I Ching Hexagram 9 - Hsiao Chu / The Taming Power of the Small

hexagram 9
  • Above Sun the Gentle, Wind
  • Below Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven


This hexagram means the force of the small--the power of the shadowy--that restrains, tames, impedes. A weak line in the fourth place, that of the minister, holds the five strong lines in check. In the Image it is the wind blowing across the sky. The wind restrains the clouds, the rising breath of the Creative, and makes them grow dense, but as yet is not strong enough to turn them to rain. The hexagram presents a configuration of circumstances in which a strong element is temporarily held in leash by a weak element. It is only through gentleness that this can have a successful outcome.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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The Taming Power of the Small has success, dense clouds, no rain from our western region.

Judgement Commentary

This image refers to the state of affairs in China at the time when King Wen, who came originally from the west, was in the east at the court of the reigning tyrant Chou Hsin. The moment for action on a large scale had not yet arrived. King Wen could only keep the tyrant somewhat in check by friendly persuasion. Hence the image of many clouds, promising moisture and blessing to the land, although as yet no rain falls. The situation is not unfavorable; there is a prospect of ultimate success, but there are still obstacles in the way, and we can merely take preparatory measures. Only through the small means of friendly persuasion can we exert any influence. The time has not yet come for sweeping measures. However, we may be able, to a limited extent, to act as a restraining and subduing influence. To carry out our purpose we need firm determination within and gentleness and adaptability in external relations.

The Image

The wind drives across heaven: The image of The Taming Power of the Small. Thus the superior man Refines the outward aspect of his nature.

Image Commentary

The wind can indeed drive the clouds together in the sky; yet, being nothing but air, without solid body, it does not produce great or lasting effects. So also an individual, in times when he can produce no great effect in the outer world, can do nothing except refine the expression of his nature in small ways.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Return to the way. How could there be blame in this? Good fortune.

It lies in the nature of a strong man to press forward. In so doing he encounters obstructions. Therefore he returns to the way suited to his situation, where he is free to advance or to retreat. In the nature of things this will bring good fortune, for it is wise and reasonable not to try to obtain anything by force.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 57 Sun / The Gentle (The Penetrating, Wind). Here we see someone turning away from a course of action that would fail and going back to what is correct for him. The resultant hexagram 57 gives good advice on how to make progress in this situation, use "... gradual and inconspicuous effects". The description Legge gives is the same "...shows its subject returning and pursuing his own course". The good fortune described is based on not using force to attain your goals, there is another way.

Nine in the second place means: He allows himself to be drawn into returning. Good fortune.

One would like to press forward, but before going farther one sees from the example of others like oneself that this way is blocked. In such a case, if the effort to push forward is not in harmony with the time, a reasonable and resolute man will not expose himself to a personal rebuff, but will retreat with others of like mind. This brings good fortune, because he does not needlessly jeopardize himself.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 37 - Chia Jen / The Family (The Clan). This line describes a very similar situation to the previous one. Retreat from a hopeless situation is the best course. Here the resultant hexagram 37 is perhaps showing us what we should be concentrating on in such a time, ones family and the proper regulation of same. Legge says the same thing.

Nine in the third place means: The spokes burst out of the wagon wheels. Man and wife roll their eyes.

Here an attempt is made to press forward forcibly, in the consciousness that the obstructing power is slight. But since, under the circumstances, power actually lies with the weak, this sudden offensive is doomed to failure. External conditions hinder the advance, just as loss of the wheel spokes stops the progress of a wagon. We do not yet heed this hint form fate, hence there are annoying arguments like those of a married couple. Naturally this is not a favorable state of thing, for though the situation may enable the weaker side to hold its ground, the difficulties are too numerous to permit of a happy result. In consequence even the strong man cannot so use his power as to exert the right influence on those around him. He experiences a rebuff where he expected an easy victory, and he thus compromises his dignity.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 61 Chung Fu / Inner Truth. Even though this line is almost comically bad in its reading, the resultant hexagram is good. The sort of influence we should be using is seen there. Trying to force our way to our goals creates upset and chaos. The husband and wife "...looking on each other with averted eyes." that Legge uses to illustrate the situation is quite apt. How happy and successful a marriage can there be when both parties to it are always fighting?

Six in the fourth place means: If you are sincere, blood vanishes and fear gives way. No blame.

If one is in the difficult and responsible position of counselor to a powerful man, on should restrain him in such a way that the threat of actual bloodshed may arise. Nonetheless, the power of disinterested truth is greater than all theses obstacles. It carries such weight that the end is achieved, and all danger of bloodshed and all fear disappear.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 1 - Ch'ien / The Creative. This line is tasked with restraining great power and this is a dangerous thing to do. The resultant hexagram 1 is probably the most auspicious hexagram you can receive so this indicates the great good fortune that results from such activities. The attributes required to perform such duties are sincere, disinterested truth. Legge promises that such an approach averts bloodshed and any grounds "...for apprehension (will be) dismissed".

Nine in the fifth place means: If you are sincere and loyally attached, You are rich in your neighbor.

Loyalty leads to firm ties because it means that each partner complements the other. In the weaker person loyalty consists in devotion, in the stronger it consists in trustworthiness. This relation of mutual reinforcement leads to a true wealth that is all the more apparent because it is not selfishly hoarded but is shared with friends. Pleasure shared is pleasure doubled.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 26 - Ta Chu / The Taming Power of the Great. Here the small restraining power of this hexagram turns into the, The Taming Power of the Great of hexagram 26. How? By being, as Legge writes " possessed of sincerity, and drawing others to unite with him.". One is able to influence successfully and such influence can have great affect.

Nine at the top means: The rain comes, there is rest. This is due to the lasting effect of character. Perseverance brings the woman into danger. The moon is nearly full. If the superior man persists misfortune comes.

Success is at hand. The wind has driven up the rain. A fixed standpoint has been reach. This has come about through the cumulation of small effects produced by reverence for a superior character. But a success thus secured bit by bit calls for great caution. It would be a dangerous illusion for anyone to think he could presume upon it. The female principle, the weak element that has won the victory, should never persist in vaunting it--that would lead to danger. The dark power in the moon is strongest when the moon is almost full. When it is full and directly opposite the sun, its waning is inevitable. Under such circumstances one must be content with what has been achieved. To advance any further, before the appropriate time has come, would lead to misfortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 5 - Hsu / Waiting (Nourishment). Conditions have come to a head, change has occurred. We have gradually attained our goals but now must be careful not to press on. The resultant hexagram 5 counsels patience. "One is faced with a danger that has to be overcome. Weakness and impatience can do nothing." The interpretation given by Legge is "...weakness that has achieved ... will be in a position of peril." When you have attained, remain quiet do not attract attention lest ones achievements be taken away.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 9 - Hsiao Chu / The Taming Power of the Small translation of this hexagram.