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I Ching Hexagram 51 - Chen / The Arousing (Shock, Thunder)

hexagram 51
  • Above Chen the Arousing, Thunder
  • Below Chen the Arousing, Thunder


The hexagram Chen represents the eldest son, who seizes rule with energy and power. A yang line develops below two yin lines and presses upward forcibly. This movement is so violent that it arouses terror. It is symbolized by thunder, which bursts forth from the earth and by its shock causes fear and trembling.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Shock brings success. Shock comes-oh, oh! Laughing words -ha, ha! The shock terrifies for a hundred miles and he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.

Judgement Commentary

The shock that comes from the manifestation of God within the depths of the earth makes man afraid, but this fear of God is good, for joy and merriment can follow upon it. When a man has learned within his heart what fear and trembling mean, he is safeguarded against any terror produced by outside influences. Let the thunder roll and spread terror a hundred miles around: he remains so composed and reverent in spirit that the sacrificial rite is not interrupted. This is the spirit that must animate leaders and rulers of men-a profound inner seriousness from which all terrors glance off harmlessly.

The Image

Thunder repeated: the image of Shock. Thus, in fear and trembling, the superior man sets his life in order and examines himself.

Image Commentary

The shock of continuing thunder brings fear and trembling. The superior man is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of God; he sets his life in order and searches his heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of God. Thus reverence is the foundation of true culture.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Shock comes, oh, oh! Then follow laughing words, ha, ha! Good fortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 16 - Yu / Enthusiasm. This line is afraid but the shocking event does no real damage and so he recovers his wits and humor. Legge's interpretation is the same "...looking out and around with apprehension, and afterwards smiling and talking cheerfully." The resultant hexagram 16, shows no lasting loss is suffered and that one should get on with ones life.

Six in the second place means: Shock comes bringing danger. A hundred thousand times you lose your treasures and must climb the nine hills. Do not go in pursuit of them. After seven days you will get them back again.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 54 - Kuei Mei / The Marrying Maiden. Saving oneself and ones family in times of danger is more important than saving mere things. They can be recovered, lost family cannot. Legge says this lines subject "...judges it better to let go the articles in his possession, and to ascend a very lofty height" Any losses suffered will be recovered. The outcome is hexagram 54, The Marrying Maiden, a message that in such times one should concentrate on the regulation of ones familial and social relationships and not be over concerned with base material things.

Six in the third place means: Shock comes and makes one distraught. If shock spurs to action one remains free of misfortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 55 - Feng / Abundance (Fullness). Fate has its own agenda and will not be swayed by our self interested desires. What matters is that we respond appropriately to what happens to us. If we do we can recover out situation. Legge has this lines subject "...distraught amid the startling movements going on. If those movements excite him to right action, there will be no mistake." The outcome hexagram 55, Abundance counsels us to enjoy the good luck that we currently possess because it will ultimately turn less fortunate. This is the natural course of life. It should not be taken personally.

Nine in the fourth place means: Shock is mired.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 24 - Fu / Return (The Turning Point). This line has frozen and cannot move. The interpretation that Legge gives is equally bad, this line "...shows its subject, amid the startling movements, supinely sinking deeper in the mud." Then resultant hexagram 24, Return, has the outcome being more positive than the line would suggest. One will recover ones wits and recover ones situation.

Six in the fifth place means: Shock goes hither and thither. Danger. However, nothing at all is lost. Yet there are things to be done.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 17 - Sui / Following. Repeated shocks disturb this line yet he maintains his activities and suffers no loss. Legge's interpretation is that this "...subject is always in peril but his central position indicates safety in the end." Somehow one remains safe. The outcome is hexagram 17, Following, perhaps this means that ones ability to inspire and lead others is what protects this line from the dangerous times.

Six at the top means: Shock brings ruin and terrified gazing around. Going ahead brings misfortune. If it has not yet touched one's own body, but has reached one's neighbor first, there is no blame. One's comrades have something to talk about.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 21 - Shih Ho / Biting Through. Disaster is close but not yet directly affecting this line so he takes what precautions he can. This may well generate displeasure amongst those who are already affected by the disaster but one has a right to do this. Legge also is clear that we can do something to help ourselves but that so doing causes gossip and criticism "If, however, he were to take precautions, he might escape with only the censures of his relatives." So be it. The resultant hexagram 21, Biting Through, indicates that we may be facing possible legal troubles that will need vigorous action to deal with. "It is favorable to let justice be administered."

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 51 - Chen / The Arousing (Shock, Thunder) translation of this hexagram.