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1. Khien [Heaven, Strength]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Khien (represents) what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm.

[Legge] Does king Wan ascribe four attributes here to Khien, or only two? According to [the Explanation of the Sentences], always by Chinese writers assigned to Confucius, he assigns four, corresponding to the principles of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge in man's nature. Ku Hsi held that he assigned only two, and that we should translate, 'greatly penetrating,' and 'requires to be correct and firm,' two responses in divination. Up and down throughout the Text of the 64 hexagrams, we often find the characters thus coupled together. Both interpretations are possible. I have followed what is accepted as the view of Confucius. It would take pages to give a tithe of what has been written in justification of it, and to reconcile it with the other.

'The dragon' is the symbol employed by the duke of Kau to represent 'the superior man' and especially 'the great man,' exhibiting the virtues or attributes characteristic of heaven. The creature's proper home is in the water, but it can disport itself on the land, and also fly and soar aloft. It has been from the earliest time the emblem with the Chinese of the highest dignity and wisdom, of sovereignty and sagehood, the combination of which constitutes 'the great man.' One emblem runs through the lines of many of the hexagrams as here.

Comments on the Thwan

1. Vast is the 'great and originating (power)' indicated by Khien! All things owe to it their beginning:—it contains all the meaning belonging to (the name) heaven.

2. The clouds move and the rain is distributed; the various things appear in their developed forms.

3. (The sages) grandly understand (the connexion between) the end and the beginning, and how (the indications of) the six lines (in the hexagram) are accomplished, (each) in its season. (Accordingly) they mount (the carriage) drawn by those six dragons at the proper times, and drive through the sky.

4. The method of Khien is to change and transform, so that everything obtains its correct nature as appointed (by the mind of Heaven); and (thereafter the conditions of) great harmony are preserved in union. The result is 'what is advantageous, and correct and firm.

5. (The sage) appears aloft, high above all things, and the myriad states all enjoy repose.

[Legge] The hexagram Khien is made up of six undivided lines, or of the trigram Khien, Fu-hsi's symbol for heaven, repeated. The Thwan does not dwell upon this, but starts, in its exposition, from the word 'heaven,' supposing that the hexagram represented all the meaning which had ever been intended by that term. In paragraphs 1, 2, 4 the four attributes in Wan's Text (2 being occupied with the second, though it is not expressly named) are illustrated by the phenomena taking place in the physical world.

In paragraphs 3 and 5, the subject is the sage. He is not named indeed; and Khung Ying-ta (A. D. 574-648) does not introduce him till paragraph 5, when the meaning necessitates the presence of a human agent, who rules in the world of men as heaven does in that of nature. The 'connexion between the end and the beginning,' which he sees, is that of cause and effect in the operations of nature and the course of human affairs. The various steps in that course are symbolised by the lines of the hexagram; and the ideal sage, conducting his ideal government, taking his measures accordingly, is represented as driving through the sky in a carriage drawn by six dragons. Ku Hsi extravagantly says that 'the sage is Heaven, and Heaven is the sage;' but there is nothing like this in the text.

Explanation of the Sentences

1. What is called (under Khien) 'the great and originating' is (in man) the first and chief quality of goodness; what is called 'the penetrating' is the assemblage of excellences; what is called 'the advantageous' is the harmony of all that is right; and what is called 'the correct and firm' is the faculty of action.

2. The superior man, embodying benevolence, is fit to preside over men; presenting the assemblage of excellences, he is fit to show in himself the union of all propriety; benefiting (all) creatures, he is fit to exhibit the harmony of all that is right; correct and firm, he is fit to manage (all) affairs.

3. The fact that the superior man practises these four virtues justifies the application to him of the words—'Khien represents what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm.'

[Legge] Chapter 1, paragraphs 1-3, shows how the attributes of Khien, as explained by king Wan, are to be understood of the constituent principles of human nature. What is remarkable is, that we find paragraphs 1, 2, with very little variation, in one of the narratives of the Zo Kwan, as having been spoken by a marchioness-dowager of Lu in B.C. several years before Confucius was born. One so familiar as Ku Hsi was with all the classical literature of his country could not be ignorant of this. His solution of the questions arising from it is, that anciently there was this explanation of the characters of king Wan; that it was employed by Shu Kiang (of Lu), and that Confucius also availed himself of it; while the chronicler used, as he does below, the phraseology of 'The Master said,' to distinguish the real words of Confucius from such ancient sayings. But who was this chronicler? No one can tell. The legitimate conclusion from Ku's criticism is this, that so much of this Appendix [Appendix 4, 'Explanation of the Sentences'] as is preceded by 'The Master said' is from Confucius;—so much and no more.

The ascription in paragraph 3 of 'the four virtues' to the superior-or normal man, man in his best estate, and yet inferior to 'the sagely man,' is Confucian,—after the style of the teaching of the Master in the Analects.

24. The 'greatness' and 'originating' represented by Khien refer to it as (the symbol of) what gives their beginning (to all things), and (also) secures their growth and development.

25. 'The advantageousness and the correctness and firmness' refer to its nature and feelings (as seen in all the resulting things).

26. Khien, (thus) originating, is able with its admirable benefits to benefit all under the sky. We are not told how its benefits are conferred; but how great is (its operation)!

27. How great is (what is emblemed by) Khien!—strong, vigorous, undeflected, correct, and (in all these qualities) pure, unmixed, exquisite!

28. The six lines, as explained (by the duke of Kau), bring forth and display (its meaning), and everything about it is (thus) indirectly exhibited.

29. (The great man) at the proper time drives with these six dragons through the sky. The clouds move, and the rain is distributed; all under heaven enjoys repose.

[Legge] Paragraphs 24 and 25 are based on the statement of the significance of the Thwan under Khien, and not on the treatise on the symbolism. The originating power cannot be separated from that of penetration and development. The latter issues from the former as the summer follows on the spring, according to an illustration of Ku Hsi. 'The advantageousness' and 'firm correctness,' he compares also to the autumn and winter, saying that the Khien power in its essence, as it is in itself, is best described by these two latter characteristics, while the two former describe it in its operation. It is thus that he tries to give his readers an idea of what he understood by 'nature and feelings' in 25. But this chapter treats of the Khien power in nature rather than in humanity. Confining our view to the power so operating, we cannot say that the description of it in 26 and 27 is magniloquent or hyperbolical.

Paragraph 28 returns to the explanations of the lines of the hexagram by the duke of Kau, which exhibit the power in different positions and relations, bringing out all its significance; and then 29 confines us to the fifth line, in which we have its ideal. The spheres of nature and of men seem to be in the view of the author, and therefore I introduce 'the great man,' as the subject, after the example of the best critics. Like the clouds and the rain to the thirsty earth, so is the rule of the sage to expectant humanity.

Great Symbolism

Heaven, in its motion, (gives the idea of) strength. The superior man, in accordance with this, nerves himself to ceaseless activity.

[Legge] Khien is formed by redoubling the trigram of the same name. In the case of other hexagrams of similar formation, the repetition of the trigram is pointed out. That is not done here, according to Ku Hsi, 'because there is but one heaven.' But the motion of heaven is a complete revolution every day, resumed again the next; so moves 'the unwearied sun from day to day,' making it a good symbol of renewed, untiring effort.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. In the first (or lowest) NINE, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon lying hid (in the deep). It is not the time for active doing.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The dragon lies hid in the deep;—it is not the time for active doing:'—(this appears from) the strong and undivided line's being in the lowest place.

[Explanation of the Sentences] 4. What is the meaning of the words under the first NINE, (undivided), 'The dragon lies hid (in the deep);—it is not the time for active doing?' The Master said:—There he is, with the powers of the dragon, and yet lying hid. The influence of the world would make no change in him; he would do nothing (merely) to secure his fame. He can live, withdrawn from the world, without regret; he can experience disapproval without trouble of mind. Rejoicing (in opportunity), he carries his principles into action; sorrowing (for want of opportunity), he keeps with them in retirement. Yes, he is not to be torn from his root (in himself).' This is 'the dragon lying hid.'

10. 'The dragon lies hid;—it is not the time for active doing:'—the position is (too) low.

17. 'The dragon lies hid in the deep;—it is not the time for active doing:'—the energy denoted by the undivided line is laid up and hid away as in the deep.

[Legge] Paragraph 17 tells us that time and circumstances are essential, as well as inward power, to successful development and demonstration.

30. In the superior man his conduct is (the fruit of) his perfected virtue, which might be seen therefore in his daily course; but the force of that phrase, 'lying hid,' requires him to keep retired, and not yet show himself, nor proceed to the full development of his course. While this is the case, the superior man (knows that) it is not the time for active doing.

[Legge] The subject of paragraph 30 has the virtue; but his position in the lowest place shows that his time is not yet come.

2. In the second NINE, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon appearing in the field. It will be advantageous to meet with the great man.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The dragon appears in the field:'—the diffusion of virtuous influence has been wide.

[Explanation of the Sentences] 5. What is the meaning of the words under the second NINE, 'The dragon shows himself and is in the field;—it will be advantageous to see the great man?' The Master said:—'There he is, with the dragon's powers, and occupying exactly the central place. He is sincere (even) in his ordinary words, and earnest in his ordinary conduct. Guarding against depravity, he preserves his sincerity. His goodness is recognised in the world, but he does not boast of it. His virtue is extensively displayed, and transformation ensues. The language of the Yi, "The dragon shows himself and is in the field;—it will be advantageous to see the great man." refers to a ruler's virtue.'

[Legge] With paragraph 5, compare chapters 8 and 14 of' the Doctrine of the Mean,' agreeing much in language and sentiment with what we have here. The line, a strong or undivided line, and therefore yang, is said to be 'exactly in the central place;' but the line is in the second, an even place, that proper to a yin line; and in other passages this might be explained in an unfavourable way. The Chinese character kang has the meaning given to it, now of 'exact,' and now of 'correct,' the latter being always favourably interpreted.

11. 'The dragon shows himself and is in the field:'—the time (requires him still) to be unemployed.

18. 'The dragon appears in the field:'—all under heaven (begins to be) adorned and brightened.

[Legge] In paragraph 18, the words of the Yao about meeting with the great man are not quoted, but they prompted the latter half of it.

31. The superior man learns and accumulates the results of his learning; puts questions, and discriminates among those results; dwells magnanimously and unambitiously in what he has attained to; and carries it into practice with benevolence. What the Yi says, 'The dragon appears in the field:—it will be advantageous to meet with the great man,' has reference to the virtuous qualities of a ruler (as thus described).

[Legge] In paragraph 31 we have the superior man developing, by means of the processes described, into 'the great man,' with the attributes of a ruler, the appearance of whom is a blessing to men.

3. In the third NINE, undivided, (we see its subject as) the superior man active and vigilant all the day, and in the evening still careful and apprehensive. (The position is) dangerous, but there will be no mistake.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'Active and vigilant all the day:'—(this refers to) the treading of the (proper) path over and over again.

[Explanation of the Sentences] 6. What is the meaning of the words under the third NINE,' The superior man is active and vigilant all the day, and in the evening (still) careful and apprehensive;—the position is dangerous, but there will be no mistake?' The Master said:—'The superior man advances in virtue, and cultivates all the sphere of his duty. His loyal-heartedness and good faith are the way by which he advances in virtue. His attention to his words and establishing his sincerity are the way by which he occupies in his sphere. He knows the utmost point to be reached, and reaches it, thus showing himself in accord with the first springs (of things); he knows the end to be rested in, and rests in it, thus preserving his righteousness in accordance with that end. Therefore he occupies a high position without pride, and a low position without anxiety. Thus it is that, being active and vigilant, and careful (also) and apprehensive as the time requires, though his position be perilous, he will make no mistake.'

12. 'All the day active and vigilant:'—(he now) does his (proper) business.

19. 'All the day active and vigilant:'—continually, as the time passes and requires, does he act.

[Legge] Paragraph 19. Compare the language on paragraph 6, towards the end.

32. In the third NINE, there is a twofold symbol of) strength, but (the position) is not central. (Its occupant) is not in heaven above, nor is he in the field beneath. Therefore there must be active vigilance and cautious apprehension as the time requires; and. though (the position be) perilous, there will be no mistake.

[Legge] The twofold symbol of strength in paragraph 32 is the yang or undivided line in the third place (odd) proper to it. There will be no mistake, because the subject of the line, in the exercise of his caution, will abstain from any forward movement.

4. In the fourth NINE, undivided, (we see its subject as the dragon looking) as if he were leaping up, but still in the deep. There will be no mistake.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He seems to be leaping up, but is still in the deep:'—if he advance, there will be no error.

[Explanation of the Sentences] 7. What is the meaning of the words under the fourth NINE, 'He is as if he were leaping up, (but still) is in the deep;—there will be no mistake?' The Master said:—'He finds no permanent place either above or below, but he does not commit the error (of advancing). He may advance or recede;—there is no permanent place for him: but he does not leave his fellows. The superior man, advancing in virtue and cultivating the sphere of his duty, yet wishes (to advance only) at the (proper) time, and therefore there is no mistake.'

13. 'He is as if he were leaping up, (but still) is in the deep:'—he is making trial of himself.

20. 'He is as if he were leaping up, (but still) is in the deep:'—a change is taking place in the method indicated by (this) Khien diagram.

[Legge] Paragraph 20. The subject passes here from the lower trigram and enters into the upper. We are told not to lay stress on 'the method of Khien.' In paragraph 21 we have the sage upon the throne. Time and opportunity are both in progress in 19; here in 22, they are both passed, have reached their extremity or end.

33. In the fourth NINE, there is (the symbol of) strength, but (the position) is not central. (Its occupant) is not in heaven above, nor is he in the field beneath, nor is he in the place of man intermediate. Hence he is in perplexity; and being so, he has doubts about what should be his movements, and so will give no occasion for blame.

[Legge] According to paragraph 63 of [Appendix 3], Section 2, both the third and fourth lines in the hexagram belong to man, and are intermediate between those of heaven and those of earth. Khung Ying-ta, to get over the difficulty in what is said on the fourth line, says that, as a matter of fact and locally, man is nearer earth than heaven, and is aptly represented therefore by the third line and not by the fourth;—I prefer to point out the inconsistency, and leave it. The subject of this fourth line will move very cautiously, and so escape blame.

5. In the fifth NINE, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon on the wing in the sky. It will be advantageous to meet with the great man.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The dragon is on the wing in the sky:'—the great man rouses himself to his work.

[Explanation of the Sentences] 8. What is the meaning of the words under the fifth NINE, 'The dragon is on the wing in the sky;—it will be advantageous to see the great man?' The Master said:—'Notes of the same key respond to one another; creatures of the same nature seek one another; water flows towards the place that is (low and) damp; fire rises up towards what is dry; clouds follow the dragon, and winds follow the tiger: (so) the sage makes his appearance, and all men look to him. Things that draw their origin from heaven move towards what is above; things that draw their origin from the earth cleave to what is below:—so does everything follow its kind.'

[Legge] Paragraph 8. The fifth is almost always the place of honour and authority in the hexagram, and therefore 'the great man' here continues to be the great man, 'the sage.' The argument is that as things of the same kind respond to and seek one another, so is it with the sage and ordinary man. They are of the same kind, though far apart; and when a sage appears, all other men look to him with admiration and hope. The continuity of the illustrations, however, is broken by the introduction of the dragon and clouds, and the tiger and wind. Are these of the same kind? Ku Hsi says he does not think that the real dragon and real tiger are intended; but he does not tell us how he understood the terms. Zai Khing (early in the Ming dynasty) says:—'The dragon feels the influence of the clouds surcharged with rain, and rises from the deep, and when the tiger feels the approach of the cold winds he roars. Thus when the dragon rises, the clouds are sure to collect; and when the tiger screams, the winds follow,' but all this does not help us to appreciate any better the words of the text. And the concluding illustration is nearly as foreign to our way of conceiving things. By 'things that draw their origin from heaven' all animals—moving creatures—are intended; and by those that draw their origin from the earth are intended all plants,—things that stand and do not move. The former turn their heads to the sky, and the latter their roots to the earth. So we read in Ku Hsi; but I continue to wonder that Confucius selected such illustrations and spoke in such a style.

14. 'The dragon is on the wing in the sky:'—(the subject of the line) is on high and ruling.

21. 'The dragon is on the wing in the sky:'—this shows that his place is based on his heavenly virtue.

34. The great man is he who is in harmony, in his attributes, with heaven and earth; in his brightness, with the sun and moon; in his orderly procedure, with the four sea-sons; and in his relation to what is fortunate and what is calamitous, in harmony with the spirit-like operations (of Providence). He may precede Heaven, and Heaven will not act in opposition to him; he may follow Heaven, but will act (only) as Heaven at the time would do. If Heaven will not act in opposition to him, how much less will men! how much less will the spirit-like operation (of Providence)!

[Legge] The eulogium of 'the great man' in paragraph 34 cannot fail to recall to the classical scholar the thirty-first and other chapters of 'the Doctrine of the Mean,' where the sage is described as 'The Equal of Heaven.' In one sentence here he is spoken of as sometimes taking precedence of Heaven, which then does not act in opposition to him! I do not know of any statement about the sage, coming without doubt from Confucius, that is so extravagant as this. It is difficult—in fact impossible—to say from the Yi itself, what we are to understand by the kwei shan, which I have translated here by the spirit-like operations (of Providence).' The compound denomination does not often occur in the book. In Appendix 3, [Par. 21], kwei is the anima and shan the animus; and in paragraph 50, I have translated the terms by 'the contracting and expanding operations.' [Ed: In paragraph 50, it appears that Legge actually translates the terms as 'spirit-like agencies.'] In [the Comments on the Thwan for Hexagrams 15 and 55], the name is used as in the present text. That second instance and this paragraph were evidently constructed, the one on the model of the other. I think it likely that the breath or air, khi, became the name with the earliest Chinese for their first concept of spirit; then the breath inspired or inhaled was called kwei, and became the name for the grosser part of the spirit, returning to the earth; and shin, the breath exhaled or expired, the name for the subtler and intellectual spirit, ascending to a state of activity and enjoyment. The explanations of the terms in the R Ya and other dictionaries seem to justify this view. The combination kwei shin is sometimes best translated by 'spiritual beings.' The school of the Sung philosophy understand by it—the contracting and expanding of the primary matter, or that matter conceived of in two forms or with two opposite qualities. Khang-zze says here: that 'Heaven and earth are another name for tao, and kwei shan another name for "the vestiges of making and transformation;" and that the sage being in harmony with the tao or practical reason of the universe, how can men or the kwei shan be contrary to him?' Whatever be thought of the Sung speculations and theories, I think that a translator ought to give an indication of the primary meaning of the name kwei shan.

6. In the sixth (or topmost) NINE, undivided, (we see its subject as) the dragon exceeding the proper limits. There will be occasion for repentance.

[Legge] But the dragon appears in the sixth line as going beyond the proper limits. The ruling-sage has gone through all the sphere in which he is called on to display his attributes; it is time for him to relax. The line should not be always pulled tight; the bow should not be always kept drawn. The unchanging use of force will give occasion for repentance. The moral meaning found in the line is that 'the high shall be abased.'

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The dragon exceeds the proper limits;—there will be occasion for repentance:'—a state of fullness, that is, should not be indulged in long.

[Great Appendix, Section 1] 46. 'The dragon (is seen) beyond his proper haunts; there will be occasion for repentance.' The Master said on this:—'He is noble, but is not in his correct place; he is on high, but there are no people to acknowledge him; there is a man of virtue and ability below, but he will not assist him. Hence whatever movement he may make will give occasion for repentance.'

[Explanation of the Sentences] 9. What is the meaning of the words under the topmost NINE, 'The dragon exceeds the proper limits;—there will be occasion for repentance?' The Master said:—'The position is noble, but it is not that of office; (its occupant) dwells on high, but he has no people (to rule); and the men of talent and virtue in the positions below will give him no aid;—should he move in such a case, there will be occasion for repentance.'

[Legge] Paragraph 9. As I have said above, the place of honour and authority in the hexagram belongs to the fifth line, and no other plays so unimportant a part as the sixth; and hence it is represented here as having 'no place' at all. Before he whom it represents is called to act, the battle has been won or lost. Movement from him will only accelerate and intensify the result.

15. 'The dragon exceeds the proper limit, and there will be occasion for repentance:'—when things have been carried to extremity, calamity ensues.

22. 'The dragon exceeds the (proper) limit;—there will be occasion for repentance:'—the time is come to an end, and so also is his opportunity.

35. The force of that phrase—'exceeding the proper limits'—indicates the knowing to advance but not to retire; to maintain but not to let perish to get but not to lose.

36. He only is the sage who knows to advance and to retire, to maintain and to let perish; and that without ever acting incorrectly. Yes, he only is the sage!

Paragraphs 35 and 36 suggest the description of Confucius by Mencius, V, ii, 1, 5, as the one among the sages who was most governed by the consideration of time, doing continually what the circumstances of the time required.

7. (The lines of this hexagram are all strong and undivided, as appears from) the use of the number NINE. If the host of dragons (thus) appearing were to divest themselves of their heads, there would be good fortune.

[Legge] The meaning given to the supernumerary paragraph is the opposite of that of paragraph 6. The 'host of dragons without their heads' would give us the next hexagram, or Khwan, made up of six divided lines. Force would have given place to submission, and haughtiness to humility; and the result would be good fortune. Such at least is the interpretation of the paragraph given in a narrative of the Zo-Kwan under B. C. 513.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The same NINE (undivided) is used' (in all the places of this hexagram), but the attribute of heaven (thereby denoted) should not (always) take the foremost place.

[Explanation of the Sentences] 16. Undivided lines appear in all these representations of the great and originating power denoted by Khien:—(what follows in the Yao tells us how) all under the sky there will be good order.

[Legge] Paragraph 16 . . . There is the same difficulty in understanding the first part of the short paragraph; the conclusion of it must be a consequence of the language of the Yao, though it is not repeated here.

23. Undivided NINES appear in all these representations of the great and originating power denoted by Khien:—and (from what follows in the Yao) we see the model (of action) afforded by heaven.

[Legge] Paragraph 23:—see on paragraph 16. 'The model of heaven,' says Wu Khang, 'is the due blending of the strong and active with the weak and passive, the regulation of movement in accordance with the highest reason, so that there shall be neither excess nor deficiency.'


[Legge] 1 The Text under each hexagram consists of one paragraph by king Wan, explaining the figure as a whole, and of six (in the case of hexagrams 1 and 2, of seven) paragraphs by the duke of Kau, explaining the individual lines. The explanatory notices introduced above to this effect will not be repeated. A double space will be used to mark off the portion of king Wan from that of his son.

[Legge] Each hexagram consists of two of the trigrams of Fu-hsi, the lower being called 'the inner,' and the one above 'the outer.' The lines, however, are numbered from one to six, commencing with the lowest. To denote the number of it and of the sixth line, the terms for commencing' and 'topmost' are used. The intermediate lines are simply 'second,' 'third,' &c. As the lines must be either whole or divided, technically called strong and weak, yang and yin, this distinction is indicated by the application to them of the numbers nine and six. All whole lines are nine, all divided lines, six.

[Legge] Two explanations have been proposed of this application of these numbers. The Khien trigram, it is said, contains 3 strokes ( 111 ), and the Khwan 6 ( 000 ). But the yang contains the yin in itself, and its representative number will be 3 + 6 = 9, while the yin, not containing the yang, will only have its own number or 6. This explanation, entirely arbitrary, is new deservedly abandoned. The other is based on the use of the 'four Hsiang,' or emblematic figures ( 11 the great or old yang, 10 the young yang, 00 the old yin, and 01 the young yin). To these are assigned (by what process is unimportant for our present purpose) the numbers 9, 8, 7, 6. They were 'the old yang,' represented by 9, and 'the old yin,' represented by 6, that, in the manipulation of the stalks to form new diagrams, determined the changes of figure; and so 9 and 6 came to be used as the names of a yang line and a yin line respectively. This explanation is now universally acquiesced in. The nomenclature of first nine, nine two, &c., or first six, six two, &c., however, is merely a jargon; and I have preferred to use, instead of it, in the translation, in order to describe the lines, the names 'undivided' and 'divided.'

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