Previous / Contents / Next

51. Kan [Thunder, Movement]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Kan gives the intimation of ease and development. When (the time of) movement (which it indicates) comes, (the subject of the hexagram) will be found looking out with apprehension, and yet smiling and talking cheerfully. When the movement (like a crash of thunder) terrifies all within a hundred li, he will be (like the sincere worshipper) who is not (startled into) letting go his ladle and (cup of) sacrificial spirits.

[Legge] Kan among the trigrams represents thunder, and, according to Wan's arrangement and significance of them, 'the oldest son.' It is a phonetic character in which the significant constituent is Yu, meaning rain, and with which are formed most characters that denote atmospherical phenomena. The hexagram is formed of the trigram Kan redoubled, and may be taken as representing the crash or peal of thunder; but we have seen that the attribute or virtue of the trigram is 'moving, exciting power;' and thence, symbolically, the character is indicative of movement taking place in society or in the kingdom. This is the meaning of the hexagram; and the subject is the conduct to be pursued in a time of movement—such as insurrection or revolution—by the party promoting, and most interested in, the situation. It is shown how he ought to be aware of the dangers of the time, and how by precaution and the regulation of himself he may overcome them.

The indication of a successful issue given by the figure is supposed to be given by the undivided line at the bottom of the trigram. The subject of it must be superior to the subjects of the two divided lines above. It is in the idea of the hexagram that he should be moving and advancing;—and what can his movement be but successful?

The next sentence shows him sensible of the danger of the occasion, but confident and self-possessed. The concluding sentence shows him rapt in his own important affairs, like a sincere worshipper, thinking only of the service in which he is engaged. Such a symbol is said to be suggested by Wan's significance of Kan as 'the oldest son (page 33).' It is his to succeed to his father, and the hexagram, as following Ting, shows him presiding over the sacrifices that have been prepared in the caldron. This is too fanciful.

Comments on the Thwan

1. Kan (gives the intimation of) ease and development.

2. 'When the (time of) movement (which it indicates) comes, (its subject) will be found looking out with apprehension:'—that feeling of dread leads to happiness. 'And yet smiling and talking cheerfully:'—the issue (of his dread) is that he adopts (proper) laws (for his course).

'The movement (like a crash of thunder) terrifies all within a hundred li:'—it startles the distant and frightens the near.

'He will be like the sincere worshipper, who is not startled into letting go his ladle and cup of sacrificial spirits:'—he makes his appearance, and maintains his ancestral temple and the altars of the spirits of the land and grain, as presiding at all sacrifices.

[Legge] Paragraph 1. See what is said on the Text.

2. The explanations of the Thwan here are good; but in no way deduced from the figure.

3. The [underlined] portion of the text . . . is supposed to have dropt out of the Chinese copies. The explanation of it that follows is based on Wan's view of Kan as representing the oldest son. See on the Text.

Great Symbolism

(The trigram representing) thunder, being repeated, forms Kan. The superior man, in accordance with this, is fearful and apprehensive, cultivates (his virtue), and examines (his faults).

[Legge] The account of the Great Symbolism here calls for no remark. Nor does the application of it; but may it not be too late to fear, and order anew one's thoughts and actions when the retributions in providence are taking place? Commentators are haunted by the shadow of this question; but they are unable rightly to meet it.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject, when the movement approaches, looking out and around with apprehension, and afterwards smiling and talking cheerfully. There will be good fortune.

[Smaller Symbolism] 1. 'When the (time of) movement comes, he will be found looking out with apprehension:'— that feeling of dread leads to happiness. 'He yet smiles and talks cheerfully:'—the issue (of his dread) is that he adopts (proper) laws (for his course).

[Legge] What is said on line 1 is little more than a repetition of the principal part of the Thwan. The line is undivided, and gives the auspice of good fortune. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] Paragraph 1 is the same as 2 in [the 'Comments on the Thwan,' above].

2. The second SIX, divided, shows its subject, when the movement approaches, in a position of peril. He judges it better to let go the articles (in his possession), and to ascend a very lofty height. There is no occasion for him to pursue after (the things he has let go); in seven days he will find them.

[Smaller Symbolism] 2. 'When the movement approaches, he is in a position of peril:'—(a weak line) is mounted on a strong (one).

[Legge] 'The position of peril' to the subject of line 2 is suggested, as [the Smaller Symbolism] says, by its position, immediately above 1. But the rest of the symbolism is obscure, and Ku Hsi says he does not understand it. The common interpretation appears in the version. The subject of the line does what he can to get out of danger; and finally, as is signified by the central position of the line, the issue is better than could have been expected. On the specification of 'seven days,' see what is said in the ['Comments on the Thwan' of hexagram 24]. On its use here Khang-zze says:—'The places of a diagram amount to 6. The number 7 is the first of another. When the movement symbolised by Kan is gone by, things will be as they were before.'

3. The third SIX, divided, shows its subject distraught amid the startling movements going on. If those movements excite him to (right) action, there will be no mistake.

[Smaller Symbolism] 3. 'He is distraught amid the startling movements going on:'—(the third line) is in a position unsuitable to it.

[Legge] Line 3 is divided, and where an undivided line should be; but if its subject move on to the fourth place, which would be right for him, the issue will not be bad.

4. The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject, amid the startling movements, supinely sinking (deeper) in the mud.

[Smaller Symbolism] 4. 'Amid the startling movements, he sinks supinely in the mud:'—the light in him has not yet been brilliantly developed.

[Legge] The 4th line, however, has a bad auspice of its own. It is undivided in an even place, and it is pressed by the divided line on either side, hence its subject is represented as supinely sinking in the mud. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] Paragraph 4. Compare [hexagram 21, line 4, 'Smaller Symbolism'].

5. The fifth SIX, divided, shows its subject going and coming amidst the startling movements (of the time), and always in peril; but perhaps he will not incur loss, and find business (which he can accomplish).

[Smaller Symbolism] 5. 'He goes and comes amid the startling movements, and (always) in peril:'—full of risk are his doings. 'What he has to do has to be done in his central position:'—far will he be from incurring any loss.

[Legge] Line 5 is divided, in an odd place, and that in which the action of the hexagram may be supposed to be concentrated. Hence its subject is always in peril; but his central position indicates safety in the end.

6. The topmost SIX, divided, shows its subject, amidst the startling movements (of the time), in breathless dismay and looking round him with trembling apprehension. If he take action, there will be evil. If, while the startling movements have not reached his own person and his neighbourhood, (he were to take precautions), there would be no error, though his relatives might (still) speak against him.

[Smaller Symbolism] 6. 'Amid the startling movements he is in breathless dismay:'—he has not found out (the course of) the due mean. 'Though evil (threatens), he will not fall into error:'—he is afraid of being warned by his neighbours.

[Legge] Line 6 is weak, and has to abide the concluding terrors of the movement. Action on the part of its subject is sure to be evil. If, however, he were to take precautions, he might escape with only the censures of his relatives. But I do not see anything in the figure to indicate this final symbolism. The writer, probably, had a case in his mind, which it suited; but what that was we do not know.

Previous / Contents / Next


Return to Home Page

Send comments to

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