I Ching Hexagram 10 - Lu / Treading (conduct)

hexagram 10
  • Above Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven
  • Below Tui the Joyous, Lake


The name of the hexagram means on the one hand the right way of conducting oneself. Heaven, the father, is above, and the lake, the youngest daughter, is below. This shows the difference between high and low, upon which composure correct social conduct, depends. On the other hand the word for the name of the hexagram, Treading, means literally treading upon something. The small and cheerful [Tui] treads upon the large and strong [Ch'ien]. The direction of movement of the two primary trigrams is upward. The fact that the strong treads on the weak is not mentioned in the Book of Changes, because it is taken for granted. For the weak to take a stand against the strong is not dangerous here, because it happened in good humor [Tui] and without presumption, so that the strong man is not irritated but takes it all in good part.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Treading. Treading upon the tail of the tiger. It does not bite the man. Success.

Judgement Commentary

The situation is really difficult. That which is strongest and that which is weakest are close together. The weak follows behind the strong and worries it. The strong, however, acquiesces and does not hurt the weak, because the contact is in good humor and harmless. In terms of a human situation, one is handling wild, intractable people. In such a case one's purpose will be achieved if one behaves with decorum. Pleasant manners succeed even with irritable people.

The Image

Heaven above, the lake below: The image of Treading. Thus the superior man discriminates between high and low and thereby fortifies the thinking of the people.

Image Commentary

Heaven and the lake show a difference of elevation that inheres in the natures of the two, hence no envy arises. Among mankind also there are necessarily differences of elevation; it is impossible to bring about universal equality. But it is important that differences in social rank should not be arbitrary and unjust, for if this occurs, envy and class struggle are the inevitable consequences. If, on the other hand, external differences in rank correspond with differences in inner worth, and if inner worth forms the criterion of external rank, people acquiesce and order reigns in society.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Simple conduct, progress without blame.

The situation is one in which we are still not bound by any obligations of social intercourse. If our conduct is simple, we remain free of them We can quietly follow our predilections as long as we are content and make not demands on people. The meaning of the hexagram is not standstill but progress. A man finds himself in an altogether inferior position at the start. However, he has the inner strength that guarantees progress. If he can be content with simplicity, he can make progress without blame. When a man is dissatisfied with modest circumstances, he is restless and ambitious and tries to advance, not for the sake of accomplishing anything worth while, but merely in order to escape from lowliness and poverty by dint of his conduct. Once his purpose is achieved, he is certain to become arrogant and luxury-loving. Therefore blame attaches to his progress. On the other hand, a man who is good at his work is content to behave simply. He wishes to make progress in order to accomplish something. When he attains his goal, he does something worth while, an all is well.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 6 - Sung / Conflict. This indicates that although the line commentary suggests a good outcome the resultant hexagram gives cause for concern. The only way the situation described in hexagram 6 can have a good outcome is "... a cautious halt halfway brings good fortune." The reason being that forceful pursuit of ones own interests at the expense of others invariably generates resistance and conflict. Legge has a simpler description of this line and seems to assume that the person described here will not make a mistake and therefore not fall into error. Nonetheless the changed hexagram is still Sung or conflict. When facing a dangerous situation a realistic dose of caution is a good thing.

Nine in the second place means: Treading a smooth, level course. The perseverance of a dark man brings good fortune.

The situation of a lonely sage is indicated here. He remains withdrawn from the bustle of life, seeks nothing, asks nothing of anyone, and travels through life un assailed, on a level road. Since he is content and does not challenge fate, he remains free of entanglements.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 25 - Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected). This line does not get involved in the issues of the day and so avoids any danger that would result from them. The resultant hexagram presages success but only if the person involved acts in the correct way. "He who departs from innocence...Heaven's will and blessing do not go with his deeds." Legge predicts good fortune for a quiet solitary man, if, he be firm and correct. Just as Wilhelm does. Do not get involved in any political or contentious activities if you get this line.

Six in the third place means: A one-eyed man is able to see, a lame man is able to tread. He treads on the tail of the tiger. The tiger bites the man. Misfortune. Thus does a warrior act on behalf of his great prince.

A one-eyed man can indeed see, but not enough for clear vision. A lame man can indeed treat, but not enough to make progress. If in spite of such defects a man considers himself strong and consequently exposes himself to danger, he is inviting disaster, for he is undertaking something beyond his strength. This reckless way of plunging ahead, regardless of the adequacy of one's powers, can be justified only in the case of a warrior battling for his prince.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 1 - Ch'ien / The Creative. This is one of those lines that seems bad but the resultant hexagram it creates is very good. Legge puts it thus "We have a mere bravo acting the part of a great ruler." Yet the outcome is Hexagram 1, Ch'ien, which produces sublime success? Perhaps the justification of acting thus for the benefit of greater authority is the saving grace? Whatever the reasons, this lines ultimate outcome is positive as Hexagram 1 is very positive. But even if in the long term things turn out well, it seems that there will be much trouble ahead for whoever draws this line.

Nine in the fourth place means: He treads on the tail of the tiger. Caution and circumspection lead ultimately to good fortune.

This text refers to a dangerous enterprise. The inner power to carry it through is there, but this inner power is combined with hesitating caution in one's external attitude. This line contrasts with the preceding line, which is weak within but outwardly presses forward. Here one is sure of ultimate success, which consists in achieving one's purpose, that is, in overcoming danger by going forward.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 61 Chung Fu / Inner Truth. Danger is confronted and overcome here. We see support from above and appropriate action leading to success. The resultant hexagram 61 shows that the personal qualities of the person involved here may be at least as important as any delegated power they may possess. Perhaps this is why the danger is successfully overcome. As Legge puts it "He becomes full of apprehensive caution ... hence he bethinks himself, and goes softly".

Nine in the fifth place means: Resolute conduct. Perseverance with awareness of danger.

This refers to the ruler of the hexagram as a whole. One sees that one has to be resolute in conduct. But at the same time one must remain conscious of the danger connected with such resoluteness, especially if it is to be persevered in. Only awareness of the danger makes success possible.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 38 - K'uei / Opposition. Wilhelm and Legge differ on this line and it is Legge who seems to be more in tune with the fact that the resultant hexagram 38 is a bad omen "Though he be firm and correct, there will be peril". Even with the might of authority on your side pushing ahead in a dangerous situation will almost invariably produce opposition and that is exactly what this line is saying. Success in small matters is the best you can hope for.

Nine at the top means: Look to your conduct and weigh the favorable signs. When everything is fulfilled, supreme good fortune comes.

The work is ended. If we want to know whether good fortune will follow, we must look back upon our conduct and its consequences. If the effects are good, then good fortune is certain. No one knows himself. It is only by the consequences of his actions, by the fruit of his labors, that a man can judge what he is to expect.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 58 - Tui / The Joyous, Lake. This line is so straightforward it hardly needs comment. If you have conducted yourself properly when confronted by danger things should work out fine. Good fortune comes. But the resultant hexagram 58 is joy redoubled and this in itself should give pause for thought. That is why the judgement states "Perseverance is favorable". The line is treated the same way by Legge in that he tells us to "...look at the whole course that is trodden...If it be complete and without failure, there will be great good fortune."

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 10 - Lu / Treading (conduct) Translation of this hexagram.