Previous / Contents / Next

61. Kung Fu [Inmost Sincerity]


Thwan, or Overall Judgment (Attributed to King Wan)

Kung Fu (moves even) pigs and fish, and leads to good fortune. There will be advantage in crossing the great stream. There will be advantage in being firm and correct.

[Legge] Kung Fu, the name of this hexagram, may be represented in English by 'Inmost Sincerity.' It denotes the highest quality of man, and gives its possessor power so that he prevails with spiritual beings, with other men, and with the lower creatures. It is the subject of the 'Doctrine of the Mean' from the 21st chapter onwards, where Remusat rendered it by 'la perfection,' 'la perfection morale,' and Intorcetta and his coadjutors by 'vera solidaque perfectio.' The lineal figure has suggested to the Chinese commentators, from the author of the ['Comments on the Thwan,' below], two ideas in it which deserve to be pointed out. There are two divided lines in the centre and two undivided below them and above them. The divided lines in the centre are held to represent the heart or mind free from all pre-occupation, without any consciousness of self; and the undivided lines, on each side of it, in the centre of the constituent trigrams are held to denote the solidity of the virtue of one so free from selfishness. There is no unreality in it, not a single flaw.

The 'Daily Lecture' at the conclusion of its paraphrase of the Thwan refers to the history of the ancient Shun, and the wonderful achievements of his virtue. The authors give no instance of the affecting, of 'pigs and fishes' by sincerity, and say that these names are symbolical of men, the rudest and most unsusceptible of being acted on. The Text says that the man thus gifted with sincerity will succeed in the most difficult enterprises. Remarkable is the concluding sentence that he must be firm and correct. Here, as elsewhere throughout the Yi, there comes out the practical character which has distinguished the Chinese people and their best teaching all along the line of history.

Comments on the Thwan

1. In Kung Fu we have the (two) weak lines in the innermost part (of the figure), and strong lines occupying the central places (in the trigrams). (We have the attributes) of pleased satisfaction and flexible penetration. Sincerity (thus symbolled) will transform a country.

2. 'Pigs and fish (are moved), and there will be good fortune:'—sincerity reaches to (and affects even) pigs and fishes.

'There will be advantage in crossing the great stream:'—(we see in the figure) one riding on (the emblem of) wood, which forms an empty boat.

3. In (the exercise of the virtue denoted by) Kung Fu, (it is said that) 'there will be advantage in being firm and correct:'—in that virtue indeed we have the response (of man) to Heaven.

[Legge] 1. The structure of the lineal figure which is here insisted on has been pointed out in explaining the Thwan. On what is further said as to the attributes of the trigrams and their effect, Khang-zze observes:—'We have in the sincerity shown in the upper trigram superiors condescending to those below them in accordance with their peculiarities, and we have in that of the lower those below delighted to follow their superiors. The combination of these two things leads to the transformation of the country and state.'

Paragraph 2. The two divided lines in the middle of the figure are supposed to give the semblance of an empty boat, and an empty boat, it is said (with doubtful truth), is not liable to be upset. The trigram Sun symbolises both wind and wood.

A good commentary on paragraph 3 is supplied in many passages of 'the Doctrine of the Mean,' e. g. chap. 20. 18:—'Sincerity is the way of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is the way of men.'

Great Symbolism

(The trigram representing the waters of) a marsh and that for wind above it form Kung Fu. The superior man, in accordance with this, deliberates about cases of litigation and delays (the infliction of) death.

[Legge] Dissatisfied with previous attempts to explain the Great Symbolism, the Khang-hsi editors say:—'The wind penetrates things. The grass and trees of the level ground are shaken and tossed by it; the rocky valleys and caverns in their sides have it blowing round about them; and it acts also on the depths of the collected waters, the cold of which disappears and the ice is melted before it. This is what makes it the emblem of that perfect sincerity which penetrates everywhere. The litigations of the people are like the deep and dark places of the earth. The kings examine with discrimination into all secret matters connected with them.. even those which are here mentioned, till there is nothing that is not penetrated by their perfect sincerity.' But all this is greatly strained. The symbolism of the eight trigrams gets pretty well played out in the course of the 64 hexagrams.

Line Statements (Attributed to the Duke of Kau)

1. The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject resting (in himself). There will be good fortune. If he sought to any other, he would not find rest.

[Smaller Symbolism] 1. 'The first NINE, (undivided), shows its subject resting (in himself). There will be good fortune:'—no change has yet come over his purpose.

[Legge] The translation of paragraph 1 is according to the view approved by the Khang-hsi editors. The ordinary view makes the other to whom the subject of line 1 looks or might look to be the subject of 4; but they contend that, excepting in the case of 3 and 6, the force of correlation should be discarded from the study of this hexagram; for the virtue of sincerity is all centred in itself, thence derived and thereby powerful. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] 1. 'No change has come over the purpose:'—the sincerity, that is, perfect in itself and of itself, continues.

2. The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject (like) the crane crying out in her hidden retirement, and her young ones responding to her. (It is as if it were said), 'I have a cup of good spirits,' (and the response were), 'I will partake of it with you.'

[Smaller Symbolism] 2. 'Her young ones respond to her:'—from the (common) wish of the inmost heart.

[Legge] For paragraph 2, see [Appendix 3, Section 1, Par.42]. It is in rhyme, and I have there rendered it in rhyme. The 'young ones of the crane' are represented by line 1. In the third and fourth sentences we have the symbolism of two men brought together by their sympathy in virtue. The subject of the paragraph is the effect of sincerity. [Legge: Smaller Symbolism] 2. One bond of loving regard unites the mother bird and her young; so answers the heart of man to man.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows its subject having met with his mate. Now he beats his drum, and now he leaves off. Now he weeps, and now he sings.

[Smaller Symbolism] 3. 'Now he beats his drum, and now he leaves off:'—the position (of the line) is the appropriate one for it.

[Legge] The 'mate' of line 3 is 6. The principle of correlation comes in. Sincerity, not left to itself, is influenced from without, and hence come the changes and uncertainty in the state and moods of the subject of the line.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject (like) the moon nearly full, and (like) a horse (in a chariot) whose fellow disappears. There will be no error.

[Smaller Symbolism] 4. 'A horse the fellow of which disappears:'—he breaks from his (former) companions, and mounts upwards.

[Legge] Line 4 is weak, and in its correct place. The subject of it has discarded the correlate in 1, and hastens on to the confidence of the ruler in 5, being symbolised as the moon nearly full. The other symbol of the horse whose fellow has disappeared has reference to the discarding of the subject of 1. Anciently chariots and carriages were drawn by four horses, two outsides and two insides. Lines 1 and 4 were a pair of these; but 1 disappears here from the team, and 4 goes on and joins 5.

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject perfectly sincere, and linking (others) to him in closest union. There will be no error.

[Smaller Symbolism] 5. 'He is perfectly sincere, and links others to him in closest union:'—the place (of the line) is the correct and appropriate one.

[Legge] Line 5 is strong and central, in the ruler's place. Its subject must be the sage on the throne, whose sincerity will go forth and bind all in union with himself.

6. The topmost NINE, undivided, shows its subject in chanticleer (trying to) mount to heaven. Even with firm correctness there will be evil.

[Smaller Symbolism] 6. 'Chanticleer (tries to) mount to heaven:'—but how can (such an effort) continue long?

[Legge] Line 6 should be divided, but is undivided; and coming after 5, what can the subject of it do? His efforts will be ineffectual, and injurious to himself. He is symbolised by a cock—literally, 'the plumaged voice.' But a cock is not fitted to fly high, and in attempting to do so will only suffer hurt.

Previous / Contents / Next


Return to Home Page

Send comments to

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