I Ching Hexagram 31 - Hsien / Influence (Wooing)

hexagram 31
  • Above Tui the Joyous, Lake
  • Below Ken Keeping Still, Mountain


The name of the hexagram means universal, general, and in a figurative sense to influence, to stimulate. The upper trigram is Tui, the Joyous; the lower is Ken, Keeping still. By its persistent, quiet influence, the lower, rigid trigram stimulates the upper, weak trigram, which responds to this stimulation cheerfully and joyously. Ken, the lower trigram, is the youngest son; the upper, Tui, is the youngest daughter. Thus the universal mutual attraction between the sexes is represented. In courtship, the masculine principle must seize the initiative and place itself below the feminine principle. Just as the first part of book 1 begins with the hexagrams of heaven and earth, the foundations of all that exists, the second part begins with the hexagrams of courtship and marriage, the foundations of all social relationships.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Influence. Success. Perseverance furthers. To take a maiden to wife brings good fortune.

Judgement Commentary

The weak element is above, the strong below; hence their powers attract each other, so that they unite. This brings about success, for all success depends on the effect of mutual attraction. By keeping still within while experiencing joy without, one can prevent the joy from going to excess and hold it within proper bounds. This is the meaning of the added admonition, Perseverance furthers, for it is perseverance that makes the difference between seduction and courtship; in the latter the strong man takes a position inferior to that of the weak girl and shows consideration for her. This attraction between affinities is a general law of nature. Heaven and earth attract each other and thus all creatures come into being. Through such attraction the sage influences men's hearts, and thus the world attains peace. From the attractions they exert we can learn the nature of all beings in heaven and on earth.

The Image

A lake on the mountain: The image of influence. Thus the superior man encourages people to approach him By his readiness to receive them.

Image Commentary

A mountain with a lake on its summit is stimulated by the moisture from the lake. It has this advantage because its summit does not jut out as a peak but is sunken. The image counsels that the mind should be kept humble and free, so that it may remain receptive to good advice. People soon give up counseling a man who thinks that he knows everything better than anyone else.

The Lines

Six at the beginning means: The influence shows itself in the big toe.

A movement, before it is actually carried out, shows itself first in the toes. The idea of an influence is already present, but is not immediately apparent to others. As long as the intention has no visible effect, it is of no importance to the outside world and leads neither to good nor to evil.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 49 - Ko / Revolution (Molting). Intention must be followed up with action for if we wish to exercise any real influence. This line has the idea but has not yet acted on it. Legge is rather dismissive "However much a man's great toes may be moved, that will not enable him to walk.." The resultant hexagram 49 gives more reason for hope as its suggests great change,revolutionary change, successfully brought about. The lesson here is talk is cheap, success requires more than that.

Six in the second place means: The influence shows itself in the calves of the legs. Misfortune. Tarrying brings good fortune.

In movement, the calf of the leg follows the foot, by itself it can neither go forward nor stand still. Since the movement is not self-governed, it bodes ill. One should wait quietly until one is impelled to action by a real influence. Then one remains uninjured.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 28 - Ta Kuo / Preponderance of the Great. This line warns us that we are not in a position to take the lead but must wait and allow ourselves to be influenced by more powerful forces. Seeking to force our way forward would fail. Legge warns us if he "...abide quiet, till he is acted on from above, there will be good fortune." The resultant hexagram 28, Preponderance of the Great, shows us the most probable consequences for this line and they are not good. Excess of pride generating excess of trouble.

Nine in the third place means: The influence shows itself in the thighs. Holds to that which follows it. To continue is humiliating.

Every mood of the heart influences us to movement. What the heart desires, the thighs run after without a moment's hesitation; they hold to the heart, which they follow. In the life of man, however, acting on the spur of every caprice is wrong and if continued leads to humiliation. Three considerations suggest themselves here. First, a man should not run precipitately after all the persons whom he would like to influence, but must be able to hold back under certain circumstances. As little should he yield immediately to every whim of those in whose service he stands. Finally, where the moods of his own heart are concerned, he should never ignore the possibility of inhibition, for this is the basis of human freedom.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 45 - Ts'ui / Gathering Together (Massing). Being influenced by what we should not be influenced by is wrong. Legge is adamant that we need to exercise more self control and not follow our wishes here "He exercises his influence ... with a mind and purpose, which is not good." The resultant hexagram 45, Gathering Together, shows us that we can be successful if we seek appropriate counsel and work together with the right people.

Nine in the fourth place means: Perseverance brings good fortune. Remorse disappears. If a man is agitated in mind and his thoughts go hither and thither, only those friends on whom he fixes his conscious thoughts will follow.

Here the place of the heart is reached. The impulse that springs from this source is the most important of all. It is of particular concern that this influence be constant and good; then, in spite of the danger arising from the great susceptibility of the human heart, there will be no cause for remorse. When the quiet power of a man's own character is at work, the effects produced are right. All those who are receptive to the vibrations of such a spirit will then be influenced. Influence over others should not express itself as a conscious and willed effort to manipulate them. Through practicing such conscious incitement, one becomes wrought up and is exhausted by the eternal stress and strain. Moreover, the effects produced are then limited to those on whom one's thoughts are consciously fixed.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 39 - Chien / Obstruction. This line is a development of the previous lines circumstances. If we 'get our act together' we will start to make real progress. If, however we are inconstant and allow ourselves to act in an un-focused and confused manner we will convince nobody, only those closest to us will bother to listen to us at all. Legge states this lines " ...subject therefore is warned to be firm and correct in order to a good issue." The resultant hexagram 39, Obstruction suggest that we will not follow this good advice but will instead nullify ourselves and make no progress towards achieving our goals.

Nine in the fifth place means: The influence shows itself in the back of the neck. No remorse.

The back of the neck is the most rigid part of the body. When the influence shows itself there, the will remains firm and the influence does not lead to confusion. Hence remorse does not enter into consideration here. What takes place in the depths of one's being, in the unconscious mind. It is true that if we cannot be influenced ourselves, we cannot influence the outside world.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 62 - Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small. The only influence this line has is over itself. It is not amenable to outside interference but goes its own way. Legge describes someone who has "...an influence, ineffective indeed, but free from selfish motive, and not needing to be repented of." The ineffectiveness refers to the fact that he only influences himself. The resultant hexagram 62, Preponderance of the Small, aptly shows the only real outcome for this situation. "Small things may be done, great things should not be done."

Six at the top means: The influence shows itself in the jaws, cheeks, and tongue.

The most superficial way of trying to influence others is through talk that has nothing real behind it. The influence produced by such mere tongue wagging must necessarily remain insignificant. Hence no indication is added regarding good or bad fortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 33 - Tun / Retreat. Mere talk is cheap, very cheap. It requires little real effort. Legge is quite succinct, this lines "...influence by means of speech will only be that of loquacity and flattery." Ouch! The resultant hexagram 33, Retreat, predicts this line can only hope to withdraw from his attempts to influence others and maintain what dignity he still possesses.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 31 - Hsien / Influence (Wooing) translation of this hexagram.