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I Ching Hexagram 49 - Ko / Revolution (Molting)

hexagram 49
  • Above Tui the Joyous, Lake
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


The Chinese character for this hexagram means in its original sense an animal's pelt, which is changed in the course of the year by molting. From this word is carried over to apply to the 'moltings' in political life, the great revolutions connected with changes of governments. The two trigrams making up the hexagram are the same two that appear in K'uei, Opposition (38), that is, the two younger daughters, Li and Tui. But while there the elder of the two daughters is above, and what results is essentially only an opposition of tendencies, here the younger daughter is above. The influences are in actual conflict, and the forces combat each other like fire and water (lake), each trying to destroy the other. Hence the idea of revolution.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Revolution. On your own day you are believed. Supreme success, Furthering through perseverance. Remorse disappears.

Judgement Commentary

Political revolutions are extremely grave matters. They should be undertaken only under stress of direst necessity, when there is no other way out. Not everyone is called to this task, but only the man who has the confidence of the people, and even he only when the time is ripe. He must then proceed in the right way, so that he gladdens the people and, by enlightening them, prevents excesses. Furthermore, he must be quite free of selfish aims and must really relieve the need of the people. Only then does he have nothing to regret. Times change, and with them their demands. Thus the seasons change in the course of the year. In the world cycle also there are spring and autumn in the life of peoples and nations, and these call for social transformations.

The Image

Fire in the lake: the image of Revolution. Thus the superior man sets the calendar in order and makes the seasons clear.

Image Commentary

Fire below and the lake above combat and destroy each other. So too in the course of the year a combat takes place between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, eventuating in the revolution of the seasons, and man is able to adjust himself in advance to the demands of the different times.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Wrapped in the hide of a yellow cow.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 31 - Hsien / Influence (Wooing). The time must be right if revolutionary change is to be successfully introduced. Legge sees this line has having acted prematurely "...change made at too early a period" so this line is "...tied up, unable to take any action." Wilhelm is more concerned with not acting before the time is due. The resultant hexagram is 31, Influence, success will come if we are able to convince right people that change is absolutely neccessary. "Heaven and earth exert their influences, and there ensue the transformation and production of all things"

Six in the second place means: When one's own day comes, one may create revolution. Starting brings good fortune. No blame.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 43 - Kuai / Break-through (Resoluteness). The time has come, change is needed, action can be taken. Legge puts this line position as "Let its subject take action in the way of change." The resultant hexagram 43, Break-through, indicates that the time is indeed right for revolution but the job will not be easy nor without risk. "One must resolutely make the matter known at the court of the king. It must be announced truthfully. Danger. It is necessary to notify one's own city." There is no guarantee of success is here. Merely an acknowledgement that job must be started.

Nine in the third place means: Starting brings misfortune, perseverance brings danger. When talk of revolution has gone the rounds three times one may commit himself, and men will believe him.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 17 - Sui / Following. Revolutions are neither trivial nor riskless. Attention to the start pays off in the end. Do not rush into this but consider all the conditions of the time very carefully before acting. Legge says that "action taken by its subject will be evil" if it is rushed "But if he act cautiously and with due deliberation, he may take action." The outcome is hexagram 17, Following, we will gather a following and that following will create supreme success "...obtaining a following through adaptation to the demands of the time is a great and significant idea."

Nine in the fourth place means: Remorse disappears. Men believe him. Changing the form of government brings good fortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 63 - Chi Chi / After Completion. This line proceeds to perform revolutionize governance and remove the bad influences that made such changes neccessary. Legge says this line, having "...secured general confidence, he may proceed to the greatest changes, even to change the dynasty, with good fortune." The resultant hexagram 63, After Completion, shows the completion of the great works of the time moderated by a warning that success "...can all too easily tempt us to relax and let thing take their course without troubling over details. Such indifference is the root of all evil." Pay as much attention to the end as you did to the beginning.

Nine in the fifth place means: The great man changes like a tiger. Even before he questions the oracle he is believed.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 55 - Feng / Abundance (Fullness). A natural leader arises and leads a successful revolution. Legge says this line "...proceeds to action, faith has been reposed in him." The resultant hexagram 55, Abundance, predicts a happy outcome for this line "Abundance has success. The king attains abundance. Be not sad. Be like the sun at midday." The only negative here is that such abundant times do not last. Celebrate them while you have them.

Six at the top means: The superior man changes like a panther. The inferior man molts in the face. Starting brings misfortune. To remain persevering brings good fortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 13 - T'ung Jen / Fellowship with Men. Once great changes have been made, clean up any minor changes that still need to occur. Do not get carried away or you may ne carried away! Legge's version of this line warns "To go forward now would lead to evil, but there will be good fortune in abiding firm and correct." The outcome is hexagram 13, Fellowship with Men, "It is not the private interests of the individual that create lasting fellowship among men, but rather the goals of humanity." If we are careful not to alienate others by being over officious things will turn out well.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 49 - Ko / Revolution (Molting) translation of this hexagram.