Hexagram 1 - Ch'ien / The Creative - James Legge Translation

hexagram 1
  • Above Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven
  •  
  • Below Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven

Meaning

Ch'ien represents what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm.

The dragon is the symbol employed by the duke of Kou to represent the superior man and especially the great man, exhibiting the virtues or attributes characteristic of heaven. The creature's. proper home is in the water, but it can disport itself on the land, and also fly and soar aloft. It has been from the earliest time the emblem with the Chinese of the highest dignity and wisdom, of sovereignty and sagehood, the combination of which constitutes the great man. One emblem runs through the lines of many of the hexagrams as here.

The lines of this hexagram are all strong and undivided. If the host of dragons thus appearing were to divest themselves of their heads willfulness, there would be good fortune.

Meaning Commentary

King Wan ascribed four attributes here to Ch'ien, benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge of man's nature summarized as greatly penetrating, and requires to be correct and firm, as responses in divination.

The dragon is the symbol employed by the duke of Kou to represent the superior man and especially the great man, exhibiting the virtues or attributes characteristic of heaven. The creature's proper home is in the water, but it can disport itself on the land, and also fly and soar aloft. It has been from the earliest time the emblem with the Chinese of the highest dignity and wisdom, of sovereignty and sagehood, the combination of which constitutes the great man. One emblem runs through the lines of many of the hexagrams as here.

But the dragon appears in the sixth line as going beyond the proper limits. The ruling-sage has gone through all the sphere in which he is called on to display his attributes; it is time for him to relax. The line should not be always pulled tight; the bow should not be always kept drawn. The unchanging use of force will give occasion for repentance. The moral meaning found in the line is that the high shall be abased.

If Ch'ien is strength its opposite hexagram is K'un meaning weakness. Ch'ien standing for the traditional view of the masculine and K'un the feminine.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

The movement of heaven is full of power. Thus the superior man makes himself strong and untiring.

Image Commentary

Since there is only one heaven, the doubling of the trigram Ch'ien, of which heaven is the image, indicates the movement of heaven. One complete revolution of heaven makes a day, and the repetition of the trigram means that each day is followed by another. This creates the idea of time. Since it is the same heaven moving with untiring power, there is also created the idea of duration both in and beyond time, a movement that never stops nor slackens, just as one day follows another in an unending course. This duration in time is the image of the power inherent in the Creative. With this image as a model, the sage learns how best to develop himself so that his influence may endure. He must make himself strong in every way, by consciously casting out all that is inferior and degrading. Thus he attains that tirelessness which depends upon consciously limiting the fields of his activity.


King Wans explanation

  1. 1. Vast is the great and originating power indicated by Ch'ien! All things owe to it their beginning: it contains all the meaning belonging to the name heaven.
  2. 2. The clouds move and the rain is distributed; the various things appear in their developed forms.
  3. 3. The sages grandly understand the connection between the end and the beginning, and how the indications of the six lines in the hexagram are accomplished, each in its season. Accordingly they mount the carriage drawn by those six dragons at the proper times, and drive through the sky.
  4. 4. The method of Ch'ien is to change and transform, so that everything obtains its correct nature as appointed by the mind of Heaven; and thereafter the conditions of great harmony are preserved in union. The result is what is advantageous, and correct and firm.
  5. 5. The sage appears aloft, high above all things, and the myriad states all enjoy repose.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The hexagram Ch'ien is made up of six undivided lines, or of the trigram Ch'ien, Fu-hsi's symbol for heaven, repeated. The Thwan does not dwell upon this, but starts, in its exposition, from the word heaven, supposing that the hexagram represented all the meaning which had ever been intended by that term. In paragraphs 1, 2, 4 the four attributes in Wan's Text 2 being occupied with the second, though it is not expressly named are illustrated by the phenomena taking place in the physical world.

In paragraphs 3 and 5, the subject is the sage. He is not named indeed; and Khung Ying-tw A. D. 574-648 does not introduce him till paragraph 5, when the meaning necessitates the presence of a human agent, who rules in the world of men as heaven does in that of nature. The connection between the end and the beginning, which he sees, is that of cause and effect in the operations of nature and the course of human affairs. The various steps in that course are symbolized by the lines of the hexagram; and the ideal sage, conducting his ideal government, taking his measures accordingly, is represented as driving through the sky in a carriage drawn by six dragons. Ku Hsi extravagantly says that the sage is Heaven, and Heaven is the sage; but there is nothing like this in the text.


The Lines

In the first or lowest NINE, undivided, we see its subject as the dragon lying hid in the deep. It is not the time for active doing.

The dragon lies hid in the deep; it is not the time for active doing, this appears from the strong and undivided line's being in the lowest place.

In the second NINE, undivided, we see its subject as the dragon appearing in the field. It will be advantageous to meet with the great man.

The dragon appears in the field: the diffusion of virtuous influence has been wide.

In the third NINE, undivided, we see its subject as the superior man active and vigilant all the day, and in the evening still careful and apprehensive. The position is dangerous, but there will be no mistake.

Active and vigilant all the day: this refers to the treading of the proper path over and over again.

In the fourth NINE, undivided, we see its subject as the dragon looking as if he were leaping up, but still in the deep. There will be no mistake.

He seems to be leaping up, but is still in the deep: if he advance, there will be no error.

In the fifth NINE, undivided, we see its subject as the dragon on the wing in the sky. It will be advantageous to meet with the great man.

The dragon is on the wing in the sky: the great man rouses himself to his work.

In the sixth or topmost NINE, undivided, we see its subject as the dragon exceeding the proper limits. There will be occasion for repentance.

In the sixth or topmost Nine, undivided, we see its subject as the dragon exceeding the proper limits. There will be occasion for repentance.

The lines of this hexagram are all strong and undivided, as appears from the use of the number NINE. If the host of dragons thus appearing were to divest themselves of their heads, there would be good fortune.