I Ching Hexagram 25 - Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected)

hexagram 25
  • Above Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven
  • Below Chen the Arousing, Thunder


Ch'ien, heaven is above; Chen, movement, is below. The lower trigram Chen is under the influence of the strong line it has received form above, from heaven. When, in accord with this, movement follows the law of heaven, man is innocent and without guile. His mind is natural and true, unshadowed by reflection or ulterior designs. For wherever conscious purpose is to be seen, there the truth and innocence of nature have been lost. Nature that is not directed by the spirit is not true but degenerate nature. Starting out with the idea of the natural, the train of thought in part goes somewhat further and thus the hexagram includes also the idea of the fundamental or unexpected.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Innocence. Supreme success. Perseverance furthers. If someone is not as he should be he has misfortune, And it does not further him to undertake anything.

Judgement Commentary

Man has received from heaven a nature innately good, to guide him in all his movements. By devotion to this divine spirit within himself, he attains an unsullied innocence that leads him to do right with instinctive sureness and without any ulterior thought of reward and personal advantage. This instinctive certainty brings about supreme success and 'furthers through perseverance'. However, not everything instinctive is nature in this higher sense of the word, but only that which is right and in accord with the will of heaven. Without this quality of rightness, an unreflecting, instinctive way of acting brings only misfortune. Confucius says about this: 'He who departs from innocence, what does he come to? Heaven's will and blessing do not go with his deeds'.

The Image

Under heaven thunder rolls: All things attain the natural state of innocence. Thus the kings of old, rich in virtue and in harmony with the time, fostered and nourished all beings.

Image Commentary

In springtime when thunder, life energy, begins to move again under the heavens, everything sprouts and grows, and all beings receive for the creative activity of nature the childlike innocence of their original state. So it is with the good rulers of mankind: drawing on the spiritual wealth at their command, they take care of all forms of life and all forms of culture and do everything to further them, and at the proper time.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Innocent behavior brings good fortune.

The original impulses of the heart are always good, so that we may follow them confidently, assured of good fortune and achievement of our aims.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 12 - P'i / Standstill (Stagnation). This lines situation is described in very positive terms however the resultant hexagram is 12 or standstill. This indicates that just because one does something innocently and unaware of any possible negative consequences we are not immune to those consequences Legge says "His advance will be accompanied with good fortune" but the outcome described in hexagram 12 is still bad. Be more cautious, carefully consider the end at the beginning.

Six in the second place means: If one does not count on the harvest while plowing, nor on the use of the ground while clearing it, it furthers one to undertake something.

We should do every task for its own sake as time and place demand and not with an eye to the result. Then each task turns out well, and anything we undertake succeeds.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 10 - Lu / Treading (conduct). Here we don't count your chickens before they hatch but do what is required when required. Legge says "There is an entire freedom in its subject from selfish or mercenary motive." The resultant hexagram 10 indicates that despite a dangerous situation we will successfully achieve our goals. Perhaps the danger is averted by our good hearted approach to it?

Six in the third place means: Undeserved misfortune. The cow that was tethered by someone is the wanderer's gain, the citizen's loss.

Sometimes undeserved misfortune befalls a man at the hands of another, as for instance when someone passes by and takes a tethered cow along with him. His gain is the owner's loss. In all transactions, no matter how innocent, we must accommodate ourselves to the demands of the time, otherwise unexpected misfortune overtakes us.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 13 - T'ung Jen / Fellowship with Men. Bad luck is on the way, this is not our fault. Legge suggests that sometimes innocence "...lays its subject open to this misfortune." The resultant hexagram 13 advises us to make ourselves known to our neighbour's (co-workers?) and with their support bring success to our endevours.

Nine in the fourth place means: He who can be persevering remains without blame.

We cannot lose what really belongs to us, even if we throw it away. Therefore we need have no anxiety. All that need concern us is that we should remain true to our own natures and not listen to others.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 42 - I / Increase. Sometimes we need reminding that things that really belong to us can not be taken or lost. Legge is rather vague here but agrees with Wilhelm that "...if its subject can remain firm and correct, there will be no error." The resultant hexagram 42, Increase, seems to indicates that whatever was lost may quickly return. No intimation of success is given for this line.

Nine in the fifth place means: Use no medicine in an illness incurred through no fault of your own. It will pass of itself.

An unexpected evil may come accidentally from without. If it does not originate in one's own nature or have a foothold there, one should not resort to external means to eradicate it, but should quietly let nature take its course. Then improvement will come of itself.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 21 - Shih Ho / Biting Through. The problems for this line will pass by themselves Legge's interpretation of this line states "Let him not use medicine, and he will have occasion for joy in his recovery." The resultant hexagram 21 seems to contradict this lines augury as it counsels "When an obstacle to union arises, energetic biting through brings success." Does this mean that we should indeed seek to cure our own problems ourselves, or not?

Nine at the top means: Innocent action brings misfortune. Nothing furthers.

When, in a given situation, the time is not ripe for further progress, the best thing to do is to wait quietly, without ulterior designs. If one acts thoughtlessly and tries to push ahead in opposition to fate, success will not be achieved.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 17 - Sui / Following. Innocence is no help here. If we seek to act we fail. Legge's version "...shows its subject free from insincerity, yet sure to fall into error." The resultant hexagram 17 counsels us to learn to serve others rather than try to force ourselves to the front and lead. Perhaps that is what this line is warning about?

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 25 - Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected) translation of this hexagram.