36 Ming2 Yi2 明夷

The lower: Li (clinging, fire). The upper: Kun1 (submissiveness, earth).

Ming Yi: brightness being tarnished, or to remain bright internally but tarnished externally (in undergoing difficulties or realising one's aspirations).






It is inevitable that one will be wounded in the process of advance (Jin); therefore Ming Yi is granted.  Yi signifies to be wounded. When the advance (of line 6 of hexagram Jin) reaches the end but still advances without self-restraint, it will definitely be hurt. ming2 (brightness) yi2 (to be wounded) signifies brightness being tarnished. Ming Yi is the reverse hexagram of Jin; hexagram Jin is a scene of daylight as the sun is above earth, while Ming Yi is the sun sinking into earth, i.e. to put (brightness) to death. Additionally hexagram Jin suggests bestowal and contribution, while hexagram Ming Yi is regarded as punishment and rebellion.

The upper trigram Kun1 is earth, and the lower trigram Li is the sun, signifying the sun des-cended into earth, so brightness is tarnished, which symbolises virtuous people getting hurt when a tyrant is ruling the country.

The inner hexagram of Ming Yi is Xie (40), to alleviate, and its reverse hexagram Jin (35) brings the sunlight back and brightens the world. Although brightness is tarnished in the time of Ming Yi, it teems with opportunities and reveals that the predicament will be alleviated after one has undergone a plight. Its changing hexagram is Song (6), litigation due to conflict, which will lead to Shi (7), troops. Conversely, conflict is the cause of civilisation (i.e. brightness) being wounded.


Text: 明夷利艱(be in difficulty but endure)

Ming Yi (brightness being tarnished): It is appropriate (or advantageous) to persist adamantly while being in difficulty.

 Commentary on the text: Brightness has entered into the earth: Ming Yi.  Ming Yi (brightness being tarnished) exhibits its norm in the form of civilisation internally as the internal trigram Li radiates but tenderness and submissiveness externally like the external trigram Kun1 presenting.  By virtue of this to endure calamity, King Wen managed to do this.  It is advantageous (or appropriate) to persist adamantly while being in plight, signifying to tarnish one's brightness.  While undergoing the turbulence of one's country, one is dedicated to maintain one’s aspiration upright; Ji Zi managed to do this.

Text explanation:

The brightness of the sun is tarnished and the world becomes dark; it is appropriate (or advantageous) for a person to conceal his aspirations, restrain his actions, and undergo the plight with fortitude.

The internal trigram Li is fire and brightness, the symbolism of civilisation, while the external trigram Kun1 is signified as submissiveness and tenderness. During a difficult time, a person should remain civilised internally and appear submissive and tender externally. He should keep his virtue and ideals bright inside but make them appear tarnished outside in order to avoid calamity.

In the last phase of the Shang Dynasty, King Zhou () was a ruthless tyrant. Although Ji Chang (姬昌, who was commonly known as King Wen of Zhou, a posthumous title given by his descendants) strictly complied with his role as a duke, he was still falsely incriminated by rigged events and put in jail. He meekly submitted to adversity and maintained integrity internally. After his sons and subjects constantly offered tribute to King Zhou to exhibit their allegiance and his obedience regained King Zhou’s trust, he was released and fled back to his home state.

 Ji Zi (箕子) was King Zhou's uncle. Instead of playing it safe, he repeatedly urged King Zhou to stay away from villains and rule the country according to proposed benevolent policies, which provoked King Zhou. Consequently Ji Zhi had to pretend insanity in order to avoid being killed. Although he remained alive, he was still put in jail.

Commentary on the image: Brightness sinks into earth: Ming Yi.  The gentleman, in accordance with this, should approach people in a way of darkening his exterior in order to brighten his interior.

Brightness hides in darkness, in accordance with which a gentleman should conceal his brilliance in order to get along with people in an easy manner. By virtue of this practice, he is able to cultivate and influence people to understand his ideal.


Brightness is being tarnished; in difficult times, it is appropriate to maintain one's virtue and ideals internally with fortitude and to persist while undergoing a plight, i.e. it is advantageous if a person can suspend his aspirations and actions, while submitting to adversity.

Ming Yi possesses the virtues of advantage and persistence (expressed in the form of persistence bringing forth benefit), signifying to maintain what has been achieved, and create nothing since it won't progress smoothly

According to the commentary on the image, Ming Yi can be also understood as: one should not show off one's talents or abilities in order to avoid envy; one should realise one's aspirations in a tender manner.  

The changing hexagram is Song (6), litigation, which suggests conflict due to one's intention to realise one's aspirations, or fight against evil powers. If hexagram Jin (35) is regarded as the realisation of civil rights in a peaceful manner, Ming Yi suggests revolution in the sense that its lower trigram Li, which is akin to the armed forces, with line 3 acting at the correct time topples Ming Yi.






The lower trigram Li is the sun and brightness while the upper trigram Kun1 is earth, as well as darkness as it is composed of the shaded feminine lines.

Ming Yi signifies brightness being tarnished, and remaining bright internally while tarnished externally. Line 6 is the shaded feminine in the place of feminine and at the top of the dark land of trigram Kun1; it is the founding line and King Zhou who creates darkness; all the other lines from line 1 to 5 are undergoing the plight of Ming Yi.

Line 2 is the representative line of Ming Yi as it represents the sun of trigram Li, and stays beneath earth and in darkness like King Wen of Zhou whose brightness was tarnished but who remained civilised internally. Line 3 (King Wu of Zhou, i.e. the son of King Wen) rescued it, and it supports line 3 in toppling line 6, King Zhou.

Ji Zi, line 5, is a typical example of brightness being tarnished. Usually position 5 is the position of the king; however Ming Yi is a hexagram of virtuous persons suffering from that which is ruled by a tyrant; therefore line 5, trapped at the ominous centre, doesn't represent the king but Ji Zi.


The 1st Line

Text: 明夷于(an auxiliary word used to express its status)(fly)(hang down)(its)(wing)君子(gentleman)于行(go, walk)三日(three days)(not)(eat)(there be)(place)(go)主人(host)(have)(word)

Ming Yi (brightness being tarnished) is in a state of flying, with its wing hanging down.  The gentleman is on a journey on foot; for three days no food has been taken.  He is in haste to go somewhere, but the host gossips.

Text explanation:

King Zhou was a ruthless tyrant, so people who had been mistreated by him or heard of his tyranny, left; they were in such a hurry that they didn't even take food for three days, they just fled. At the place where they arrived, the host didn't welcome them. This reflects the difficulties these people encountered, especially the nobles of Shang. Even so, they continued to flee.

Line 1 is still far from the darkness of trigram Kun1; however it is in correlation with line 4 in Kun1. It is affected and flees like a bird flying away with a damaged wing. The image of hexagram Xiao Guo (62) is a bird flying; compared with it, line 1 of Ming Yi looks like a wounded wing.


The gentleman discerns an on-coming darkness as the wounded bird flees for its life. He is leaving in haste, even though he has not taken food for three days. Masculine line 1 is the gentleman and the lower trigram Li can be taken for the empty belly as its middle line is the void feminine. In addition to a well educated and courteous person, the gentleman here can also be taken for a nobleman.

The upper trigram Kun1, the darkness, symbolises that which line 1 intends to flee; contrarily, from the moving direction of the timeline, it is also line 1's intended destination. The inner upper trigram Zhen (to move, thunder) can be taken for rumbling like muffled thunder; the people of trigram Kun1 sit on Zhen signifying that people there are murmuring.




Commentary on the image: The gentleman is on a journey on foot, the significance of which is not to take food.

Not to take food, in another sense and in Chinese culture, means that a gentleman refuses to offer his services for payment (for his food).

Enlightenment through nine one: to retreat for the sake of self-protection. Brightness is being tarnished; the bird is hurt and flying away with its wings hanging down. The gentleman sees that darkness is coming and the bird fleeing for its life; he leaves quickly and flees non-stop even though he hasn’t taken food for three days. He is criticised for deserting. However, one must turn down all offers of fame and benefit, and disregard all criticism. It's better to be worldly wise and play it safe. The hexagram that appears when this line is activated changing to feminine and then remains still is Qian1 (15), humility. Here it must be doubly humble.


The 2nd Line

Text: 明夷夷于(on)(left)(thigh)(use)(rescue)(horse)(strong)

The subject is in a state of Ming Yi (brightness being tarnished); the left thigh is wounded, but it will be rescued by means of a strong horse; this is of auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Line 2 represents the internal trigram Li, brightness (which is tarnished by darkness) as well as civilisation, like King Wen remaining civilised internally. Though he was imprisoned by King Zhou, he maintained integrity internally and appeared submissive externally as advised by the hexagram text. Later, thanks to his sons and subjects, he was rescued and released.

Usually position 1 is regarded as the foot's position; thus position 2 here is the leg's position; Ming Yi is now at position 2 and wounds the thigh. In Chinese culture the right usually denotes superiority and signifies importance, while the left is inferiority and of less importance. The left thigh is injured, which means that it is hurt but not seriously. The inner lower trigram Kan (the abyss, water) is a horse with the beautiful spine; masculine line 3, its representative line, occupies line 2, signifying line 2 is rescued by a strong horse which can run much faster than the feet of the gentleman at position 1.

Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of line 2, which is due to its being submissive in accordance with the rule.

Line 2, a feminine axle centre, stays at its right position and sustains masculine line 3, the representative line of the inner lower trigram Kan (the abyss, water), the rule, as water can be used as a medium to check the level. As such, it tenderly and moderately upholds the rule, i.e. the norms of monarch and subject.

Enlightenment through six two: to endure adversity and seek aid. Brightness is being further tarnished; the left thigh is hurt and one’s action is restricted. One should seek a powerful and effective means of escape, like riding a strong horse, from danger as quickly as possible; this is auspicious. Line 2 sustains line 3 also suggesting that it supports the rightfulness of line 3 in overthrowing the darkness and recommending that one yields one’s mission to a reliable party. If this line changes to masculine, the masculine and feminine will be equal in number, and the hexagram will become Tai (11). Although it is a smooth, unobstructed, harmonious and peaceful state, people must still have a sense of crisis and prepare for danger in times of peace.


The 3rd Line

Text: 明夷于(during)(southern)(hunting)(obtain)(the possessive of a third person, i.e. the one that tarnishes brightness, but not literally translated)(major, main)(leader)不可(permit)(fast)

Ming Yi (brightness being tarnished) is hunting in the south, which will lead to capturing the chief leader, but which cannot persist hurriedly.

Text explanation:

Line 3 is the masculine which tends to move, and it stays righteously at the position for marching upward as well as at the top of trigram Li, signifying it is energetic enough to march toward the darkness of the upper trigram Kun1, to radiate its virtue and realise its aspirations. It is in correlation with line 6 and designated to replace it. On the one hand it has one feminine line sustaining it, but on the other hand three feminine lines are riding over it, signifying it possesses support but is also seriously oppressed; therefore it should not be in haste to undertake what is intended.

Ji Fa (King Wu of Zhou 周武王) plotted to overthrow King Zhou; however in ancient China it was not legitimate to usurp the throne. Therefore Ji Fa launched the battle under cover of hunting in the south and finally succeeded in toppling Shang. But this wasn't done till he obtained sufficient support from the other dukes and Shang's people who deserted King Zhou.

Line 3 is the duke Ji Fa, while line 6 is King Zhou; the lower trigram Li represents the armour and the weapon, the symbol of war, and Li is located in the south.

Commentary on the image: With the aspiration of hunting in the south, a great achievement is accomplished.

Line 3 represents the inner lower trigram Kan (the abyss, water), aspiration, and it is in correlation with line 6, the enemy leader, which signifies that its aspiration is to catch the enemy leader.


Once line 3 moves to position 6 and replaces line 6 (by exchanging positions), the hexagram will appear in the form of Yi (27), an enlarged image of trigram Li, brightness.

Enlightenment through nine three: to assign priority and act in well-timed manner. In the time of brightness being tarnished, one takes cover under the southern hunt to launch an attack and captures the enemy leader. This can't be done in haste, as this line will change to feminine and the hexagram will become Fu (24), recovery of masculine, if it is activated. This is just the turning point and needs joining of more masculine lines to become stronger.


The 4th Line

Text: (enter)(into)(abdomen)(catch)明夷之(a preposition to mark preceding phrase as the possessive of)(heart)(it here acts as an expletive)(exit)門庭(the front yard)

The subject is entering into the left belly, acquiring the heart of Ming Yi (i.e. brightness being tarnished and going to strike back), and then leaving the front yard.

Text explanation:

Wei Zi (微子) was the older half-brother of King Zhou. Owing to King Zhou's tyranny, he saw the true significance of Ming Yi and realised that Shang would soon perish; therefore he left Shang to surrender to Dukedom Zhou in order to save the Shang clan, i.e. to prevent all the clan members from being killed after the Shang Dynasty was overthrown.

The upper trigram Kun1, the dark land, is the belly as the earth accommodates the whole of creation. Masculine line 3 is the heart as it represents the inner lower trigram Kan (the abyss, water), a solid heart, and it is the heart of brightness as line 3 occupies line 2, the representative line of the lower trigram Li, brightness, which is being tarnished. Line 4 enters into the belly of trigram Kun1, understands what darkness has been doing (to line 5), and realises (from line 3) that brightness will strike back.




As line 4 has just entered into darkness, the left belly (i.e. not the centre of evil powers), and has a correlation with line 1, it is free to leave. Provided that line 4 retreats to position 1 and leaves the imperial court of evil powers, the lower trigram will become Gen (keeping still, the mountain), a door, while the upper trigram will become Zhen (to move, thunder), the action of which results in its staying outside the door (and in the front yard) and moving away like Wei Zi leaving Shang.




Commentary on the image: Line 4 is entering into the left belly, so as to attain the will of those which are tarnished.

After lines 4 and 1 exchange positions, the contour of the hexagram, Xiao Guo (62), resembles that of trigram Kan, the will. The will appears in the form of a hexagram signifying that the aspiration of the hexagram is realised. Xiao Guo is also a hexagram, wherein to ascend (to the dark land) is the direction of adversity, but the direction of descent is smoother.

Enlightenment through six four: to leave in order to secure what one possesses. Entering into the left belly and acquiring the heart of Ming Yi signifies that it understands that darkness is impairing brightness and realises that brightness is going to strike back; it can't possibly change the irresistible trend. Although position 4 is its place, it should forsake vested interests, depart from the front yard of evil powers, and leave without hesitation. The hexagram will become Feng (55), a grand and abundant state like the sun at midday, when this line changes to masculine, i.e. brightness starts to strike back. Then eclipse will ends at position 5.


The 5th Line

Text: 箕子之(a possessive particle)明夷利貞

Ji Zi's Ming Yi (brightening internally but tarnishing externally): it is advantageous (or appropriate) to persist.

Text explanation:

As King Zhou intended to kill Ji Zi (箕子) many people urged him to leave Shang. However Ji Zi was unwilling to betray his country, so he feigned insanity to avoid being killed, which is the behaviour of remaining bright internally but tarnished externally when brightness is tarnished. Ji Zi neither deserted his country like Wei Zi, nor was he killed by Zhou, like Bi Gan (比甘). He remained alive because he persisted in the norm of Ming Yi. Bi Gan was another uncle of King Zhou; together with Ji Zi, he advised Zhou to keep a distance from villains but was ordered to submit his heart to show what a loyal heart looked like.

Line 5 in the centre of the dark land, the upper trigram Kun1, is a shaded feminine, although it stays at the position of bright masculine, signifying it is plunged in plight, but it doesn't expose itself. Should it change to masculine, the upper trigram would become Kan (the abyss, water), which is aspiration as well as peril, signifying that its aspiration is manifested once it becomes bright, but it is in peril as well. Therefore it is advantageous to persist in remaining bright internally and tarnished externally.               

Commentary on the image: The persistence of Ji Zi, which signifies that brightness can't be extinguished.

Although Ji Zi was put in jail, he was later released by King Wu of Zhou after Shang was toppled. He taught King Wu all his best knowledge of administering the country. Afterward, it is believed that he left for Chao Xian (i.e. Korea) where he lived virtuously. Of course, his ideals were materialised by Zhou as well.

Enlightenment through six five: to conceal one's aspirations and bide one's time. When this line is triggered to move, it signifies that to persist in remaining bright internally but tarnished externally is advantageous or appropriate. While being trapped in troubled times, like being bogged down in quicksand, a person should conceal his aspirations and bide his time rather than struggling and sinking further. Brightness won’t be extinguished; as long as he can maintain his virtue, ideals, etc. internally with fortitude; no one can destroy them. After Ji Zi was released and his ideals were realised, this line changed to bright masculine, and the hexagram became Ji Ji (63), river having been crossed, signifying that the task had been accomplished.


The 6th line

Text: 不明晦(dark, obscure)(at first)(mount)(to)(heaven)(later)(enter)(into)(earth)

The subject is in a state of not brightening but tarnishing; at the beginning it steps onto the heavens, but later sinks into earth.

Text explanation:

Line 6, a shaded feminine line in the place of dark feminine, is King Zhou who was neither bright internally nor externally. In fact, King Zhou wasn't a tyrant before frolicking with his favourite concubine, Da Ji (妲姬), daily; he was like the sun shining in the sky then sinking into earth.

Ming Yi is the reverse hexagram of Jin (35). Jin highlights bestowal and contribution, where the norms of monarch and subject radiate; it is structured by the sun of trigram Li on top of the earth represented by trigram Kun1; its line 5, the king, represents the brightness of trigram Li, staying above the ground and brightening the world. After King Zhou becomes a ruthless tyrant, Jin is turned upside down becoming Ming Yi, wherein line 6 is feminine and reaches the extreme darkness of the upper trigram Kun1, and where the sun sinks into earth, plunging the entire world into darkness.



Commentary on the image: Line 6 is in a state of stepping onto the heavens at the beginning, and brightening the world, but later sinking into earth, which is due to losing the principle.

The principle is the norms of monarch and subject as that of hexagram Jin.

Enlightenment through six six: Tyranny will definitely perish; one should not bring destruction upon oneself. Owing to not brightening but tarnishing one's virtue, ideals, etc, one ascends to the heavens at the beginning but later falls back to earth. One commences well but cannot maintain it; therefore it deteriorates instead, and leads to a destructive end. The hexagram will change to Bi4 (22), to grace, i.e. to beautify externally and render a brilliant appearance, even if this line becomes bright masculine. Here it is seen as camouflage if its essence is the same.