Hexagram 1 - 10
Qian2 (1), heaven (i.e. the superpower of creation) and the first hexagram, acts as a founder and leader who exerts himself strongly and untiringly (i.e. perseveringly) to establish his world. While all its six lines start changing to feminine, those founders and leaders won’t fight one another for the leadership as the hexagram appears in the form of Kun2 (2), which is earth and designated to be receptive and submissive, i.e. accommodate the whole of creation and sustain the heavens.
Hexagram Kun2 (2), the 2nd hexagram, acts as an assistant and adherent who endures everything with a breadth of virtue, and on account of this he submissively follows the founder and leader, Qian2. While its line 6 reaches the top (i.e. the domain of the heavens), it fights against the dragon of Qian2. However, eventually the masculine Qian2 is still its desired goal when all its lines start changing to masculine. The mate of the masculine Qian2 and the feminine Kun2 creates life. Hereafter Zhun (3) is borne.
Qian2 and Kun2 are two interchangeable hexagrams; they are paired in a complementary way.
Contrarily hexagram Zhun (3) is signified as difficulty in initiating. This is because Kun2 (2) moved northeast (toward trigram Gen which a masculine trigram but with only one masculine line), not northwest in the direction of Qian2. Therefore, Zhun lacks the momentum of masculine and must accrue it in order to be borne. Line 2, correlating with masculine line 5 and sticking to its commitment, rides on a horse moving ahead enduringly. After ten years (i.e. ten steps forward from position 2) the ignorant child of hexagram Meng (4) is borne and ready for education.
Upbringing is the most important thing to the newborn life. Hexagram Meng (4) offers education, and hexagram Xu (5) provides food and drink (as annotated by Confucian commentary on the sequence). Xu also means to halt and wait (as peril lies in front). Therefore, only after it learns to share food and drink with others at position 5, it can move freely to the next hexagram Song (6), litigation due to conflict, where it is able to avoid litigation and seek harmony.
Line 6 of Song (6) wins all what it has fought for as its counterpart, 6.3, conceded, and therefore believes in litigation. However, it will lose all shortly because people who share the same briefs group to defend themselves, whereby hexagram Shi (7) forms.
In hexagram Shi (7), line 3 is defeated and line 4 retreats. Only line 2, which possesses the military power and correlates with line 5, the king, is rewarded three times. Therefore hexagram Bi2 (8), imitate and interdependent relationship, steps onto the stage of the I Ching. Here its lines are designated to seek intimately independent relation with line 5, the king who recruits or allies others in an open attitude.
Rain drops fall and combine on low-lying land, like dukes submitting to the call of the king, depicting Bi2 of hexagram 8, while water gathers to form streams which converge toward a dam, signifying Xu (also pronounced Chu4 as a noun). Chu4 originally meant livestock; Xu4 is its verb and means to feed, restrain and store, like herding and raising livestock, and like damming water to create a reservoir. Hexagram Xian Chu (9) is annotated as little feeding and storage, as well as the restraint of the small one, where the small (feminine line 4) services the large (masculine lines). However, the small is not dependable and the masculine will be restrained by the feminine if it counts too much on the feminine. On the other hand, after the small knows how to play games with the large, it can walk behind a tiger and tread its tail but won’t be bitten.
Things being converged and stored without order of arrival will cause disarray; thus this must be done orderly according to the system. As a result, hexagram Lu (10) is granted. Lu is signified as ‘to act in accordance with etiquette, i.e. the order a system’. In the world of Lu, people’s aspirations are determined according to their statuses (as said in the commentary on the hexagram image). Therefore people of those below must be pragmatic and acts without undesired ambition. After having learnt the lesson of being bitten by the tiger at position 3 (while seeking the way moving to the upper trigram where they will accompany the tiger-liked king, line 5), they can and will perform what they should, prudently and with dread, and will have no remorse in the end.
Hexagram 11 - 20
After etiquette is established in hexagram Lu (10), the lower trigram Qian2 (heaven which is designated to stay above) moves upward and the upper trigram Kun2 (earth which is designated to stay below) moves downward. Hereupon the masculine and feminine engage in a smooth, unobstructed, harmonious and peaceful state, which represents Tai (11).
In addition to building and maintaining Tai as what 11.2 does, people must prepare for danger in times of peace. Therefore 11.3 gives warning and 11.4 makes a return voyage to the bright phase of the lower trigram Qian2. Tai will collapse once people get used to ease and comfort (at position 5 where truce is attained when the younger sister of King Di Yi of Shang married King Wen of Zhou) becoming slack and overlooking latent crises. When Tai reaches its extremity and end, it turns upside down and hexagram Pi (13), blockage and stagnant, appears.
In the time of Pi (12) the norm of the villain is prevailing, while the norm of the gentleman becomes stagnant. Fortunately the masculine line appears one after another after the shaded trigram Kun2, signifying that the evil power is being stopped. However, Pi won’t collapse by itself. It must be toppled (down in the direction back to Tai) when all masculine forces are amassed at position 6. Joining forces is meant. Therefore hexagram Tong Ren (13) comes next, wherein people make friends by putting aside differences and seeking common ground.
Hexagrams Tai and Pi are mutually reverse and interchangeable, signifying that they are the causation of each other in a cyclic way.
The ideal of Tong Ren (13) is peoples over the world becoming one family. Feminine line 2 staying below is designated to makes friends with all masculine lines. However due to discrimination (against the outsider at position 2), competition (amongst the masculine lines at position 3), self-imposed restriction (at position 4), etc, the fellowship is built at position 5 but not as what is expected. 13.6 in the end reaches the suburbs instead of the countryside as stated in the hexagram text.
After people of the same aspiration gather together, all resources converge. Therefore, when hexagram Tong Ren is presented in a reversed form, feminine line 5 at king’s position possesses all masculine lines, and the hexagram becomes Da You (14), abundant possessions. The goal of Da You is abundant possessions to be shared by all peoples.
Hexagram Tong Ren (13) and its reverse hexagram, Da You (14), form a complete cycle (through their 12 lines) and provide an integral view of a subject.
Hexagram Qian (15), humility, steps onto the stage of the I Ching after Da You (14), signifying that humility is what people must seek after abundance possessions. 15.3, its representative line, works hard but doesn’t exaggerate it, and attains merit but doesn’t take this as its own credit. A person who behaves like this will be supported by hundreds of thousands of people
After a person well cultivates himself in hexagram Qian (15), he can march to the next hexagram Yu (16), where it is instrumental in establishing a ducal state and dispatching the troops. Friends of line 4, the representative line of Yu (i.e. a person with political charismas), will gather like the hair bound by a clasp, and by virtue of this it can attain great achievements.
All the lines that are inspired by line 4 of Yu (16) are of ominous omens because they ignore the legitimacy of line 5, the king. Therefore people must be prudent in selecting the right one to follow; Sui of hexagram 17 means to follow.
According to Confucian commentary on the paired hexagrams, Sui (17) is annotated as no past; this is paraphrased as ‘to make adjustments timely and perform correctly according to the occasion’. The mission of hexagram Gu (18) is to put in order (after the long-standing bad habit or practice is removed). Gu is long bred venomous insects which are reputedly used to lure people into acting unconsciously to follow the wish of the user.
After those of hexagram Gu (18) left over by the old generation have been removed, the sovereignty returns and descends to the world, wherein masculine lines 1 and 2 move toward the feminine lines above along the timeline, like the large (masculine) approaching the small (feminine), and the hexagram of which is named Lin (19), to approach. In Chinese culture the approach of Lin is meant an action from an honoured position or a higher position.
The masculine lines below of hexagram Lin (19) approaching the feminine lines above must be done righteously or moderately; otherwise calamity might occur in August. Once hexagram Lin is reversed becoming Guan (20), observation, the masculine lines above will be observed by the feminine lines below, like receiving a review or trial on their performances in hexagram 19, and hexagram Guan represents August.
Hexagram 21 - 30
Example is better than precept. The model established by those above of hexagram Guan (20) is an example for those below to follow, while the penal code enacted in hexagram Shi He (21) is the precept.
Shi Ke signifies ‘to bite through’ a barrier in the mouth in order to resume its function, like riding society of criminal by enforcing the penal code in order to maintain its order. 21.5, the founding and the host line of Shi He which acts as a law enforcer, is a feminine line at the middle position of the upper trigram and at the position of masculine, signifying that a lenient person (like its feminine instinct) with the principle of moderation (which is available at the middle position) executes a strict penal code (as rigid as its masculine ground is).
The penal code of Shi He (21) without sentiment and reason is like tyranny, severe and difficult to execute; therefore it must be lubricant applied. The grace (of the tender feminine applied to the rigid masculine) of hexagram Bi4 (22) is that which makes it progress smoothly, but this must not change its essence. Therefore a gentleman should administrate public affairs with a clear mind (like the hexagram with brightness radiating internally and reliability remaining externally), and should not decide lawsuits vaguely, i.e. be misguided by their appearances (as stated in Confucian commentary on the hexagram image).
Grace is something like adjectives and adverbs added to an article. If the grace of hexagram Bi4 (22) is overdone, the feminine (the grace) will overpower the masculine (the essence) like what happens in hexagram Bo (23), (the feminine) to peel off (the masculine).
The feminine intends to overpower the masculine in hexagram 23 but is stopped by the masculine and strung like fishes at position 5. Hereafter the remaining masculine rides on a carriage and returns to hexagram Fu (24), like the uneaten fruit falling onto earth (Kun2) and starting to sprout.
The masculine returns after the feminine completes its increase from hexagram Gou (44) where it appears to hexagram Bo (23) and then hexagram Kun2 (2). Now it is the time for masculine to increase. Although masculinity is still weak but it will grow stronger without illness as friends (i.e. the other masculine lines) will join. The masculine, 24.1, is regarded as goodness; all the feminine lines in hexagram Fu are designated to return to goodness.
The recovery of masculine is also seen as the return of solidity (as feminine Yin is taken for emptiness, while masculine Yang is solidity because people can feel its existence under its brightness). Solidity (i.e. 25.1, the representative line of hexagram Wu Wang (25) and its lower trigram Zhen) moving under the norm of Heaven (the upper trigram Qian2) is signified as no pretence.
Therefore people shouldn’t think and do what is undeserved in hexagram Wu Wang. The undeserved and unexpected calamity befalling 25.3 is not the fault of following the norm of Wu Wang, but following its norm doesn't ensure freedom from calamity.
After things become solid (i.e. not pretentious), they can be stored (Xu, i.e. Chu, see hexagram 9). This is referred to as the case that people can be built stronger after they act pragmatically. In hexagram Da Chu (26), the large masculine (trigram Gen) reserves and enhances the large masculine (trigram Qian2), symbolising that people largely enhancing and strictly disciplining themselves. In this way, the king respects virtuous and talent people and recruits them. This is signified as large storage and great restraint, Da Chu (26).
In hexagram 26, livestock are herded and grow up, and people are cultivated becoming able and virtuous. Consequently 26.6 acts freely like marching on the avenue of the heavens, and hexagram Da Chu moves forward and arrives at a new era, hexagram Yi1 (27), nourishment.
In hexagram Yi1, the livestock become foodstuff performing their duty, while people start to fight one another for food. Fortunately when people are scrambling power and benefit, there are also some exhibiting their virtue and fulfilling their responsibility of nourishing people.
After the masculine had experienced the extinction and revival from hexagram Bo (23) to Fu (24), it learnt to act pragmatically in Wu Wang (25) and enhanced itself in Da Chu (26). If the masculine is continuously nourished in Yi1 (27), it will become excessive when it reaches Da Guo (28), large excess (i.e. masculine in excess of feminine in large quantity), where the ridgepole is bent because of the heavy masculine, and where masculinity must be counter-balanced by femininity.
Humans are like mineral stones. They need repeated forgings to become able and strong. After having experienced death and life, 28.6 walks through water and starts to cross a river for the mission at the other side. The water is over its head as it is trapped in the river of Repeated Kan (29). Although it frees from being drowned, it will undergo multiple peril. Seemingly ordeals never end.
Line 29.6 is put into jail. This will last until it passes three years (i.e. three steps) reaching position 2 of the next hexagram Li (30), where the sun at midday is seen, signifying that it is released from the dark prison.
The brightness of Li symbolises human civilisation. It seems very short. 30.1 just left multiple peril and its footsteps are still in disorder; 30.2 already reaches the peak like the sun shining at midday. Shortly, before the end of the bottom trigram the sun sets. Civilisation without righteousness, like humans losing their life, will perish. Not beating the earthen pot and singing signifies that people don't extol and cherish righteousness but laments that civilisation won't last much longer; this merely leads to misfortune. Suddenly like a fire disaster, the overwhelming war destroys everything. 30.5 laments and sighs over all these. What is still lucky is that 30.6 is delegated to launch a sacred battle in a civilised way. It punishes the ringleader but pardons those followers. Therefore no calamity is secured. Ironically, volume I of the I Ching also ends merely with freedom from calamity.
Hexagram 31 - 40
Volume II of the I Ching starts with hexagram Xian (31), telepathy between the male and female, which results in marriage, an everlasting relationship, hexagram Heng (32).
However everlasting is not that which is always immutable. Necessary changes must be made if thing can not be maintained long, as change can create a favourable turn and offer continuance. However, when the endurance of hexagram Heng (32) is quaking on the top, it had better retreat. Therefore hexagram Dun (33), to retreat, is granted next.
遯Dun depicts a small pig running away. After the small pig has succeeded in escaping the dining table, 33.6 grows fat like the masculine becoming stronger after having succeeded in retreating from positions 1 and 2 where the feminine prevails. Then it changes to a ram in hexagram Da Zhuang (34), largeness and strength. Here it moves with its strong toes and in a large and strong manner.
The ram of hexagram 34 is impulsive and belligerent. If it can change its attitudes, like 34.5 losing (the instinct of) the goat in the field, its horns won’t be stuck in the fence and it can advance to the next hexagram. In hexagram Jin (35), to advance (toward brightness), the feminine advances along the timeline in a tender manner, like Duke Kang calling on the king in accordance with the norms of monarch and subject (i.e. bestowment and contribution).
However, if the advance of hexagram 35 reaches its upper extremity becoming one with importunate demand, like a horse growing horns at position 6, the king will become furious, and the world will plunge into darkness. In hexagram Ming Yi (36), brightness is tarnished; virtuous and able people are hurt.
In the dark ages of hexagram 36, wounded people retreat home, hexagram Jen Ren (37). Here the household abide by the discipline and enrich the family with concerted effort, and then integrate the king’s power to build up a wealthy and prestigious family.
If the wealthy and prestigious family isn’t build on a righteous ground, like 37. 6 not righteously staying at the shrine position, its descendents will fight one another for property and become estranged. Therefore, when hexagram 37 turns upside down, it changes to Kui (38), alienation.
Alienation due to discrepancy will definitely cause difficulties (in proceeding) as hexagram Jian2 (39) is signified. However the crisis will be alleviated after friends arrives at position 5 and the great lord, 39.6, leads all people to a free land. Hence, hexagram Xie (40) comes next, wherein the crisis is eliminated as evil and the villain are dismissed.
Hexagram 41 – 50
After the drought is alleviated in hexagram 40, how to economize on the resources of those below is the subject of hexagram Sun (41). In the time of Sun, those below are requested to enrich those above but according to their ability and necessity, and to diminish a surplus and augment a deficit in an opportune manner is that which Sun aims at. Those above must cherish the enrichment from those below. Actually the enrichment is delivered to 41.6 at the shrine’s position, which will be used to take care of all the people.
In hexagram Yi4 (42), those above diminish themselves to enrich those below. The king uses the valuable tortoise which is a tribute from those below in hexagram 41 to worship Heaven and bless his people. The enrichment must be sincerely and trustworthily carried out in a fair manner and must be a long term project for the better future, such as to move people to Promised Land, rather than political measures just for pleasing the people. 42.6, a regime which doesn’t enrich its people, will be attacked.
Enrichment (42) continues ceaselessly becoming brimful. It will definitely break and burst. 42.6 on top gets used to enrichment and becomes insatiably avaricious; no one will enrich it but rather attack it. Therefore hexagram Guai (43) appears; here the masculine lines unveil the evil behaviour of the villain in public and try to get rid of the feminine line, the symbol of evil and the villain.
The un-subdued feminine line of hexagram 43 comes down to position 1 and meets the masculine lines from their backside, signifying (an unexpected) meeting, hexagram Guo (44). One feminine line challenges five masculine lines exhibiting the vigour of the feminine; this signals that a crisis is emerging.
In hexagram 44, the desires of the masculine lines are to mate with feminine line 1, while their duties to subdue it in order to suppress the crisis. In hexagram Cui (45), to gather together, the feminine lines of the bottom trigram Kun2 are designated to join masculine lines 4 and 5, respectively. Hence, 45.5 must cultivate its virtue, like the king in hexagram Bi2 (8), intimate interdependent relationship, to build its sincerity and trust in order to attract people around it (not 45.4), and sincerity and trust of 46.2 are the best policy to get promotion.
Those below respond to the call of those above and gather around them in hexagram 45 creating the rise of hexagram Sheng (46). In the world of Sheng, talented and able people will obtain the opportunity to develop upwards. The rise of hexagram 46 is done according to the status of each line, where 46.1 attaches itself to 46.2 and rises with it, and 46.4 stops rising because it is aware of its limitation. The ceaseless rise of 46.6 will lead to the situation of hexagram Kun4 (47), to be besieged, because so great their achievements make those above feel uneasy or insecure. In the time of hexagram Kun4, ordinary people are besieged by troubles in their daily life, while the gentleman is besieged because his aspirations can’t be carried out. So 47.4 takes its gold carriage and retreats to position 1, but 47.2 presents its will together with the sacrifice to 47.5 when it holds the ceremony to show its legitimacy. .
After ceaseless rise in hexagram 46, hexagram Kun4 (47) is besieged at heights; it needs to come down. When the marsh dries out in hexagram Kun4 (47) in the form of the water of Kan beneath the marsh of Dui, people drill a well to get water. Jing of hexagram 48 signifies the well, the deepest place under the ground where people can reach after coming down from the heights. In hexagram 48 the well inexhaustibly supplies water to people without discrimination, like able people contributing to society, but selfish people fight one another for water and break the bucket.
The society around the well is in turmoil and needs reform, hexagram Ge (49). Reform or revolution must proceed step-by-step and win people’s faith. After having successfully accomplished the reform of 49.4, 49.5 becomes more confident like a molten tiger. Hereafter a new regime is established, and a new cauldron of hexagram Ding (50) is cast. In the time of hexagram 50, virtuous and able people will be recruited and the innovation will be carried out.
Hexagram 51 – 64
The Ding of hexagram 50 is symbolic of a regime and used as a ritual utensil at the sacrificial ceremony. The person in charge of worshiping with Ding is the eldest son represented by Zhen (51), suggesting succession. Thus hexagram Zhen steps onto the stage of the I Ching and presides at the ceremony after the revolution (or reform) of Ge (49) and the casting of Ding (50).
Rather than moves back and forth under thunder, like 51.5 fighting for succession, 51.6 remains still and waits for the ending of Zhen (51) and the arrival of hexagram Gen (52), keeping still. Here one can learn how to restrain one's thoughts from straying beyond one's position (quoted from Confucian commentary on the hexagram image), as the force of the thunder had stricken 51.5 and the regime was awarded to it.
Keeping still of Gen (52) can be referred to as people’s stability, which is formed through practice of self-cultivation and exhibited in the form of self-restraint. After 52.6 reaches an honest and reliable state, it can start to progress gradually and sequentially in hexagram Jian4 (53).
According to the prescribed procedure, step-by-step along the timeline, a female (53. 2) gets married with a male (53.5) in hexagram Jian4 (53) and becomes a wife. When hexagram 53 is presented in a reversed form, where feminine 54.5 above correlating with masculine 54.2 below is seen as a female descending and marrying a male as a concubine, it is called Gui Mei (54). 歸gui means to return (to where it is destined to belong), and 妹mei is the younger sister. The text of 54.5, Di Yi (the father of King Zhou) arranging for his younger sister to wed King Wen of Zhou as the concubine, is the meaning.
The younger sister of Gui Mei (54) accompanying her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law as a concubine must learn how to act as an assistant (with no ambition to replace her sister). Then, when it goes to hexagram Feng (55), it can achieve a grand and abundant state with less obstruction from those above.
The grand and abundance state of Feng (55) is that which all people intend to achieve, but the action of those below will create menace to those above. Therefore they will be banned like the sun being eclipsed. 55.5, the king and the host line of Feng, should descend to brightness (of the bottom trigram Li, i.e. those below) with a view to achieving Feng together, so that all people will be joyful as it will be maintained for a long time like the sun at midday. Otherwise, the enlarged house of 55.6 will veil its household in a way of people peeping into its room and finding it quiet with nobody inside. Its outcome, not to be seen for three years, is the same as that of the first line of hexagram Kun4 (47), to be besieged. So it starts to wander in the journey of hexagram Lu (56).
The journey fluctuates dramatically. Though the traveller lost everything in the lower trigram, he makes a great achievement at position 5. Therefore he becomes arrogant and deviates from what a traveller should behave (i.e. be tender in adversity). Then its net is burnt out and its ox lost at position 6. From that moment on, no one hears of it again, as it penetrates into hexagram Xun (57) to retrieve humbleness and submissiveness, like the feminine line of trigram Xun prostrated beneath the masculine lines.
Owing to the penetrating capability of the wind, it sneaks into hexagram 57 at position 1, gets through the internal reform and becomes one who occupies the dominant power at position 5. However if 57.6 doesn’t establish its own regime timely, it will face talks of hexagram Dui (58) with its opponents.
The talks of Dui (58) held through 58.4, a go-between who mediates between those above and below, reaches an agreement. However the sincerity and trust of 58.5, the king, is eroded by 58.6 behind it; therefore people are leaving the king. The king of hexagram Huan (59) goes to the shrine to exhibit legitimacy in order to reunite the scattering people.
After 59.2 is delegated to stop scattering, and 59.5 abolishes the old malpractice and issues new measures, as well as opens access to the public, people are reunited in hexagram Huan (59). The reunification must be properly maintained; therefore hexagram Jie (60), to restrict, is granted, wherein bitter restriction does not permit persistence.
Sweet Jie (60) is a restriction conforming to righteousness and carried out through the principle of moderation (中zhong) as what 60.5 performs. Zhong Fu (61) appearing next is signified as sincerity and trust carried out through the principle of moderation (中zhong) like a humble heart (i.e. its two feminine lines) remaining in the middle and reliability (masculine lines 1 and 2, as well as lines 5 and 6) exhibiting externally.
Hexagram Zhong Fu (61) is an enlarged image of trigram Li which exhibits sincerity and trust in a humble manner, while trigram Kan is sincerity and trust in a solid manner as it possesses a reliable heart (i.e. the solid masculine line) in the middle. Kan is the condensed image of hexagram Xiao Guo (62), which is physically named a little excess as its feminine (the small) exceeds (masculine in quantity). On the other hand, it is virtually signified as slightly overstepping the principle of moderation (中zhong) in doing correction. Fu (孚) of Zhong Fu originally meant incubation. Hence the next hexagram, Xiao Guo (62), appears with the image of a flying bird.
In the time of Xiao Guo (62), the feminine should keep a low profile like the fledging bird flying low, while the masculine must not overtake the feminine as feminine exceeds masculine. After the masculine and feminine know how to behave themselves, they will attain their right positions in hexagram Ji Ji (63), completion.
After all significances of the I Ching have been unfolded one hexagram after another, its mission is accomplished at hexagram Ji Ji (63). This is a happy ending as all its lines attain their right positions, amicably neighbouring and friendly correlating with one another.
Although Ji Ji (63) is the most stable and perfect state, all are fixed signifying that there will be no further change or progress. The world won’t stop like this forever. The fire of Ji Ji blazes upward, while its water flows downward. Therefore hexagram Wei Ji (64), not completed yet, forms in a way that the feminine and masculine reshuffle and exchange their positions. Here all its lines turn out to be at the positions not suited to them but correlate with one another. This signals that a fresh-restart is required as they will resume seeking their appropriate positions, respectively; this is teeming with the requirements and possibilities of changes.
The hexagram reaches Ji Ji (63), having already crossed a river, after many great rivers in the I Ching have been crossed; however there is another great river rolling on form Ji Ji to Wei Ji (64), not having crossed the river. Position 6 of Wei Ji (64) is the other side of the river, where line 64.6 drinks celebration of what it has achieved. However, this must be done with sincerity and trust as the targeted mission (for which it risks crossing the river) still requires being accomplished.
The book of the I Ching nominally ends up with Wei Ji, but the world of the I Ching will continue circling.