22 Bi4



The lower: Li (clinging, fire). The upper: Gen (keeping still, the mountain).

Bi: to adorn or grace; the ideal of hexagram Bi is to adorn appearance without affecting essence, or to enhance essence to improve appearance.  






It can’t just join (He) things to each other; therefore Bi is granted.  Bi signifies to adorn. All things have their own edges and angles, so they must be trimmed and oiled to fit together without friction. bi4 signifies to adorn an object to improve its appearance, like adding adjectives and adverbs to a literary work (i.e. the essence). However hexagram Bi also involves enhancing the essence to improve its quality. Therefore hexagram Bi is a subject of both gracing (appearance) and enhancing (essence). It is the reversal of hexagram 21, Shi He which signifies (chewing food and) eating. Bi of hexagram 22 is regarded as colourless grace. Fundamentally, eating is for nourishing life; adornment is to make food look appealing and to stimulate the appetite. But this must not be overdone to the point where it diminishes nutrition; therefore the optimal grace of hexagram Bi is colourless, i.e. to improve the taste by enhancing the ingredients.

The lower trigram Li is the sun and the upper trigram Gen is the mountain. The sun sets at the foot of the mountain and colours the trees and grasses on the mountain making them look beautiful. This is an example of gracing appearance without changing the essence.

The inner hexagram of Bi is Xie (40), to alleviate or to dissolve, signifying that gracing appearance is for relieving tension and dissolving friction between people. Its changing hexagram is Kun4 (47), to be besieged. If adornment is effected without limitation, then essence will eventually be restricted. On the other hand, gracing appearance or enhancing essence is required to resolve dilemmas, as Bi is also the changing hexagram of Kun4.


Text: (small, little)(be instrumental in)(have)(place)(go)

Bi (to adorn): It provides smooth progress.  Slight adornment is instrumental in going somewhere.

Commentary on the text: Bi (to adorn): It provides smooth progress.  The one of tenderness comes down to grace () those of rigidity; therefore they will progress smoothly.  The separated one of rigidity ascends to enhance () those of tenderness. Therefore slight grace is instrumental in going somewhere.  Bi is the masculine and feminine intersecting () of Heaven.  Graced and enhanced brilliance of the lower trigram Li being stopped (i.e. restricted) by the upper trigram Gen is the grace and enhancement () of human beings.  Observing the masculine and feminine interaction () of Heaven, which enables people to examine the changes of time; observing the male and female interaction () of human beings, which enables people to cultivate the world.

Text explanation:

When essence encounters difficulties in progressing, gracing its appearance can provide smoothness, like Bi trimming the edge of the penal code of hexagram Shi He (21) to facilitate its smooth progress. However, too much grace will cause the essence (i.e. the penal code) to change; therefore it is advantageous to carry out adornment to a lesser degree.

Bi is formed after the top line of trigram Kun1 (submissiveness, earth) descends to the middle of trigram Qian2 (perseverance, heaven) to grace the masculine lines. The middle line of Qian2 ascends to the top position of Kun1 to grace the feminine lines.




bi4 (to adorn) given as the hexagram name is interpreted as to grace (i.e. to make masculine be more cultured, elegant, etc), while wen2 which substitutes it originally signified to draw intersecting lines (to form characters, by which written works such as literature and knowledge are presented) and is used to describe the interaction between feminine and masculine, i.e. grace vs. enhancement, as mentioned.

Tender feminine graces the rigid masculine to better its appearance and make it progress smoothly. Strong masculine enhances the weak feminine to improve its essence; therefore it is advantageous to undertake what is intended on a small scale.

Feminine gracing masculine and masculine enhancing feminine is the interaction in Nature. Blossoming in spring is an example of feminine tenderness (i.e. brilliant appearance) gracing masculine solidity (i.e. the plant and its essence). The brilliant blossom changing to fruit and then seed in autumn is masculine solidity (i.e. the essence of life) enhancing tender feminine (i.e. the blossom). By observing this one can see life relating to the changes of time.

The lower trigram Li denotes brilliant grace, while the upper trigram Gen signifies to move and stop when required, indicating that brilliant grace must remain within its designated domain; this is the grace of human beings. When outer beautification is overdone, the inner beauty will be ignored. When etiquette goes too far, normal activities lose ground. By observing the influence of grace on humans, one can make use of it to cultivate the world.

Commentary on the image: Fire at the foot of the mountain: Bi.  A gentleman, in accordance with this, must administer public affairs with a clear mind, and not decide lawsuits vaguely.

Brightness radiates internally and restraint remains external, signifying that one should be clear in the heart and act according to what is right. Additionally one should render judgement with prudence and in accordance with truth. Bi is also a type of camouflage as appearance is applied with adornment.


Rigid essence is graced and given a tender appearance so that it can progress smoothly. However, adornment is applied on top of essence, therefore it is advantageous to adorn on a small scale. If it is excessive, it will cause the essence to be ignored or change, like hexagram becoming Kun4 (47) being besieged after Bi changes. On the other hand, the void feminine needs the enhancement of solid masculine to increase its quality of grace; otherwise it is just a false appearance.

From hexagrams Qian2 and Kun1, Bi inherits only the virtues of smooth progress and advantage (expressed in the form of being instrumental) as these are the designated applications of adornment.

The adornment of hexagram 22 can be also taken for cosmetics or camouflage, something people learned from the ferocious strife in the previous hexagram Shi He (21). It is also needed to prepare for the next hexagram Bo (23). Additionally, when hexagrams Shi He and Bi work together, it can be seen as a tactic of hardness coupled with softness.






The feminine line is an adornment which graces the masculine line; the masculine line is essence which enhances the feminine line and converts cheap adornment into substantial quality. Adornment graces essence making it look brilliant, while essence enhances adornment rendering it plain, i.e. pragmatic.

The feminine line 2 came from trigram Kun1 to grace the masculine line, while line 6 came from trigram Qian2 to enhance the feminine line. In the process of grace, one must understand the true significance of adornment applied to essence, and their primary and secondary relationships. Only then can one maintain one's essence while being adorned. What one should pursue is the essence rather than the brilliant appearance of adornment. Once one can accept plain enhancement, the enhanced essence will create a graceful appearance. Eventually one can offer colourless grace (i.e. enhancement). 


The 1st line

Text: 賁其(third person, possessive case but not literally translated)(toe)(forsake)(carriage)(and then)(go on foot)

The subject is in a state of Bi (gracing) the toes, signifying to forsake the carriage and then walk.

Text explanation:

In ancient times, noblemen travelled by carriage and the commoner on foot. Line 1 is at the position of a commoner; therefore he should be pragmatic and act according to his station (i.e. grace the toes and go on foot). He should not count on what is undeserved (i.e. forsake the carriage).

Line 1 is at the bottom, like the toes on a human body. Line 2 came from trigram Kun1 to grace the masculine; therefore line 1, the toes and essence, is graced accordingly. On the other hand, the original trigram Kun1 denotes a large carriage which disappears after hexagram Bi is formed. Contrarily, the inner upper trigram in front always exhibits in the form of trigram Zhen (to move), the foot; therefore line 1 should act with Zhen and move forward.



Commentary on the image: Line 1 ought to forsake the carriage and then walk, the significance of which is not to ride in the carriage.

In the beginning phase, one should count on one’s own essence instead of pursuing brilliant but illusory appearance.

Enlightenment through nine one: clearly understand the difference between essence and flashy appearance. One should be pragmatic and count on one’s own essence to make it work better, i.e. to grace the toes and go on foot rather than taking a carriage which isn't suited to one's status (or which doesn’t exist at all). Should this line be changed to feminine and lose its essence, the hexagram would become Gen (52). Here stillness is imposed on the toes and stops it.

The 2nd line

Text: 賁其須(beard)

The subject is in a state of Bi (gracing) the beard.

Text explanation:

The image created by lines 3 to 6 is similar to that of hexagram Yi2 (27), a mouth. Line 2 beneath the mouth is the beard.


Line 2, the founding line, came from trigram Kun1 to grace the masculine line acting as adornment. The beard is a type of adornment which is attached to the cheeks and moves with them. This signifies that adornment must follow essence in moving and must not interfere with it. In other words, adornment must follow the demands of essence.

Commentary on the image: Line 2 is in a state of Bi (gracing) the beard, signifying to cooperate with the one above.

Feminine line 2, the adornment, sustains masculine line 3, the essence and representative line of the inner upper trigram Zhen, to move; thus adornment follows the movement of essence.

Enlightenment through six two: to establish a relationship between the primary and secondary, and act according to the demand of the principal part. The beard is only an adornment and without any practical use. It is attached to the cheeks and moves with them. Therefore the beard must not interfere with the movement of the cheeks, the essence. This signifies that adornment must act in accordance with the demands of essence; this is the basis of using adornment. Should this line change from feminine to masculine (i.e. the beard acts as essence), the hexagram would become Da Chu (26), large storage and great restraint, wherein the cart of line 2 which is disconnected from the spoke can't move.


The 3rd line

Text: 賁如(like, if)(immerse)(forever)貞吉

As if Bi (to grace) and to immerse appear in parallel (like and ); to persist forever is auspicious.

Text explanation:

The interior will get wet when the surface becomes too moist. There is a high risk of being overly adorned; one must do the best to maintain one's essence in an unaffected state.

Masculine line 3 stays between two feminine lines. Line 2 comes to grace masculine and is occupied by it, while line 4 rides over it. Therefore it is in a state of being surrounded and submerged by adornment. However, it is the masculine in a place of masculine and right to it. This signifies that it should be able to maintain masculinity, i.e. its essence, if it can resist the unjustified adornment and remain with the one under its control. This will become auspicious if it can persist consistently over a long time.

Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of being persistent forever, which signifies no way to oppress it in the end although line 4 rides on it.

Enlightenment through nine three: to make use of it but not be affected. One is surrounded by adornment and risks being overly adorned. This will become auspicious only after one can persist in maintaining one's essence consistently over a long time. If this line is changed to feminine, the hexagram will become Yi2 (27), to nourish, where persisting in righteousness is the only way to end in auspiciousness.


The 4th line

Text: 賁如皤如白馬翰如(not)(bandit)婚媾(marriage)

As if Bi (grace) and plain white appear in parallel (賁如皤如); a white horse is like a red pheasant (白馬翰如)What the subject seeks is not the bandit but the wedding.

Text explanation:

賁如ru2 (like, if) po2 (the white colour of the old man's hair) signifies brilliant adornment and plain white seemingly appear in parallel, like and . bai2ma3 (a white horse) han4 (a red pleasant) (like) signifies a white horse is like a red pheasant.           

Essence is plain, while adornment is brilliant. When a person seeks essence, he might be dazzled by a brilliant appearance and ignore the interior which is what he seeks; therefore he vacillates between adornment and essence. A person in need of essence should commit himself to the plain essence and not be captivated by the graced appearance.

Line 4 stays next to line 3 and also correlates with line 1 in the distance; both lines 1 and 3 are masculine and represent essence. However in reality, line 1 is graced essence, while line 3 is regarded as overly adorned.

Line 3, the representative line of the inner lower trigram Kan (the abyss, water), is a horse with a beautiful spine; on the other hand Kan also denotes the colour red while the lower trigram Li is a pheasant. This indicates that it seemingly rides on a white horse, when in fact it is a red pheasant.

The inner lower trigram Kan represented by line 3 is a bandit as well which is linked to a wedding signified as a marriage of abduction. On the other hand the correlation between the feminine (line 4) and the masculine (line 1) is seen as a formal marriage (see hexagram 53). It is taken for granted that line 4 should abide by its commitment to the formal marriage and seek the essence of line 1 rather than be abducted by the adornment of line 3.

Commentary on the image: The feminine line 4, which is at its right position and in correlation with line 1 but feels doubt.  What it seeks is not the bandit but the wedding; there will be no discontent in the end.

After line 4 exchanges positions with line 1 becoming masculine, the essence, the inner lower trigram changes from Kan to Xun (to enter, the wind). It also changes to the colour white, and the hexagram becomes Lu (56), to journey, wherein one who acts unobtrusively will progress smoothly. If it exchanges positions with line 3, it will be in the same state as line 3 and the hexagram will become Zhun (3), difficult to initiate, wherein one needs to collect masculine (momentum).

Enlightenment through six four: to correctly select and follow what one really needs. Essence is substantial but plain white, while the graced appearance is brilliant but superficial. Very often people are confused by a brilliant appearance so that they ignore the plain essence. One in need of essence should seek the essence itself, and not be affected by a brilliant appearance. There will be no discontent in the end, as one will obtain the true essence rather than that which is deteriorated. After this line acts accordingly and changes to masculine, the hexagram becomes Li (30), fire and clinging to, which suggests clinging to the right object with heartfelt submission. Here both internals and externals are brightening.


The 5th line

Text: 賁于(on)(hill)(garden)(a bundle)(silk)戔戔(very few)(end up)

Bi (grace) arrives at a garden (or a plantation) on the hill.  A pack of silk is meagre and thin, seemingly stingy (); this will end up with auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Enhancing essence isn’t like gracing appearance which confers attractive brilliance; it is plain like a hermit cultivating himself, like presenting a pack of silk to him. A pack of silk seems meagre but it is the most valuable gift presented to a hermit. The essence will be enhanced, and will end in auspiciousness.

Masculine line 6 comes from trigram Qian2 to enhance line 5 and forms the upper trigram Gen, the mountain. After line 5 is enhanced and changes to masculine, the upper trigram becomes Xun, which denotes a plant and here is taken for a garden. The garden on the hill is where the hermit lives.



Trigram Xun is white and a cord as well as Xun is a marking cord used by carpenters. Here it is taken here for a pack of silk. The silk that line 5 obtains looks valueless but brings good fortune, as the hexagram changes to Jia Ren (37), where a household successfully develops outwardly after having been properly managed internally. This signifies that the effect of enhanced essence extends from the interior to the exterior, i.e. by means of enhancing its essence, line 5 graces its appearance as well.

lin4 here is interpreted as stingy as its original meaning. Usually it is seen as one of the judgement words signifying resentment.

Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of feminine line 5: there is happiness.

The solid masculine is essence, and the bright masculine denotes happiness which is expressed through the appearance. Line 5 originally is the core of the feminine Kun1 (i.e. the flashiest adornment); now it returns to truth and Nature.

Enlightenment through six five: 1) to provide and serve according to what is really needed, or 2) to use the right means to do what is intended. Enhancing essence is like presenting a pack of silk to a hermit. Although the silk looks plain and unadorned, it is the most valuable gift given to one who engages in enhancing essence. This will end with auspiciousness as essence will be enhanced accordingly. If this line is activated and changes to masculine, the hexagram will become Jia Ren (37), the household. This suggests developing from interior to exterior like building a wealthy and prestigious family.


The 6th line

Text: (while)无咎

The subject is in a state of white Bi (grace), which is of no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

As described in the commentary on the hexagram text, masculine line 6, one of rigidity, ascends (from trigram Qian2 to Kun1) to grace those of tenderness, i.e. to give adornment inner quality and convert the flashy appearance of the void feminine to the essence of the solid masculine.

Compared to other colours white is plain, which is signified here as colourless. Line 6 reaches the end of hexagram Bi and becomes the representative line of trigram Gen, to stop, signifying that colourful but superficial adornment is stopped and turned into colourless but substantial enhancement. This way the hermit of line 5 is cultivated and reaches the domain of truth and Nature. Freedom from calamity (or fault) is taken for granted.

Commentary on the image: Line 6 is white Bi (grace) and of no calamity, which signifies that the one above enjoys the successful realisation of its aspiration.

Optimal grace is colourless as indicated above; therefore the aspiration of hexagram Bi is realised.

Enlightenment through nine six: to convert a flashy appearance into genuine essence (inner quality). To grace essence without changing it but enhancing it is the true significance of hexagram Bi. There is no calamity (or fault) as colourless grace is its aspiration and is duly achieved. After that, even if appearance gets tarnished when this line changes to shaded feminine and the hexagram becomes Ming Yi (36), its interior still remains bright.