I Ching Hexagram 64 - Wei Chi / Before Completion

hexagram 64
  • Above Li the Clinging, Flame
  • Below K'an the abysmal, Water


This hexagram indicates a time when the transition from disorder to order is not yet completed. The change is indeed prepared for, since all the lines in the upper trigram are in relation to those in the lower. However, they are not yet in their places. While the preceding hexagram offers an analogy to autumn, which forms the transition from summer to winter, this hexagram presents a parallel to spring, which leads out of winter's stagnation into the fruitful time of summer. With this hopeful outlook the Book of Changes come to its close.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Before Completion. Success. But if the little fox, after nearly completing the crossing, gets his tail in the water, There is nothing that would further.

Judgement Commentary

The conditions are difficult. The task is great and full of responsibility. It is nothing less than that of leading the world out of confusion back to order. But it is a task that promises success, because there is a goal that can unite the forces now tending in different directions. At first, however, one must move warily, like an old fox walking over ice. The caution of a fox walking over ice is proverbial in China. His ears are constantly alert to the cracking of the ice, as he carefully and circumspectly searches out the safest spots. A young fox who as yet has not acquired this caution goes ahead boldly, and it may happen that he falls in and gets his tail wet when he is almost across the water. Then of course his effort has been all in vain. Accordingly, in times 'before completion,' deliberation and caution are the prerequisites of success.

The Image

Fire over water: The image of the condition before transition. Thus the superior man is careful in the differentiation of things so that each finds its place.

Image Commentary

When fire, which by nature flames upward, is above, and water, which flows downward, is below, their effects take opposite directions and remain unrelated. If we wish to achieve an effect, we must first investigate the nature of the forces in question and ascertain their proper place. If we can bring these forces to bear in the right place, they will have the desired effect and completion will be achieved. But in order to handle external forces properly, we must above all arrive at the correct standpoint ourselves, for only from this vantage can we work correctly.

The Lines

Six at the beginning means: He gets his tail in the water. Humiliating.

In times of disorder there is a temptation to advance oneself as rapidly as possible in order to accomplish something tangible. But this enthusiasm leads only to failure and humiliation if the time for achievement has not yet arrived. In such time it is wise to spare ourselves the opprobrium of failure by holding back.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 38 - K'uei / Opposition. This line rushes in where angels fear to tread and gets trodden on. Bad luck! Be more careful and you won't be so embarrassed. Legge seems to say that this line merely attempts whet it can't do rather than fail through haste "Its subject attempts to be doing, but finds cause to regret his course." The result is hexagram 38, Opposition, that implies this line will face resistance to its activities because "...people live in opposition and estrangement they cannot carry out a great undertaking in common; their points of view diverge too widely." To be successful consider why people would resist you at all.

Nine in the second place means: He brakes his wheels. Perseverance brings good fortune.

Here again the time to act has not yet come. But the patience needed is not that of idle waiting without thought of the morrow. Kept up indefinitely, this would not lead to any success. Instead, an individual must develop in himself the strength that will enable him to go forward. He must have a vehicle, as it were, to effect the crossing. But he must for the time being use the brakes. Patience in the highest sense means putting brakes on strength. Therefore he must not fall asleep and lose sight of the goal. If he remains strong and steadfast in his resolve, all goes well in the end.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 35 - Chin / Progress. Forethought and patient planning foretells ultimate success but acting at the right time is key. This line knows now is not the right time. He will act when success is possible. Legge's version of this line predicts a good outcome because it "...is able to repress himself, and keep back his carriage from advancing and there is good fortune." The resultant hexagram 35, Progress, shows a rapid and easily achieved success is on the cards. The delayed start produces a good end.

Six in the third place means: Before completion, attack brings misfortune. It furthers one to cross the great water.

The time of transition has arrived, but one lacks the strength to complete the transition. If one should attempt to force it, disaster would result, because collapse would then be unavoidable. What is to be done? A new situation must be created; one must engage the energies of able helpers and in this fellowship take the decisive step across the great water. Then completion will become possible.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 50 - Ting / The Caldron. This line is not prepared for its adventure and so should stay at home. There will be trouble if it does sail forth. Prepare, act then success. The explanation in Legge's version is "...with the state of things not yet remedied, advancing on which will lead to evil." The resultant hexagram 50, The Caldron indicates that notwithstanding the bad start, ultimate success will be achieved. "Supreme good fortune. Success."

Nine in the fourth place means: Perseverance brings good fortune. Remorse disappears. Shock, thus to discipline the Devil's Country. For three years, great realms are rewarded.

Now it is the time of struggle. The transition must be completed. We must make ourselves strong in resolution; this brings good fortune. All misgivings that might arise in such grave times of struggle must be silenced. It is a question of a fierce battle to break and to discipline the Devil's Country, the forces of decadence. But the struggle also has its reward. Now is the time to lay the foundations of power and mastery for the future.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 4 - Meng / Youthful Folly. This line has embarked on its great adventure. Be aware that this adventure will take time and effort to bring to fruition but the rewards should be great indeed if success is gained. Legge's version of this line "...shows its subject by firm correctness obtaining good fortune." The outcome shown by hexagram 4, Youthful Folly, suggests that this line will need more than a little good advice to bring his activities to a successful end. "One may succeed in spite of it (youthful folly), provided one finds an experienced teacher and has the right attitude toward him."

Six in the fifth place means: Perseverance brings good fortune. No remorse. The light of the superior man is true. Good fortune.

The victory has been won. The power of steadfastness has not been routed. Everything has gone well. All misgivings have been overcome. Success has justified the deed. The light of a superior personality shines forth anew and makes its influence felt among men who have faith in it and rally around it. The new time has arrived, and with it good fortune. And just as the sun shines forth in redoubled beauty after rain, or as a forest grows more freshly green from charred ruins after a fire, so the new era appears all the more glorious by contrast with the misery of the old.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 6 - Sung / Conflict. This line gains the victory and enjoys the spoils thereof. Legge is equally complimentary about this line "...shows its subject by firm correctness obtaining good fortune, and having no occasion for repentance. We see in him the brightness of a superior man, and the possession of sincerity. There will be good fortune." Yet the outcome is shown in hexagram 6, Conflict, is an augury of ongoing strife with no good end. "Conflict develops when one feels himself to be in the right and runs into opposition...a cautious halt halfway brings good fortune. Going through to the end brings misfortune." This is clear, the long term outlook is grim despite the initial success.

Nine at the top means: There is drinking of wine in genuine confidence. No blame. But if one wets his head he loses it in truth.

Before completion, at the dawning of the new time, friends foregather in an atmosphere of mutual trust, and the time of waiting is passed in conviviality. Since the new era is hard on the threshold, there is no blame in this. But one must be careful in all this to keep within proper bounds. If in his exuberance a man gets drunk, he forfeits the favorableness of the situation through his intemperance.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 40 - Hsieh / Deliverance. Celebration of success with friends is a good thing that helps bind groups of individuals together. Do not take celebration to extremes lest one alienate ones friends with bad behaviour. Legge also warn us not to go to far "If, on the contrary, he will go on to exert his powers, and play with the peril of the situation, the issue will be bad." The outcome shown by hexagram 40, Deliverance indicates that even if we do overindulge in celebratory activities "...the superior man pardons mistakes and forgives misdeeds." This is always good advice.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 64 - Wei Chi / Before Completion translation of this hexagram.