Hexagram 59 - Huan / Dispersion (Dissolution) - James Legge Translation

hexagram 59
  • Above Sun the Gentle, Wind
  • Below K'an the abysmal, Water


Huan intimates that under its conditions there will be progress and success. The king goes to his ancestral temple; and it will be advantageous to cross the great stream. It will be advantageous to be firm and correct.

Meaning Commentary

Huan, the name of this hexagram, denotes a state of dissipation or dispersion. It is descriptive primarily of men's minds alienated from what is right and good. This alienation is sure to go on to disorder in the commonwealth; and an attempt is made to show how it should be dealt with and remedied.

The figure is made up of one of the trigrams for water and over it that for wind. Wind moving over water seems to disperse it, and awakes naturally in the beholder the idea of dissipation.

The intimation of progress and success is supposed to be given by the strong lines occupying the central places. The king goes to the ancestral temple, there to meet with the spirits of his ancestors. His filial piety moves them by the sincerity of its manifestation. Those spirits come and are present. Let filial piety in our language, let sincere religion rule in men's minds, and there will be no alienation in them from what is right and good or from one another. And if the state of the country demand a great or hazardous enterprise, let it be undertaken. But whatever is done, must be done with due attention to what is right, firmly and correctly.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

The wind drives over the water: The image of Dispersion. Thus the kings of old sacrificed to the Lord and built temples.

Image Commentary

In the autumn and winter, water begins to freeze into ice. When the warm breezes of spring come, the rigidity is dissolved, and the elements that have been dispersed in ice floes are reunited. It is the same with the minds of the people. Through hardness and selfishness the heart grows rigid, and this rigidity leads to separation from all others. Egotism and cupidity isolate men. Therefore the hearts of men must be seized by a devout emotion. They must be shaken by a religious awe in face of eternity-stirred with an intuition of the One Creator of all living beings, and united through the strong feeling of fellowship experienced in the ritual of divine worship.

King Wans explanation

  1. Huan intimates that there will be progress and success: we see the strong line in the second place of the lower trigram, and not suffering any extinction there; and also the weak line occupying its place in the outer trigram, and uniting its action with that of the line above.
  2. The king goes to his ancestral temple: the king's mind is without any deflection.
  3. It will be advantageous to cross the great stream: the subject of the hexagram rides in a vessel of wood over water, and will do so with success.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

Paragraph 1 This paragraph has been partially anticipated in the notes on the Thwan. The second line is said to suffer 'no extinction,' because the lower trigram is that of peril. The Khang-hsi editors say that the former part of this paragraph shows how the root of the work of the hexagram is strengthened, and the latter part how the execution of that work is secured.

The conclusion of paragraph 2 is, literally, The king indeed is in the middle. This does not mean, as some say, that the king is in the middle of the temple, but that his mind or heart is exactly set on the central truth of what is right and good.

The upper trigram Sun represents both wind and wood. To explain the meaning of Hwan, the significance of wind is taken; the writer here seizes on that of wood, as furnishing materials for a boat in which the great stream can be crossed.

The Lines

The first SIX, divided, shows its subject engaged in rescuing from the impending evil and having the assistance of a strong horse. There will be good fortune.

Line 1, at the commencement of the hexagram, tells us that the evil has not yet made great progress, and that dealing with it will be easy. But the subject of the line is weak, and in an odd place. He cannot cope with the evil himself. He must have help, and he finds that in a strong horse, which description is understood to be symbolical of the subject of the strong second line.

The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject, amid the dispersion, hurrying to his contrivance for security. All occasion for repentance will disappear.

Line 2 is strong, but in an even place. That place is, indeed, the central, but the attribute of the lower trigram Khan is peril. These conditions indicate evil, and action will be dangerous; but the subject of 2 looks to 1 below him, and takes shelter in union with its subject. Since the commentary of Khang-zze, this has been the interpretation of the line.

The third SIX, divided, shows its subject discarding any regard to his own person. There will be no occasion for repentance.

Line 3 is weak, and in an odd place. A regard for himself that would unfit its subject for contributing any service to the work of the hexagram might be feared; but he discards that regard, and will do nothing to be repented of. There is a change of style in the Chinese text at this point. As Wang Shan-zze Yuan dynasty says: 'Here and henceforth the scattering is of what should be scattered, that what should not be scattered may be collected.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject scattering the different parties in the state; which leads to great good fortune. From the dispersion he collects again good men standing out, a crowd like a mound, which is what ordinary men would not have thought of.

Line 4, though weak, is in its correct place, and adjoins the strong 5, which is in the ruler's seat. The subject of 4, therefore, will fitly represent the minister, to whom it belongs to do a great part in remedying the evil of dispersion. And this he does. He brings dissentient partisanship to an end; and not satisfied with that, he collects multitudes of those who had been divided into a great body so that they stand out conspicuous like a hill.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject amidst the dispersion issuing his great announcements as the perspiration flows from his body. He scatters abroad also the accumulations in the royal granaries. There will be no error.

Line 5 gives us the action of the ruler himself; by his proclamations, and by his benevolence. Ku Hsi and other critics enlarge on the symbolism of the perspiration, which they think much to the point. Canon McClatchie has an ingenious and original, so far as my Chinese reading goes, note upon it. "As sweat cures fevers, so do proclamations cure rebellions". Both of these translators miss the meaning of the other instance of the king's work.

The topmost NINE, undivided, shows its subject disposing of what may be called its bloody wounds, and going and separating himself from its anxious fears. There will be no error.

Line 6 is occupied by a strong line, which has a proper correlate in 3 but 3 is at the top of the trigram of peril. The subject of 6 hurries away from association with the subject of it, but does so in the spirit of the hexagram, so that there is no error or blame attaching to him.