I Ching Hexagram 28 - Ta Kuo / Preponderance of the Great

hexagram 28
  • Above Tui the Joyous, Lake
  • Below Sun the Gentle, Wind, Wood


This hexagram consists of four strong lines inside and two weak lines outside. When the strong are outside and the weak inside, all is well and there is nothing out of balance, nothing extraordinary in the situation. Here, however, the opposite is the case. The hexagram represents a beam that is thick and heavy in the middle but too weak at the ends. This is a condition that cannot last; it must be changed, must pass, or misfortune will result.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Preponderance of the Great. The ridgepole sags to the breaking point. It furthers one to have somewhere to go. Success.

Judgement Commentary

The weight of the great is excessive. The load is too heavy for the strength of the supports. The ridgepole on which the whole roof rests, sags to the breaking point, because its supporting ends are too weak for the load they bear. It is an exceptional time and situation; therefore extraordinary measures are demanded. It is necessary to find a way of transition as quickly as possible, and to take action. This promises success. For although the strong element is in excess, it is in the middle, that is, at the center of gravity, so that a revolution is not to be feared. Nothing is to be achieved by forcible measures. The problem must be solved by gently penetration to the meaning of the situation (as is suggested by the attribute of the inner trigram, Sun); then the change-over to other conditions will be successful. It demands real superiority; therefore the time when the great preponderates is a momentous time.

The Image

The lake rises above the trees: The image of Preponderance of the Great. Thus the superior man, when he stands alone, is unconcerned and if he has to renounce the world he is undaunted.

Image Commentary

Extraordinary times when the great preponderates are like flood times when the lake rises over the treetops. But such conditions are temporary. The two trigrams indicate the attitude proper to such exceptional times: the symbol of the trigram Sun is the tree, which stands firm even though it stands alone, and the attribute of Tui is joyousness, which remains undaunted even if it must renounce the world.

The Lines

Six at the beginning means: To spread white rushes underneath. No blame.

When a man wishes to undertake an enterprise in extraordinary times, he must be extraordinarily cautious, just as when setting a heavy thing down on the floor, one takes care to put rushes under it, so that nothing will break. This caution, though it may seem exaggerated, is not a mistake. Exceptional enterprises cannot succeed unless utmost caution is observed in their beginnings and in the laying of their foundations.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 43 Kuai / Break-through (Resoluteness). Establishing the foundations of any enterprise is most important. This line takes all due care to make sure no problems will result from poor preparation. Legge says this lines subject is "...distinguished by his carefulness." The resultant hexagram 43 predicts that conditions will culminate in a breakthrough in whatever conditions were the cause for this need for action. Kuai is very clear that great courage and determination is required here.

Nine in the second place means: A dry poplar sprouts at the root. An older man takes a young wife. Everything furthers.

Wood is near water; hence the image of an old poplar sprouting at the root. This means an extraordinary situation arises when an older man marries a young girl who suits him. Despite the unusualness of the situation, all goes well. From the point of view of politics, the meaning is that in exceptional times one does well to join with the lowly, for this affords a possibility of renewal.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 31 - Hsien / Influence (Wooing). Extraordinary times can bring about extraordinary events. What would have been most unusual becomes an acceptable option that generates success. Legge uses the same symbolism as Wilhem "An old husband with a young wife will yet have children." The resultant hexagram 31 shows this situation being successful "Success. Perseverance furthers. To take a maiden to wife brings good fortune." Associating with those whom one would not previously considered suitable will be successful.

Nine in the third place means: The ridgepole sags to the breaking point. Misfortune.

This indicates a type of man who in times of preponderance of the great insists on pushing ahead. He accepts no advice from others, and therefore they in turn are not willing to lend him support. Because of this the burden grows, until the structure of things bends or breaks. Plunging willfully ahead in times of danger only hastens the catastrophe.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 47 - K'un / Oppression (Exhaustion). Overconfident and arrogant the subject of this line brings trouble to himself. No one comes to his aid when he needs it. Legge criticises the subject of this line " ...confident in his own strength. Alone, he is unequal to the extraordinary strain on him." We see the inevitable outcome in the resultant hexagram 47 Oppression/Exhaustion. "Times of adversity are the reverse of times of success" but there is still an opportunity for improvement if the subject of this line learns his lesson. Alas I doubt he will.

Nine in the fourth place means: The ridgepole is braced. Good fortune. If there are ulterior motives it is humiliating.

Through friendly relations with people of lower rank, a responsible man succeeds in becoming master of the situation. But if, instead of working for the rescue of the whole, he were to misuse his connections to obtain personal power and success, it would lead to humiliation.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 48 Ching / The Well. Here we see sufficient strength to deal with the extraordinary times. A warning about abusing this success for selfish ends is given. Legge predicts success as well with the following warning "If there are ulterior motives it is humiliating." The outcome is seen in hexagram 48, The Well, which shows that ones success can be damaged if one act inappropriately towards those who helped you attain it.

Nine in the fifth place means: A withered poplar puts forth flowers. An older woman takes a husband. No blame. No praise.

A withered poplar that flowers exhausts its energies thereby and only hastens its end. An older woman may marry once more, but no renewal takes place. Everything remains barren. Thus, though all the amenities are observed, the net result is only the anomaly of the situation. Applied to politics, the metaphor means that if in times of insecurity we give up alliance with those below us and keep up only the relationships we have with people of higher rank, an unstable situation is created.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 32 - Heng / Duration. Adherence to form over function, perpetuation of something beyond its time cannot lead to any real lasting success. What fruit is possible from the relationships being maintained? Legge's attitude and symbolism the same as Wilhelm "An old wife will have no children." The resultant hexagram 32, Duration, represents, in the social sphere, the relationship between the sexes. If such relationships are not be productive, why even bother with them?

Six at the top means: One must go through the water. It goes over one's head. Misfortune. No blame.

Here is a situation in which the unusual has reached a climax. One is courageous and wishes to accomplish one's task, no matter what happens. This leads into danger. The water rises over one's head. This is the misfortune. But one incurs no blame in giving up one's life that the good and the right may prevail. There are things that are more important than life.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 44 - Kou / Coming to Meet. The excesses of the time take their toll. One goes down fighting. The situation in Legge's description is similar "He is unequal to the task, and sinks beneath it". Dying for ones beliefs and values is sometimes the only option one has left, short of renouncing them. The outcome of this line is seen in hexagram 44 which indicates that the death or in-activation of societies moral leadership leads to the growth in the influence of weakness and negativity. Be careful.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 28 - Ta Kuo / Preponderance of the Great translation of this hexagram.