those of advantage, especially origination and persistence (i.e. the beginning and end); this signifies that hexagram Tai is merely part of a process, i.e. an ongoing state.
Hexagrams Tai and Pi denote prosperous and stagnant states respectively; they are the reverse of each other and interchangeable. This signifies that good fortune and misfortune are cyclical. Masculine disappears when the line reaches the upper trigram Kun, like brightness being replaced by darkness. Although the environment is still Tai, Pi is emerging. Hexagram Pi will form when hexagram Tai reaches its end.
Usually lines are designated to move along the timeline, from the bottom to the top, to achieve their missions. This is seen when a masculine line of the lower trigram Qian moves upward. However, the feminine lines of the upper trigram Kun are requested here to move downward as they are assigned to intersect with the masculine.
After joining forces at position 1, line 2 builds and maintains Tai. However people must prepare for danger in times of peace; therefore line 3 issues a warning and line 4 returns to the bright phase of masculine, the lower trigram Qian. Line 5 approaches line 2 seeking peace but forgets that it is in the middle of emerging Pi. Tai will collapse once people get used to comfort, become slack and ignore a latent crisis. Line 6 reaches the end of hexagram Tai and is destined to meet chaos if it continues to act as before.
The 1st line
Text: (While) pulling (one bunch of) couch grass (other bunches connected by) the entangled roots (will be pulled out together), this way similar things gather; to undertake a venture is auspicious.
Hexagram Tai denotes the lunar month of January, i.e. the beginning of spring when all plants start to sprout. In the beginning of hexagram Tai, everything begins to prosper. It must advance, but with companions, like a gentleman associating with others of the same aspiration so as to act and assist together. Then it is auspicious for him to take aggressive action.
The roots of couch grass are entangled underground. When pulling one bunch of grass, other bunches around it will also be pulled. Line 1 is the bunch to be pulled out, while lines 2 and 3 are of like kind as they are masculine as well. Line 1 correlates and interacts with line 4. However line 4 is in darkness, and line 1, in the beginning phase, is less energetic. Therefore it is better to move upward, i.e. to go forward, together with lines 2 and 3 which also tend to move upward.
The text of line 1 is the same as the first line 1 of hexagram Pi, but with different advice. In Pi to persist in remaining still is auspicious as its trigrams Kun and Qian are in a discordant state (after Tai collapses). But in Tai, it is auspicious for the first line to advance as the masculine and feminine will start to interact (after Pi is toppled). Both are turning points and will lead in different ways to prosperity and stagnation.
Commentary on the image: Pulling the couch grass (signifies advancing together) and undertaking a venture is auspicious, (as) aspiration is to develop outwardly.
Aspiration is to develop outwardly signifying that masculine line 1, correlating with line 4 at the external trigram, tends to move upward.
Enlightenment through nine one: to unite with those who have the same aim and march ahead together. In the beginning of hexagram Tai, everything begins to prosper; it is auspicious to take aggressive action. However Tai has just begun and it is still weak; one should seek companions and unite those who have the same aspiration. It suggests aggressive action, as good fortune will come incrementally, like pulling one bunch of couch grass with others following due to their interconnected roots. The hexagram that appears while this line is activated is Sheng (46), to rise. Here line 1 attaches to masculine line 2 to rise.
The 2nd line
Text: (The subject ought) to embrace wilderness, and undertake crossing the river with bare feet, and not desert those who are remote; (it should also abandon self-interest as if letting) friends (i.e. cliques) die. It can attain what is desired while acting along the middle course (or in accordance with the principle of moderation).
Tai is created out of the interplay between the masculine and feminine. Line 2 is the representative line of trigram Qian and the founding line of Tai. Here it acts at the core position of the ascending tendency to build Tai through expanding boundaries and cultivating virgin land, bravely overcoming all difficulties, not overlooking any single demand, and not forming cliques out of self-interest. After that it acts according to the principle of moderation to maintain Tai with an open and tolerant heart, a determined mind, not deserting anyone involved and doing everything justly.
Line 2 correlates with line 5, the representative line of the upper trigram Kun which is a field, wild and boundless. Line 2 moves upward and exchanges positions with line 5 as the masculine and feminine interact. Then the upper trigram becomes Kan (the abyss, water), the river. Moving forward to embrace wilderness and boundlessness exhibits its resolution (i.e. crossing the river with bare feet). This also signifies that it doesn’t desert those who are remote (i.e. line 5) and that there are no more factions (i.e. lines 1 and 3 are left behind).
Commentary on the image: To embrace wilderness (results in line 2) attaining what is desired while acting along the middle course (or in accordance with the principle of moderation), (signifying) to brighten and magnify (Tai) by virtue of (these qualities).
After lines 2 and 5 exchange positions (i.e. from one axle centre to the other, acting along the middle course with the masculine and feminine interacting), the inner upper and the lower trigrams become Li (clinging, fire). This manifests the act of building Tai and maintaining it over a long time. Afterward, the hexagram becomes Ji Ji (63), success in crossing the river, i.e. all tasks are accomplished and there is a happy ending.
Enlightenment through nine two: to carry out one's goals and maintain what has been achieved by thinking big and starting small. To expand boundaries and cultivate virgin land, to bravely overcome all difficulties, to accomplish everything necessary, and not to form cliques out of self-interest is the way to build Tai. Likewise, having an open and tolerant heart as well as a determined mind, not deserting any people involved and doing everything justly is also a way to maintain Tai. One can attain what one yearns for (i.e. to build Tai and maintain it over a long period of time) by performing these core tasks. Should this line not abide by its mandate and changes to feminine, the hexagram would become Ming Yi (36), brightness being tarnished, where civilisation is hurt as a tyrant rules the world. This is possibly the advice and must be avoided.
The 3rd line
Text: No plain is without a slope, and no advance is without a return; (the subject ought) to persist adamantly and then (there will be) no calamity (or fault). (It need) not worry but (maintain) sincerity and trust; while food is served, one will be blessed with good fortune.
It is not possible to always move up without a decline, advance without a retreat. Prosperity will turn into adversity as Tai and Pi are cyclical; this is the course of Nature.
The masculine line moves up to the end of the lower trigram Qian and is about to enter the dark, i.e. the upper trigram Kun. It can avoid calamity if it persists with great fortitude, i.e. if it remains firmly in its right place. One need not worry, but practice sincerity and trust, i.e. cherish the present situation and take precautions against calamity. If a person can prepare for danger in times of peace, he will survive any crisis and be blessed with good fortune. To enjoy the food served to him signifies that not does he survive, he will also live a long time.
From the heaven of the lower trigram Qian to the earth of the upper trigram Kun there is an incline. Line 3 correlates with line 6 which is at the position of Tai changing to Pi, i.e. the reverse position if line 3 keeps moving forward. Trigram Qian is taken for gold, symbolising good fortune; line 3 can be immersed in good fortune if it remains within the lower trigram Qian.
Should line 3 enter the upper trigram Kun (and exchange positions with line 4), the inner upper trigram would become Kan (the abyss, water) which is signified as sincerity and trust, as well as peril and worry. This means that it would be trapped in peril and worry, but exhibit sincerity and trust. In actuality, line 3 is still in the lower trigram Qian and in the era of Tai; there is no need to worry but it must exhibit sincerity and trust when facing peril. This is how line 3 should behave in order to deal with latent Pi in front.
Commentary on the image: No moving forth is without a return, (signifying that line 3 is) at the border of the heavens and earth.
Line 3 is at the border of trigrams Qian and Kun, and darkness is about to come.
Enlightenment through nine three: to prepare for danger in times of peace. When this line is triggered to move, it signifies that prosperity encounters adversity; here is the turning point. One must hold one's position with fortitude; then one can be free from calamity. No need to worry, as it is still the time of Tai; however one must maintain sincerity and trust, i.e. cherish Tai and maintain it for a long time, and prepare for danger in times of peace. While one enjoys the food being served, i.e. after having survived a crisis, one will be blessed with good fortune as God helps those who help themselves. Should this line not abide by the advice and change to feminine, the hexagram would become Lin (19), which here can be seen as the approach of Pi as the dark feminine descends.
The 4th line
Text: (The subject is in a state of) hovering and hovering; (the one) not wealthy in accordance with this (lives with) its neighbour (i.e. the wealthy one); (it need) not be vigilant but sincere and trustworthy.
The feminine acting on behalf of void Yin is taken here for one which is not wealthy. On the other hand, the masculine (solid Yang) is the wealthy one. Feminine line 4 stays above the lower trigram Qian, heaven, like a bird hovering up and down in the sky; it is the one without wealth. It stays next to the lower trigram Qian, the one with wealth, and becomes its neighbour.
While the feminine and the masculine intersect, the feminine need not be afraid of the masculine's wealth, i.e. strength. Rather, it should exhibit sincerity and trust. If line 4 exchanges positions with line 3 (i.e. if it deals with the wealthy one), the inner upper trigram will become Kan (the abyss, water) which is peril as well as sincerity and trust. This signifies that the intersection is perilous but sincerity and trust are exhibited.
Commentary on the image: (Those) hovering and hovering are not wealthy, (signifying) all lose solidity. (They need) not be vigilant but sincere and trustworthy, (which is the way) to hit (the target of) the desire.
Line 4, with lines 5 and 6, are all feminine and hovering over the prosperous and powerful lower trigram Qian. They form trigram Kun, wherein the adversity of Pi is emerging and they are at a loss. To pursue prosperity and avoid adversity is everyone’s wish. Therefore they need not be vigilant but sincerely and trustworthily descend to the lower trigram Qian as they are assigned to intersect with it.
Enlightenment through six four: to act according to what is must and return like a prodigal son. In the time of Tai, a person steps into adversity but he is still next to prosperity. He need not hesitate, but only follow the path back to prosperity, sincerely and trustworthily, without any other concern. If this line acts accordingly, the hexagram will become Da Zhuang (34), largeness and strength, when it becomes masculine. Here the large strength is well regulated and can move ahead like a big cart.
The 5th line
Text: Di Yi (the father of King Zhou) arranged for his younger sister to wed, (which led to the people) being blessed with welfare and (which was of) great auspiciousness.
Feminine line 5 at the king’s position acts like the king’s sister. Although she possesses an honoured status, line 5 represents the upper trigram Kun which is designated to stay below. Therefore she lowers herself to position 2 once she weds line 2. The wedding leads to trigrams Kun and Qian intersecting and the hexagram becoming Ji Ji (63), completion. There, all lines stay in their right places and correlate with one another in a state of peace and harmony, which is greatly auspicious.
This line refers to the first political marriage recorded in Chinese history. The father of King Di Yi of Shang (帝乙) killed Duke Ji Li (季歷). The son of Ji Li, Duke Ji Chang (姬昌 known posthumously as King Wen of Zhou (周文王) ) sought revenge and attacked the Shang when King Di Yi was on the throne; however, he failed. King Di Yi realised that his father had killed Duke Ji Chang's father; thus he arranged for his younger sister to wed Ji Chang in order to ease tensions between the two clans.
The feminine and masculine intersect, like a wedding. This defuses the crisis of war, brings peace to the world and welfare to the people which is greatly auspicious.
Commentary on the image: To be blessed with welfare and great auspiciousness, (which are due to) realising a wish through the principle of moderation.
Lines 5 and 2 are both axle centres which possess the principle of moderation; after having interacted and exchanged positions, both the upper and the inner lower trigrams become Kan, a wish. Two Kans appearing signify that their wishes were realised through the principle of moderation (i.e. to put hostility aside and seek mutual interests).
Enlightenment through six five: to accede to, and collaborate with, the one who has the talent and ability to build and maintain Tai. King Di Yi arranged for his younger sister to wed Duke Ji Li. When this line is triggered to move, the masculine and feminine mate and the crisis of war is eliminated. The world becomes peaceful and will prosper; all people are blessed ensuring their welfare which is greatly auspicious. However, peril will appear in the form of the upper trigram Kan if this line is activated and ends up as masculine. Then there will be no interact, and the hexagram will become Xu (5), to wait as peril lies in front. This suggests that a truce is a temporary compromise if the crux of the problem remains. If people become slack and heedless in peaceful conditions, Tai will collapse (at the next position).
The 6th line
Text: The city wall collapsed into the moat; do not use the troops; the statute is in force (only within) one’s hometown; to persist will be resented.
Prosperity reaches the upper extremity and hexagram Tai reaches the end; it is about to decline and change to hexagram Pi. Tai, built over a long time, collapsed as the city wall fell down and its soil returned to the moat where it originated. The residents fled for their lives and the troops lost morale. One must not do what will seemingly bring victory but actually leads to more misfortune and calamity. The statute now can only reach places and people nearby; one must practice restraint and enhance the self. If one’s behaviour does not change, it will be resented.
Trigram Gen (the mountain) looks like a city wall. The inner upper trigram Zhen (to move, the thunder) is the reverse image of Gen and the collapsed city wall. The inner lower trigram Dui (joy, the marsh) is taken here for a moat, which is filled with earth.
The army of hexagram Shi (7) is constituted by the upper trigram Kun and the lower trigram Kan (the abyss, water), peril. The lower trigram of hexagram Tai is Qian, where Tai prospers and people live in peace. Therefore no army, brave and skilful in fighting, is available when a crisis appears.
Position 6 is at the end of a hexagram, on the brink of a reversal. Feminine line 6 remains still at the place designated for it, therefore it is deserving of what occurs there. For misfortune to be averted, line 6 has to change. After it changes to masculine, trigram Gen, i.e. the city wall, appears. This indicates that it can’t persist as it used to during Tai.
Commentary on the image: The city wall collapsed into the moat, (signifying) it is destined (to lead) to chaos.
Line 6 reaches the end of hexagram Tai; its fate is going to change to Pi, the next hexagram.
Enlightenment through six six: to make a change and enhance oneself rather than acting as before. Prosperity reaches its end and adversity is on its way, which is destined. One should not try to expand one's territory, i.e. stop developing outwardly, but take good care of one’s own domain. It will be resented, i.e. it will lead to calamity, if one acts as usual. If this line can change to masculine, the hexagram will become Da Chu (26), large storage and great restraint (as in a dam). Storage here means to enhance oneself in order to achieve in the future. Restraint signifies disciplining oneself with a view to taking correct action in the future.
The target of hexagram Tai is to achieve peace and prosperity, and maintain it for a long time. From the perspective of Dukedom Zhou's history, it can refer to the accounts of Duke Ji Li (the father of King Wen of Zhou) attacking Rong and Di (戎狄) to build Tai, and King Di Yi of Shang and Duke Ji Chang (known as King Wen of Zhou posthumously) defusing the crisis of war to prevent the emergence of Pi.
Rong and Di were two tribes in the northwest. It is believed that they were the ancestors of Gin (秦) who unified China later and established the Gin empire (248 B.C. to 207 B.C.). Toward the end of the Shang dynasty, Rong and Di continually threatened Shang and Zhou at the borders. Duke Ji Li led his troops to attack them; he won six times and lost once. After the victory of the seventh military action, Duke Ji Li went to see King Wen Ding of Shang (文丁) with a tribute of three captured courtiers of Rong. Unexpectedly Duke Ji Li was imprisoned and killed by King Wen Ding. Duke Ji Li should have been supported by the Shang in quelling the Rong and Di in order to protect their northwest borders. However, most likely due to the fact that the northwest threat was eliminated and Shang worried that Zhou would become stronger, Duke Ji Li was killed after his mission had been accomplished.
The line texts of hexagram Tai can be interpreted and paraphrased as follows:
(While) pulling (one bunch of) couch grass (other bunches connected by) the entangled roots (will be pulled out together); this way similar things gather; to undertake a venture is auspicious. If grass can’t be pulled out entirely, it will grow again once spring arrives. This explains the necessity of Zhou’s attacking both Rong and Di, one after another, in order to thoroughly eliminate their threat and attain Tai. Those battles deeply affected Zhou’s later prosperity and stability, especially as the threat of Rong and Di had been eliminated during the subsequent war between Shang and Zhou.
(The task entails) embracing wilderness, and undertaking crossing the river with bare feet, as well as not abandoning (but chasing) those (enemies) who are remote; this causes many friends to die. This refers to the hardship of Duke Ji Li’s seven military actions in order to build long-term peace and stability, i.e. to build Tai and maintain it over a long period of time.
No plain is without a slope, and no advance is without a return; (one ought) to persist adamantly and then (there will be) no calamity; do not worry about being captured; while food is served, one will be blessed with good fortune. Peril exists even in victory. This might refer to Duke Ji Li’s third military action when he was defeated. No need to worry about being captured. When one has survived the crisis, one will be blessed with good fortune. In addition to sincerity and trust, the character 孚 also has the meaning of capture.
(Like a bird) hovering and hovering (not daring to land), (the one) not wealthy in accordance with this (lives with) its neighbour (i.e. the wealthy one); not to be vigilant (results in) being captured: Zhou was located next to the powerful Shang; Duke Ji Li overlooked the fact that his strength and power had already become a threat to the Shang; he was imprisoned because he wasn't sufficiently alert. A person should always be prepared for danger in times of peace.
Di Yi arranged for his younger sister to wed, (which led to the people) being blessed with welfare and (which was of) great auspiciousness. King Di Yi (the son of King Wen Ding) arranged for his younger sister to wed Duke Ji Chang; thus hatred was dissolved. War will lead to calamity but peace can bring prosperity.
The city wall collapsed into the moat; do not use the troops; the statute is in force (only within) one’s hometown; to persist will be resented: Duke Ji Chang accepted his failure to defeat the Shang and was aware that Zhou was still incapable of overthrowing them; thus he restrained himself from seeking revenge again for his father’s death. It is a wise action to pursue good fortune and avert misfortune.
Or, this can refer to the collapse of the Shang dynasty. Due to an extended peace, the Shang became slack. King Wu of Zhou (周武王, the son of Duke Ji Chang) launched an attack and King Zhou of Shang (紂王, the son of King Di Yi) was defeated. The capital was besieged and King Zhou fled back to his palace. He realised that all resistance was futile; he lit a fire and burned himself to death.