Hexagram 6 - Sung / Conflict - James Legge Translation

hexagram 6
  • Above Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven
  •  
  • Below K'an the abysmal, Water

Meaning

Contentions over the essentials of life. Sung intimates how, though there is sincerity in one's contention, he will yet meet with opposition and obstruction; but if he cherish an apprehensive caution, there will be good fortune, while, if he must prosecute the contention to the bitter end, there will be evil. It will be advantageous to see the great man; it will not be advantageous to cross the great stream.

Meaning Commentary

We have strength in the upper trigram, as if to regulate and control the lower, and peril in that lower as if looking out for an opportunity to assail the upper; or, as it may be represented, we have one's self in a state of peril matched against strength from without. All this is supposed to give the idea of contention or strife. But the undivided line in the centre of K'an is emblematic of sincerity, and gives a character to the whole figure. An individual, so represented, will be very wary, and have good fortune; but strife is bad, and if persevered in even by such a one, the effect will be evil. The fifth line, undivided, in an odd place, and central, serves as a representative of the great man, whose agency is sure to be good; but the topmost line being also strong, and with its two companions, riding as it were, on the trigram of peril, its action is likely to be too rash for a great enterprise.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

Heaven and water go their opposite ways: The image of Conflict. Thus in all his transactions the superior man Carefully considers the beginning.

Image Commentary

The image indicates that the causes of conflict are latent in the opposing tendencies of the two trig rams. Once these opposing tendencies appear, conflict is inevitable. To avoid it, therefore, everything must be taken carefully into consideration in the very beginning. If rights and duties are exactly defined, or if, in a group, the spiritual trends of the individuals harmonize, the cause of conflict is removed in advance.


King Wans explanation

  1. The upper portion of Sung is the trigram representing strength, and the lower that representing peril. The coming together of strength and peril gives the idea in Sung.
  2. Sung intimates how, though there is sincerity in one's contention, he will yet meet with opposition and obstruction; but if he cherish an apprehensive caution, there will be good fortune a strong line has come and got the central place in the lower trigram.
  3. If he must prosecute the contention to the bitter end, there will be evil contention is not a thing to be carried on to extremity.
  4. It will be advantageous to meet with the great man: what he sets a value on is the due mean, and the correct place.
  5. It will not be advantageous to cross the great stream, one attempting to do so would find himself in an abyss.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

Paragraph 1 here is much to the same effect as the first sentence in the notes on the Thwan of the Text. It is said, Strength without peril would not produce contention, peril without strength would not be able to contend.

A strong line has come and got the central place, this sentence has given rise to a doctrine about the changes of trigrams and hexagrams, which has obscured more than anything else the interpretation of the Yi. Where has the strong second line come from? From a hundred critics we receive the answer, from Tun. The reader will see that if the second and third lines of the lower trigram there be made to change places, there results or Sung. The doctrine of changing the figures by the manipulation of the stalks did spring up between the time of Wan and his son and that of the composition of the Appendixes; but there is no trace of it in the real Text of the Yi; and it renders any scheme for the interpretation of the figures impossible. The editors of the imperial Yi allow this, and on the present passage discard the doctrine entirely, referring to the language of the Thwan on hexagrams 11 and 12 as fatal to it. See the notes there, and the Introduction, pp. 11-16. A strong line has come is to be taken as equivalent simply to a strong line is there.'

What the great man sets a value on being the due mean and the correct place, his decision in any matter of contention is sure to be right.


The Lines

The first SIX, divided, shows its subject not perpetuating the matter about which the contention is. He will suffer the small injury of being spoken against, but the end will be fortunate.

The subject of line 1 is weak and at the bottom of the figure. He may suffer a little in the nascent strife, but will let it drop and the effect will be good.

The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject unequal to the contention. If he retire and keep concealed where the inhabitants of his city are only three hundred families, he will fall into no mistake.

Line 2 represents one who is strong, and has the rule of the lower trigram; he has the mind for strife, and might be expected to engage in it. But his strength is weakened by, being in an even place, and he is no match for his correlate in line 5, and therefore retreats. A town or city with only three hundred families is said to be very small. That the subject of the line should retire to so insignificant a place is further proof of his humility.

The third SIX, divided, shows its subject keeping in the old place assigned for his support, and firmly correct. Perilous as the position is, there will be good fortune in the end. Should he perchance engage in the king's business, he will not claim the merit of achievement.

Line 3 is weak and in an odd place. Its subject therefore is not equal to strive, but withdraws from the arena. Even if forced into it, he will keep himself in the background and be safe. He keeps in the old place assigned for his support is, literally, He eats his old virtue meaning that he lives in and on the appanage assigned to him for his services.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject unequal to the contention. He returns to the study of Heaven's ordinances, changes his wish to contend, and rests in being firm and correct. There will be good fortune.

Line 4 is strong, and not in the centre; so that we are to conceive of its subject as having a mind to strive. But immediately above it is line 5, the symbol of the ruler, and with him it is hopeless to strive immediately below is 3, weak, and out of its proper place, incapable of maintaining a contention. Its proper correlate is the lowest line, weak, and out of its proper place, from whom little help can come. Hence its subject takes the course indicated, which leads to good fortune.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject contending; and with great good fortune.

Line 5 has every circumstance in favour of its subject.

The topmost NINE, undivided, shows how its subject may have the leathern belt conferred on him by the sovereign, and thrice it shall be taken from him in a morning.

Line 6 is strong and able to contend successfully but is there to be no end of striving? Persistence in it is sure to end in defeat and disgrace. The contender here might receive a reward from the king for his success; but if he received it thrice in a morning, thrice it would be taken from him again.