I Ching Hexagram 62 - Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small

hexagram 62
  • Above Chen the Arousing, Thunder
  • Below Ken Keeping Still, Mountain


While in the hexagram Ta Kuo, Preponderance of the Great (28), the strong lines preponderate and are within, inclosed between weak lines at the top and bottom, the present hexagram has weak lines preponderating, though here again they are on the outside, the strong lines being within. This indeed is the basis of the exceptional situation indicated by the hexagram. When strong lines are outside, we have the hexagram I, Providing Nourishment (27), or Chung Fu, Inner Truth, (61); neither represents and exceptional state. When strong elements within preponderate, they necessarily enforce their will. This creates struggle and exceptional conditions in general. But in the present hexagram it is the weak element that perforce must mediate with the outside world. If a man occupies a position of authority for which he is by nature really inadequate, extraordinary prudence is necessary.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Preponderance of the Small. Success. Perseverance furthers. Small things may be done; great things should not be done. The flying bird brings the message: It is not well to strive upward, It is well to remain below. Great good fortune.

Judgement Commentary

Exceptional modesty and conscientiousness are sure to be rewarded with success; however, if a man is not to throw himself away, it is important that they should not become empty form and subservience but be combined always with a correct dignity in personal behavior. We must understand the demands of the time in order to find the necessary offset for its deficiencies and damages. In any event we must not count on great success, since the requisite strength is lacking. In this lies the importance of the message that one should not strive after lofty things but hold to lowly things. The structure of the hexagram gives rise to the idea that this message is brought by a bird. In Ta Kuo, Preponderance of the Great (28), the four strong, heavy lines within, supported only by two weak lines without, give the image of a sagging ridgepole. Here the supporting weak lines are both outside and preponderant; this gives the image of a soaring bird. But a bird should not try to surpass itself and fly into the sun; it should descend to the earth, where its nest is. In this way it gives the message conveyed by the hexagram.

The Image

Thunder on the mountain: The image of Preponderance of the Small. Thus in his conduct the superior man gives preponderance to reverence. In bereavement he gives preponderance to grief. In his expenditures he gives preponderance to thrift.

Image Commentary

Thunder on the mountain is different from thunder on the plain. In the mountains, thunder seems much nearer; outside the mountains, it is less audible than the thunder of an ordinary storm. Thus the superior man derives an imperative from this image: he must always fix his eyes more closely and more directly on duty than does the ordinary man, even though this might make his behavior seem petty to the outside world. He is exceptionally conscientious in his actions. In bereavement emotion means more to him than ceremoniousness. In all his personal expenditures he is extremely simple and unpretentious. In comparison with the man of the masses, all this makes him stand out as exceptional. But the essential significance of his attitude lies in the fact that in external matters he is on the side of the lowly.

The Lines

Six at the beginning means: The bird meets with misfortune through flying.

A bird ought to remain in the nest until it is fledged. If it tries to fly before this, it invites misfortune. Extraordinary measures should be resorted to only when all else fails. At first we ought to put up with traditional ways as long as possible, otherwise we exhaust ourselves and our energy and still achieve nothing.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 55 - Feng / Abundance (Fullness). Being aware of ones true strength and abilities is a sign of wisdom. Understanding the signs of the times likewise. This line overestimates its ability and/or misunderstands the times and acts when it should not. This is unfortunate. Legge says of this line, it "...is weak, in an odd place, and possessed by the idea of exceeding." The outcome is seen in hexagram 55, Abundance, asks a question of this line, "it is not given to every mortal to bring about a time of outstanding greatness and abundance. Only a born ruler of men is able to do it, because his will is directed to what is great." Are you this born ruler?

Six in the second place means: She passes by her ancestor and meets her ancestress. He does not reach his prince and meets the official. No blame.

Two exceptional situations are instanced here. In the temple of ancestors, where alternation of generations prevails, the grandson stands on the same side as the grandfather. Hence his closest relations are with the grandfather. The present line designates the grandson's wife, who during the sacrifice passes by the ancestor and goes toward the ancestress. This unusual behavior is, however, an expression of her modesty. She ventures rather to approach the ancestress, for she feels related to her by their common sex. Hence here deviation from the rule is not a mistake. Another image is that of the official who, in compliance with regulation, first seeks an audience with his prince. If he is not successful in this, he does not try to force anything but goes about conscientious fulfillment of his duty, taking his place among the other officials. This extraordinary restraint is likewise not a mistake in exceptional times. (The rule is that every official should first have an audience with the prince by whom he is appointed. Here the appointment is made by the minister.)

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 32 - Heng / Duration. This line may seem to be acting inappropriately but in fact it is not. In some situations one is right to act in an irregular way if ones motivation is correct. Legge sees this lines situation in a similar way. There is no mention of success or good fortune here, merely that no error is committed. The resultant hexagram 32, Duration indicates that a return to the normal way of acting after this excursion will be beneficial.

Nine in the third place means: If one is not extremely careful somebody may come up from behind and strike him. Misfortune.

At certain times extraordinary caution is absolutely necessary. But it is just in such life situations that we find upright and strong personalities who, conscious of being in the right, disdain to hold themselves on guard, because they consider it petty. Instead, they go their way proud and unconcerned. But this self-confidence deludes them. There are dangers lurking for which they are unprepared. Yet such danger is not unavoidable; one can escape it if he understands that the time demands that he pay especial attention to small and insignificant thing.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 16 - Yu / Enthusiasm. Confidence is good, over confidence not so good. This line would do well to be more careful and respectful of the dangers around him else he be injured by them. Legge sees this line as "...too confident in his own strength, and too defiant of the weak and small enemies that seek his hurt." The resultant hexagram 16, Enthusiasm indicates that this lines confidence may be tempered by intelligent consideration and a good outcome secured.

Nine in the fourth place means: No blame. He meets him without passing by. Going brings danger. One must be on guard. Do not act. Be constantly persevering.

Hardness of character is tempered by yielding position so that no mistakes are made. The situation here calls for extreme caution; one must make no attempt of one's own initiative to reach the desired end. And if one were to go on, endeavoring one must be on guard and not act but continue inwardly to persevere.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 15 - Ch'ien / Modesty. This line must not act on his own as the time is not right. If he does act be extremely careful! Legge's version of this line is just as cautious "If he go forward, there will be peril, and he must be cautious. He is warned, however, to continue quiet and restrain himself." The resultant hexagram is 15, Modesty. This lines ability to restrain itself at the beginning of its quest, when times were dangerous, leads to a successful outcome in the end "It is the law of earth to alter the full and to contribute to the modest." This lines modesty will be rewarded.

Six in the fifth place means: Dense clouds no rain from our western territory. The prince shoots and hits him who is in the cave.

As a high place is pictured here, the image of a flying bird has become that of flying clouds. But dense as the clouds are, they race across the sky and give no rain. Similarly, in exceptional times there may be a born ruler who is qualified to set the world in order, but who cannot achieve anything or confer blessing on the people because he stands alone and has no helpers. Is such times a man must seek out helpers with whose aid he can carry out the task. But these helpers must be modestly sought out in the retirement to which they have withdrawn. It is not in the fame nor their great names but their genuine achievements that are important. Through such modesty the right man is found, and the exceptional task is carried out in spite of all difficulties.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 31 - Hsien / Influence (Wooing). Great things can rarely be achieved by one man alone. He needs helpers of real ability and these helpers need to volunteer their services willingly. Legge says here that this line "...though in the ruler's seat, is weak, and incapable of doing anything great." The resultant hexagram 31, Influence, shows that success will come from the willingness of the ruler (the subject of this line), to accept the advice and assistance of those who he employs to assist him. He must submit himself to their superior knowledge and experience to be successful.

Six at the top means: He passes him by, not meeting him. The flying bird leaves him. Misfortune. This means bad luck and injury.

If one overshoots the goal, one cannot hit it. If a bird will not come to its nest but flies higher and higher, it eventually falls into the hunter's net. He who in times of extraordinary salience of small things does not know how to call a halt, but restlessly seeks to press on and on, draws upon himself misfortune at the hands of gods and men, because he deviates from the order of nature.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 56 - Lu / The Wanderer. The previous lines success comes from its ability to restrain its ego. It can take advice and accept help from more knowledgeable people and this leads to success. This line is the opposite. Over confidence, even arrogance causes disaster. Legge says this line is a "...what is called one of calamity and self-produced injury." Ouch! The resultant hexagram 56, The Wanderer, shows the state this lines arrogance leads to "Strange lands and separation are the wanderer's lot."

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 62 - Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small translation of this hexagram.