Hexagram 34 - Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great - James Legge Translation

hexagram 34
  • Above Chen the Arousing, Thunder
  • Below Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven


Ta Chuang indicates that under the conditions which it symbolizes it will be advantageous to be firm and correct.

Meaning Commentary

The strong lines predominate in Ta Chuang. It suggested to king Wan a state or condition of things in which there was abundance of strength and vigour. Was strength alone enough for the conduct of affairs? No. He saw also in the figure that which suggested to him that strength should be held in subordination to the idea of right, and exerted only in harmony with it.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

Thunder in heaven above: The image of The Power of the Great. Thus the superior man does not tread upon paths that do not accord with established order.

Image Commentary

Thunder--electrical energy--mounts upward in the spring. The direction of this movement is in harmony with that of the movement of heaven. It is therefore a movement in accord with heaven, producing great power. However, true greatness depends on being in harmony with what is right. Therefore in times of great power the superior man avoids doing anything that is not in harmony with the established order.

King Wans explanation

  1. In Ta Chuang we see that which is great becoming strong. We have the trigram denoting strength directing that which denotes movement, and hence the whole is expressive of vigour.
  2. Ta Chuang indicates that it will be advantageous to be firm and correct: that which is great should be correct. Given correctness and greatness in their highest degree, and the character and tendencies of heaven and earth can be seen.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

Paragraph 1. That which is great denotes, in the first place, the group of four strong lines which strikes us on looking at the figure, and then the superior man, or the strong men in positions of power, of whom these are the representatives. Khien is the trigram of strength, and Kan that of movement.

Paragraph 2. That which is great should be correct: that the should be must be supplied in the translation appears from this, that the paragraph is intended to illustrate the text that it will be advantageous to be firm and correct. The power of man becomes then a reflexion of the great power which we see working in nature, impartially, unselfishly.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject manifesting his strength in his toes. But advance will lead to evil, most certainly.

Line 1 is strong, in its correct place, and also the first line in Khien, the hexagram of strength, and the first line in Ta Chuang. The idea of the figure might seem to be concentrated in it and hence we have it symbolized by strength in the toes, or advancing. But such a measure is too bold to be undertaken by one in the lowest place, and moreover there is no proper correlate in 4. Hence comes the evil auspice.

The second NINE, undivided, shows that with firm correctness there will be good fortune.

Line 2 is strong, but the strength is tempered by its being in an even place, instead of being excited by it, as might be feared. Then the place is that in the centre. With firm correctness there will be good fortune.

The third NINE, undivided, shows, in the case of a small man, one using all his strength; and in the case of a superior man, one whose rule is not to do so. Even with firm correctness the position would be perilous. The exercise of strength in it might be compared to the case of a ram butting against a fence, and getting his horns entangled.

Line 3 is strong, and in its proper place. It is at the top moreover of Khien. A small man so symbolled will use his strength to the utmost; but not so the superior man. For him the position is beyond the safe middle, and he will be cautious; and not injure himself, like the ram, by exerting his strength.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows a case in which firm correctness leads to good fortune, and occasion for repentance disappears. We see the fence opened without the horns being entangled. The strength is like that in the wheel-spokes of a large waggon.

Line 4 is still strong, but in the place of a weak line; and this gives occasion to the cautions with which the symbolism commences. The subject of the line going forward thus cautiously, his strength will produce good effects, such as are described.

The fifth SIX, divided, shows one who loses his ram-like strength in the ease of his position. But there will be no occasion for repentance.

Line 5 is weak, and occupies a central place. Its subject will cease therefore to exert his strength; but this hexagram does not forbid the employment of strength, but would only control and direct it. All that is said about him is that he will give no occasion for repentance.

The sixth SIX, divided, shows one who may be compared to the ram butting against the fence, and unable either to retreat, or to advance as he would fain do. There will not be advantage in any respect; but if he realize the difficulty of his position, there will be good fortune.

Line 6 being at the top of Kan, the symbol of movement, and at the top of Ta Chuang, its subject may be expected to be active in exerting his strength; and through his weakness, the result would be as described. But he becomes conscious of his weakness, reflects and rests, and good fortune results, as he desists from the prosecution of his unwise efforts.