27 Yi2

The lower: Zhen (to move, the thunder). The upper: Gen (keeping still, the mountain).

Yi: to nourish; to get to know people from observing how they make a living; the norm of giving and receiving






After things (i.e. livestock) are herded (Chu), they can be raised; therefore Yi is granted. Yi signifies to nourish. Livestock are raised to provide food, i.e. to perform their duty, while people start to fight each other over food. According to the commentary on the paired hexagrams, Yi of hexagram 27 suggests to nourish righteousness.

Hexagram Yi looks like a mouth. The solid lines at the top and bottom are the lips, while the middle, broken lines resemble teeth. Alternatively, the void feminine is seen as an oral cavity. Further, the lower trigram Zhen is designated to move while the upper trigram Gen keeps still; Yi opens and closes like a mouth chewing.

The nourishment of hexagram Yi is food which people need to live, as well as virtue which people need to obtain food righteously. The mission of Yi is to nourish one's body and virtue, as well as other people's.

The reverse hexagram of Yi is the same, signifying that food is all important even when viewed from the opposite perspective. Its changing hexagram follows next, Da Guo (28), the continuity of life while facing challenges. After that, hexagram 29 is Repeated Kan, i.e. compounded peril. The first volume of the I Ching ends with hexagram Li (30), bright civilisation, which comes and goes quickly. The sequence reflects the course of human life, its ups and downs.


Text: Yi (to nourish), to persist is auspicious; to observe Yi, (signifying to observe how) to seek (food) to fill one’s mouth by oneself (i.e. to seek nourishment for oneself).

Commentary on the text: Yi (to nourish), to persist is auspicious, (signifying) on the condition that nourishing conforms to righteousness, it is auspicious.  To observe Yi, (signifying) to observe whom one nourishes. To seek (food) to fill one’s mouth by oneself, (signifying) to observe self-nourishing.  Heaven and earth nourish all life; the sage nourishes able and virtuous people as well as everyone else.  The time of Yi is momentous.

Text explanation:

As long as nourishing conforms to righteousness, it is auspicious. To determine whether the nourishing complies with righteousness, it is necessary to observe how people obtain nourishment for themselves, as well as whom they nourish. Good and evil can then be verified.

According to Confucian thought, the righteousness of hexagram Yi is to value justice above material gain, which mainly refers to the gentleman; for ordinary people food is all-important. Therefore a gentleman must obtain his nourishment by moral means; those above are obligated to nourish those below.

The nourishment provided by Heaven and earth are sunshine, air, rain and soil, as well as the unfailing cycle of the four seasons; they nourish all life. The sage ruler acts like Heaven and earth: he nourishes able and virtuous people, as well as everyone else in accordance with the pattern of Nature.

Commentary on the image: At the foot of the mountain, the thunder, Yi.  A gentleman in accordance with this is prudent in what he says and temperate in eating and drinking.

The mouth is meant for eating and also for speaking; therefore it is where germs enter and trouble exits. The interior (i.e. the lower trigram Zhen) tends to move, while the exterior (i.e. the upper trigram Gen) restrains it. This signifies that it is very careful about what is said, and is temperate in eating and drinking.


As long as nourishing conforms to righteousness, it is auspicious. Nourishment is what people must have in order to live. By observing how a person, especially those below, obtains nourishment for himself (i.e. how he earns his living) and whom he, especially those above, nourishes (i.e. who he is with), what he is doing, good or evil, can be verified.

Yi inherits only the virtue of persistence from hexagrams Qian and Kun, signifying that Yi should pursue nothing but righteousness, and suggesting that one must restrain one’s greedy desires and fulfil one’s assigned duty as described in the line texts.

The changing hexagram of Yi is Da Guo (28), large excess, which presents a bent ridgepole due to excess weight and suggests seeking a balance between masculinity and femininity, i.e. nutritional balance in maintaining good health. Additionally, seeking food to fill one’s mouth by oneself signifies that one must be self-reliant, while seeking nourishment for oneself alone can make one selfish.

The mouth is a place where germs enter and trouble exits; therefore one must be prudent in selecting what to eat and what to say in the time of Yi.





The upper trigram Gen is designated to keep still, while the lower trigram Zhen is designated to move. They chew food in such a way that it is pressed down by the palate, and then chewed by the movement of the lower jaw. From the viewpoint of a system, the one above provides food to the one below, and the one below processes it so the nutrition can be absorbed by the body; this is regarded as its contribution.

From the perspective of the lines' characteristics, the masculine (Yang) is solid, signifying that it brims with nourishment (food or virtue), while the feminine (Yin) is void, i.e. a lack of nourishment. Thus the masculine has an obligation to nourish the feminine and the feminine deserves to be nourished.

The lines of the lower trigram Zhen are provided with food. The movement of trigram Zhen suggests that it overflows with desire. Therefore, line 1 is greedy, line 2 does not seek food righteously and moderately, and line 3 doesn’t reciprocate with gratitude. All of them end up with misfortune. The lines of the upper trigram Gen are those above designated to provide food to those below. Gen is also paraphrased as self-restraint. Though lines 4 and 5 lack nourishment, line 4 asks for the nourishment of virtue from those below rather than food. Line 5, the king, achieves the norm of Yi by making use of the country's resources. Line 6, the shrine and the country, is the source of nourishment. All these lines receive good fortune in the end.


The 1st line

Text: (The subject is reprimanded for) forsaking your own magic tortoise, (but) staring at mine with mouth drooling, (which is) an ominous omen.

Text explanation:

You forsake what is valuable and what you have, but stare greedily at mine.” line 4 says to line 1.

Line 1 correlates with line 4. Line 1 is solid masculine (i.e. brimming with nourishment), while line 4 is void feminine (i.e. in need of nourishment). Although those above are designated to provide food for those below, line 1 has much more food than line 4; it is ominous for line 1 to still expect something from line 4.

Line 1 represents the lower trigram Zhen (to move) and masculine tends to move, signifying that it has an inordinate desire for the food at position 4. The contour of hexagram Yi is similar to that of trigram Li which denotes the tortoise. After line 1 moves to position 4, hexagram Yi disappears and the upper trigram appears in the form of Li, indicating that it forsakes the original tortoise (a larger one) yet greedily seeks another. In the meantime, the inner upper trigram becomes Kan (the abyss), peril, and it is in the middle; therefore, this is ominous.


The tortoise has a hard shell, like trigram Li constituted by one solid line on each side with flesh (i.e. the tender feminine line) in the middle. The tortoise shell was an oracular tool in ancient China and is therefore regarded as a magical and valuable treasure.

Commentary on the image: (The subject is reprimanded for) staring at mine with mouth drooling; it can’t be taken for what is noble.

Line 1 reaches the upper trigram (i.e. high society) and sustains line 5, the king, after it exchanges positions with line 4. Such self-serving behaviour won’t be respected and won't confer nobility. Hexagram Jin (35) suggests getting promoted through contribution.

Enlightenment through nine one: 1) be content with one's lot, and 2) feeling content leads to happiness. Forsaking one’s own tortoise but staring greedily at another's signifies never being satisfied with what one already has; this is ominous. Such behaviour won’t be respected or confer nobility. If this line acts accordingly, it will become void feminine and need more nourishment, and the hexagram will appears as Bo (23), to peel off, where the masculine lines have gradually been overpowered by the feminine, one after another, to remaining line 6, like a resource being consumed.


The 2nd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) reversing Yi (nourishment) (顛頤), (and) transgressing normality (拂經), (so as to obtain) Yi on the hill; it is ominous to undertake a venture.

Text explanation:

To ask those below for food is contrary to the established system, i.e. the norm of Yi. Asking those above for food not in accordance with the rule is to transgress normality. It seeks food in a way that doesn’t comply with the norm and normality; it is ominous to take aggressive action.

Line 2 is a void feminine, i.e. lacking nourishment. It isn't in correlation with line 5 but rides on masculine line 1. Therefore it extorts food from line 1, i.e. from the one below. Additionally it bypasses line 5 to obtain food directly from line 6, the source of nourishment, which sits at the top of the upper trigram Gen, the hill. Nothing it does conforms to the norm and normality.

dian of 顛頤yi2 originally meant the top of the head but was later signified as turning upside down, i.e. the top becoming the bottom. Therefore 顛頤 is interpreted here as reversing Yi, signifying food is supplied in reverse order, i.e. from the one below to the one above, and from line 1 to line 2. fu2 (to disobey) jing (the warp of textile) is paraphrased as transgressing normality (i.e. the normal route of receiving food from those above through correlation).

Commentary on the image: It is ominous for line 2 to undertake a venture, (as) its behaviour does not conform to that of the same kind.

Although line 2 stays below and deserves to be nourished, its behaviour doesn't conform to what is expected of a feminine axle centre, i.e. acting righteously and moderately. Line 2 of Yi extorts and steals all available nourishment like an indiscriminate hungry man.

Enlightenment through six two: 1) not to take by ruse or force, or 2) to abide by the rules. To act against the norm of Yi by extorting food from those below and also to approach those above for food in an abnormal way signify that one doesn’t follow the rules. It is ominous to act in such an aggressive way. Even if this line is nourished and changes to masculine, the hexagram will become Sun (41), diminution, where it is requested to diminish itself to enrich those above in a manner of balancing their masculinity. Sun also suggests lessening one’s desire.


The 3rd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) transgressing Yi (nourishment); it is ominous to persist.  (The subject shall) not to be employed for ten years; nothing is favourable.

Text explanation:

Line 3 is a void feminine and correlates with masculine line 6, the source of nourishment. Supposedly it is entitled to receive food from line 6, but actually by being at the end of the lower trigram, it has been provided with food for a long time. It should be content with what it has received, and convert food into nutrition for the body as repayment. However it remains stationary at the position for marching upward, signifying that it stops itself from paying back with gratitude. As a result, it is refused by line 6, the representative line of the upper trigram Gen, to stop.

The norm of Yi is that those above provide food (or jobs) to those below and those below repay with gratitude (or contributions). As it transgresses the norm, its employment won't last long and it will be without work forever. From one to ten forms a unit, with ten at the end.

Commentary on the image: Not to be employed for ten years, (signifying) the norm is heavily transgressed.

   After ten years, i.e. moving forward ten steps, line 3 will arrive at position 6 of hexagram Da Guo (28), where water is over its head when it walks through; this is ominous. Though there is no imminent calamity due to the buoyancy of its fat, the next hexagram is Repeated Kan (water) and it must undergo repeated dangers to find the right life course. 

Enlightenment through six three: to repay with gratitude. When this line is triggered, it signifies that a person has no gratitude for what he has been given and makes no contribution. To persist is ominous. He won’t be assigned any job. Under such circumstances, no matter what is done, nothing is favourable. If this line can feel satisfied with nourishment, changes to masculine, and acts righteously, the hexagram will appear as Bi4 (22), to grace, where the masculine enhances the feminine, and the feminine graces the masculine.


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) reversing Yi (nourishment), (which is of) auspiciousness; (the subject ought) to stare like a tiger eyeing its prey; its desire is insatiable, (but which will cause) no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

Though the lines of the upper trigram are designated to provide food for those below, line 4 is a void feminine and lacks nourishment (food and virtue). Therefore it reverses the norm and seeks nourishment from masculine line 1. But unlike those below, it looks for virtue rather than food as Gen of the upper trigram is also paraphrased as curbing one's desires and putting moral precepts into practice.

When line 1 approaches line 4 for the magic tortoise, line 4 remains stationary on top, like a tiger staring at its prey. Once line 4 snatches masculinity from line 1, the inner upper trigram becomes Kan (the abyss, water), denoting an ill heart and bandit. It is seen here as insatiable desire and signifies that it has unending desire for virtue. Not competing with those below for interest but rather pursuing virtue (i.e. doing good things and being kind to them) is auspicious; ceaselessly seeking the nourishment of virtue won’t cause any fault or calamity.


Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of the reversing Yi (nourishment), (signifying) the one above radiates brightness.

After line 4 obtains virtue and changes to masculine, it starts nourishing those below. The upper trigram becomes Li (clinging, fire), brightness and the sun. Line 4 values justice above material gain; it pursues the nourishment of virtue radiating the goodness of humanity, like the sun of hexagram Jin (35) brightening the world.

Enlightenment through six four: 1) to value justice above material gain, or 2) to nourish honestly by putting moral precepts into practice. Seeking the nourishment of virtue from those below rather than fighting with them out of self-interest is auspicious. Even though this desire is insatiable, it won’t cause any calamity. Should this line change to masculine and stop seeking virtue, the hexagram would become Shi He (21), biting through, which can be taken for the ferocious struggle of jungle law, where the weak are prey to the strong.


The 5th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) transgressing normality; it is auspicious to persist in remaining steadfast; this doesn’t permit crossing a great river.

Text explanation:

Line 5 of the upper trigram occupies the king’s position and is clearly obligated to provide food for those below. However it is the void feminine (i.e. short of nourishment) and has no correlation with the lower trigram. As an alternative, it sustains line 6 which is the source of nourishment and correlates with line 3; this way it can fulfil its duty. Though this transgresses normality (providing food through correlation), it is auspicious for line 5 to remain steadfast at its position and sustain line 6. The ruler need not be rich himself but must be able to use all available resources to feed his people.

Should line 5 exchange positions with line 6, i.e. take over masculinity and do by itself rather than assign the job to line 6, the upper trigram would become Kan (the abyss, water), the river, and line 5 would be trapped in the middle of the river.


Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of steadfast persistence, (signifying) it is submissive in following the one above.

The hexagram would become Zhun (3), difficult to initiate, if positions were exchanged. Zhun suggests not hastily undertaking what is intended but enhancing oneself to build necessary momentum. 

Enlightenment through six five: to support other people and make use of their resources to achieve one's mission. Success doesn't need to involve one, but when success comes, one will be part of it. It is auspicious to persist in remaining steadfast with the norm of Yi (or what one has been assigned). However it is not permitted to undertake any mission that involves overcoming great difficulties, or significantly influencing the future, as one still relies on others to accomplish one’s duty. If this line is activated accordingly, hexagram Yi4 (42) will form when it becomes masculine itself. Here those above diminish their masculinity to enrich that of those below, which is instrumental in crossing a great river.


The 6th line

Text: (The subject acts as) the source of Yi (nourishment), (which is) stern and cruel (but) auspicious; it is instrumental in crossing a great river.

Text explanation:

Line 6 represents the upper trigram Gen and acts like the mouth's palate; it stops food, and then presses it down for chewing below; therefore it is the source of nourishment and distributes food to those below.

This is an arduous job, evidently when line 6 delivers its masculinity, i.e. nourishment, down to position 3. Then the inner lower trigram appears in the form of Kan, peril, and the hexagram becomes Ming Yi (36), brightness being tarnished. This signifies that it's masculinity is plunged into a stern and cruel state as it has to satisfy all the demands of those below. However, the inner lower trigram Kan also denotes a river, and line 6 now is at the position where it has crossed the river. Therefore rising to the challenge can bring auspiciousness in the end.



Food is essential to the people. Line 6 at the shrine’s position acts as the country. Even though this is a heavy duty, there is no reason not to fulfil it. With such determination, it can overcome all difficulties and accomplish its mission.

Commentary on the image: The source of Yi (nourishment) is stern and cruel (but) auspicious; there will be a great celebration.

After all the people are nourished and the great river crossed, a great celebration is in order.

Enlightenment through nine six: 1) food is essential for the people. 2) to accomplish one's assignment, thereby achieving what is intended. Line 6 is assigned by line 5, the king, to provide food to the people. This is a stern and cruel challenge but will end in auspiciousness if the mission can be accomplished. This is instrumental in crossing a great river (i.e. overcoming difficulties in undertaking what is intended) as all the people will grow vigorous after nourishment. The hexagram that appears while this line uses up all resources becoming feminine is Fu (24), recovery of masculinity, where masculinity will continue to increase and finally form hexagram Qian. This signifies that all will be nourished in due time. Qian is also signified as a celebration.