Hexagram 56 - Lu / The Wanderer - James Legge Translation

hexagram 56
  • Above Li the Clinging, Fire
  • Below Ken Keeping Still, Mountain


Lu intimates that in the condition which it denotes there may be some little attainment and progress. If the stranger or traveller be firm and correct as he ought to be, there will be good fortune.

Meaning Commentary

The name Lu denotes people travelling abroad, and is often translated by strangers. As early as the time of king Wan, there was a class of men who went about from one state to another, pursuing their business as pedlars or travelling merchants; but in Mencius II, i, chap. 5. 3, it is used for travellers generally, whatever it was that took them out of their own states. Confucius himself is adduced as a travelling stranger; and in this hexagram king Wan is supposed to have addressed himself to the class of such men, and told them how they ought to comport themselves. They ought to cultivate two qualities, those of humility and integrity firm correctness. By means of these they would escape harm, and would make some little attainment and progress. Their rank was too low to speak of great things in connection with them. It is interesting to find travellers, strangers in a strange land, having thus a place in the Yi.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

Fire on the mountain: The image of The Wanderer. Thus the superior man is clear-minded, cautious in imposing penalties and protracts no lawsuits.

Image Commentary

When grass on a mountain takes fire, there is bright light. However, the fire does not linger in one place, but travels on to new fuel. It is a phenomenon of short duration. This is what penalties and lawsuits should be like. They should be a quickly passing matter, and must not be dragged out indefinitely. Prisons ought to be places where people are lodged only temporarily, as guests are. They must not become dwelling places.

King Wans explanation

  1. Lu indicates that there may be some small attainment and progress: the weak line occupies the central place in the outer trigram, and is obedient to the strong Lines on either side of it. We have also the attributes of quiet resting closely attached to intelligence in the component trigrams. Hence it is said, There may be some small attainment and progress. If the stranger or traveller be firm and correct as he ought to be, there will be good fortune.
  2. Great is the time and great is the right course to be taken as intimated in Lu!

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

What is said in paragraph 1 is intended to explain the Thwan, and not to account for the meaning of the name Lu. It is assumed that Lu means a stranger; and the writer from the position of the fifth line, and from the attributes of the component trigrams, derives the ideas of humility, docility, a quiet restfulness, and intelligence as the characteristics proper to a stranger, and which are likely to lead to his attaining what he desires, and then advancing.

The Lines

The first SIX, divided, shows the stranger mean and meanly occupied. It is thus that he brings on himself further calamity.

Line 1 is weak, in an odd place, and at the very bottom or commencement of the hexagram, These conditions are supposed to account for the unfavorable symbolism and auspice.

The second SIX, divided, shows the stranger, occupying his lodging-house, carrying with him his means of livelihood, and provided with good and trusty servants.

Line 2 is weak, but in its proper place. That place, moreover, is the central. Hence the traveller and he might here very well be a travelling merchant is represented in the symbolism as provided with everything he can require and though the auspice is not mentioned, we must understand it as being good.

The third NINE, undivided, shows the stranger, burning his lodging-house, and having lost his servants. However firm and correct he try to be, he will be in peril.

Line 3 is strong, and in an even place. But it occupies the topmost place in the lower trigram; and its strength may be expected to appear as violence. So it does in the symbolism, and extraordinary violence as well. It seems unreasonable to suppose, as in the conclusion, that one so described could be in any way correct. The Khang-hsi editors remark that the subjects of 2 and 3 are represented as having lodging-houses, and not any of those of the other lines, because these are the only two lines in the places proper to them!

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows the traveller in a resting-place, having also the means of livelihood and the axe, but still saying, I am not at ease in my mind.

Line 4 is strong, but in an even place. Hence its subject has not a lodging-house but has found a situation where he has shelter, though he is exposed to perils. Hence he is represented as having an axe, which may be available for defence. Still he is not at peace in his mind. The Khang-hsi editors observe well that the mention of an axe makes us think of caution as a quality desirable in a traveller.

The fifth SIX, divided, shows its subject shooting a pheasant. He will lose his arrow, but in the end he will obtain praise and a high charge.

Line 5, though weak, is in the centre of the upper trigram, which has the quality of brightness and elegance. It is held to be the lord of the trigram Li and lines 4 and 6 are on either side in loyal duty to defend and help. Then the shooting a pheasant is supposed to be suggested; an elegant bird, by the trigram of elegance. When an officer was travelling abroad in ancient times, his gift of introduction at any feudal court was a pheasant. The traveller here emblemed is praised by his attached friends, and exalted to a place of dignity by the ruler to whom he is acceptable. It will be seen how the idea of the fifth line being the ruler's seat is dropt here as being alien from the idea of the hexagram, so arbitrary is the interpretation of the symbolism.

The sixth NINE, undivided, suggests the idea of a bird burning its nest. The stranger, thus represented, first laughs and then cries out. He has lost his ox-like docility too readily and easily. There will be evil.

Line 6 is strong, in an even place, at the extremity of Li and of the whole hexagram. Its subject will be arrogant and violent the opposite of what a traveller should be; and the issue will be evil. The symbolism must be allowed to be extravagant. What bird ever burned its nest? And the character for ox is strangely used for ox-like docility.