Previous / Contents / Next

21. Shih Ho [Gnawing Through]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Shih Ho indicates successful progress (in the condition of things which it supposes). It will be advantageous to use legal constraints.

[Legge] Shih Ho means literally 'Union by gnawing.' We see in the figure two strong lines in the first and last places, while all the others, with the exception of the fourth, are divided. This suggests the idea of the jaws and the mouth between them kept open by something in it. Let that be gnawed through and the mouth will close and the jaws come together. So in the body politic. Remove the obstacles to union, and high and low will come together with a good understanding. And how are those obstacles to be removed? By force, emblemed by the gnawing; that is, by legal constraints. And these are sure to be successful. The auspice of the figure is favourable. There will be success.

Comments on the Thwan

1. The existence of something between the jaws gives rise to the name Shih Ho (Union by means of biting through the intervening article).

2. The Union by means of biting through the intervening article indicates 'the successful progress (denoted by the hexagram).'

The strong and weak (lines) are equally divided (in the figure). Movement is denoted (by the lower trigram), and bright intelligence (by the upper); thunder and lightning uniting in them, and having brilliant manifestation. The weak (fifth) line is in the centre, and acts in its high position. Although it is not in its proper position, this is advantageous for the use of legal constraints.

[Legge] The 'equal division of the strong and weak lines' is seen by taking them in pairs, though the order in the first pair is different from that in the two others. This is supposed to indicate the intelligence of the judgments in the action of the hexagram. Kan, the lower trigram, symbolises movement; Li, the upper, intelligence. The fifth line's acting in its high position does not intimate the formation of the figure from Yi, the 42nd hexagram, but calls attention to the fact that a weak line is here 'lord of judgment.' This does not seem natural, but the effect is good;—judgment is tempered by leniency.

Great Symbolism

(The trigrams representing) thunder and lightning form Shih Ho. The ancient kings, in accordance with this, framed their penalties with intelligence, and promulgated their laws.

[Legge: Smaller Symbolism] Khang-zze says that thunder and lightning are always found together, and hence their trigrams go together to give the idea of union intended in Shih Ho. The one trigram symbolising majesty and the other brightness or intelligence, the application of the hexagram here is easier and more natural than in many other cases.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first NINE, undivided, shows one with his feet in the stocks and deprived of his toes. There will be no error.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'His feet are in the stocks, and he is deprived of his toes:'—there is no walking (to do evil).

[Legge] Lines 1 and 6 are much out of the game or action described in the figure. Hence they are held to represent parties receiving punishment, while the other lines represent parties inflicting it. The punishment in line 1 is that of the stocks, administered for a small offence, and before crime has made much way. But if the 'depriving' of the toes is not merely keeping them in restraint, but cutting them off, as the Chinese character suggests, the punishment appears to a western reader too severe. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] 'There is no walking:'—that is, the subject of the line will not dare to offend any more.

2. The second SIX, divided, shows one biting through the soft flesh, and (going on to) bite off the nose. There will be no error.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He bites through the soft flesh, and (goes on) to bite off the nose:'—(the subject of the line) is mounted on the strong (first line).

[Legge] Line 2 is weak, appropriately therefore in an even place, and it is central besides. The action therefore of its subject should be effective; and this is shown by the 'biting through the soft flesh,' an easy thing. Immediately below, however, is a strong offender represented by the strong line, and before he will submit it is necessary to 'bite off his nose;' for punishment is the rule it must be continued and increased till the end is secured. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] '"Being mounted on the strong first line" means,' says Khang-zze, 'punishing a strong and vehement man, when severity is required, as is denoted by the central position of the line.'

3. The third SIX, divided, shows one gnawing dried flesh, and meeting with what is disagreeable. There will be occasion for some small regret, but no (great) error.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He meets with what is disagreeable and hurtful:'—his position is not the proper one for him.

[Legge] Line 3 is weak, and in an even place. The action of its subject will be ineffective; and is emblemed by the hard task of gnawing through dried flesh, and encountering, besides, what is distasteful and injurious in it. But again comes in the consideration that here punishment is the rule, and the auspice is not all bad.

4. The fourth NINE, undivided, shows one gnawing the flesh dried on the bone, and getting the pledges of money and arrows. It will be advantageous to him to realise the difficulty of his task and be firm,—in which case there will be good fortune.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'It will be advantageous to him to realise the difficulty of his task and be firm, in which case there will be good fortune:'—his light has not yet been sufficiently displayed.

[Legge] Of old, in a civil case, both parties, before they were heard, brought to the court an arrow (or a bundle of arrows), in testimony of their rectitude, after which they were heard; in a criminal case, they in the same way deposited each thirty pounds of gold, or some other metal. See the Official Book of Kau, 27. 14, 15. The subject of the fourth line's getting those pledges indicates his exercising his judicial functions; and what he gnaws through indicates their difficulty. Moreover, though the line is strong, it is in an even place; and hence comes the lesson of caution. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] 'His light has not been sufficiently displayed;' that is, there is still something for him to do:—he has to realise the difficulty of his position and be firm.

5. The fifth SIX, divided, shows one gnawing at dried flesh, and finding the yellow gold. Let him be firm and correct, realising the peril (of his position). There will be no error.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'Let him be firm and correct, realising the peril (of his position), and there will be no error:'—he will possess every quality appropriate (to his position and task).

[Legge] The fifth line represents 'the lord of judgment.' As it is a weak line, he will be disposed to leniency; and his judgments will be correct. This is declared by his finding the 'yellow metal;' for yellow is one of the five 'correct' colours. The position is in the centre and that of rule; but the line being weak, a caution is given, as under the previous line.

6. The sixth NINE, undivided, shows one wearing the cangue, and deprived of his cars. There will be evil.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He wears the cangue and is deprived of his ears:'—he hears, but will not understand.

[Legge] The action of the figure has passed, and still we have, in the subject of line 6, one persisting in wrong, a strong criminal, wearing the cangue, and deaf to counsel. Of course the auspice is evil.

Previous / Contents / Next


Return to Home Page

Send comments to

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