Hexagram 22 - Pi / Grace - James Legge Translation

hexagram 22
  • Above Ken Keeping Still, Mountain
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


Pi denotes adorning. When ornamentation has been carried to the utmost, its progress comes to an end. Pi indicates that there should be free course in what it denotes. There will be little advantage however if it be allowed to advance and take the lead.

Meaning Commentary

The character Pi is the symbol of what is ornamental and of the act of adorning. As there is ornament in nature, so should there be in society; but its place is secondary to that of what is substantial. This is the view of king Wan in his Thwan. The symbolism of the separate lines is sometimes fantastic.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

Fire at the foot of the mountain: The image of Grace. Thus does the superior man proceed when clearing up current affairs. But he dare not decide controversial issues in this way.

Image Commentary

The fire, whose light illuminates the mountain and makes it pleasing, does not shine far; in the same way, beautiful form suffices to brighten and to throw light upon matters of lesser moment, but important questions cannot be decided in this way. They require greater earnestness.

King Wans explanation

  1. When it is said that Pi indicates that there should be free course in what it denotes:
  2. We see the weak line coming and ornamenting the strong lines of the lower trigram, and hence it is said that ornament should have free course. On the other hand, the strong line above ornaments the weak ones of the upper trigram, and hence it is said that there will be little advantage, if ornament be allowed to advance and take the lead. This is illustrated in the appearances that ornament the sky.
  3. Elegance and intelligence denoted by the lower trigram regulated by the arrest denoted by the upper suggest the observances that adorn human society.
  4. We look at the ornamental figures of the sky, and thereby ascertain the changes of the seasons. We look at the ornamental observances of society, and understand how the processes of transformation are accomplished all under heaven.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The first paragraph is either superfluous or incomplete.

The language of paragraph 2 has naturally been pressed into the service of the doctrine of changing the figures by divining manipulation; see on paragraph 2 of the Thwan of hexagram 6. But as the Khang-hsi editors point out, the weak line coming and ornamenting the two strong ones' simply indicates how substantiality should have the help of ornament, and the strong line above or ascending and ornamenting the two weak lines indicates that ornament should be restrained by substantiality. Ornament has its use, but it must be kept in check. The closing sentence has no connection with what precedes. Some characters are wanting, to show how the writer passes on to speak of the ornamental figures of the sky. The whole should then be joined on to paragraph 3. The figures of the sky are all the heavenly bodies in their relative positions and various movements, producing day and night, heat and cold. The observances of society are the ceremonies and performances which regulate and beautify the intercourse of men, and constitute the transforming lessons of sagely wisdom.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows one adorning the way of his feet. He can discard a carriage and walk on foot.

Line 1 is strong, and in an odd place. It is at the very bottom of the hexagram, and is the first line of Li, the trigram. for fire or light, and suggesting what is elegant and bright. Its subject has nothing to do but to attend to himself. Thus he cultivates adorns himself in his humble position; but if need be, righteousness requiring it, he can give up every luxury and indulgence.

The second SIX, divided, shows one adorning his beard.

Line 2 is weak and in its proper place, but with no proper correlate above. The strong line 3 is similarly situated. These two lines therefore keep together, and are as the beard and the chin. Line 1 follows 2. What is substantial commands and rules what is merely ornamental.

The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject with the appearance of being adorned and bedewed with rich favours. But let him ever maintain his firm correctness, and there will be good fortune.

Line 3 is strong, and between two weak lines, which adorn it, and bestow their favours on it. But this happy condition is from the accident of place. The subject of the line must be always correct and firm to ensure its continuance.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows one looking as if adorned, but only in white. As if mounted on a white horse, and furnished with wings, he seeks union with the subject of the first line, while the intervening third pursues, not as a robber, but intent on a matrimonial alliance.

Line 4 has its proper correlate in 1, from whose strength it should receive ornament, but 2 and the strong 3 intervene and keep them apart, so that the ornament is only white, and of no bright colour. Line 4, however, is faithful to 1, and earnest for their union. And finally line 3 appears in a good character, and not with the purpose to injure, so that the union of 1 and 4 takes place. All this is intended to indicate how ornament recognizes the superiority of solidity. Compare the symbolism of the second line of Chun 3, and that of the topmost line of K'uei 38.

The fifth SIX, divided, shows its subject adorned by the occupants of the heights and gardens. He bears his roll of silk, small and slight. He may appear stingy; but there will be good fortune in the end.

Line 5 is in the place of honour, and has no proper correlate in 2. It therefore associates with the strong 6, which is symbolized by the heights and gardens round a city, and serving both to protect and to beautify it. Thus the subject of the line receives adorning from without, and does not of itself try to manifest it. Moreover, in his weakness, his offerings of ceremony are poor and mean. But, as Confucius said, In ceremonies it is better to be sparing than extravagant. Hence that stinginess does not prevent a good auspice.

The sixth NINE, undivided, shows one with white as his only ornament. There will be no error.

Line 6 is at the top of the hexagram. Ornament has had its course, and here there is a return to pure, white, simplicity. Substantiality is better than ornament.