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33. Thun [Retiring]

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Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Thun indicates successful progress (in its circumstances). To a small extent it will (still) be advantageous to be firm and correct.

[Legge] Thun is the hexagram of the sixth month; the yin influence is represented by two weak lines, and has made good its footing in the year. The figure thus suggested to king Wan the growth of small and unprincipled men in the state, before whose advance superior men were obliged to retire. This is the theme of his essay,—how, 'when small men multiply and increase in power, the necessity of the time requires superior men to withdraw before them.' Yet the auspice of Thun is not all bad. By firm correctness the threatened evil may be arrested to a small extent.

Comments on the Thwan

1. 'Thun indicates successful progress:'—that is, in the very retiring which Thun denotes there is such progress. The strong (line) is in the ruling place, (the fifth), and is properly responded to (by the second line). The action takes place according to (the requirement of) the time.

2. 'To a small extent it will (still) be advantageous to be firm and correct:'—(the small men) are gradually encroaching and advancing.

3. Great indeed is the significance of (what is required to be done in) the time that necessitates retiring.

[Legge] 'The superior man,' it is said, 'advances or withdraws according to the character of the time. The strength and correct position of the fifth line show that he is able to maintain himself; and as it is responded to by the weak second line, no opposition to what is correct in him would come from any others. He might therefore keep his place; but looking at the two weak lines, 1 and 2, he recognises in them the advance and irrepressible progress of small men, and that for a time it is better for him to give way and withdraw from the field. Thus there is successful progress even in his retiring.'

Great Symbolism

(The trigram representing) the sky and below it that for a mountain form Thun. The superior man, in accordance with this, keeps small men at a distance, not by showing that he hates them, but by his own dignified gravity.

[Legge] Ku Hsi says:—'The sky is illimitable; a mountain is high, but has its limits; the union of these is an emblem of retiring.' I do not understand such embleming. Khang-zze says:—'Below the sky is a mountain. The mountain rises up below the sky, and its height is arrested, while the sky goes up higher and higher, till they come to be apart from each other. In this we have an emblem of retiring and avoiding.' We feel somewhat as if there were a meaning in this; but, as in many other cases, both the symbolism and its application are but dimly apprehended.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first SIX, divided, shows a retiring tail. The position is perilous. No movement in any direction should be made.

[Smaller Symbolism] 1. There is 'the perilousness of the position shown by the retiring tail:'—but if 'no movement' be made, what disaster can there be?

[Legge] 'A retiring tail' seems to suggest the idea of the subject of the lines hurrying away, which would only aggravate the evil and danger of the time.

2. The second SIX, divided, shows its subject holding (his purpose) fast as if by a (thong made from the) hide of a yellow ox, which cannot be broken.

[Smaller Symbolism] 2. 'He holds it as; by (a thong from the hide of) a yellow ox:'—his purpose is firm.

[Legge] 'His purpose' in line 2 is the purpose to withdraw. The weak 2 responds correctly to the strong 5, and both are central. The purpose therefore is symbolled as in the text. The 'yellow' colour of the ox is introduced because of its being 'correct,' and of a piece with the central place of the line.

3. The third NINE, undivided, shows one retiring but bound,—to his distress and peril. (If he were to deal with his binders as in) nourishing a servant or concubine, it would be fortunate for him.

[Smaller Symbolism] 3. 'The peril connected with the case of one retiring, though bound,' is due to the (consequent) distress and exhaustion. 'If he were (to deal as in) nourishing a servant or concubine, it would be fortunate for him:'—but a great affair cannot be dealt with in this way.

[Legge] Line 3 has no proper correlate in 6 and its subject allows himself to be entangled and impeded by the subjects of 1 and 2. He is too familiar with them, and they presume, and fetter his movements;—compare Analects, 17. 25. He should keep them at a distance.

4. The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject retiring notwithstanding his likings. In a superior man this will lead to good fortune; a small man cannot attain to this.

[Smaller Symbolism] 4. 'A superior man retires notwithstanding his likings; a small man cannot attain to this.'

[Legge] Line 4 has a correlate in 1, and is free to exercise the decision belonging to its subject. The line is the first in Khien, symbolic of strength.

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject retiring in an admirable way. With firm correctness there will be good fortune.

[Smaller Symbolism] 5. 'He retires in an admirable way, and with firm correctness there will be good fortune:'—this is due to the rectitude of his purpose.

[Legge] In the Shu 4, v, Section 2. 9, the worthy I Yin is made to say, 'The minister will not for favour or gain continue in an office whose work is done;' and the Khang-hsi editors refer to his words as an illustration of what is said on line 5. It has its correlate in 2, and its subject carries out the purpose to retire 'in an admirable way.'

6. The sixth NINE, undivided, shows its subject retiring in a noble way. It will be advantageous in every respect.

[Smaller Symbolism] 6. 'He retires in a noble way, and his doing so will be advantageous in every respect:'—he who does so has no doubts about his course.

[Legge] Line 6 is strong, and with no correlate to detain it in 3. Its subject vigorously and happily carries out the idea of the hexagram.

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