I Ching Hexagram 30 - Li / The Clinging, Fire

hexagram 30
  • Above Li the Clinging, Fire
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


This hexagram is another double sign. The trigram Li means to cling to something, and also brightness. A dark line clings to two light lines, one above and one below--the image of an empty space between two strong lines, whereby the two strong lines are made bright. The trigram represents the middle daughter. The Creative has incorporated the central line of the Receptive, and thus Li develops. As an image, it is fire. Fire has no definite form but clings to the burning object and thus is bright. As water pours down from heaven, so fire flames up from the earth. While K'an means the soul shut within the body, Li stands for nature in its radiance.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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The Clinging. Perseverance furthers. It brings success. Care of the cow brings good fortune.

Judgement Commentary

What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter. A luminous thing giving out light must have within itself something that perseveres; otherwise it will in time burn itself out. Everything that gives light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may continue to shine. Thus the sun and moon cling to heaven, and grain, grass, and trees cling to the earth. So too the twofold clarity of the dedicated man clings to what is right and thereby can shape the world. Human life on earth is conditioned and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself dependent upon the harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he achieves success. The cow is the symbol of extreme docility. By cultivating in himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world.

The Image

That which is bright rises twice: The image of Fire. Thus the great man, by perpetuating this brightness, illumines the four quarters of the world.

Image Commentary

Each of the two trigrams represents the sun in the course of a day. The two together represent the repeated movement of the sun, the function of light with respect to time. The great man continues the work of nature in the human world. Through the clarity of his nature he causes the light to spread farther and farther and to penetrate the nature of man ever more deeply.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: The footprints run crisscross. If one is seriously intent, no blame.

It is early morning and work begins. The mind has been closed to the outside world in sleep, now its connections with the world begin again. The traces of one's impressions run crisscross. Activity and haste prevail. It is important then to preserve inner composure and not to allow oneself to be swept along by the bustle of life. If one is serious and composed, he can acquire the clarity of mind needed for coming to terms with the innumerable impressions that pour in. It is precisely at the beginning that serious concentration is important, because the beginning holds the seed of all that is to follow.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 56 - Lu / The Wanderer. There we see the need to clarify our goals at the very beginning of our activities. In this way we avoid embarking on confused, futile or wasteful action. Calm down and think is the motto here. Legge states "Its subject therefore will move upwards, and is in danger of doing so coarsely and vehemently..." which may indicate not merely inattention at the beginning but crudity in performance of what we are doing. However both Wilhelm and Legge feel that this line will in fact find the correct path and follow it. The resultant hexagram 56, The Wanderer warns us to not give ourselves airs nor act in an arrogant or heedless way. If take this advice we can expect a modest amount of success.

Six in the second place means: Yellow light. Supreme good fortune.

Midday has come; the sun shines with a yellow light. Yellow is the color of measure and mean. Yellow light is therefore a symbol of the highest culture and art, whose consummate harmony consists in holding to the mean.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 14 - Ta Yu / Possession in Great Measure. Nothing but good fortune for this line. This good fortune comes about because of the qualities and behaviour of the subject of this line. Legge says this lines subject "...symbolizes the correct course to which the subject of the line adheres." The outcome predicted for this line is hexagram 14, Great Possessions, a foretell of Supreme success.

Nine in the third place means: In the light of the setting sun men either beat the pot and sing or loudly bewail the approach of old age. Misfortune.

Here the end of the day has come. The light of the setting sun calls to mind the fact that life is transitory and conditional. Caught in this external bondage, men are usually robbed of their inner freedom as well. The sense of the transitoriness of life impels them to uninhibited revelry in order to enjoy life while it lasts, or else they yield to melancholy and spoil the precious time by lamenting the approach of old age. Both attitudes are wrong. To the superior man it makes no difference whether death comes early or late. He cultivates himself, awaits his allotted time, and in this way secures his fate.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 21 - Shih Ho / Biting Through. Bewailing a certain fate is futile and pointless. This line needs to understand and accept this. Legge makes clear that the subject of this line should "...accept the position, and resign himself to the ordinary" the sadness he feels "interferes with the lowly contentment which he should cherish." Perversely enough, the resultant hexagram 21, predicts that this lines subject will be to busy in future to spend time bleating about the transitory nature of an individuals life.

Nine in the fourth place means: Its coming is sudden; It flames up, dies down, is thrown away.

Clarity of mind has the same relation to life that fire has to wood. Fire clings to wood, but also consumes it. Clarity of mind is rooted in life but can also consume it. Everything depends upon how the clarity functions. Here the image used is that of a meteor or a straw fire. A man who is excitable and restless may rise quickly to prominence but produces no lasting effects. Thus matters end badly when a man spends himself too rapidly and consumes himself like a meteor.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 22 - Pi / Grace. Ongoing success is based on more than a flash in the pan influence. Success so gained may actually contribute to early decline. Legge is more certain "How abrupt it is...to be rejected by all!" Ones success quickly fades. The resultant hexagram 22, Grace implies that the nature of any success gained by this line is based on a superficial or facile achievement leading, at best to only small success.

Six in the fifth place means: Tears in floods, sighing and lamenting. Good fortune.

Here the zenith of life has been reached. Were there no warning, one would at this point consume oneself like a flame. Instead, understanding the vanity of all things, one may put aside both hope and fear, and sigh and lament: if one is intent on retaining his clarity of mind, good fortune will come from this grief. For here we are dealing not with a passing mood, as in the nine in the third place, but with a real change of heart.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 13 - T'ung Jen / Fellowship with Men. This lines sorrow is based in its real appreciation of just how transitory every object, person and achievement really is. As long as his sorrow doesn't degenerate into self indulgent whining can maintain his self possession and still be useful. This is what produces the lines good fortune. Legge has it that "...such demonstrations are a proof of his inward adherence to right and his humility". The resultant hexagram 13, Fellowship with Men suggests that this line will continue to involve himself in the important concerns of the day and make a useful contribution to society.

Nine at the top means: The king used him to march forth and chastise. Then it is best to kill the leaders and take captive the followers. No blame.

It is not the purpose of chastisement to impose punishment blindly but to create discipline. Evil must be cured at its roots. To eradicate evil in political life, it is best to kill the ringleaders and spare the followers. In educating oneself it is best to root out bad habits and tolerate those that are harmless. For asceticism that is too strict, like sentences of undue severity, fails in its purpose.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 55 - Feng / Abundance (Fullness). This lines wisdom and power are used by the highest authority to root out errors and discipline those who need it. This lines task is very important and difficult. The high intelligence at work here means that punishments are meted out in accordance to the crime and no errors are committed in doing so. One is in the right. Legge believes this lines "...achievements are great, but his generous consideration is equally conspicuous" which is why he does not go to far. The resultant hexagram 55, Abundance shows that all his activity leads to great success for the authority/kingdom that employees him.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 30 - Li / The Clinging, Fire translation of this hexagram.