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Hexagram 10 - Lu / Treading (conduct) - James Legge Translation

hexagram 10
  • Above Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven
  • Below Tui the Joyous, Lake


Lu suggests the idea of one treading on the tail of a tiger, which does not bite him. There will be progress and success.

Meaning Commentary

The character giving its name to the hexagram plays an important part also in the symbolism; and this may be the reason why it does not, as the name, occupy the first place in the Thwan. Looking at the figure, we see it is made up of the trigrams Tui, representing a marsh, and Ch'ien, representing the sky. Tui is a yin trigram, and its top line is divided. Below Ch'ien, the great symbol of strength, it may readily suggest the idea of treading on a tiger's tail, which was an old way of expressing what was hazardous. But what suggests the statement that the tiger does not bite the treader? The attribute of Tui is pleased satisfaction. of course such an attribute could not be predicated of one who was in the fangs of a tiger. The coming scatheless out of such danger further suggests the idea of progress and success in the course which king Wan had in his mind. And that course was propriety, the observance of all the rules of courtesy. On these, as so many stepping-stones, one may tread safely amid scenes of disorder and peril.

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The Image

Heaven above, the lake below: The image of Treading. Thus the superior man discriminates between high and low and thereby fortifies the thinking of the people.

Image Commentary

Heaven and the lake show a difference of elevation that inheres in the natures of the two, hence no envy arises. Among mankind also there are necessarily differences of elevation; it is impossible to bring about universal equality. But it is important that differences in social rank should not be arbitrary and unjust, for if this occurs, envy and class struggle are the inevitable consequences. If, on the other hand, external differences in rank correspond with differences in inner worth, and if inner worth forms the criterion of external rank, people acquiesce and order reigns in society.

King Wans explanation

  1. In Lu we have the symbol of weakness treading on that of strength.
  2. The lower trigram indicates pleasure and satisfaction, and responds to the upper indicating strength. Hence it is said, He treads on the tail of a tiger, which does not bite him; there will be progress and success.
  3. The fifth line is strong, in the centre, and in its correct place. Its subject occupies the God-given position, and falls into no distress or failure; his action will be brilliant.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The symbol of weakness in paragraph 1, according to Wang Shan-zze Yuan dynasty, is line 3, urged by the two strong lines below, and having to encounter the three strong lines above. Hu Ping-wan also of the Yuan dynasty says that the whole of the lower trigram, Tui, partaking of the yin nature, is the symbol of weakness, and the whole of Ch'ien that of strength. The Keh-Kung editors say that, to get the full meaning, we must hold both views.

Paragraph 2 has been sufficiently explained on the Thwan itself.

Paragraph 3 has also been explained; but there remains something to be said on the Chinese text for occupies the God-given position, or, literally, treads on the seat of Ti. Canon McClatchie has The imperial throne is now occupied. I think that the seat of Ti is synonymous with the seat of Heaven, in paragraph 2 of this treatise on hexagram 5. If Confucius, or whoever was the writer, had before him the phrase as it occurs in the Shu, I, 12, the force of Ti will depend on the meaning assigned to it in that part of the Shu. That the fifth line occupies the place of authority is here the only important point.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject treading his accustomed path. If he go forward, there will be no error.

Line 1 is an undivided line in an odd place; giving us the ideas of activity, firmness, and correctness. One so characterized will act rightly.

The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject treading the path that is level and easy; a quiet and solitary man, to whom, if he be firm and correct, there will be good fortune.

Line 2 occupies the middle place of the trigram, which is supposed to symbolize a path cut straight and level along the hill-side, or over difficult ground. Line, is not a proper correlate, and hence the idea of the subject of 2 being a quiet and solitary man.

The third SIX, divided, shows a one-eyed man who thinks he can see; a lame man who thinks he can walk well; one who treads on the tail of a tiger and is bitten. All this indicates ill fortune. We have a mere bravo acting the part of a great ruler.

Line 3 is neither central nor in an even place, which would be proper to it. But with the strength of will which the occupant of an odd place should possess, he goes forward with the evil results so variously emblemed.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject treading on the tail of a tiger. He becomes full of apprehensive caution, and in the end there will be good fortune.

Line 4 is in contiguity with 5, whose subject is in the place of authority; but he occupies the place proper to a weak or divided line, and hence he bethinks himself, and goes softly.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows the resolute tread of its subject. Though he be firm and correct, there will be peril.

Beneath the symbolism under line 5, lies the principle that the most excellent thing in propriety is humility. And the subject of the line, which is strong and central, will not be lacking in this, but bear in mind that the higher he is exalted, the greater may be his fall.

The sixth NINE, undivided, tells us to look at the whole course that is trodden, and examine the presage which that gives. If it be complete and without failure, there will be great good fortune.

What is said on line 6 is good, but is only a truism. The whole course has been shown; if every step has been right and appropriate, the issue will be very good.