Hexagram 30 - Li / The Clinging, Fire - James Legge Translation

hexagram 30
  • Above Li the Clinging, Fire
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


Li denotes being attached, or adhering, to. Li indicates that, in regard to what it denotes, it will be advantageous to be firm and correct, and that thus there will be free course and success. Let its subject also nourish a docility like that of the cow, and there will be good fortune.

Meaning Commentary

Li is the name of the trigram representing fire and light, and the sun as the source of both of these. Its virtue or attribute is brightness, and by a natural metaphor intelligence. But Li has also the meaning of inhering in, or adhering to, being attached to. Both these significations occur in connection with the hexagram, and make it difficult to determine what was the subject of it in the minds of the authors. If we take the whole figure as expressing the subject, we have, as in the treatise on the Thwan, a double brightness, a phrase which is understood to denominate the ruler. If we take the two central lines as indicating the subject, we have weakness, dwelling with strength above and below. In either case there are required from the subject a strict adherence to what is correct, and a docile humility. On the second member of the Thwan Khang-zze says: The nature of the ox is docile, and that of the cow is much more so. The subject of the hexagram adhering closely to what is correct, he must be able to act in obedience to it, as docile as a cow, and then there will be good fortune.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

That which is bright rises twice: The image of Fire. Thus the great man, by perpetuating this brightness, illumines the four quarters of the world.

Image Commentary

Each of the two trigrams represents the sun in the course of a day. The two together represent the repeated movement of the sun, the function of light with respect to time. The great man continues the work of nature in the human world. Through the clarity of his nature he causes the light to spread farther and farther and to penetrate the nature of man ever more deeply.

King Wans explanation

  1. Li means being attached to. The sun and moon have their place in the sky. All the grains, grass, and trees have their place on the earth. The double brightness of the two trigrams adheres to what is correct, and the result is the transforming and perfecting all under the sky.
  2. The weak second line occupies the middle and correct position, and gives the indication of a free and successful course and, moreover, nourishing docility like that of the cow will lead to good fortune.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The double brightness in paragraph 1 has been much discussed. Some say that it means the ruler, becoming brighter and brighter. Others say that it means both the ruler and his ministers, combining their brightness. The former view seems to me the better. The analogy between the natural objects and a transforming and perfecting rule is far fetched.

The central and correct position in paragraph 2 can be said only of the second line, and not of the fifth, where an undivided line would be more correct. The and moreover of the translation is therefore in the original; but I cannot make out the force and suitability of that conjunction.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows one ready to move with confused steps. But he treads at the same time reverently, and there will be no mistake.

Line 1 is strong, and at the bottom of the trigram for fire, the nature of which is to ascend. Its subject therefore will move upwards, and is in danger of doing so coarsely and vehemently. But the lowest line has hardly entered into the action of the figure, and this consideration operates to make him reverently careful of his movements; and there is no error.

The second SIX, divided, shows its subject in his place in yellow. There will be great good fortune.

Line 2 is weak, and occupies the centre. Yellow is one of the five correct colours, and here symbolizes the correct course to which the subject of the line adheres.

The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject in a position like that of the declining sun. Instead of playing on his instrument of earthenware, and singing to it, he utters the groans of an old man of eighty. There will be evil.

Line 3 is at the top of the lower trigram, whose light may be considered exhausted, and suggests the symbol of the declining sun. The subject of the line should accept the position, and resign himself to the ordinary amusements which are mentioned, but he groans and mourns instead. His strength interferes with the lowly contentment which he should cherish.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows the manner of its subject's coming. How abrupt it is, as with fire, with death, to be rejected by all!

The strength of line 4, and its being in an even place, make its subject appear in this unseemly manner, disastrous to himself.

The fifth SIX, divided, shows its subject as one with tears flowing in torrents, and groaning in sorrow. There will be good fortune.

Line 5 is in the place of honour, and central. But it is weak; as is its correlate. Its position between the strong 4 and 6 fills its subject with anxiety and apprehension, that express themselves as is described. But such demonstrations are a proof of his inward adherence to right and his humility. There will be good fortune.

The topmost NINE, undivided, shows the king employing its subject in his punitive expeditions. Achieving admirable merit, he breaks only the chiefs of the rebels. Where his prisoners were not their associates, he does not punish. There will be no error.

Line 6, strong and at the top of the figure, has the intelligence denoted by its trigrams in the highest degree, and his own proper vigour. Through these his achievements are great, but his generous consideration is equally conspicuous, and he falls into no error.