12 Pi3



The lower: Kun (submissiveness, earth). The upper: Qian (perseverance, heaven).

Pi: a state of blockage and stagnation; the mission of hexagram Pi is to convert it into Tai. 






Things cannot always progress smoothly without obstruction (Tai); therefore Pi is granted. When Tai reaches its upper extremity, it collapses. When smoothness progresses to its end, it becomes blocked. Pi signifies that everything is being blocked; it is a scene of stagnation. Hexagrams Pi and Tai are reversible and interchangeable; they are the opposite of each other and are cyclical. Usually Pi refers to adversity and Tai to prosperity.

Heaven stays above and masculine tends to move, while earth stays below and feminine tends to remains still. For this reason, they separate in hexagram Pi. There is no intersection or association between the masculine and feminine, so no life can result. Pi shows only blockage and stagnation.

The inner hexagram of Pi is Jian4 (53), to progress gradually and sequentially, which is the attitude one should take in order to return to Tai.

Pi is a hexagram that instructs people how to live in troubled times and protect themselves. It also teaches how to convert Pi into Tai which will appear after one makes a determined effort to reverse adversity and topple Pi. 


Text: Pi (the state of blockage and stagnation) is in possession of no human (relationship or code of conduct); it is not advantageous (or appropriate) for a gentleman to persist (in carrying out his aspirations); the large one has gone (while) the small one comes.

Commentary on the text: Pi (the state of blockage and stagnation) is in possession of no human (relationship or code of conduct); it is not advantageous (or appropriate) for a gentleman to persist (in carrying out his aspirations); the large one has gone (while) the small comes.  (It is a state where) heaven and earth have no intersection and thus all beings are blocked; (where) those above and below have no association and thus no country can possibly be maintained in the world; (where) the feminine (Kun) stays internally while the masculine (Qian) stays externally; (where) tenderness (Kun) is concealed internally while rigidity (Qian) is exposed externally; (and where) the villain is (the force) at the core while the gentleman is on the fringes, (so that) the norm of the villain grows while the norm of the gentleman fades away.

Text explanation:

Since there is no exchange between heaven and earth, i.e. masculine and feminine, or those above and below, no human relationship or code of conduct can be created. As there is no human relationship or code of conduct, it is not advantageous or appropriate for a gentleman to persist in carrying out his aspirations.

The upper trigram Qian is masculine and rigid, the large one and the gentleman. The lower trigram Kun is feminine and tender, the small one and the villain.

The feminine line is advancing up to position 3, while the masculine line is retreating; the norm of the villain will prevail and the norm of the gentleman will fade away.

Commentary on the image: No intersection exists between heaven and earth; Pi.  A gentleman in accordance with this conceals his virtue to evade calamity, and doesn’t honour himself with a governmental post.


Hexagram Pi refers to a state of stagnation and blockage as well as adversity. Here the masculine Yang has gone, while the feminine Yin comes, so the norm of Yin, i.e. evil and the villain, will start to prevail. In a time of no human relationship or code of conduct, it is not advantageous for a gentleman to carry out his aspirations.

The changing hexagram is Tai (11), a state of smoothness and no obstruction, harmony and peace, which signifies prosperity. The interchange between Pi and Tai reveals that prosperity and adversity are in fact cyclical. However, Tai will change to Pi when it reaches its extremity or end, while Pi must be toppled for it to change back to Tai.

Hexagram Pi possesses none of the four virtues: origination, smooth progress, advantage or persistence. The large has gone, while the small comes; this can also be interpreted as loss.






Pi signifies stagnation and blockage with respect to a gentleman‘s difficulty in carrying out his aspirations or mission. The lower trigram Kun is taken here for a dark land as Kun is earth and composed entirely of the shaded (feminine) Yin; there evil and the norm of the villain prevail. The upper trigram Qian is in a phase where the masculine Yang is trying to stop and subdue the feminine Yin, like brightness dispelling darkness. Usually ordinary people or villains appear in the form of feminine Yin, while a gentleman or great lord appears in the form of masculine Yang.

None of the lines contains any ill omen as the feminine Yin is changing to the masculine Yang along the timeline. Primarily, the lines advise how a gentleman should behave in the time of Pi, and encourage people to strive for good fortune.


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 persist is auspicious, (which will lead to) smooth progress.

Text explanation:

When hexagram Pi forms and starts to develop along its course, it is better for one to remain still rather than act. As suggested in the commentary on the image, a gentleman should conceal his virtue to evade calamity and should not honour himself with a governmental post. This is auspicious, and will lead one to progress smoothly.

The inner upper trigram Xun (to enter, the wind) is wood, i.e. a plant. Line 3 is the tender feminine and it is taken here for grass. Lines 1, 2 and 3 are all alike as they are feminine. The inner lower trigram Gen (keeping still, the mountain) looks like a hand pulling grass. In pulling one bunch, other bunches connected by their roots follow. This suggests that line 1 should be independent of the other feminine lines (as if staying outside of trigram Gen) to avoid being pulled out and weeded by the masculine.


Commentary on the image: Pulling the couch grass, (which signifies that) to persist (in remaining still) is auspicious, (even if) the aspiration is to serve the king.

Position 4 is the place for sustaining line 5, the king. Line 1, which is in correlation with line 4, has access to position 4 and serving the king. Lines 4 and 5, however, are engaged in stopping the feminine. Since line 1 is feminine and there is no intersection between the masculine and feminine in hexagram Pi, it should remain still for the moment and wait for a better time.

Enlightenment through six one: do not wallow in the mire with others but bide one's time. When Tai collapses and Pi starts to develop, one should not take the advantage of this to form a clique (out of self-interest) but rather remain still to avoid being hurt and wait for a better time to realise one's aspirations. It is auspicious to persist and things will progress smoothly. The hexagram that forms after this line acts accordingly and changes to masculine is Wu Wang (25), not to think and do what is undesired.


The 2nd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) tolerating and pleasing; it is auspicious for the villain, (but) it is the progress of Pi (stagnation and blockage) for the great lord.

Text explanation:

The lower trigram Kun is taken here for a dark land, and line 2, its representative line, is a villain. It occupies the core position appropriate to it and represents the dominant power; therefore the norm of the villain is prevailing. It tolerates lines 1 and 3, and pleases line 5, the king, which is auspicious for it. However, it hampers the great lord (as mentioned in line 5) and what he intends to carry out.

Commentary on the image: It is the progress of Pi (stagnation and blockage) for the great lord; (he should) not misbehave with the multitudes (i.e. the villains).

The great lord can also refer to a gentleman possessing integrity in the middle of a dark land. The auspiciousness of the villain is a warning with respect to how a gentleman should act while Pi prevails.

In the time of Pi, one in the evil centre should remain optimistic and maintain a correlation with line 5, the representative line of the upper trigram Qian (where Pi is being transformed into Tai). A gentleman should live with villains but not become one of them, like masculine line 2 restraining itself to avoid calamity when its ability is limited in hexagram Song (6).

Enlightenment through six two: to practice self-restraint and protect oneself. While evil prevails, villains tolerate one another and all evil things. They are also in a position to please those above. It is auspicious for the villain but the norm of the gentleman (or what he intends) is stagnant. A gentleman must remain optimistic, not let himself be affected by the villain, and bide his time. The hexagram that appears while this line is activated and changes to masculine is Song (6), litigation due to conflict; at this time people should avoid conflict and seek harmony.


The 3rd line

Text: (The subject is an) enveloped shame.

Text explanation:

Feminine line 3 reaches the upper extremity of the lower trigram Kun and the position for marching upward to the upper trigram Qian. It has gone through all evil and reaches the climax and the end as well; from here the norm of the villain will die away. However, it is ignorant and arrogant, still strutting around and intends to invade the masculine. It is shame but an enveloped one, i.e. line 3 doesn’t feel shameful since it is still the time of Pi.

Commentary on the image: Enveloped shame, (which is due to the fact that) the position (where it stays) is inappropriate.

Feminine line 3 is at the position for masculine and is marching upward, but the feminine lacks momentum, signifying it acts neither righteously nor competently.

Enlightenment through six three: 1) to see clearly what is going to happen, or 2) to maintain, but conceal, one's aspirations and bide one's time. Evil powers reach the end. The incompetent villain still struts around; this is an enveloped shame. The hexagram that forms after this line is activated accordingly is Dun (33), to retreat. There the worldly-wise plays it safe when evil beings are prevailing; this is possibly the advice for a gentleman.


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) being mandated (by Heaven), (which is of) no calamity (or fault); things of a kind cling to the blessing of welfare.

Text explanation:

Line 4 is the first masculine line of the upper trigram Qian where masculinity is emerging while femininity is stopped; from this point, Pi will lessen. Position 4 is the turning point, from the norm of the villain to that of the gentleman. If masculine line 4 can stop the feminine from moving upward, it will be free from calamity and masculine lines 5 and 6 will be blessed by this accordingly.

The inner lower trigram Gen (keeping still, the mountain) signifies to stop. Its representative line, line 4, belongs to the upper trigram Qian, heaven. This signifies that stopping line 3 from moving upward is the mandate of Heaven. Lines 5 and 6 are all of a kind as they are masculine like line 4 and will benefit from its actions.


Commentary on the image: Being mandated (by Heaven) and no calamity (or fault), (which signifies that) the aspiration (of converting Pi into Tai) is being carried out.

Enlightenment through nine four: to do the best to fulfil one's duty. One stands at the turning point and has the mandate of Heaven to stop Pi. One will be free from calamity if Pi can be stopped timely; all of one’s fellows will be blessed accordingly. Should this line fail to accomplish its mandate but be changed to feminine, the hexagram would become Guan (20), to observe, where the feminine below review the masculine above. This might result in calamity as mentioned in hexagram Lin (19) if the masculine doesn't perform well while approaching (i.e. supervising and managing) the feminine.


The 5th line

Text: (The subject ought) to rest Pi (blockage and stagnation); it is auspicious for a great lord, yet it is still perilous and still at stake; (one has) to tie (oneself) to the flower buds of the flourishing and densely growing mulberry trees (繫于苞桑).

Text explanation:

The trigram changes from the lower trigram Kun to the upper trigram Qian signifying that the feminine line is successfully stopped at position 3 by the masculine Qian. Line 5, the representative line of Qian, occupies the core position leading the masculine lines. Therefore it is auspicious for a gentleman and great leader who can consolidate his forces to quell Pi forever. However, while still in hexagram Pi, line 5 must remain vigilant and hold firmly to its mandate. This is like building a silk cocoon around the flower bud of the flourishing and thick mulberry tree. Although terminating Pi is still in the bud stage, the silk moth will break through the cocoon when the bud opens and the flower emerges. bao of ji4 (to tie) yu2 (on) 苞桑sang (mulberry) can be signified as the flower bud, as well as flourishing and dense growth.

Mulberry trees have dark blue leaves and yellow trunks, the colours of heaven above and earth below as pictured in hexagram Pi. The inner upper trigram Xun is a cord (or thread of silk); therefore line 5 is firmly tied to the flourishing and thick mulberry trees with their roots deep in the ground.


Confucius’s statement in Xi Ci Zhuan (i.e. the commentary on the text tagging): The one who is in peril had been in safety for a long time; the one who is dead had been alive for a long time; the one who is in turmoil had been properly ruled for a long time. Therefore a gentleman shouldn’t ignore peril while feeling safe; he shouldn’t ignore death while he is alive, and he shouldn’t ignore turmoil while rules are respected; this way, (the life of) individuals can be secured and (the safety of) the country can be guarded.

Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of the great lord, (which is due to the fact that) the position (it occupies) is right and appropriate.

Enlightenment through nine five: to hold on to the target. To keep Pi at rest is auspicious. However, since Pi is only at rest and still exists, a gentleman and great leader must always bear in mind the possibility of being injured by Pi and be very cautious and determined to prevent it from recurring. He must tie himself to the flourishing and thick mulberry trees, i.e. consolidate people's force (or use all available resources) and do it with firm resolve. Should this line change to feminine, the hexagram would become Jin (35), to advance, where the feminine wins the king's position after their upward march.


The 6th line

Text: (The subject ought) to topple Pi (stagnation and blockage); it begins with Pi but later becomes joyous.

Text explanation:

Hexagram Pi reaches its end; it begins with Pi (stagnation and blockage) in the darkness of the lower trigram Kun, but will become joyous when Pi ends.

In line 6 of hexagram Tai people became slack after living with Tai for a long time and it collapses. However, Pi must be toppled since it won’t perish by itself; people must make a determined effort to convert it. Line 6 is the masculine of which masculinity accrues to the maximum along with trigram Qian; it is capable of toppling Pi.

Commentary on the image: Pi (stagnation and blockage) reaches the end and is about to be toppled; how can it last long?

Although hexagram Pi reaches the end, hexagram Tai is located in the opposite direction of the sequence trend; therefore Pi must be toppled in order to return to Tai.

Enlightenment through nine six: to take action and accomplish the task through joint effort.  Pi reaches the end; it won’t vanish by itself but must be toppled. This signifies that one should grasp the opportunity to knock down Pi thoroughly and convert adversity into prosperity. It is Pi in the beginning, but turns to joy after it is toppled. If this line changed to feminine, the hexagram would become Cui (45), (the feminine lines) gathering together (masculine lines 4 and 5, respectively). This creates two forces and will cause turbulence, so one must find a way to prevent division.




From the perspective of the fall of the Shang Dynasty and rise of the Zhou: when the Shang were ruled by King Zhou (紂王) it was in a state of Pi, where the villain prevailed and the norm of the gentleman was stagnant. King Zhou was immoral, ruthless and tyrannical. He consorted daily with his favourite concubine, Ta Chi (妲姬) and was surrounded by flatterers. He used a variety of cruel methods to intimidate his subjects and punish those who criticised him.

His uncles, Bi Gan (比甘) and Gi Zi (箕子) were two of the most important courtiers and stayed by his side when other virtuous and able people left. They urged him to keep a distance from villains and rule the country properly but King Zhou never took their advice. In the end Gi Zi had to feign insanity to prevent being killed, but he was jailed. Bi Gan was killed when his heart was extracted, the pretext being to show what a royal heart looked like.

Alternately, Duke Ji Chang (姬昌, posthumously honoured as King Wen of Zhou by his son) ruled his dukedom benevolently and employed virtuous and able people. He was falsely accused and imprisoned at You Li (羑里) by King Zhou merely because he sighed for those subjects who were killed. After his courtiers repeatedly offered tributes to King Zhou, he was released to his home state. Afterwards he made a great effort to increase his state power. Years later his son Ji Fa (姬發, King Wu of Zhou) succeeded him and allied with other dukes to finally topple the tyrannical King Zhou.

Following is how hexagram Pi reflects the history of Zhang and Zhou.

In the time of Pi, i.e. Shang ruled by King Zhou: There is no human norm. It is not advantageous for a gentleman to carry out his aspirations. The gentleman leaves, while the villain comes.

Line 1: In the early phase of Pi, the loyal and virtuous people of Shang collaborated with one another, and waited for the day to serve the king.

Line 2: Evil was prevailing; the villains tolerated one another and pleased King Zhou. Duke Ji Chang was falsely accused and put in jail. He maintained his integrity and awaited rescue from his courtiers.

Line 3: The villains gained important posts and strutted around; they did not realise that the Shang would soon perish. Alternately, the virtuous courtiers either fled or were humiliated and killed like Bi Gan and Gi Zi.

Line 4: After Duke Ji Chang was released back to his home state, he realised that it was a mandate assigned by Heaven to stop the tyranny of King Zhou.

Line 5: Duke Ji Chang united all available forces and made a great effort to build a strong state in order to confront King Zhou.

Line 6: Finally King Wu of Zhou toppled King Zhou when the right time arrived.


The sequence shows that the hexagrams, appearing one after the other, are paired in a way to either reverse or change. Viewed from the symbols of Yin and Yang, the pair in the reverse form suggests that an event is complete only after it goes through a cycle. A pair of interchangeable hexagrams suggests that they are the opposite of each other. Hexagrams Tai and Pi are mutually reverse and interchangeable. This signifies that they are opposite facets of one subject. There are three other hexagram pairs in which a similar pattern appears: A) Sui (17), to follow without one's own standpoint, and Gu (18), to eradicate blind following, B) Jian4 (53), to proceed in accordance with the prescribed procedures and become a wife, and Gui Mei (54), to accomplish by one step and become a concubine, C) Ji Ji (63), completion, and Wei Ji (64), not completed yet.

The variations and trends of hexagrams Tai and Pi are illustrated by the graph below which shows that Pi follows in the wake of Tai, and that Tai will resume when Pi reaches the end and is reversed. They will continue this way repeatedly.