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24. Fu [Returning]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Fu indicates that there will be free course and progress (in what it denotes). (The subject of it) finds no one to distress him in his exits and entrances; friends come to him, and no error is committed . He will return and repeat his (proper) course. In seven days comes his return. There will be advantage in whatever direction movement is made.

[Legge] Fu symbolises the idea of returning, coming back or over again. The last hexagram showed us inferior prevailing over superior men, all that is good in nature and society yielding before what is bad. But change is the law of nature and society. When decay has reached its climax, recovery will begin to take place. In Po we had one strong topmost line, and five weak lines below it; here we have one strong line, and five weak lines above it. To illustrate the subject from what we see in nature,—Po is the hexagram of the ninth month, in which the triumph of cold and decay in the year is nearly complete. It is complete in the tenth month, whose hexagram is Khwan ; then follows our hexagram Fu, belonging to the eleventh month, in which was the winter solstice when the sun turned back in his course, and moved with a constant regular progress towards the summer solstice. In harmony with these changes of nature are the changes in the political and social state of a nation. There is nothing in the Yi to suggest the hope of a perfect society or kingdom that cannot be moved.

The strong bottom line is the first of Kan, the trigram of movement, and the upper trigram is Khwan, denoting docility and capacity. The strong returning line will meet with no distressing obstacle, and the weak lines will change before it into strong, and be as friends. The bright quality will be developed brighter and brighter from day to day, and month to month.

The sentence, 'In seven days comes his return,' occasions some perplexity. If the reader will refer to hexagrams 44, 33, 12, 20, 23, and 2, he will see that during the months denoted by those figures, the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th, the yin lines have gradually been prevailing over the yang, until in Khwan (2) they have extruded them entirely from the lineal figure. Then comes our Fu, as a seventh figure, in which the yang line begins to reassert itself, and from which it goes on to extrude the yin lines in their turn. Explained therefore of the months of the year, we have to take a day for a month. And something analogous—we cannot say exactly what—must have place in society and the state.

The concluding auspice or oracle to him who finds this Fu by divination is what we might expect.

Comments on the Thwan

1. 'Fu indicates the free course and progress (of what it denotes):'—it is the coming back of what is intended by the undivided line.

2. (Its subject's) actions show movement directed by accordance with natural order. Hence 'he finds no one to distress him in his exits and entrances,' and 'friends come to him, and no error is committed.'

3. 'He will return and repeat his proper course; in seven days comes his return:'—such is the movement of the heavenly (revolution).

4. 'There will be advantage in whatever direction movement is made:—the strong lines are growing and increasing.

5. Do we not see in Fu the mind of heaven and earth?

[Legge] 'The movement of the heavenly revolution' in paragraph 3 has reference to the regular alternations of darkness and light, and of cold and heat, as seen in the different months of the year. Hau Hsing-kwo (of the Thang dynasty) refers to the expressions in the Shih, I, xv, ode 1, 'the days of (our) first (month), second (month),' &c., as illustrating the use of day for month, as we have it here; but that is to explain what is obscure by what is more so; though I believe, as stated on the Text, that seven days' is here equivalent to 'seven months.'

'The mind of heaven and earth' is the love of life and of all goodness that rules in the course of nature and providence.

Great Symbolism

(The trigram representing) the earth and that for thunder in the midst of it form Fu. The ancient kings, in accordance with this, on the day of the (winter) solstice, shut the gates of the passes (from one state to another), so that the travelling merchants could not (then) pursue their journeys, nor the princes go on with the inspection of their states.

[Legge: Smaller Symbolism] 'Thunder in the midst of the earth' is thunder shut up and silent, just able to make its presence felt. So is it with the first genial stirrings of life after the winter solstice; so is it with the first returning steps of the wanderer to virtue. As the spring of life has to be nursed in quietness, so also has the purpose of good. The ancient statutes here referred to must have been like the present cessation from public and private business at the time of the new year, when all the Chinese people are for a time dissolved in festivity and joy.

Canon McClatchie translates here:—'The ancient kings on this culminating day (i.e. the seventh) closed their gates,' &c. 'Culminating day' does not give us the meaning so well as 'the day of the solstice;' but where does the translator find the explanatory 'the seventh,' which he puts in parentheses? In my own 'salad' days of Chinese knowledge I fancied there might be in paragraph 1 of the Text some allusion to a primitive sabbath; but there is no ground for introducing 'seven days,' or 'the seventh day,' into this paragraph of the Great Symbolism.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject returning (from an error) of no great extent, which would not proceed to anything requiring repentance. There will be great good fortune.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'Returning (from an error) of no great extent' is the prelude to the cultivation of the person.

[Legge] The subject of line 1 is of course the undivided line, meaning here, says Khang-zze, 'the way of the superior man.' There must have been some deviation from that, or 'returning' could not be spoken of.

2. The second SIX, divided, shows the admirable return (of its subject). There will be good fortune.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The good fortune attendant on the admirable return (of the subject of the second line)' is due to his condescension to the virtuous (subject of the line) below.

[Legge] Line 2 is in its proper place, and central; but it is weak. This is more than compensated for, however, by its adherence to line 1, the fifth line not being a proper correlate. Hence the return of its subject is called excellent or admirable. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] The virtuous subject of the first line is in paragraph 2 called zan, 'the benevolent' or loving.' It is the only case in all the symbolism of the Yi where we find that term used as an adjective. It is emphatic here for 'humanity,' man in his ideal.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows one who has made repeated returns. The position is perilous, but there will be no error.

[Smaller Symbolism] Notwithstanding 'the perilous position of him who has made many returns,' there will be no error through (his aiming after righteousness).

[Legge] Line 3 is weak, and in the uneven place of a strong line. It is the top line, moreover, of the trigram whose attribute is movement. Hence the symbolism; but any evil issue may be prevented by a realisation of danger and by caution.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject moving right in the centre (among those represented by the other divided lines), and yet returning alone (to his proper path).

[Smaller Symbolism] 'He moves right in the centre (among those represented by the other divided lines), and yet returns alone:'—his object is to pursue the (proper) path.

[Legge] Line 4 has its proper correlate in 1; different from all the other weak lines; and its course is different accordingly.

5. The fifth SIX, divided, shows the noble return of its subject. There will be no ground for repentance.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The noble return, giving no ground for repentance,' is due to (the subject of the line) striving to perfect himself in accordance with his central position.

[Legge] Line 5 is in the central place of honour, and the middle line of Khwan, denoting docility. Hence its auspice.

6. The topmost SIX, divided, shows its subject all astray on the subject of returning. There will be evil. There will be calamities and errors. If with his views he put the hosts in motion, the end will be a great defeat, whose issues will extend to the ruler of the state. Even in ten years he will not be able to repair the disaster.

[Smaller Symbolism] 'The evil consequent on being all astray on the subject of returning' is because the course pursued is contrary to the proper course for a ruler.

[Legge] Line 6 is weak; and being at the top of the hexagram, when its action of returning is all concluded, action on the part of its subject will lead to evils such as are mentioned. 'Ten years' seems to be a round number, signifying a long time, as in hexagram 3.

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