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Treatise of Remarks on the Trigrams

Chapter 1.

[Legge] Chapter 1, paragraphs 1-3, treats of the rise of the scheme of the Yi from the wonderful qualities of the divining plant, the use of certain numbers, and the formation of the lineal figures.

1. Anciently, when the sages made the Yi, in order to give mysterious assistance to the spiritual Intelligences, they produced (the rules for the use of) the divining plant.

P. Regis translates paragraph 1 by—'The ancient (sages), the most excellent men, were the authors of the Yi-king, in making which they were assisted by an intelligent spirit, who for their help produced the plant called Shih.'

But the text will not admit of this version, nor have I found the view given in it in any Chinese writer. It is difficult to make up one's mind whether to translate—'the sage,' or 'the sages.' Khung Yin-ta contends that the writer had Fu-hsi and him alone in his mind. To me it seems otherwise. Fu-hsi, if we accept the testimony of universal Chinese consent, made the eight trigrams; but he did not make the Yi, which, by the same consent, was the production of king Wan and his son.

The text would seem to say that the sages 'produced' the plant, but this is so extravagant that the view indicated in my supplementary clause appears in all the best commentators. So understood, the Yi may be said to 'give mysterious assistance to the spiritual Intelligences,' or, if we take that name as singular (according to the analogy of chapter 6), to the Divine Being in affording a revelation of His will, as in paragraph 3. We may well say that it is a pity the revelation should be so enigmatical; but the author, it must be remembered, is writing from his own standpoint. Wan and his son, as I have endeavoured to show in the Introduction [Chapter 2, Par. 1.4], merely wished to convey, under the style and veil of divination, their moral and political lessons.

2. The number 3 was assigned to heaven, 2 to earth, and from these came the (other) numbers.

[Legge] On paragraph 2 it is said that heaven is round; and as the circumference of a circle is three times its diameter, hence 3 is the number of heaven. Again, earth is square, and as the circumference of a square is four times its length or breadth, or it consists of two pairs of equal sides, hence 2 is the number of earth.

The concluding statement about 'the other numbers' is understood of the manipulation of the divining stalks, as in [Appendix 3, Section 1, Par. 51]. That manipulation, thrice repeated, might leave three stalks each time, and 3 x 3 = 9; or 2, being in the same way in all = 6; or twice 3 and once 2 = 8; or twice 2 and once 3 = 7. These are the numbers of the 4 binary symbols, employed in forming the new figures; old yang 1 1, the old yang, = 9; young yin 1 0, the young yin, = 8; young yang 0 1, the young yang, = 7; and old yin 0 0, the old yin, = 6.

3. They contemplated the changes in the divided and undivided lines (by the process of manipulating the stalks), and formed the trigrams; from the movements that took place in the strong and weak lines, they produced (their teaching about) the separate lines. There ensued a harmonious conformity to the course (of duty) and to virtue, with a discrimination of what was right (in each particular case). They (thus) made an exhaustive discrimination of what was right, and effected the complete development of (every) nature, till they arrived (in the Yi) at what was appointed for it (by Heaven).

Chapter 2.

4. Anciently, when the sages made the Yi, it was with the design that (its figures) should be in conformity with the principles underlying the natures (of men and things), and the ordinances (for them) appointed (by Heaven). With this view they exhibited (in them) the way of heaven, calling (the lines) yin and yang; the way of earth, calling (them) the weak (or soft) and the strong (or hard); and the way of men, under the names of benevolence and righteousness. Each (trigram) embraced (those) three Powers; and, being repeated, its full form consisted of six lines. A distinction was made of (the places assigned) to the yin and yang lines, which were variously occupied, now by the strong and now by the weak forms, and thus the figure (of each hexagram) was completed.

[Legge] Chapter 2. The top line in each trigram thus belongs to the category of heaven; the bottom line to that of earth; and the middle line to that of man. The odd places should be occupied, 1 correctly,' by the undivided lines; and the even by the divided. The trigram being increased to the hexagram, lines 5 and 6 were assigned to heaven; 1 and 2 to earth; and 3 and 4 to man. 5 is the yang characteristic of heaven, and 6 the yin; so 1 and 2 in regard to earth; while 3 represents the benevolence of man, and 4 his righteousness. But all this is merely the play of fancy, and confuses the mind of the student.

Chapter 3.

5. (The symbols of) heaven and earth received their determinate positions; (those for) mountains and collections of water interchanged their influences; (those for) thunder and wind excited each other the more; and (those for) water and fire did each other no harm. (Then) among these eight symbols there was a mutual communication.

6. The numbering of the past is a natural process.; the knowledge of the coming is anticipation. Therefore in the Yi we have (both) anticipation (and the natural process).

[Legge] Chapter 3, paragraphs 5 and 6, is understood, though not very clearly, by referring to the circular arrangement of the trigrams according to Fu-hsi, as shown in Figure 2, of Plate 3. Paragraph 5 refers to the correlation of Khien and Khwan, Kan and Tui, Kan and Sun, Khan and Li. Paragraph 6 is less easy of apprehension. Starting in the same figure from Khien and numbering on the left we come to Kan by a natural process. Then we turn back, and numbering on the right, from Sun, we come by a backward process to Khwan. The same process is illustrated on a large scale by the circular arrangement of the 64 hexagrams in [Plate 2, Figure 1]. But what the scope of the paragraph is I cannot tell, and am tempted to say of it, as P. Regis does, 'Haec observatio prorsus inanis est.'

Chapter 4.

7. Thunder serves to put things in motion; wind to scatter (the genial seeds of) them; rain to moisten them; the sun to warm them; (what is symbolised by) Kan, to arrest (and keep them in their places); (by) Tui, to give them joyful course; (by) Khien, to rule them; and by Khwan, to store them up.

[Legge] In chapter 4 we have the same circular arrangement of the trigrams, though they are named in a different order; the last first and the first last. The first four are mentioned by their elemental names; the last four by the names of their lineal figures. No special significance is attached to this. If it ever had any, it has been lost.

Chapter 5.

8. God comes forth in Kan (to His producing work); He brings (His processes) into full and equal action in Sun; they are manifested to one another in Li; the greatest service is done for Him in Khwan; He rejoices in Tui; He struggles in Khien; He is comforted and enters into rest in Khan; and He completes (the work of the year) in Kan.

9. All things are made to issue forth in Kan, which is placed at the east. (The processes of production) are brought into full and equal action in Sun, which is placed at the south-east. The being brought into full and equal action refers to the purity and equal arrangement of all things. Li gives the idea of brightness. All things are now made manifest to one another. It is the trigram of the south. The sages turn their faces to the south when they give audience to all under the sky, administering government towards the region of brightness:—the idea in this procedure was taken from this. Khwan denotes the earth, (and is placed at the south-west). All things receive from it their fullest nourishment, and hence it is said, 'The greatest service is done for Him in Khwan.' Tui corresponds (to the west) and to the autumn,—the season in which all things rejoice. Hence it is said, 'He rejoices in Tui.' He struggles in Khien, which is the trigram of the north-west. The idea is that there the inactive and active conditions beat against each other. Khan denotes water. It is the trigram of the exact north,—the trigram of comfort and rest, what all things are tending to. Hence it is said, 'He is comforted and enters into rest in Khan. Kan is the trigram of the north-east. In it all things bring to a full end the issues of the past (year), and prepare the commencement of the next. Hence it is said, 'He completes (the work of the year) in Kan.'

[Legge] Chapter 5, paragraphs 8 and 9, sets forth the operations of nature in the various seasons, as being really the operations of God, who is named Ti, 'the Lord and Ruler of Heaven.' Those operations are represented in the progress by the seasons of the year, as denoted by the trigrams, according to the arrangement of them by king Wan, as shown also in Plate 3, Figure 2.

'The greatest service is done for Ti in Khwan;' Yang Wan-li (of our twelfth century, but earlier than Ku Hsi) says:—'Khwan is a minister or servant. Ti is his ruler, All that a ruler has to do with his minister is to require his service.' 'On the struggles in Khien' he says:—'Khien is the trigram of the north-west, when the yin influence is growing strong and the yang diminishing.'

The 'purity' predicated in paragraph 9 of things in Sun, was explained by Kang Khang-khang (our second century) as equivalent to 'newness,' referring to the brightness of all things in the light of spring and summer. On 'all things receive from the earth their fullest nourishment' the same Yang, quoted above, says:—'The earth performs the part of a mother, All things are its children. What a mother has to do for her children is simply to nourish them.'

Chapter 6.

10. When we speak of Spirit we mean the subtle (presence and operation of God) with all things. For putting all things in motion there is nothing more vehement than thunder; for scattering them there is nothing more effective than wind; for drying them up there is nothing more parching than fire; for giving them pleasure and satisfaction there is nothing more grateful than a lake or marsh; for moistening them there is nothing more enriching than water; for bringing them to an end and making them begin again there is nothing more fully adapted than Kan. Thus water and fire contribute together to the one object; thunder and wind do not act contrary to each other; mountains and collections of water interchange their influences. It is in this way, that they are able to change and transform, and to give completion to all things.

[Legge] Chapter 6 is the sequel of the preceding. There ought to have been some mention of Shan or, 'Spirit' in chapter 5. It is the first character in this chapter, and the two characters that follow show that it is here resumed for the purpose of being explained. As it does not occur in chapter 5, we must suppose that the author of it here brings forward and explains the idea of it that was in his mind. Many of the commentators recognise this,—e. g. Liang Yin, as quoted in the Introduction, [Chapter 3, Par. 8.15].

Two other peculiarities in the style of the chapter are pointed out and explained (after a fashion) by Zhui King (earlier, probably, than the Sung dynasty):—'The action of six of the trigrams is described, but no mention is made of Khien or Khwan. But heaven and earth do nothing, and yet do everything; hence they are able to perfect the spirit-like subtilty of the action of thunder, wind, and the other things. (Moreover), we have the trigram Kan mentioned, the only one mentioned by its name, instead of our reading "mountains," The reason is, that the putting in motion, the scattering, the parching, and the moistening, are all the palpable effects of thunder, wind, fire, and water. But what is ascribed to Kan, the ending and the recommencing all things, is not so evident of mountains. On this account the name of the trigram is given, while the things in nature represented by the trigrams are given in those other cases. The style suitable in each case is employed.'

Chapter 7.

11. Khien is (the symbol of) strength; Khwan, of docility; Kan, of stimulus to movement; Sun, of penetration; Khan, of what is precipitous and perilous; Li, of what is bright and what is catching; Kan, of stoppage or arrest; and Tui, of pleasure and satisfaction.

[Legge] Chapter 7 mentions the attributes, called also the 'virtues,' of the different trigrams. It is not easy to account for the qualities—'their nature and feelings'—ascribed to them. Khung Ying-ta says:—'Khien is represented by heaven, which revolves without ceasing, and so it is the symbol of strength; Khwan by the earth, which receives docilely the action of heaven, and so it is the symbol of docility; Kan by thunder, which excites and moves all things, and so it is the symbol of what produces movement; Sun by Wind, which enters everywhere, and so it is the symbol of penetration; Khan by water, found in a place perilous and precipitous, and the name is explained accordingly; Li by fire, and fire is sure to lay hold of things, and so it is the symbol of being attached to; Kan by a mountain, the mass of which is still and arrests progress, and so it is the symbol of stoppage or arrest; and Tui by a lake or marsh, which moistens all things, and so it is the symbol of satisfaction.'

The Khang-hsi editors consider this explanation of the qualities of the trigrams to be unsatisfactory, and certainly it has all the appearance of an ex post facto account. They prefer the views of the philosopher Shao (of our eleventh century), which is based on the arrangement of the undivided and divided lines in the figures. This to me is more unsatisfactory than the other. The editors say, moreover, that Shao's account of the three yang trigrams, Kan, Khan, and Kan is correct, and that of the three yin, Sun, Li, and Tui incorrect; but this would be based on king Wan's arrangement, which does not appear to have place here.

Chapter 8.

12. Khien (suggests the idea of) a horse; Khwan, that of an ox; Kan, that of the dragon; Sun, that of a fowl; Khan, that of a pig; Li, that of a pheasant; Kan, that of a dog; and Tui, that of a sheep.

[Legge] Chapter 8. In [Appendix 3, Section 2, Par. 11], it is said that Fu-hsi, in making his trigrams, was guided by 'the consideration of things apart from his own person.' Of such things we have a specimen here. The creatures are assigned, in their classes, to the different trigrams, symbolising the ideas in the last chapter. We must not make any difference of sex in translating their names.

Chapter 9.

13. Khien suggests the idea of the head; Khwan, that of the belly; Kan, that of the feet Sun, that of the thighs; Khan, that of the cars Li, that of the eyes; Kan, that of the hands and Tui, that of the mouth.

[Legge] Chapter 9. Fu-hsi found also 'things near at hand, in his own person,' while making the trigrams. We have here a specimen of such things.

Chapter 10.

14. Khien is (the symbol of) heaven, and hence has the appellation of father. Khwan is (the symbol of) earth, and hence has the appellation of mother, Kan shows a first application (of Khwan to Khien), resulting in getting (the first of) its male (or undivided lines), and hence is called 'the oldest son.' Sun shows a first application (of Khien to Khwan), resulting in getting (the first of) its female (or divided lines), and hence is called 'the oldest daughter.' Khan shows a second application (of Khwan to Khien), resulting in getting (the second of) its male (or undivided lines), and hence is called 'the second son.' Li shows a second application (of Khien to Khwan), resulting in getting the second of its female (or divided lines), and hence is called 'the second daughter.' Kan shows a third application (of Khwan to Khien), resulting in getting (the third of) its male (or undivided lines), and hence is called 'the youngest son.' Tui shows a third application (of Khien to Khwan), resulting in getting (the third of) its female (or divided lines), and hence is called 'the youngest daughter.'

[Legge] Chapter 10 has been discussed in the Introduction, [Chapter 3, Parr. 8.3-8.7]. Let it simply be added here, that the account which it does give of the formation of the six subsidiary trigrams is inconsistent with their gradual rise from the mutual imposition of the undivided and divided lines.

Chapter 11.

[Legge] 11 Chapter 11 may be made to comprehend all the paragraphs from the 15th to the end, and shows how universally the ideas underlying the Yi are diffused through the world of nature. The quality of the several trigrams will be found with more or less of truth, and with less or more of fancy, in the objects mentioned in connexion with them. More needs not to be said on the chapter than has been done in the Introduction, [Chapter 3, Section 8].

15. Khien suggests the idea of heaven; of a circle; of a ruler; of a father; of jade; of metal; of cold; of ice; of deep red; of a good horse; of an old horse; of a thin horse; of a piebald horse; and of the fruit of trees.

16. Khwan suggests the idea of the earth; of a mother; of cloth; of a caldron; of parsimony; of a turning lathe; of a young heifer; of a large waggon; of what is variegated; of a multitude; and of a handle and support. Among, soils it denotes what is black.

17. Kan suggests the idea of thunder; of the dragon; of (the union of) the azure and the yellow; of development; of a great highway; of the eldest son; of decision and vehemence; of bright young bamboos; of sedges and rushes; among horses, of the good neigher; of one whose white hind-leg appears, of the prancer, and of one with a white star in his forehead. Among the productions of husbandry it suggests the idea of what returns to life from its disappearance (beneath the surface), of what in the end becomes the strongest, and of what is the most luxuriant.

18. Sun suggests the idea of wood; of wind; of the oldest daughter; of a plumb-line; of a carpenter's square; of being white; of being long; of being lofty; of advancing and receding; of want of decision; and of strong scents. It suggests in the human body, the idea of deficiency of hair; of a wide forehead; of a large development of the white of the eye. (Among tendencies), it suggests the close pursuit of gain, even to making three hundred per cent in the market. In the end it may become the trigram of decision.

19. Khan suggests the idea of water; of channels and ditches (for draining and irrigation); of being hidden and lying concealed; of being now straight, and now crooked; of a bow, and of a wheel. As referred to man, it suggests the idea of an increase of anxiety; of distress of mind; of pain in the ears;—it is the trigram of the blood; it suggests the idea of what is red. As referred to horses, it suggests the idea of the horse with an elegant spine; of one with a high spirit; of one with a drooping head; of one with a thin hoof; and of one with a shambling step. As referred to carriages, it suggests one that encounters many risks. It suggests what goes right through; the moon; a thief. Referred to trees, it suggests that which is strong, and firm-hearted.

20. Li suggests the emblem of fire; of the sun; of lightning; of the second daughter; of buff-coat and helmet; of spear and sword. Referred to men, it suggests the large belly. It is the trigram of dryness. It suggests the emblem of a turtle; of a crab; of a spiral univalve; of the mussel; and of the tortoise. Referred to trees, it suggests one which is hollow and rotten above.

21. Kan suggests the emblem of a mountain; of a by-path; of a small rock; of a gateway; of the fruits of trees and creeping plants; of a porter or a eunuch; of the (ring) finger; of the dog; of the rat; of birds with powerful bills; among trees, of those which are strong, with many joints.

22. Tui suggests the emblem of a low-lying collection of water; of the youngest daughter; of a sorceress; of the mouth and tongue; of the decay and putting down (of things in harvest); of the removal (of fruits) hanging (from the stems or branches); among soils, of what is strong and salt; of a concubine; and of a sheep.

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