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29. Khan [Pit, Danger]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Khan, here repeated, shows the possession of sincerity, through which the mind is penetrating. Action (in accordance with this) will be of high value.

[Whincup] Pits.
If there is faithfulness in his heart,
   he will be blessed.
Along the road, he will rise.

[Christensen] 29 - 坎 Pits  
習 坎 有 孚 維 心 亨 行 有 尚 [Going by] pit after pit, but if there is inner confidence guiding your heart it will go well. If you go [through] you will be highly esteemed.

[Pearson] (kǎn) The Abyss
Danger repeated [the abyss]. But if you have sincerity in your heart, success. If you act, you will find rewards.

[Redmond] 29. 習坎 Xi Kan Numerous Pitfalls
29.0 Holding captives tied together; their hearts are the offering. They walk with dignity. 有孚維; 心亨. 行有尚.

[Legge] The trigram Khan, which is doubled to form this hexagram, is the lineal symbol of water. Its meaning, as a character, is 'a pit,' 'a perilous cavity, or defile;' and here and elsewhere in the Yi it leads the reader to think of a dangerous defile, with water flowing through it. It becomes symbolic of danger, and what the authors of the Text had in mind was to show how danger should be encountered, its effect on the mind, and how to get out of it.

The trigram exhibits a strong central line, between two divided lines. The central represented to king Wan the sincere honesty and goodness of the subject of the hexagram, whose mind was sharpened and made penetrating by contact with danger, and who acted in a manner worthy of his character. It is implied, though the Thwan does not say it, that he would get out of the danger.

Comments on the Thwan

1. Khan repeated shows us one defile succeeding another.

2. This is the nature of water;—it flows on, without accumulating its volume (so as to overflow); it pursues its way through a dangerous defile, without losing its true (nature).

3. That 'the mind is penetrating' is indicated by the strong (line) in the centre. That 'action (in accordance with this) will be of high value' tells us that advance will be followed by achievement.

4. The dangerous (height) of heaven cannot be ascended; the difficult places of the earth are mountains, rivers, hills, and mounds. Kings and princes arrange by means of such strengths, to maintain their territories. Great indeed is the use of (what is here) taught about seasons of peril.

[Legge] On paragraph 2 Liang Yin says:—'Water stops at the proper time, and moves at the proper time. Is not this an emblem of the course of the superior man in dealing with danger?'

On paragraph 4 the Khang-hsi editors say that to exercise one's self in meeting difficulty and peril is the way to establish and strengthen the character, and that the use of such experience is seen in all measures for self-defence, there being no helmet and mail like leal-heartedness and good faith, and no shield and tower like propriety and righteousness.

Great Symbolism

(The representation of) water flowing on continuously forms the repeated Khan. The superior man, in accordance with this, maintains constantly the virtue (of his heart) and (the integrity of) his conduct, and practises the business of instruction.

[Legge: Smaller Symbolism] The application of the Great Symbolism is here more perplexing even than usual. What is said of the superior man is good, but there is no reference in it to the subject of danger.


1. The first SIX, divided, shows its subject in the double defile, and (yet) entering a cavern within it. There will be evil.

010010 changing to 110010

Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 30.1

He falls into a pit.

[Christensen] 初 六﹕ 習 坎 入 于 坎 窞 凶 Beginning 6: Pit after pit, falling in the pit hole is bad.

[Pearson] Six in the first place: Danger repeated. You enter into a dangerous water pit. Misfortune.

[Redmond] 29.1 Repeated pitfalls. Entering into a pit or a cave. Ominous. 初六習坎. 入于坎窞. 凶.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'In the double defile, he enters a cavern within it:'—he has missed his (proper) way, and there will be evil.

[Legge] Line 1 is weak, at the bottom of the figure, and has no correlate above, no helper, that is, beyond itself. All these things render the case of its subject hopeless. He will by his efforts only involve himself more deeply in danger.

2. The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject in all the peril of the defile. He will, however, get a little (of the deliverance) that he seeks.

010010 changing to 000010

Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 30.2

Surrounded by dangerous pits,
He seeks only small gain.

[Christensen] 九 二﹕ 坎 有 險 求 小 得 Second 9: The pit is narrow. If you seek something [inside it], what you find will [naturally] be small.

[Pearson] Nine in the second place: The pit is deep and dangerous. Seek only small gains.

[Redmond] 29.2 The pit holds peril. Seek small gain. 九二坎有險. 求小得.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He will get a little (of the deliverance) that he seeks:'—he will not yet escape from his environed position.

[Legge] Line 2 is strong, and in the centre. Its subject is unable, indeed, to escape altogether from the danger, but he does not involve himself more deeply in it like the subject of 1, and obtains some ease.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows its subject, whether he comes or goes ( =descends or ascends), confronted by a defile. All is peril to him and unrest. (His endeavours) will lead him into the cavern of the pit. There should be no action (in such a case).

010010 changing to 011010

Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 30.3

He comes to a place of pits.
Pits dangerous and deep.
He falls into a pit.
He must do nothing.

[Christensen] 六 三﹕ 來 之 坎 坎 險 且 枕 入 于 坎 窞 勿 用 Third 6: Pit after pit is coming, narrow and deep. If you fall into the pit hole you can accomplish nothing.

[Pearson] Six in the third place: The arrival of the repeated danger (multiple pit-traps). Dangers in leaving and in entering the pit trap. Don’t!

[Redmond] 29.3 Coming to pit after pit. Risky now to rest one’s head. Do not enter into a pit or cave. 六三來之坎坎. 險且枕. 入于坎窞勿用.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'Whether he comes or goes, he is confronted by a defile:'—he will never (in such circumstances) achieve any success.

[Legge] Line 3 is weak, and occupies the place of a strong line. Its subject is in an evil case. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] The subject of line 3 goes and comes, moves up and down, backwards and forwards; making no advance. This can be of no use in extricating him from the danger.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject (at a feast), with (simply) a bottle of spirits, and a subsidiary basket of rice, while (the cups and bowls) are (only) of earthenware. He introduces his important lessons (as his ruler's) intelligence admits. There will in the end be no error.

010010 changing to 010110

Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 30.4

A goblet of wine, a bowl of grain,
   and extra jars of each
Are passed in by a rope
   through the pit's opening.
In the end, he comes to no harm.

[Christensen] 六 四﹕ 樽 酒 簋 貳 用 缶 納 約 自 牖 終 无 咎 Fourth 6: Have a flask of wine and a bowl of food brought in, both [just in simple] clay pots. If you constrain yourself from [looking out] the window, in the end you will make no mistakes.

[Pearson] Six in the fourth place: (this line has to do with the bronze containers used in sacrificial rituals, replacing them with earthenware pots, and with either a wine ladle or angelica coming from a window. The one clear statement is:) In the end, no danger [or blame].

[Redmond] 29.4 Wine in a zun bronze vessel and a two-handled gui. Use a narrow-necked earthenware jar so one can receive at the window. Ends without blame. 六四樽酒簋貳. 用缶納約, 自牖. 終无咎.

[Smaller Symbolism] '(Nothing but) a bottle of spirits and a subsidiary basket of rice:'—(these describe) the meeting at this point of (those who are represented by) the strong and weak lines.

[Legge] Line 4 is weak, and will get no help from its correlate in 1. Its subject is not one who can avert the danger threatening himself and others. But his position is close to that of the ruler in 5, whose intimacy he cultivates with an unostentatious sincerity, symbolled by the appointments of the simple feast, and whose intelligence he cautiously enlightens. In consequence, there will be no error. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] Those represented in line 4 by the strong and weak lines are the ruler and his minister.

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows the water of the defile not yet full, (so that it might flow away); but order will (soon) be brought about. There will be no error.

010010 changing to 010000

Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 30.5

Before the pit is filled,
The mound of earth falls level.
He comes to no harm.

[Christensen] 九 五﹕ 坎 不 盈 祇 既 平 无 咎 Fifth 9: The pit is not overflowing; it is filled precisely to the brim.

[Pearson] Nine in the fifth place: The pit trap is not full. The hill [or sandbar] is not flat. No danger.

[Redmond] 29.5 The pit not filled, only now levelled. Nothing blameworthy. 九五坎不盈, 祗既平. 无咎.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The water in the defile is not full (so as to flow away):'—(the virtue indicated by) the central situation is not yet (sufficiently) great.

[Legge] The subject of line 5 is on the eve of extrication and deliverance. The waters of the defile will ere long have free vent and disappear, and the ground will be levelled and made smooth. The line is strong, in a proper place, and in the place of honour.

6. The topmost SIX, divided, shows its subject bound with cords of three strands or two strands, and placed in the thicket of thorns. But in three years he does not learn the course for him to pursue. There will be evil.

010010 changing to 010011

Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 30.6

He is tied with ropes and cords
And put in the date thicket prison.
He will not get out for three years.

[Christensen] 上 六﹕ 係 用 徽 纆 寘 于 叢 棘 三 歲 不 得 凶 Top 6: Tied up with rope and cord and placed among thorny bushes, for three years not achieving [anything]. This is bad.

[Pearson] Six at the top: Bound with ropes, placed within prison walls. For three years, not getting out. Misfortune.

[Redmond] 29.6 Tie using braided cords. Lay them crowded together in a bramble bush. For three years cannot find, ominous. 上六係用徽纆. 寘于叢棘. 三歲不得, 凶.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The sixth line, divided, shows its subject missing his (proper) course:'—'there will be evil for three years.'

[Legge] The case of the subject of line 6 is hopeless. When danger has reached its highest point, there he is, represented by a weak line, and with no proper correlate below. The 'thicket of thorns' is taken as a metaphor for a prison; but if the expression has a history, I have been unable to find it.

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