I Ching Hexagram 50 - Ting / The Caldron

hexagram 50
  • Above Li the Clinging, Fire
  • Below Sun the Gentle, Wind


The six lines construct the image of Ting, The Caldron; at the bottom are the legs, over them the belly, then come the ears (handles), and at the top the carrying rings. At the same time, the image suggests the idea of nourishment. The ting, cast of bronze, was the vessel that held the cooked viands in the temple of the ancestors and at banquets. The heads of the family served the food from the ting into the bowls of the guests. The Well (48) likewise has the secondary meaning of giving nourishment, but rather more in relation to the people. The ting, as a utensil pertaining to a refined civilization, suggests the fostering and nourishing of able men, which redounded to the benefit of the state. This hexagram and The Well are the only two in the Book of Changes that represent concrete, men-made objects. Yet here too the thought has its abstract connotation. Sun, below, is wood and wind; Li, above, is flame. Thus together they stand for the flame kindled by wood and wind, which likewise suggests the idea of preparing food.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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The Caldron. Supreme good fortune. Success.

Judgement Commentary

While The Well relates to the social foundation of our life, and this foundation is likened to the water that serves to nourish growing wood, the present hexagram refers to the cultural superstructure of society. Here it is the wood that serves as nourishment for the flame, the spirit. All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it receives its true consecration and clarity and takes firm root in the cosmic order. Here we see civilization as it reaches its culmination in religion. The ting serves in offering sacrifice to God. The highest earthly values must be sacrificed to the divine. But the truly divine does not manifest itself apart from man. The supreme revelation of God appears in prophets and holy men. To venerate them is true veneration of God. The will of God, as revealed through them, should be accepted in humility, this brings inner enlightenment and true understanding of the world, and this leads to great good fortune and success.

The Image

Fire over wood: The image of The Caldron. Thus the superior man consolidates his fate by making his position correct.

Image Commentary

The fate of fire depends on wood; as long as there is wood below, the fire burns above. It is the same in human life; there is in man likewise a fate that lends power to his life. And if he succeeds in assigning the right place to life and to fate, thus bringing the two into harmony, he puts his fate on a firm footing. These words contain hints about fostering of life as handed on by oral tradition in the secret teachings of Chinese yoga.

The Lines

Six at the beginning means: A ting with legs upturned furthers removal of stagnating stuff. One takes a concubine for the sake of her son. No blame.

If a ting is turned upside down before being used, no harm is done-on the contrary, this clears it of refuse. A concubine's position is lowly, but because she has a son she comes to be honored. These two metaphors express the idea that in a highly developed civilization, such as that indicated by this hexagram, every person of good will can in some way or other succeed. No matter how lowly he may be, provided he is ready to purify himself, he is accepted. He attains a station in which he can prove himself fruitful in accomplishment, and as a result he gains recognition.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 14 - Ta Yu / Possession in Great Measure. Removal of rottenness is a good thing. He we see a superficially bad situation with a good actual meaning. Legge uses the same symbology "...shows the caldron overthrown and its feet turned up. But there will be advantage in its getting rid of what was bad in it." The outcome for this line is hexagram 14, Possession in Great Measure, which clearly shows that this is clean out of what is bad and spoiled will have a very positive result. "Possession in Great Measure. Supreme success."

Nine in the second place means: There is food in the ting, my comrades are envious but they cannot harm me. Good fortune.

In a period of advanced culture, it is of the greatest importance that one should achieve something significant. If a man concentrates on such real undertakings, he may indeed experience envy and disfavor, but that is not dangerous. The more he limits himself to his actual achievements, the less harm the envious inflict on him.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 56 - Lu / The Wanderer. Success, wealth, fame all generate as much ill will as good will due to the envy that is created. This lines success generates such envy but he is immune, he cannot be effected by it. Legge puts it "My enemy dislikes me, but he cannot approach me". The outcome is hexagram 56, The Wanderer, a warning that despite our success, if we become to casual in our enjoyment of our good fortune and disregard our fellows, we will become isolated and alone.

Nine in the third place means: The handle of the ting is altered. One is impeded in his way of life. The fat of the pheasant is not eaten. Once rain falls, remorse is spent. Good fortune comes in the end.

The handle is the means for lifting up the ting. If the handle is altered, the ting cannot be lifted up and used, and, sad to say, the delicious food in it, such as pheasant fat, cannot be eaten by anyone. This describes a man who, in a highly evolved civilization, finds himself in a place where no one notices or recognizes him. This is a severe block to his effectiveness. All of his good qualities and gifts of mind thus needlessly go to waste. But if he will only see to it that he is possessed of something truly spiritual, the time is bound to come, sooner or later, when the difficulties will be resolved and all will go well. The fall of rain symbolizes here, as in other instances, release of tension.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 64 - Wei Chi / Before Completion. This is hindered and unconsidered, wasted. However eventually his worth is recognized and times get better. Legge's version of this line has "One is impeded in his way of life...grounds for repentance will disappear. There will be good fortune in the end." The outcome is hexagram 64, Before Completion, which warns that what success we do manage to achieve could be lost at the last moment through our carelessness.

Nine in the fourth place means: The legs of the ting are broken. The prince's meal is spilled and his person is soiled. Misfortune.

A man has a difficult and responsible task to which he is not adequate. Moreover, he does not devote himself to it with all his strength but goes about with inferior people; therefore the execution of the work fails. In this way he also incurs personal opprobrium. Confucius says about this line, Weak character coupled with honored place, meager knowledge with large plans, limited powers with heavy responsibility, will seldom escape disaster.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 18 - Ku / Work on what has been spoiled (Decay). This line has screwed up the performance of its duties and pays the price. Legge is just as sure as Wilhelm, "Its subject is insufficient of himself for his work, and he has no sufficient help and the result will be evil." The resultant hexagram 18, Decay, has this advice "What has been spoiled through man's fault can be made good again through man's work." The self inflicted failure here can be corrected with effort, but probably won't be.

Six in the fifth place means: The ting has yellow handles, golden carrying rings. Perseverance furthers.

Here we have, in a ruling position, a man who is approachable and modest in nature. As a result of this attitude he succeeds in finding strong and able helpers who complement and aid him in his work. Having achieved this attitude, which requires constant self-abnegation, it is important for him to hold to it and not to let himself be led astray.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 44 - Kou / Coming to Meet. This line is a good ruler producing good results through the good qualities of his mind and morals. Legge "...praises the ruler as condescending to the worthy with his humble virtue". The resultant hexagram 44, Coming to Meet, predicts that this line will be facing a return of bad influences seeking to worm themselves back into the situation. "The inferior man rises only because the superior man does not regard him as dangerous and so lends him power." Watch out for this.

Nine at the top means: The ting has rings of jade. Great good fortune. Nothing that would not act to further.

In the preceding line the carrying rings are described as golden, to denote their strength; here they are said to be of jade. Jade is notable for its combination of hardness with soft luster. This counsel, in relation to the man who is open to it, works greatly to his advantage. Here the counsel is described in relation to the sage who imparts it. In imparting it, he will be mild and pure, like precious jade. Thus the work finds favor in the eyes of the Deity, who dispenses great good fortune, and becomes pleasing to men, wherefore all goes well.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 32 - Heng / Duration. This line is very auspicious and fortunate. Legge also like this line "There will be great good fortune, and all action taken will be in every way advantageous." The resultant hexagram 32, Duration, indicates that the inherent goodness in this line creates an ongoing "...state whose movement is not worn down by hindrances." That state being a positive one here.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 50 - Ting / The Caldron translation of this hexagram.