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I Ching Hexagram 17 - Sui / Following

hexagram 17
  • Above Tui the Joyous, Lake
  • Below Chen the Arousing, Thunder


The trigram Tui, the Joyous, whose attribute is gladness, is above; Chen, the Arousing, which has the attribute of movement, is below. Joy in movement induces following. The Joyous is the youngest daughter, while the Arousing is the eldest son. An older man defers to a young girl and shows her consideration. By this he moves her to follow him.

See the James Legge Translation of this hexagram.

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Following has supreme success. Perseverance furthers. No blame.

Judgement Commentary

In order to obtain a following one must first know how to adapt oneself. If a man would rule he must first learn to serve, for only in this way does he secure from those below him the joyous assent that is necessary if they are to follow him. If he has to obtain a following by force or cunning, by conspiracy or by creating faction, he invariably arouses resistance, which obstructs willing adherence. But even joyous movement can lead to evil consequences, hence the added stipulation, Perseverance furthers, that is, consistency in doing right, together with No blame. Just as we should not ask others to follow us unless this condition is fulfilled, so it is only under this condition that we can in turn follow others without coming to harm. The thought of obtaining a following through adaptation to the demands of the time is a great and significant idea; this is why the appended judgment is so favorable.

The Image

Thunder in the middle of the lake: The image of Following. Thus the superior man at nightfall Goes indoors for rest and recuperation.

Image Commentary

In the autumn electricity withdraws into the earth again and rests. Here it is the thunder in the middle of the lake that serves as the image, thunder in its winter rest, not thunder in motion. The idea of following in the sense of adaptation to the demands of the time grows out of this image. Thunder in the middle of the lake indicates times of darkness and rest. Similarly, a superior man, after being tirelessly active all day, allows himself rest and recuperation at night. No situation can become favorable until one is able to adapt to it and does not wear himself out with mistaken resistance.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: The standard is changing. Perseverance brings good fortune. To go out of the door in company produces deeds.

There are exceptional conditions in which the relation between leader and followers changes. It is implicit in the idea of following and adaptation that if one wants to lead others, one must remain accessible and responsive to the views of those under him. At the same time, however, he must have firm principles, so that he does not vacillate where there is only a question of current opinion. Once we are ready to listen to the opinions of others, we must not associate exclusively with people who share our views or with members of our own party; instead, we must go out and mingle freely with all sorts of people, friends or foes. That is the only way to achieve something.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 45 - Ts'ui / Gathering Together (Massing). The initial stage of gathering a following requires the right motives as well as the right associates. This line is about getting a following of volunteers, convincing and motivating them to achieve great things. Legge points out that this line is lowly in position and therefore needs to act in a good way or nothing good will result. The good fortune predicted in this line is expressed in the resultant hexagram 45, gathering together which implies that the desire for a following will be successful.

Six in the second place means: If one clings to the little boy one loses the strong man.

In friendships and close relationships an individual must make a careful choice. He surrounds himself either with good or with bad company; he cannot have both at once. If he throws himself away on unworthy friends he loses connection with people of intellectual power who could further him in the good.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 58 - Tui / The Joyous, Lake. The problem this line has is, what does he really want? Beer and fun with his buddies or friendships with people who will be good for more than merely a good time? The resultant hexagram 58, shows that the most likely choice is beer and partying. Alas! Legge criticises this lines immaturity "...one who cleaves to the little boy, and lets go the man of age and experience." Perhaps, though, it is preferable that immature people not attain great power and influence. What type of world would they create anyway?

Six in the third place means: If one clings to the strong man one loses the little boy. Through following one finds what one seeks. It furthers one to remain persevering.

When the right connection with distinguished people has been found, a certain loss naturally ensues. A man must part company with the inferior and superficial. But in his heart he will feel satisfied, because he seeks and needs for the development of his personality. The important thing is to remain firm. He must know what he wants and not be led astray by momentary inclinations.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 49 - Ko / Revolution (Molting). This line is the inverse of the previous one. Here maturity seeks company and abandons the concerns of childhood. Still temptations still exist and so the counsel is to remain persevering in ones desire for self improvement. Legge says basically the same thing about this line "...one who cleaves to the man of age and experience, and lets go. the little boy". The resultant hexagram 49 revolution/molting, indicates a time of great change and this indicates that the transition from youth to adulthood is successful. This is also a line about politics and power, choosing the right people and ideas to follow and remaining committed to same. Again the resultant hexagram indicates a successful outcome.

Nine in the fourth place means: Following creates success. Perseverance brings misfortune. To go one's way with sincerity brings clarity. How could there be blame in this?

It often happens, when a man exerts a certain amount of influence, that he obtains a following by condescension toward inferiors. But the people who attach themselves to him are not honest in their intentions. They seek personal advantage and try to make themselves indispensable through flattery and subservience. If one becomes accustomed to such satellites and cannot do without them, it brings misfortune. Only when a man is completely free from his ego, and intent, by conviction, upon what is right and essential, does he acquire the clarity that enables him to see through such people, and become free of blame.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 3 - Chun / Difficulty at the Beginning. Buying a following with position, money, favours or celebrity status does not result in any real committment from those so purchased. As the benefits cease so does the following. The success here is temporary and dependent on superficial interests which soon wane. Legge also is concerned that a person in a position of delegated authority might find themselves getting surrounded by those seeking advantage and that this may threaten the real source of authorities position. Any way you look at it this line is a matter for concern, The resultant hexagram 3, Difficulty at the Beginning shows that any real achievement will only occur after considerable thought and effort.

Nine in the fifth place means: Sincere in the good. Good fortune.

Every man must have something he follows, something that serves him as a lodestar. He who follows with conviction the beautiful and the good may feel himself strengthened by this saying.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 51 - Chen / The Arousing (Shock, Thunder). Following a leader who inspires and lives up to expectations creates good fortune for both the follower and the leader being followed. Legge says "... the ruler sincere in fostering all that is excellent" and that shows it all. The resultant hexagram 51, Shock/Thunder, shows us that following great power can be scary but rewarding if one does not become intimidated.

Six at the top means: He meets with firm allegiance and is still further bound. The king introduces him to the Western Mountain.

This refers to a man, an exalted sage, who has already put the turmoil of the world behind him. But a follower appears who understands him and is not to be put off. So the sage comes back into the world and aids the other in his work. Thus there develops an eternal tie between the two. The allegory is chosen from the annals of the Chou dynasty. The rulers of this dynasty honored men who had served them well by awarding them a place in the royal family's temple of ancestors on the Western Mountain. In this way they were regarded as sharing in the destiny of the ruling family.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 25 - Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected). Power seeks followers of merit to further their goals by providing advice and example. This line shows that any such approach should be welcomed and co-operated with for the benefit of both parties. Legge is a little incoherent on this line but the gist seems equivalent to Wilhelm. The resultant hexagram 25, Innocence/Unexpected, is advising us to remain aware of the dangers as well as the opportunities offered by this situation. If one ceases to provide the required advice and example, inspired by the good, one will pay the price.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 17 - Sui / Following Translation of this hexagram.