Hexagram 25 - Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected) - James Legge Translation

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


Freedom from disorder and insincerity. Wu Wang indicates great progress and success, while there will be advantage in being firm and correct. If its subject and his action be not correct, he will fall into errors, and it will not be advantageous for him to move in any direction.

Meaning Commentary

Wang is the symbol of being reckless, and often of being insincere; Wu Wang is descriptive of a state of entire freedom from such a condition; its subject is one who is entirely simple and sincere. The quality is characteristic of the action of Heaven, and of the highest style of humanity. In this hexagram we have an essay on this noble attribute. An absolute rectitude is essential to it. The nearer one comes to the ideal of the quality, the more powerful will be his influence, the greater his success. But let him see to it that he never swerve from being correct.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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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.

King Wans explanation

  1. In Wu Wang we have the strong first line come from the outer trigram, and become in the inner trigram lord of the whole figure; we have the attributes of motive power and strength; we have the strong line of the fifth place in the central position, and responded to by the weak second: there will be great progress proceeding from correctness; such is the appointment of Heaven.
  2. If its subject and his action be not correct, he will fall into errors, and it will not be advantageous for him to move in any direction whither can he who thinks he is free from all insincerity, and yet is as here described proceed? Can anything be done advantageously by him whom the will and appointment of Heaven do not help?

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The advocates of one trigram's changing into another, which ought not to be admitted, we have seen, into the interpretation of the Yi, make Wu Wang to be derived from Sung hexagram 6, the second line there being manipulated into the first of this; but this representation is contrary to the words of the text, which make the strong first line come from the outer trigram, ie. from Khien. And so it does, as related, not very intelligibly, in Appendix V, 10, chen, the lower trigram here, being the eldest son, resulting from the first application of Khwan to Khien. The three peculiarities in the structure of the figure afford the auspice of progress and success; and very striking is the brief and emphatic declaration, that such progress is the appointment of Heaven.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject free from all insincerity. His advance will be accompanied with good fortune.

The first line is strong; at the commencement of the inner trigram denoting movement, the action of its subject will very much chcharacterizell the action set forth, and will itself be fortunate.

The second SIX, divided, shows one who reaps without having ploughed that he might reap, and gathers the produce of his third year's fields without having cultivated them the first year for that end. To such a one there will be advantage in whatever direction he may move.

Line 2 is weak, central, and in its correct place. The quality may be predicated of it in its highest degree. There is an entire freedom in its subject from selfish or mercenary motive. He is good simply for goodness sake. And things are so constituted that his action will be successful.

The third SIX, divided, shows calamity happening to one who is free from insincerity; as in the case of an ox that has been tied up. A passer by finds it and carries it off, while the people in the neneighborhoodave the calamity of being accused and. apprehended.

Calamity may also sometimes bebefallhe best, and where there is this freedom from insincerity; and line 3 being weak, and in the place of an even line, lays its subject open to this misfortune. The people of the neneighborhoodre of course entirely innocent.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows a case in which, if its subject can remain firm and correct, there will be no error.

Line 4 is the lowest in the trigram of strength, and 1 is not a proper correlate, nor is the fourth the place for a strong line. Hence the paragraph must be understood as a caution.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows one who is free from insincerity, and yet has fallen ill. Let him not use medicine, and he will have occasion for joy in his recovery.

Line 5 is strong, in the central place of honour, and has its proper correlate in 2. Hence its subject must possess the quality of the hexagram in perfection. And yet he shall he sick or in distress. But he need not be anxious. Without his efforts a way of escape for him will be opened.

The topmost NINE, undivided, shows its subject free from insincerity, yet sure to fall into error, if he take action. His action will not be advantageous in any way.

Line 6 is at the top of the hexagram, and comes into the field when the action has run its course. He should be still, and not initiate any fresh movement.