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18. Ku [Arresting Decay]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Ku indicates great progress and success (to him who deals properly with the condition represented by it). There will be advantage in (efforts like that of) crossing the great stream. (He should weigh well, however, the events of) three days before the turning point, and those (to be done) three days after it.

[Legge] In [Appendix 6, Section 1:16-19] it is said, 'They who follow another are sure to have services (to perform), and hence Sui is followed by Ku.' But Ku means the having painful or troublesome services to do. It denotes here a state in which things are going to ruin, as if through poison or venomous worms; and the figure is supposed to describe the arrest of the decay and the restoration to soundness and vigour, so as to justify its auspice of great progress and success. To realise such a result, however, great efforts will be required, as in crossing the great stream; and a careful consideration of the events that have brought on the state of decay, and the measures to be taken to remedy it is also necessary. See [the 'Comments on the Thwan,' below] on the 'three days.'

The subject of line 1, and of all the other lines, excepting perhaps 6, appears as a son. Yet the line itself is of the yin nature, and the trigram in which it plays the principal part is also yin. Line 2 is strong, and of the yang nature, with the yin line 5 as its proper correlate. In line 2, 5 appears as the mother; but its subject there is again a son, and the upper trigram altogether is yang. I am unable to account for these things. As is said in the note of Regis on line 2:—'Haec matris filiique denominatio ad has lineas mere translatitia est, et, ut ait commentarius vulgaris, ad explicationem sententiarum eas pro matre et filio supponere dicendum est. Nec ratio reddetur si quis in utroque hoc nomine mysterium quaerat. Cur enim aliis in figuris lineae nunc regem, nunc vasallum, jam imperii administrum, mox summum armorum praefectum referre dicantur? Accommodantur scilicet lineae ad verba sententiae et verba sententiae ad sensum, queniadmodum faciendum de methodis libri Shih King docet Mencius, V, i, ode 4.2.'

Comments on the Thwan

1. In Ku we have the strong (trigram) above, and the weak one below; we have (below) pliancy, and (above) stopping:—these give the idea of Ku (a Troublous Condition of affairs verging to ruin).

2. 'Ku indicates great progress and success:'—(through the course shown in it), all under heaven, there will be good order. 'There will be advantage in crossing the great stream:'—he who advances will encounter the business to be done. '(He should weigh well, however, the events of) three days before (the turning-point), and those (to be done) three days after it:'—the end (of confusion) is the beginning (of order); such is the procedure of Heaven.

[Legge] The symbolism here is the opposite of that in Sui. The upper trigram Kan is strong, denoting, according to king Wan, 'the youngest son;' and the lower, Sun, is weak, denoting 'the eldest daughter.' For the eldest daughter to be below the youngest son is eminently correct, and helps to indicate the auspice of great success. The attribute of Sun is pliancy, and that of Kan stoppage or arrest. The feeble pliancy confronted by the arresting mountain gives an idea of the evil state implied in Ku.

'Three days before and after the turning-point' is, literally, three days before and after kia,' kia being the name of the first of the 'earthly stems' among the cyclical characters. Hence it has the meaning of 'beginning,' and here denotes the turning-point, at which disorder gives place to order. According to 'the procedure of Heaven,' history is a narrative of change, one condition of affairs constantly giving place to another and opposite. 'A kingdom that cannot be moved' does not enter into the circle of Chinese ideas.

Great Symbolism

(The trigram for) a mountain, and below it that for wind, form Ku. The superior man, in accordance with this, (addresses himself to) help the people and nourish his own virtue.

[Legge: Smaller Symbolism] 'When the wind,' says Khang-zze, 'encounters the mountain, it is driven back, and the things about are all scattered in disorder; such is the emblem of the state denoted by Ku.'

'The nourishing of virtue' appears especially in line 6; all the other lines belong to the 'helping of the people.'

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first SIX, divided, shows (a son) dealing with the troubles caused by his father. If he be an (able) son, the father will escape the blame of having erred. The position is perilous, but there will be good fortune in the end.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He deals with the troubles caused by his father:'—he feels that he has entered into the work of his father.

[Legge] Line 1 is weak, and its correlate 4 is also weak. What can its subject do to remedy the state of decay? But the line is the first of the figure, and the decay is not yet great. By giving heed to the cautions in the Text, he will accomplish what is promised. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] The subject of line 1 has entered into the work of his father, and brings it about that his father is looked on as blameless.

2. The second NINE, undivided, shows (a son) dealing with the troubles caused by his mother. He should not (carry) his firm correctness (to the utmost).

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He deals with the troubles caused by his mother:'—he holds to the course of the due mean.

[Legge] The ruler in line 5 is represented by a weak line, while 2 is strong. Thus the symbolism takes the form of a son dealing with the prevailing decay induced somehow by his mother. But a son must be very gentle in all his intercourse with his mother, and especially so, when constrained by a sense of duty to oppose her course. I do not think there is anything more or better to be said here. The historical interpretation adopted by Regis and his friends, that the father here is king Wan, the mother Thai-sze, and the son king Wu, cannot be maintained. I have searched, but in vain, for the slightest Chinese sanction of it, and it would give to Ku the meaning of misfortunes endured, instead of troubles caused. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] The 'due mean' of line 2 is according to the caution in the Text.

3. The third NINE, undivided, shows (a son) dealing with the troubles caused by his father. There may be some small occasion for repentance, but there will not be any great error.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He deals with the troubles caused by his father:'—in the end there will be no error.

[Legge] Line 3 is strong, and not central, so that its subject might well go to excess in his efforts. But this tendency is counteracted by the line's place in the trigram Sun, often denoting lowly submission.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows (a son) viewing indulgently the troubles caused by his father. If he go forward, he will find cause to regret it.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He views indulgently the troubles caused by his father:'—if he go forward, he will not succeed.

[Legge] Line 4 is weak, and in an even place, which intensifies that weakness. Hence comes the caution against going forward.

5. The fifth SIX, divided, shows (a son) dealing with the troubles caused by his father. He obtains the praise of using (the fit instrument for his work).

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He deals with the troubles caused by his father, and obtains praise:'—he is responded to (by the subject of line two) with all his virtue.

[Legge] The weak line 5, as has been said, is the seat of the ruler; but its proper correlate is the strong 2, the strong siding champion minister, to whom the work of the hexagram is delegated. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] The Khang-hsi editors interpret the explanation of line 5 as = 'he takes up (the course of his father) with all his virtue.' I think they are wrong.

6. The sixth NINE, undivided, shows us one who does not serve either king or feudal lord, but in a lofty spirit prefers (to attend to) his own affairs.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He does not serve either king or feudal lord:'—but his aim may be a model (to others).

[Legge] Line 6 is strong, and has no proper correlate below. Hence it suggests the idea of one outside the sphere of action, and taking no part in public affairs, but occupied with the culture of himself.

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Editorial features of this edition © 2012 by Joseph F. Morales