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47. Khwan [Straitened, Distressed]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

In (the condition denoted by) Khwan there may (yet be) progress and success. For the firm and correct, the (really) great man, there will be good fortune. He will fall into no error. If he make speeches, his words cannot be made good.

[Whincup] Burdened.
To be burdened is blessed.
It is aupicious for a big man to persevere,
   he will come to no harm.
Words spoken against him will not be believed.

[Christensen] 47 - 困 Pressure
困 亨 貞 大 人 吉 无 咎 有 言 不 信 It is a correct thing for a great man to push himself and this will ensure that he doesn’t fail. If he merely talks about [what he intends to do] no one will believe it.

[Pearson] (kùn) Exhaustion
Exhaustion. Good fortune with persistence. For a great one, good fortune without calamities, even though when you speak, others do not believe you.

[Redmond] 47. 困 Kun Obstruction
47.0 Make offering, the divination for the important person is auspicious. Nothing blameworthy. There is talk, but not trusted. 亨, 貞大人吉. 无咎. 有言不信.

[Legge] The character Khwan presents us with the picture of a tree within an enclosure; 'a plant,' according to Williams, 'fading for want of room;' 'a tree,' according to Tai Tung, 'not allowed to spread its branches.' However this be, the term conveys the idea of being straitened and distressed; and this hexagram indicates a state of things in which the order and government that would conduce to the well-being of the country can hardly get the development, which, by skilful management on the part of 'the great man' and others, is finally secured for them.

Looking at the figure we see that the two central places are occupied by strong lines; but 2 is confined between 1 and 3, both of which are weak, and 5 (the ruler), as well as 4 (his minister), is covered by the weak 6; all which peculiarities are held to indicate the repression or straitening of good men by bad. For the way in which the same view is derived from the great symbolism, see ['Great Symbolism,' below].

The concluding sentence of the Thwan is literally, 'If he speak, he will not be believed;' but the Khang-hsi editors give sufficient reasons for changing one character so as to give the meaning in the translation. 'Actions,' not words, are what are required in the case.

Comments on the Thwan

1. In Khwan (we see) the strong (lines) covered and obscured (by the weak).

2. We have in it (the attribute of) perilousness going on to that of satisfaction. Who is it but the superior man that, though straitened, still does not fail in making progress to his proper end?

'For the firm and correct, the (really) great man, there will be good fortune:'—this is shown by the central positions of the strong (lines).

'If he make speeches, his words cannot be made good:'—to be fond of arguing or pleading is the way to be reduced to extremity.

[Legge] 1. One sees the relative position of the strong and weak lines in the figure; but to deduce from that the idea expressed by Khwan requires a painful straining of the imagination. That idea was in the mind, and then the lines were interpreted accordingly.

2. 'Perilousness' is the attribute of the lower trigram, and 'satisfaction' that of the upper. The superior man, however straitened, remains master of himself, and pursues the proper end of principle settled in his mind.

Why should the subject of Khwan make speeches, be fond of arguing or pleading,—as the characters say, if we could translate them literally, 'setting a value on the mouth?' The reply to this is found in the trigram denoting 'satisfaction,' or 'being pleased.' The party in the extremity of Khwan yet wishes and tries to make men pleased with him.

Great Symbolism

(The trigram representing) a marsh, and (below it that for a defile, which has drained the other dry so that there is) no water in it, form Khwan. The superior man, in accordance with this, will sacrifice his life in order to carry out his purpose.

[Legge] The first sentence of the Great Symbolism is constructed differently from any which has presented itself in the previous 46 hexagrams. Literally translated, it would be 'a marsh with no water is Khwan;' and this might certainly suggest to us a condition of distress. But how does this come out of the trigrams? The upper one is Tui, representing a marsh; and the lower is Khan, representing water in a defile. The collocation of the two suggests the running of the water from the marsh or lake into the stream, which will soon empty the other. Such is the view which occurred to myself; and it is the same as that given by Ku Hsi:—'The water descending and leaking away, the marsh above will become dry.' The application is good in itself, but the concatenation between it and the Symbolism is hardly discernible.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first SIX, divided, shows its subject with bare buttocks straitened under the stump of a tree. He enters a dark valley, and for three years has no prospect (of deliverance).

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Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 48.1

His thighs belabored with sticks,
He is cast into prison's dark valley.
For three years he is not seen.

[Christensen] 初 六﹕ 臀 困 于 株 木 入 于 幽 谷 三 歲 不 覿 Beginning 6: Your buttocks are sore from sitting alone for a very long time on a tree-stump in a secluded valley.

[Pearson] Six in the first place: Buttocks exhausted, at the roots of a tree. As you enter a shadowy valley, for three years you see no one.

[Redmond] 47.1 Buttocks obstructed by stumps and trees while entering into a deep and secluded valley. Then three years no face-to-face meeting. 初六臀困于株木, 入于幽谷. 三歲不覿.

[Smaller Symbolism] 1. 'He enters a dark valley:'—so benighted is he, and without clear vision.

[Legge] The symbolism of 'buttocks' is rather a favourite with the duke of Kau;—'chacun à son gout.' The poor subject of line 1 sitting on a mere stump, which affords him no shelter, is indeed badly off. The line is at the bottom of the trigram indicating peril, and 4, which is its proper correlate, is so circumstanced as not to be able to render it help; hence comes the unfavourable auspice. 'Three years' is used, as often, for a long time. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] So stupid is the subject of line 1 that by his own act he increases his distress.

2. The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject straitened amidst his wine and viands. There come to him anon the red knee-covers (of the ruler). It will be well for him (to maintain his sincerity as) in sacrificing. Active operations (on his part) will lead to evil, but he will be free from blame.

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Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 48.2

Burdened with food and drink.
The red apron of high office is awarded to him.
He should offer sacrifice.
Is is inauspicious for him to march to war.
No harm.

[Christensen] 九 二﹕ 困 于 酒 食 朱 紱 方 來 利 用 享 祀 征 凶 无 咎 Second 9: Having pressured [your body] with too much food and drink, the physician will prescribe a cure for you: “It will be beneficial to make a sacrifice. If you go on like this it will be bad, so you should act faultlessly.”

[Pearson] Nine in the second place: Exhausted with food and drink. When the ceremonial red garment arrives, it is effective to wear it when offering the ritual sacrifice. To start a campaign leads to misfortune but no blame.

[Redmond] 47.2 Obstructed from food and drink. A vermillion ceremonial garment with seal arrives from a beneficial direction—is to be used for offering a sacrifice. Going on an expedition,—ominous, but not blameworthy. 九二困于酒食. 朱紱方來利—用享祀. 征—凶, 征凶无咎.

[Smaller Symbolism] 2. 'He is straitened amidst his wine and viands:'—(but) his position is central, and there will be ground for congratulation.

[Legge] The three strong lines in the figure (2, 4, and 5) are all held to represent 'superior men;' and their being straitened is not in their persons or estates, but in their principles which are denied development. Hence the subject of 2 is straitened while he fares sumptuously. His correlate in 5, though not quite proper, occupies the ruler's place, and comes to his help. That it is the ruler who comes appears from his red or vermillion knee-covers, different from the scarlet knee-covers worn by nobles, as in paragraph 5. Let 2 cultivate his sincerity and do the work of the hexagram as if he were sacrificing to spiritual beings; and then, if he keep quiet, all will be well. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] The Khang-hsi editors say that the 'ground for congratulation in paragraph 2 is the banqueting and sacrificing.' I rather think it is the measure of help, which it is intimated the subject will give in removing the straitness and distress of the time.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows its subject straitened before a (frowning) rock. He lays hold of thorns. He enters his palace, and does not see his wife. There will be evil.

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Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 48.3

Weighed down by boulders,
He leans for support on thorns.
He enters his palace,
But his wife is not there.

[Christensen] 六 三﹕ 困 于 石 據 于 蒺 蔾 入 于 其 宮 不 見 其 妻 凶 Third 6: Compelling himself to sit and wait on a stone, [but it feels to him] like sitting on spikey thorns. Because when going into his palace he couldn’t find his wife, [and now he fears] something bad [has happened to her].

[Pearson] Six in the third place: Exhausted amid rocks, you grasp a thorny branch. When you enter your home, you do not see your wife. Misfortune.

[Redmond] 47.3 Obstructed by rocks, grasp at brambles. Entering into his house, he does not see his wife, ominous. 六三困于石, 據于蒺蔾. 入于其宮, 不見其妻, 凶.

[Smaller Symbolism] 3. 'He lays hold of thorns:'—(this is suggested by the position of the line) above the strong (line). 'He enters his palace, and does not see his wife:'—this is inauspicious.

[Legge] For 'a full explanation' of paragraph 3 Ku Hsi refers his readers to what Confucius is made to say on it in [Appendix 3, Section 2, Par. 35]. The reader, however, will probably not find much light in that passage. The Khang-hsi editors say here:—'The subjects of the three divided lines (1, 3, and 6) are all unable to deal aright with the straitened state indicated by the figure. The first is at the bottom, sitting and distressed. The second, occupies the third place, where he may either advance or retreat; and he advances and is distressed. Wounded abroad, he returns to his family, and finds none to receive him; so graphically is there set forth the distress which reckless action brings.'

4. The fourth NINE, undivided shows its subject proceeding very slowly (to help the subject of the first line), who is straitened by the carriage adorned with metal in front of him. There will be occasion for regret, but the end will be good.

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Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 48.4

He moves slowly,
Bogged down in a bronze carriage.
But his difficulties will have an end.

[Christensen] 九 四﹕ 來 徐 徐 困 于 金 車 吝 有 終 Fourth 9: Coming slowly weighed down because [it is a fine] wagon decorated with bronze fittings; this may be regrettable but there will be an end [to the trip].

[Pearson] Nine in the fourth place: It comes slowly, slowly, exhausted by a metal chariot. Humiliation that ends.

[Redmond] 47.4 Coming, slowly, slowly. Obstructed in his bronze chariot. Regrets have ended. 九四來徐徐. 困于金車. 吝有終.

[Smaller Symbolism] 4. 'He proceeds very slowly (to help the subject of the first line):'—his aim is directed to (help) that lower (line). Although he is not in his appropriate place, he and that other will (in the end) be together.

[Legge] Line 4 is the proper correlate of 1, but it is a strong line in an even place, and its assistance is given dilatorily. Then 1 is overridden by 2, which is represented by 'a chariot of metal.' It is difficult for the subjects of 1 and 4 to come together, and effect much; but 4 is near 5, which is also a strong line. Through a common sympathy, the subject of 5 will have a measure of success. So the symbolism of this line has been explained,—not very satisfactorily.

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject with his nose and feet cut off. He is straitened by (his ministers in their) scarlet aprons. He is leisurely in his movements, however, and is satisfied. It will be well for him to be (as sincere) as in sacrificing (to spiritual beings).

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Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 48.5

In distress.
The red apron of high office is a burden to him.
Slowly, he gets free.
He should offer sacrifice.

[Christensen] 九 五﹕ 劓 刖 困 于 赤 紱 乃 徐 有 說 利 用 祭 祀 Fifth 9: Looking frightened believing the physician will be hard on you. But he just calmly explains to you that it will be beneficial to make a sacrifice.

[Pearson] Nine in the fifth place: [You have received the harsh punishment of having your] nose or leg cut off. Oppressed while wearing a red ceremonial garment. Then slowly there is joy. Making the sacrifice is effective.

[Redmond] 47.5 Cutting off the nose and feet is obstructed by one wearing vermillion, then calmly makes his statement. Beneficial to use for sacrificing to ancestors. 九五劓刖. 困于赤紱, 乃徐有說. 利用祭祀.

[Smaller Symbolism] 5. 'His nose and feet are cut off:'—his aim has not yet been gained. 'He is leisurely, however, in his movements, and is satisfied:'—his position is central and (his virtue) is correct. 'It will be well for him to be (as sincere as) in sacrificing:'— so shall he receive blessing.

[Legge] Line 5 is repressed by 6, and pressed on by 4. Above and below its subject is wounded. Especially is he straitened by the minister in 4, with his scarlet knee-covers. But the upper trigram is Tui, with the quality of complacent satisfaction. And this indicates, it is said, that the subject of 5 gets on notwithstanding his straits, especially by his sincerity. This explanation is not more satisfactory than the last.

6. The sixth SIX, divided, shows its subject straitened, as if bound with creepers; or in a high and dangerous position, and saying (to himself), 'If I move, I shall repent it.' If he do repent of former errors, there will be good fortune in his going forward.

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Matching Line in Adjacent Hexagram: 48.6

Held by tangled vines and in distress.
He will not regret moving.
It is auspicious to march forth to war.

[Christensen] 上 六﹕ 困 于 葛 藟 于 臲 卼 動 悔 有 悔 征 吉 Top 6: Paralyzed by anxiety as if tightly entangled by vines. If you move it feels bad, but to go on [through] will be good.

[Pearson] Six at the top: Held back by [entangling] vines and grass. Anxious and perplexed. Think of moving with regret. Though you will have regrets, persisting will bring good fortune.

[Redmond] 47.6 Obstructed by creeping vines, worried and unsteady Says: moving regretted, has repented—expedition auspicious. 上六困于葛藟, 臲卼. 曰動悔有悔, 征吉.

[Smaller Symbolism] 6. 'He is straitened as if bound with creepers:'—(his spirit and action) are unsuitable. '(He says), "If I move, I shall repent of it." And he does repent (of former errors), which leads to good fortune:'—so he (now) goes on.

[Legge] Line 6 is at the top of the figure, where the distress may be supposed to reach its height. Its subject appears bound and on a perilous summit. But his extremity is also his opportunity. He is moved to think of repenting; and if he do repent, and go forward, his doing so will be fortunate.

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