20 Guan1



The lower: Kun1 (submissiveness, earth). The upper: Xun (to enter, the wind).

Guan: to observe (with contemplation); those above presenting a model (for those below to follow); those below reviewing those above.






Things can be easily seen once they become large (Lin); therefore Guan is granted. guan means an attentive watch, while guan4 refers to the watchtowers on either side of the palace gate where ancient kings announced new orders and regulation, as well as rewards and punishments. Therefore, Guan of hexagram 20 is signified as those above presenting a model (for those below to follow) and (those below) observing (through contemplation). Guan is the reverse hexagram of Lin (19). Hexagram Lin suggests giving (a favour) as it models those above approaching those below in a benevolent way. Hexagram Guan counter-positions it as asking for (a favour), i.e. those below looking up to those above. Additionally, as hexagram Lin resembles an enlarged trigram Zhen (to move); it suggests action (reflecting sovereignty). Contrarily hexagram Guan looks like an enlarged trigram Gen (keeping still) leading to moving and stopping when required and thereby attaining self-restraint through self-cultivation. Therefore Guan is outwardly motionless, while its inward movement suggests internal cultivation (through religion).

The upper trigram Xun denotes order, while the lower trigram Kun1 represents people and submission, like an order given from above with those below following submissively. This is how the hexagram is signified.

The inner hexagram of Guan is Bo (23), the feminine overpowering the masculine, signifying that people need a model to follow when evil prevails. Its changing hexagram is Da Zhuang (34), largeness and strength which can be guided to the right track after a model is established. Conversely, the large and strong acts righteously winning the respect of those smaller and below after Da Zhuang changes to Guan.

Text: (wash one's hands)(but)(not)(offer)有孚顒若(like)

Guan (those above provide a model): ablution but not yet time for offering the sacrifice, the action of which exhibits sincerity and trust and deserves to be looked up to () with reverence.

Commentary on the text: The great Guan (i.e. the model presented by the large masculine, i.e. lines 5 and 6) is at the top; the norm of Guan (imitating the model) is exhibited in the form of submission (of Kun1 behaving as the internal trigram) and then Xun (prostrating itself to express devotion and obedience as the external trigram).  The axle centre (line 5) at its right position acts moderately and righteously to Guan (i.e. present a model to) the world.  Guan: ablution but not yet the time for offering the sacrifice, the action of which exhibits sincerity and trust and deserves to be looked up to with reverence; those below Guan (observe) and then are cultivated.  By Guan (observing) the heavens for the norm of Heaven, one can understand how the four seasons flow without error.  The sage uses the norm of Heaven to establish cultivation (or religion); then the world becomes obedient.

Text explanation:

Washing one's hands before a ceremony demonstrates the sincerity of the worshiper. People watch this and perceive his sincerity and trust. Even if a sacrifice has not taken place yet, people already look up to him and will imitate him. Guan looks like the gate of a shrine. Therefore the sacrificial ceremony takes place in hexagram Guan, where trigram Xun above presents a feminine line prostrated beneath two masculine lines exhibiting devotion and obedience. Trigram Kun1 below represents the people and expresses submission. yong2 originally meant a big head and extendedly refers to things that are large. It is interpreted here as to look upward, look with reverence or look solemn because what one faces is large.

Two masculine lines stay at the top; line 5 is the king and line 6 is the shrine. All four feminine lines below look up at them and observe. Line 5, a masculine axle centre at its right position, acts moderately and righteously. Feminine line 2, the representative line of people denoted by the lower trigram Kun1, correlates with it and is affected, signifying that line 5 is a model and those below look up to it.

The norm of Heaven makes the world operate in an orderly manner; the sage looks up to it and takes it as the model to cultivate people.

Commentary on the image: The wind blows over the Earth: Guan.  The late king, in accordance with this, established cultivation through viewing all directions and observing the people.

The wind travels over the Earth observing the world. So did the late king investigate far and wide to understand people’s customs and habits. This way he established religious rites and etiquette to cultivate his people, and the people followed him accordingly.


 The worshiper washes his hands before ceremony, expressing sincerity to Heaven and his ancestors, and establishing a model. People observe this, look up to him and will imitate him. Thus Guan suggests internal cultivation; it is a hexagram of enlightenment through spiritual influence.

A model must be established for people to imitate as the evil of its internal hexagram Bo (23) prevails. After a model is presented, people will follow it and become large and strong. Large strength must be guided on to the right track as advised by its changing hexagram, Da Zhuang (34).

Hexagram Guan follows in the wake of hexagram Lin (19) implying a review or trial of the behaviour of the masculine lines after they approached the feminine lines in hexagram 19 (Lin).

As hexagram Guan exhibits motionless observation, it doesn’t possess any virtue of origination, smooth progress, advantage and persistence. It should broaden its field of view and wait for the right time.






Guan in the hexagram text is signified as those above establishing a model for those below to imitate. Therefore masculine lines 5 and 6 are observed by the feminine lines below. Generally speaking, the masculine lines acting on behave of Yang are regarded as a male or gentleman while the feminine lines on behave of Yin are taken here for the female, ordinary people, or villains.

The line begins with a child and woman's observation, as ordinary people behaving in a superficial and shallow (or narrow and blindly obedient) way. Therefore a person must be honest with himself to see if he is suited for public service when moving upward (from the lower trigram to the upper). Then he must watch closely to see if the one above deserves his service. Those above must also assess themselves, by observing the status of those below to see if they are succeeding as models. If so, then they are fit for others to follow.

The 1st line

Text: (child)小人(villain)(no)君子(gentleman)

The subject is in a state of a child's Guan (observation).  Ordinary people (or, the villain) can be of no fault (or calamity); but if this is done by a gentleman it is resented.

Text explanation:

A child’s observation is limited, it cannot probe distance or depth; it is a superficial observation which is normal for ordinary people and villains. But it will cause resentment if a gentleman observes in this way.

Line 1 is in the beginning phase, i.e. very young; therefore it is a child's Guan. As it is at a distance from lines 5 and 6, its observation cannot be clear.

Commentary on the image: The child's Guan (observation) of line 1, which is seen as the norm of ordinary people (or, the villain).

Enlightenment through six one: to observe deeply and thoroughly. Superficial observation is normal for ordinary people and villains, but it will cause a gentleman to be resented, i.e. it will lead to calamity if a timely correction is not made. The hexagram that forms after this line is activated changing to masculine is Yi4 (42), to enrich. Commentary on its hexagram image suggests that a gentleman should imitate goodness once he sees it, and rid himself of wrongdoing whenever he can.


The 2nd line

Text: (peep)(be advantageous or appropriate)(female)

The subject is in a state of peeking Guan (observation); it is advantageous (or appropriate) for the female to persist.

Text explanation:

Line 2 is feminine in a place of shaded feminine-Yin and in correlation with masculine line 5. This is like a female remaining in darkness and watching a male from the inside (i.e. the internal trigram). The inner upper trigram Gen (keeping still, the mountain) resembles a door and there are two feminine lines in-between; therefore it can only observe line 5 through a crack in the door.

In ancient China, marriage was arranged though matchmaking. A go-between accompanied a boy to a girl’s home to make his proposal; the girl peeked behind the door to decide whether she was willing to accept the proposal.

Peeking Guan can also mean a narrow observation. According to the code for women in ancient China, a wife was expected to be submissive to her husband. Therefore a narrow, or restricted, channel of information from the outside world was conducive to her submission. Line 2 is the representative line of Kun1, submissiveness, and stays in its right place, signifying that it is righteous for her to maintain submission, and it is appropriate for a female to persist in this way. This also suggests that the people, line 2, should remain submissive to the king, line 5, through narrow observation. It is advantageous to persist as line 5, the king, is a masculine axle centre at its right position.

Commentary on the image: Peeking Guan (observation) and the female’s persistence, which can also be ugly.

It is repugnant to the male, as peeking Guan is not open and aboveboard. The norm of a gentleman is to have a wide and clear view.

Enlightenment through six two: 1) submit to what is assigned if a wide view isn't possible, or 2) gain a wide and clear observation if possible. A girl peeks behind the door during matchmaking to decide whether to accept the proposal. Although such a view is not wide and clear, it is appropriate for a female to persist since it is the only way to glean information and conforms to custom. However this can be taken as blind submission if narrow observation is deliberate, which is repugnant to a gentleman. After this line changes to masculine, the hexagram becomes Huan (59), dispersion, where those below are leaving the king as he was influenced by a villain and broke his word in hexagram Dui (58), and where the king must express sincerity and trust to reunite them.


The 3rd line

Text: 觀我(my)(life)(advance)退(retreat)

Guan (observing) my (i.e. one's own) life: the subject is in a state of deciding whether to advance or retreat.

Text explanation:

Line 3 arrives at the position for marching upward to the upper trigram but it stops as the feminine tends to remain still. This signifies that before leaving the lower trigram (i.e. the world of commoners, or a low-ranking position) for the upper trigram (i.e. the Court, or elite society), it reviews its performance or achievements or aspirations in order to decide what future it wants.

Commentary on the image: Line 3 is in a state of Guan (observing) my (i.e. one's own) life in order to decide whether to advance or retreat; it will not lose the course of life (or the norm of hexagram Guan).

It wavers between advancing and retreating, trying to decide which is the right direction. As it wasn't able to observe deeply and widely at positions 1 and 2, it conducts a self-review to see where it went wrong. If it can behave like a gentleman, it will be able to observe correctly after it advances to the upper trigram.

Enlightenment through six three: to undertake a self-review and advance if correct action is clear. When this line is triggered to move, it signifies that this is a crucial moment for one to undertake a self-review and decide which direction, an advance or retreat, is best (for the future). The hexagram that appears when this line is fully activated changing to active masculine and then acts righteously at this position is Jian4 (53), to progress gradually and sequentially according to the prescribed procedure.


The 4th line

Text: 觀國(country)(a preposition to mark preceding word as the possessive of)(light, glory)利用(act)賓于王

The subject is in a state of Guan (observing) the glory of a country; it is instrumental to devote itself to acting as a guest in serving the king (or, it is advantageous to act as a guest in serving the king) (賓于王).

Text explanation:

The feminine line 4, at the courtier’s position next to masculine line 5, the king, is able to closely and clearly observe the king. It sustains the king after having travelled across the country (the lower trigram Kun1, people and earth) and has a clear picture of the king’s policies and performance. The king represents the country and is the glory of the country as line 5 acts through the principle of moderation, carrying out what is righteous. Line 2, the representative line of Kun1, the people and submission, is submissive to it through correlation. So line 4 admires the king; it is instrumental (or advantageous) for it to devote itself to serving him.



bin1 of 賓于yu2 (at) wang2 (the king) originally meant a guest who is respected by the host. The phrase can generally be understood as the king welcoming virtuous and talented people, near and far, to serve his country. He treats them as honoured guest rather than subjects whose service, most of the time, is taken for granted. 

Commentary on the image: Line 4 is in a state of Guan (observing) the glory of a country; then it will become yearning to serve the king as a guest (or, then it can offer its service to the king who is in a position to honour the guest).

Enlightenment through six four: 1) to check references and then provide service, or 2) to undertake the task without obligation. Knowing what the employer has done, and how, and working with mutual respect is instrumental (or advantageous) for the employee. Should this line change to masculine and not sustain line 5, the hexagram would become Pi (12), stagnation and blockage.

The 5th line

Text: 觀我生君子无(no)

The subject is in a state of Guan (observing) my (i.e. one's own) life; a gentleman can be free from calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

Lines 5 and 6 are the two masculine lines above to be observed, with line 5 honoured at the king's position. Usually it is difficult for a king to receive an unflattering appraisal from his subjects. Therefore he must reflect on his conduct himself. As line 5 is a masculine axle centre at its right position, it acts righteously and moderately like a gentleman. There will be no fault or calamity.

Commentary on the image: Line 5 is in a state of Guan (observing) my (i.e. its own) life, which can be done through Guan (observing) the people.

Line 5, the king, is in correlation with line 2, the representative line of the lower trigram Kun1 and therefore has access to the people. The king can assess his performance, good or bad, by observing the life of his people.

Enlightenment through nine five: to seek feedback from others in order to assess on one's actions. Through self-reflection and assessing one's actions in light of righteousness and the principle of moderation, a gentleman can free himself from fault or calamity. The one above can gauge his performance by observing the status of those below. If this line were changed to feminine, the hexagram would become Bo (23), where the masculine is being over-powered by the feminine. Commentary on its hexagram image suggests that those masculine above should be generous to those feminine below in order to strengthen foundation.


The 6th line

Text: 觀其(the possessive of a third person)君子无咎

The subject is in a state of Guan (observing) its life; a gentleman can be free from blame (or calamity, or fault).

Text explanation:

Line 6 is at the shrine position. When a king is enshrined, he is observed genuinely by all the people.

Line 6 is the top and end of hexagram Guan. What it has been done is summarised and reviewed by those below. All people are more or less exposed to others' observations. However, those above, including their actions, are always exposed.

Masculine Yang is seen as a gentleman. A gentleman won't be blamed if he can last to the end and model good behaviour. If line 6 changes to feminine-Yin becoming a villain, the upper trigram will become Kan (the abyss, water), peril which will lead to calamity. The hexagram will become Bi3 (8), intimate interdependence, wherein line 6 is punished as an example to warn others.


Commentary on the image: Line 6 is in a state of Guan (observing) its life; its aspiration has not yet been accomplished.

Trigram Kan also denotes aspiration. Kan doesn’t appear, signifying that its aspiration has not yet been realised. Line 6 reaches the end of hexagram Guan but the role of presenting a good model hasn't ended. This is like a great former king being looked upon with reverence, generation after generation.

Enlightenment through nine six: to behave oneself to the end and be a good role model for others. It is the moment to lay the lid on the coffin and pass final judgment. A gentleman can undergo the trial and be free of blame or calamity. The one above must always make an effort to establish a good model. Should this line change to feminine, the hexagram Bi3 (8) would appear.