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I Ching Hexagram 41 - Sun / Decrease

hexagram 41
  • Above Ken Keeping Still, Mountain
  • Below Tui the Joyous, Lake


This hexagram represents a decrease of the lower trigram in favor of the upper, because the third line, originally strong, has moved up to the top, and the top line, originally weak, has replaced it. What is below is decreased to the benefit of what is above. This is out-and-out decrease. If the foundations of a building are decreased in strength and the upper walls are strengthened, the whole structure loves its stability. Likewise, a decrease in the prosperity of the people in favor of the government is out-and-out decrease. And the entire theme of the hexagram is directed to showing how this shift of wealth can take place without causing the sources of wealth can take place without causing the sources of wealth in the nation and its lower classes to fail.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Decrease combined with sincerity Brings about supreme good fortune without blame. One may be persevering in this. It furthers one to undertake something. How is this to be carried out? One may use two small bowls for the sacrifice.

Judgement Commentary

Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretense. If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further undertakings. Indeed, there need by no concern if the outward beauty of the civilization, even the elaboration of religious forms, should have to suffer because of simplicity. One must draw on the strength of the inner attitude to compensate for what is lacking in externals; then the power of the content makes up for the simplicity of form. There is no need of presenting false appearances to God. Even with slender means, the sentiment of the heart can be expressed

The Image

At the foot of the mountain, the lake: The image of Decrease. Thus the superior man controls his anger and restrains his instincts.

Image Commentary

The lake at the foot of the mountain evaporates. In this way it decreases to the benefit of the mountain, which is enriched by its moisture. The mountain stands as the symbol of stubborn strength that can harden into anger. The lake is the symbol of unchecked gaiety that can develop into passionate drives at the expense of the life forces. Therefore decrease is necessary; anger must be decreased by keeping still, the instincts must be curbed by restriction. By this decrease of the lower powers of the psyche, the higher aspects of the soul are enriched.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Going quickly when one's tasks are finished is without blame. But one must reflect on how much one may decrease others.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 4 - Meng / Youthful Folly. The strong should not take advantage of those who are weaker than themselves. The rich man should not exploit the generous but poorer man. Legge says "...let him consider how far he should contribute of what is his for the other." The outcome is hexagram 4, Youthful Folly, so again we are cautioned that if we are the recipients of assistance from others make sure that such help we receive is not going to be destructive of those helping us. As those richer should not further decrease those poorer.

Nine in the second place means: Perseverance furthers. To undertake something brings misfortune. Without decreasing oneself one is able to bring increase to others.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 27 - I / Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment. Here we have the inverse of the first line in that we are the poorer party. Do we wish to decrease our own circumstances to help someone more powerful? Why? It certainly is not essential to the richer party that we bankrupt ourselves. Legge puts it that we can assist if we can "...give increase to his correlate without taking from himself." The outcome is hexagram 27, Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment) tells us that "...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" so again a warning that we do not allow ourselves to be exploited.

Six in the third place means: When three people journey together their number increases by one. When one man journeys alone he finds a companion.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 26 - Ta Chu / The Taming Power of the Great. Three is a crowd in this line, how many best friends can you really have. If lonely, expect company. Legge is concise "...three men walking together, the number is diminished by one, and how one, walking, finds his friend." The resultant hexagram 26, The Taming Power of the Great, seems to mean, in the context of this line, that we need to be more socially engaged and there would be real advantage in getting out more.

Six in the fourth place means: If a man deceases his faults it makes the other hasten to come and rejoice. No blame.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 38 - K'uei / Opposition. Decrease of personality faults is always a good thing. You may find that life becomes much more pleasant as you become much more pleasant. Legge is a little more obscure "...diminishing the ailment under which he labours" but still sees friends coming to help the subject of this line if he improves himself. The resultant hexagram 38, Opposition, suggests that perhaps such self control may be a little beyond this line at this time. Only small successes can be expected.

Six in the fifth place means: Someone does indeed increase him, ten pairs of tortoises cannot oppose it. Supreme good fortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 61 Chung Fu / Inner Truth. Good luck brings good fortune, not much need for interpretation here. Legge puts it thus "There will be great good fortune". The outcome hexagram 61, Inner Truth, shows that our good fortune extends into the realm of wisdom and intellect and that we can extend our sphere of influence widely.

Nine at the top means: If one is increased without depriving others there is no blame. Perseverance brings good fortune. It furthers one to undertake something. One obtains servants but no longer has a separate home.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 19 - Lin / Approach. Being able to increase others without decreasing oneself is the ultimate position for a generous big hearted person. This is done without regard for self aggrandizement nor to attract praise and admiration. The interpretation in Legge is the same "...he can give increase to others without diminishing his own resources, and of course the benefit he will confer will be incalculable." The resultant hexagram 19, Approach indicates that these good times will pass way, as is the normal course of events, if we are not continually on the lookout for the first signs of decay. "...take heed of this change in good time. If we meet evil before it becomes reality-before it has even begun to stir, we can master it."

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 41 - Sun / Decrease translation of this hexagram.