I Ching Hexagram 36 - Ming I / Darkening of the light

hexagram 36
  • Above K'un the Receptive, Earth
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


Here the sun has sunk under the earth and is therefore darkened. The name of the hexagram means literally 'wounding of the bright'; hence the individual lines contain frequent references to wounding. The situation is the exact opposite of that in the foregoing hexagram. In the latter a wise man at the head of affairs has able helpers, and in company with them makes progress; here a man of dark nature is in a position of authority and brings harm to the wise and able man.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Darkening of the light. In adversity. It furthers one to be persevering.

Judgement Commentary

One must not unresistingly let himself be swept along by unfavorable circumstances, nor permit his steadfastness to be shaken. He can avoid this by maintaining his inner light, while remaining outwardly yielding and tractable. With this attitude he can overcome even the greatest adversities. In some situations indeed a man must hide his light, in order to make his will prevail in spite of difficulties in his immediate environment. Perseverance must dwell in inmost consciousness and should not be discernible from without. Only thus is a man able to maintain his will in the face of difficulties.

The Image

The light has sunk into the earth: The image of Darkening of the light. Thus does the superior man live with the great mass: He veils his light yet still shines.

Image Commentary

In a time of darkness it is essential to be cautious and reserved. One should not needlessly awaken overwhelming enmity by inconsiderate behavior. In such times one ought not to fall in with the practices of others; neither should one drag them censoriously into the light. In social intercourse one should not try to be all-knowing. One should let many things pass, without being duped.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Darkening of the light during flight. He lowers his wings. The superior man does not eat for three days on his wanderings. But he has somewhere to go. The host has occasion to gossip about him.

With grandiose resolve a man endeavors to soar above all obstacles, but thus encounters a hostile fate. He retreats and evades the issue. The time is difficult. Without rest, he must hurry along, with no permanent abiding place. If he does not want to make compromises within himself, but insists on remaining true to his principles, he suffers deprivation. Never the less he has a fixed goal to strive for even though the people with whom he lives do not understand him and speak ill of him.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 15 - Ch'ien / Modesty. This line had high hopes but has suffered a setback and cannot attain his goals. He nonetheless holds them still. He will suffer some embarrassing disrepute but that is all. Legge's interpretation is "...he does withdraw, opposition follows him but it is implied that he holds on to his own good purpose." So at least this line can maintain its inner values. The outcome predicted by hexagram 15, Modesty, is a good outcome as long as the subject of this line remembers "It is the law of heaven to make fullness empty and to make full what is modest."

Six in the second place means: Darkening of the light injures him in the left thigh. He gives aid with the strength of a horse. Good fortune.

Here the Lord of Light is in a subordinate place and is wounded by the Lord of Darkness. But the injury is not fatal, it is only a hindrance. Rescue is still possible. The wounded man gives no thought to himself, he thinks only of saving the others who are also in danger. Therefore he tries with all his strength to save all that can be saved. There is good fortune in thus acting according to duty.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 11 - T'ai / Peace. Wounded in the line of duty, this line continues to do the right thing by his colleagues and by so doing helps himself as well. Legge describes this line as follows "He finds means to save himself, and maintains his good purpose." The outcome of hexagram 11, Peace, shows that this lines subject will come through the fire and earn good fortune.

Nine in the third place means: Darkening of the light during the hunt in the south. Their great leader is captured. One must not expect perseverance too soon.

It seems as if chance were at work. While the strong, loyal man is striving eagerly and in good faith to create order, he meets the ringleader of the disorder, as if by accident, and seizes him. Thus victory is achieved. But in abolishing abuses one must not be too hasty. This would turn out badly because the abuses have been in existence so long.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 24 - Fu / Return (The Turning Point). An accidental victory may only be temporary so caution is needed here. Legge see this "The good officer will be successful in his struggle, but let him not be over eager to put all things right at once." The resultant hexagram 24, Return, tells us that this lines outcome is positive. The "...old is discarded and the new is introduced." The victory we seek is achieved and consolidated.

Six in the fourth place means: He penetrates the left side of the belly. One gets at the very heart of the darkening of the light.

We find ourselves close to the commander of darkness and so discover his most secret thoughts. In this way we realize that there is no longer any hope of improvement, and thus we are enabled to leave the scene of disaster before the storm breaks.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 55 - Feng / Abundance (Fullness. This line gains insight into the real situation he faces and sees he cannot prevail, so he flees. Legge puts it poetically "...quitting the gate and courtyard of the lord of darkness." The outcome for this line is hexagram 55, Abundance. We must remember that there can be abundance of bad as well as good so think carefully just what kind abundance one can expect here.

Six in the fifth place means: Darkening of the light as with Prince Chi. Perseverance furthers.

Prince Chi lived at the court of the evil tyrant Chou Hsin, who, although not mentioned by name, furnished the historical example on which this whole situation is based. Prince Chi was a relative of the tyrant and could not withdraw from the court; therefore he concealed his true sentiments and feigned insanity. Although he was held a slave, he did not allow external misery to deflect him from his convictions. This provides a teaching for those who cannot leave their posts in times of darkness. In order to escape danger, they need invincible perseverance of spirit and redoubled caution in their dealings with the world.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 63 - Chi Chi / After Completion. This line is faced with unavoidable danger and can only endure as best it can. Legge merely restates Wilhelm in a more obscure fashion. The outcome for this line is described by hexagram 63, After Completion, showing that we will have to deal with a negative outcome to our plans "At the beginning good fortune. At the end disorder."

Six at the top means: Not light but darkness. First he climbed up to heaven, then plunged into the depths of the earth.

Here the climax of the darkening is reached. The dark power at first held so high a place that it could wound all who were on the side of good and of the light. But in the end it perishes of its own darkness, for evil must itself fall at the very moment when it has wholly overcome the good, and thus consumed the energy to which it owed its duration.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 22 - Pi / Grace. There is a terrible warning here for those who seek to rule at all costs. The fall from power can be total and complete. Legge again has a poetic turn "Instead of becoming as the sun, enlightening all from the height of the sky, he is as the sun hidden below the earth." The resultant hexagram 22, Grace, suggests that only small trivial successes can be expected now.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 36 - Ming I / Darkening of the light translation of this hexagram.