Hexagram 55 - Feng / Abundance (Fullness) - James Legge Translation

hexagram 55
  • Above Chen the Arousing, Thunder
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


Feng intimates progress and development. When a king has reached the point which the name denotes there is no occasion to be anxious through fear of a change. Let him be as the sun at noon.

Meaning Commentary

The character Feng is the symbol of being large and abundant, and, as the name of this hexagram, denotes a condition of abundant prosperity. In the changes of human affairs a condition of prosperity has often given place to one of an opposite character. The lesson of the hexagram is to show to rulers how they may preserve the prosperity of their state and people. The component trigrams have the attributes of intelligence and of motive force, and the second is under the direction of the first. A ruler with these attributes is not likely to fail in maintaining his crown and prosperity, and it may well be said that the figure intimates progress and development. The king is told not to be anxious, but to study how he may always be like the sun in his meridian height, cheering and enlightening all.

The explanation of the Thwan is thus natural and easy. It will be found that a change is introduced in explaining the symbolism of the lines, which it is as well to point out here. Thus far we have found that to constitute a proper correlation between two lines, one of them must be whole, and the other divided. Here two undivided lines make a correlation. The law, evidently made for the occasion, goes far to upset altogether the doctrine of correlated lines.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

Both thunder and lightning come: The image of Abundance. Thus the superior man decides lawsuits and carries out punishments.

Image Commentary

This hexagram has a certain connection with Shih Ho, Biting Through(21), in which thunder and lightning similarly appear together, but in the reverse order. In Biting Through, laws are laid down; here they are applied and enforced. Clarity [Li] within makes it possible to investigate the facts exactly, and shock [Chen] without ensures a strict and precise carrying out of punishments.

King Wans explanation

  1. Feng has the signification of being great. It is made up of the trigrams representing intelligence and movement directed by that intelligence. It is thus that it has that signification.
  2. The king has reached the condition denoted by Feng: he has still to make it greater.
  3. There is no occasion to be anxious. Let him be as the sun at noon: it is for him to cause his light to shine on all under the sky.
  4. When the sun has reached the meridian height, it begins to decline. When the moon has become full, it begins to wane. The interaction of heaven and earth is now vigorous and abundant, now dull and scanty, growing and diminishing according to the seasons. How much more must it be so with the operations of men! How much more also with the spiritual agency!

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The Khang-hsi editors remark that paragraph 1 is not so much explaining the meaning of the name Feng, as; accounting for the hexagram, composed of Li and Chen, having such a meaning.

Paragraph 3 seems rather contrary to the lesson of the hexagram. According to it, prosperity cannot be maintained, any more than we can have the other seasons without winter or perpetual day without night; but the object of the essay is to exhort to the maintenance of prosperity. Is it the case that the rise of every commonwealth and cause must be followed by its decay and fall? The mind refuses to admit the changes of the seasons, as a true analogy for all moral and intellectual movements.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject meeting with his mate. Though they are both of the same character, there will be no error. Advance will call forth approval.

Line 1 is strong, and in an odd place. Its correlate is 4, which would in other figures be deemed unfortunate. But here even the Text calls 4 for the reference must be to it the mate of 1, and makes their belonging to different categories of no account. The lesson taught is that mutual helpfulness is the great instrument for the maintenance of prosperity. The subject of line 1 is encouraged to go forward.

The second SIX, divided, shows its subject surrounded by screens so large and thick that at midday he can see from them the constellation of the Bushel. If he go and try to enlighten his ruler who is thus emblemed, he will make himself to be viewed with suspicion and dislike. Let him cherish his feeling of sincere devotion that he may thereby move his ruler's mind, and there will be good fortune.

Line 2 is divided, and in its proper place. Occupying the centre of the trigram of brightness, the intelligence of it should be concentrated in its subject; but his correlate is the weak 5, weak and in an improper place, so that he becomes the benighted ruler, and darkness is shed from him down on 2, which is strangely symbolized. The subject of 2 therefore, if he advance, will not be acceptable to his ruler, and will not be employed. The only way in which he. can be useful by developing the light that is in him is pointed out in the conclusion. The constellation of the Bushel corresponds to our Ursa Major, or perhaps part of Sagittarius.

The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject with an additional screen of a large and thick banner, through which at midday he can see the small Mei star. In the darkness he breaks his right arm; but there will be no error.

Line 3 is strong, in its proper place. It is the last line moreover of the trigram of Brightness. All these conditions are favorable to the employment of its subject; but its correlate is the weak 6, which is at the extremity of the trigram of movement. There is no more power therefore in 6, and the subject of 3 has no one to co-operate with him. His symbolism and auspice are worse than those of 2 but his own proper goodness and capacity will save him from error. Mei is a small star in or near the Bushel.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject in a tent so large and thick that at midday he can see from it the constellation of the Bushel. But he meets with the subject of the first line, undivided like himself. There will be good fortune.

The symbolism of line 4 is the same as that of 2, till we come to the last sentence. Then there is the strange correlation of the two strong lines in 4 and 1; and the issue is good.

The fifth SIX, divided, shows its subject bringing around him the men of brilliant ability. There will be occasion for congratulation and praise. There will be good fortune.

The subject of line 5 is in the ruler's place, himself weak, but 'the lord' of the trigram of movement. He can do little unhelped, but if he can bring into the work and employ in his service the talents of 1, 3, and 4, and even of 2, his correlate, the results will be admirable. Nothing consolidates the prosperity of a country so much as the co-operation of the ruler and able ministers.

The topmost SIX, divided, shows its subject with his house made large, but only serving as a screen to his household. When he looks at his door, it is still, and there is nobody about it. For three years no one is to be seen. There will be evil.

All the conditions of line 6 are unfavorable, and its subject is left to himself without any helpers. He is isolated for long, and undone. The issue is only evil.