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I Ching Hexagram 27 - I / Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment)

hexagram 27
  • Above Ken Keeping Still, Mountain
  •  
  • Below Chen the Arousing, Thunder

Introduction

This hexagram is a picture of an open mouth; above and below are firm lines of the lips, and between them the opening. Starting with the mouth, through which we take food for nourishment, the thought leads to nourishment itself. Nourishment of oneself, specifically of the body, is represented in the three lower lines, while the three upper lines represent nourishment and care of others, in a higher, spiritual sense.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Judgement

The Corners of the Mouth. Perseverance brings good fortune. Pay heed to the providing of nourishment and to what a man seeks to fill his own mouth with.

Judgement Commentary

In bestowing care and nourishment, it is important that the right people should be taken care of and that we should attend to our own nourishment in the right way. If we wish to know what anyone is like, we have only to observe on whom he bestows his care and what sides of his own nature he cultivates and nourishes. Nature nourishes all creatures. The great man fosters and takes care of superior men, in order to take care of all men through them. Mencius says about this: If we wish to know whether anyone is superior or not, we need only observe what part of his being he regards as especially important. The body has superior and inferior, important and unimportant parts. We must not injure important parts for the sake of the unimportant, nor must we injure the superior parts for the sake of the inferior. He who cultivates the inferior parts of his nature is an inferior man. He who cultivates the superior parts of his nature is a superior man.


The Image

At the foot of the mountain, thunder: The image of Providing Nourishment . Thus the superior man is careful of his words and temperate in eating and drinking.

Image Commentary

'God comes forth in the sign of the Arousing': when in the spring the life forces stir again, all things comes into being anew. 'He brings to perfection in the sign of Keeping Still': thus in the early spring, when the seeds fall to earth, all things are made ready. This is an image of providing nourishment through movement and tranquillity. The superior man takes it as a pattern for the nourishment and cultivation of his character. Words are a movement going form within outward. Eating and drinking are movements from without inward. Both kinds of movement can be modified by tranquillity. For tranquillity keeps the words that come out of the mouth from exceeding proper measure, and keeps the food that goes into the mouth from exceeding its proper measure. Thus character is cultivated.


The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: You let your magic tortoise go and look at me with the corners of your mouth drooping. Misfortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 23 - Po / Splitting Apart. This line has willfully abandoned its own self reliance and the source of its good fortune and now complains at others better fortune! Nothing good here. Legge has almost exactly the same words and meaning "You leave your efficacious tortoise, and look at me till your lower jaw hangs down". The resultant hexagram 23, Splitting Apart shows that this kind of behaviour can only have a bad outcome. Wake up!

Six in the second place means: Turning to the summit for nourishment, deviating from the path to seek nourishment from the hill. Continuing to do this brings misfortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 41 - Sun / Decrease. This line looks to others to provide his livelihood. This creates misfortune. Legge describes this line seeking nourishment from both those above and below him "In either case the thing is evil." The resultant hexagram 41, Decrease, suggests that if we learn the error of our ways and change for the better, supreme good fortune can be ours.

Six in the third place means: Turning away from nourishment. Perseverance brings misfortune. Do not act thus for ten years. Nothing serves to further.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 22 - Pi / Grace. This line is more concerned with the pursuit of pleasure than providing proper nourishment for itself. Legge seems to suggest that self obsession is the issue "...he considers himself sufficient for himself, without any help from without, and the issue is bad." The resultant hexagram 22, Grace tells us that the best that can be expected here is superficial success in small matters only.

Six in the fourth place means: Turning to the summit for provision of nourishment brings good fortune. Spying about with sharp eyes like a tiger with insatiable craving. No blame.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 21 - Shih Ho / Biting Through. This line is seeking helpers to enable him to nourish others. This presumably could mean either or spiritual or physical nourishment. His approach is unselfish and generous in intention. Legge has this person "...bent on nourishing and training all below." The resultant hexagram 21, shows us we will be successful if we vigorously prosecute our goals and our goals be good.

Six in the fifth place means: Turning away from the path to remain persevering brings good fortune. One should not cross the great water.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 42 - I / Increase. This lines inability to achieve its goals lead it to stop futilely trying and instead seek assistance from those better qualified. Legge says he "...is not equal to the requirements of his position" and so should not seek to achieve great things. The resultant hexagram 42, Increase indicates, with careful conduct, a good outcome is still possible.

Nine at the top means: The source of nourishment. Awareness of danger brings good fortune. It furthers one to cross the great water.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 24 - Fu / Return (The Turning Point). Providing spiritual nourishment is a serious matter and is not to be undertaken lightly. But this line is up to the task. Legge has it "The task is hard and the responsibility great but realizing these things, he will prove himself equal to them." The resultant hexagram 24, Return/Turning Point, lets us see that the task of making a positive difference will succeed.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 27 - I / Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment) translation of this hexagram.