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23. Po [Overthrowing]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Po indicates that (in the state which it symbolises) it will not be advantageous to make a movement in any direction whatever.

[Legge] Po is the symbol of falling or of causing to fall, and may be applied, both in the natural and political world, to the process of decay, or that of overthrow. The figure consists of five divided lines, and one undivided, which last thus becomes the prominent and principal line in the figure. Decay or overthrow has begun at the bottom of it, and crept up to the top. The hexagram is that of the ninth month, when the beauty and glory of summer have disappeared, and the year is ready to fall into the arms of sterile winter. In the political world, small men have gradually displaced good men and great, till but one remains; and the lesson for him is to wait. The power operating against him is too strong; but the fashion of political life passes away. If he wait, a change for the better will shortly appear.

Comments on the Thwan

1. Po denotes overthrowing or being overthrown. We see (in the figure) the weak lines (threatening to) change the (last) strong line (into one of themselves).

2. That 'it will not be advantageous to make a movement in any direction whatever' appears from the fact that the small men are (now) growing and increasing. The superior man acts according to (the exigency of the time), and stops all forward movement, looking at the (significance of the) symbolic figures (in the hexagram). He values the processes of decrease and increase, of fulness and decadence, (as seen) in the movements of the heavenly bodies.

[Legge] 'The symbolic figures in the hexagram' are Khwan, below, the representative of docility, acting as circumstances require; and Kan, the representative of a mountain, which arrests the progress of the traveller. The superior man of the topmost line thus interprets them, and acts accordingly. Yet he is not left without hope. Winter is followed by spring; night is succeeded by day; the moon wanes, and then begins to wax again. So will it be in political life. As we read in the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, 'In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.'

Great Symbolism

(The trigrams representing) the earth, and (above it) that for a mountain, which adheres to the earth, form Po. Superiors, in accordance with this, seek to strengthen those below them, to secure the peace and stability of their own position.

[Legge: Smaller Symbolism] 'A mountain,' says Yu Fan (towards the end of the Han dynasty), 'stands out high above the earth; here it appears as lying on the earth:—plainly it has been overturned.' On the other hand, Liu Mu (early in the Sung dynasty) says:—'A mountain has the earth for its foundation. If the earth be thick, the mountain preserves its height. So it is with the sovereign and people.' The application might be deduced from either view.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first SIX, divided, shows one overturning the couch by injuring its legs. (The injury will go on to) the destruction of (all) firm correctness, and there will be evil.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He overthrows the couch by injuring its legs:'—thus (he commences) his work of ruin with what is lowest (in the superior man).

[Legge] The lesser symbolism is chiefly that of a bed or couch with its occupant. The idea of the hexagram requires this occupant to be overthrown, or at least that an attempt be made to overthrow him. Accordingly the attempt in line 1 is made by commencing with the legs of the couch. The symbolism goes on to explain itself. The object of the evil worker is the overthrow of all firm correctness. of course there will be evil. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] It is hard to tell whether 'the lowest' in paragraph 1 should be supplemented as I have done. If not, then the explanation is a mere truism.

2. The second SIX, divided, shows one overthrowing the couch by injuring its frame. (The injury will go on to) the destruction of (all) firm correctness, and there will be evil.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He destroys the couch by injuring its frame:'—(the superior man) has as yet no associates.

[Legge] Line 2 is to the same effect as 1; only the foe has advanced from the legs to the frame of the couch. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] Khang-zze is precise and decisive in supplementing the explanation of paragraph 2 as in the translation.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows its subject among the overthrowers; but there will be no error.

[Smaller Symbolism] That 'there will be no error on the part of this one among the overthrowers' arises from the difference between him and the others above and below.

[Legge] Line 3 also represents an overthrower; but it differs from the others in being the correlate of 6. The subject of it will take part with him. His association is with the subject of 6, and not, as in the other weak lines, with one of its own kind.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject having overthrown the couch, and (going to injure) the skin (of him who lies on it). There will be evil.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He has overthrown the couch, and (proceeds to injure) the skin (of him who lies on it):'—calamity is very near at hand.

[Legge] From line 4 the danger is imminent. The couch has been overthrown. The person of the occupant is at the mercy of the destroyers.

5. The fifth SIX, divided, shows (its subject leading on the others like) a string of fishes, and (obtaining for them) the favour that lights on the inmates of the palace. There will be advantage in every way.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He obtains for them the favour that lights on the inmates of the palace:'—in the end there will be no grudge against him.

[Legge] With line 5 the symbolism changes. The subject of 5 is 'lord of all the other weak lines,' and their subjects are at his disposal. He and they are represented as fishes, following one another as if strung together. All fishes come under the category of yin. Then the symbolism changes again. The subject of 5, representing and controlling all the yin lines, is loyal to the subject of the yang sixth line. He is the rightful sovereign in his palace, and 5 leads all the others there to enjoy the sovereign's favours. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] On paragraph 5, the Khang-hsi editors say admirably:—'The fifth line is weak, and yet occupies the most honourable place in the figure,—emblematic of a queen; and as its subject leads on the subjects of the other lines to obtain the favours given to the inmates of the palace, she, it is plain, has neither jealousy nor any other injurious temper that might incur blame for tending to overthrow the ruler.'

6. The topmost NINE, undivided, shows its subject (as) a great fruit which has not been eaten. The superior man finds (the people again) as a chariot carrying him. The small men (by their course) overthrow their own dwellings.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The superior man finds himself in a carriage:'—he is carried along by the people. 'The small men (by their course) overthrow their own dwellings:'—they can. never again be of use to them.

[Legge] We have still different symbolism under line 6. Its strong subject, notwithstanding the attempts against him, survives, and acquires fresh vigour. The people again cherish their sovereign, and the plotters have wrought to their own overthrow. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] Paragraph 6 shows the ruler restored to the favour of the people, and the restoration of concord in the state. The small men have done their worst, and there is an end of their attempts for a time.

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