Hexagram 60 - Chieh / Limitation - James Legge Translation

hexagram 60
  • Above K'an the abysmal, Water
  • Below Tui the Joyous, Lake


Chieh intimates that under its conditions there will be progress and attainment. But if the regulations which it prescribes be severe and difficult, they cannot be permanent.

Meaning Commentary

The primary application of the character Chieh was to denote the joints of the bamboo; it is used also for the joints of the human frame; and for the solar and other terms of the year. Whatever makes regular division may be denominated a Chieh; there enter into it the ideas of regulating and restraining; and the subject of this hexagram is the regulations of government enacted for the guidance and control of the people. How the constituent trigrams are supposed to suggest or indicate this meaning will be seen in Appendix II.

Ku Hsi anticipates that symbolism in trying to account for the statement that the figure gives the promise of success and attainment; but the ground of this is generally made out by referring to the equal division of the undivided and divided lines and our having in 2 and 5, the central places, two undivided lines. An important point concerning regulations is brought out in the conclusion of the Thwan, that they must be adapted to circumstances, and not made too strict and severe.

See The Richard Wilhelm translation of this hexagram.

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The Image

Water over lake: the image of Limitation. Thus the superior man creates number and measure and examines the nature of virtue and correct conduct.

Image Commentary

A lake is something limited. Water is inexhaustible. A lake can contain only a definite amount of the infinite quantity of water; this is its peculiarity. In human life too the individual achieves significance through discrimination and the setting of limits. Therefore what concerns us here is the problem of clearly defining these discriminations, which are, so to speak, the backbone of morality. Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man; if they existed, his life would only dissolve in the boundless. To become strong, a man's life needs the limitations ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted. The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his duty is.

King Wans explanation

  1. Chieh intimates progress and attainment the strong and weak lines are equally divided, and the strong Lines occupy the central places.
  2. If the regulations which Chieh prescribes be severe and difficult, they cannot be permanent, its course of action will in that case come to an end.
  3. We have the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction directing the course amidst peril. We have all regulations controlled by authority in its proper place. We have free action proceeding from the central and correct position.
  4. Heaven and earth observe their regular terms, and we have the four seasons complete. If rulers frame their measures according to the due regulations, the resources of the state suffer no injury, and the people receive no hurt.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

Paragraph 2 Its course will come to an end is the opposite of the intimation in Chieh of progress and attainment.

In paragraph 3 the writer re-turns to this intimation of the figure: by the attributes of the trigrams; by the appropriate positions of Lines 4 and 5 and buy the central and correct place of 5.

Paragraph 4 illustrates the importance of doing things according to rule by reference to the operations of nature and the enactments and institutions of sage rulers.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject not quitting the courtyard outside his door. There will be no error.

Line 1 is strong, and in its correct place. Its subject therefore would not be wanting in power to make his way. But he is supposed to be kept in check by the strong 2, and the correlate 4 is the first line in the trigram of peril. The course of wisdom therefore is to keep still. The character here rendered door is that belonging to the inner apartments, leading from the hall into which entrance is found by the outer gate, mentioned under line 2. The courtyard outside the door and that inside the gate is one and the same. The Daily Lecture says that the paragraph tells an officer not to take office rashly, but to exercise a cautious judgment in his measures.

The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject not quitting the courtyard inside his gate. There will be evil.

Line 2 is strong, in the wrong place nor has it a proper correlate. Its subject keeps still, when he ought to be up and doing. There will be evil.

The third SIX, divided, shows its subject with no appearance of observing the proper regulations, in which case we shall see him lamenting. But there will be no one to blame but himself.

Line 3 should be strong, but it is weak. It is neither central nor correct. It has no proper correlate, and it is the topmost line in the trigram of complacent satisfaction. Its subject will not receive the yoke of regulations and he will find out his mistake, when it is too late.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject quietly and naturally attentive to all regulations. There will be progress and success.

Line 4 is weak, as it ought to be, and its subject has respect to the authority of the strong ruler in 5. Hence its good symbolism and auspice.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject sweetly and acceptably enacting his regulations. There will be good fortune.

The onward progress with them will afford ground for admiration. Line 5 is strong, and in its correct place. Its subject regulates himself, having no correlate but he is lord of the hexagram, and his influence is everywhere beneficially felt.

The topmost SIX, divided, shows its subject enacting regulations severe and difficult. Even with firmness and correctness there will be evil. But though there will be cause for repentance, it will by and by disappear.

Line 6 is weak, in its proper place. The subject of the topmost line must be supposed to possess an exaggerated desire for enacting regulations. They will be too severe, and the effect will be evil. But as Confucius Analects 3. 3 says, that is not so great a fault as to be easy and remiss. It may be remedied, and cause for repentance will disappear.