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Hexagram 11 - T'ai / Peace - James Legge Translation

hexagram 11
  • Above K'un the Receptive, Earth
  • Below Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven


T'ai denotes things having free course. In T'ai we see the little gone and the great come. It indicates that there will be good fortune, with progress and success.

Meaning Commentary

The language of the Thwan has reference to the form of T'ai, with the three strong lines of Ch'ien below, and the three weak lines of Kuan above. The former are 'the great,' active and vigorous; the latter are the small, inactive and submissive. But where have the former come from, and whither are the latter gone? In many editions of the Yi beneath the hexagram of T'ai here, there appears that of Kuei Mei, the 54th in order , which becomes T'ai, if the third and fourth lines exchange places. But in the notes on the Thwan, in the first Appendix, on hexagram 6, I have spoken of the doctrine of 'changing figures,' and intimated my disbelief of it. The different hexagrams arose necessarily by the continued manipulation of the undivided and divided lines, and placing them each over itself and over the other. When king Wan wrote these Thwan, he was taking the 64 hexagrams, as they were ready to his hand, and not forming one from another by any process of divination. The gone and come are merely equivalent to below and above, in the lower trigram or in the upper.

A course in which the motive forces are represented by the three strong, and the opposing by the three weak lines, must be progressive and successful. T'ai is called the hexagram of the first month of the year, the first month of the natural spring, when for six months, through the fostering sun and genial skies, the processes of growth will be going on.

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The Image

Heaven and earth unite: the image of Peace. Thus the ruler divides and completes the course of heaven and earth, and so aids the people.

Image Commentary

Heaven and earth are in contact and combine their influences, producing a time of universal flowering and prosperity. This stream of energy must be regulated by the ruler of men. It is done by a process of division. Thus men divide the uniform flow of time into the seasons, according to the succession of natural phenomena, and mark off infinite space by the points of the compass. In this way nature in its overwhelming profusion of phenomena is bounded and controlled. One the other hand, nature must be furthered in her productiveness. This is done by adjusting the products to the right time and the right place, which increases the natural yield. This controlling and furthering activity of man in his relation to nature is the work on nature that rewards him.

King Wans explanation

  • The little come and the great gone in T'ai, and its indication that there will be good fortune with progress and success show to us heaven and earth in communication with each other, and all things in consequence having free course, and also the high and the low, superiors and inferiors, in communication with one another, and possessed by the same aim. The inner trigram is made up of the strong and undivided lines, and the outer of the weak and divided; the inner is the symbol of strength, and the outer of docility; the inner represents the superior man, and the outer the small man. Thus the way of the superior man appears increasing, and that of the small man decreasing.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

There is nothing to be said on the explanation of the Thwan here beyond what has been noticed on the different paragraphs of the Text. Canon McClatchie translates: The Thwan means that Heaven and Earth have now conjugal intercourse with each other .. and the upper and lower classes unite together. But in both clauses the Chinese characters are the same. Why did he not go on to say the upper and lower classes have conjugal intercourse together; or rather, why did he not dismiss, the idea of such intercourse from his mind altogether? Why make the Yi appear to be gross, when there is not the shadow of grossness in it? The paragraph here well illustrates how the ruling idea in all the antinomies of the Yi is that of authority and strength on the one side, and of inferiority and weakness on the other.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, suggests the idea of grass pulled up, and bringing with it other stalks with whose roots it is connected. Advance on the part of its subject will be fortunate.

The symbolism of paragraph 1 is suggested by the three strong lines of Ch'ien all together, and all possessed by the same instinct to advance. The movement of the first will be supported by that of the others, and be fortunate.

The second NINE, undivided, shows one who can bear with the uncultivated, will cross the Ho without a boat, does not forget the distant, and has no selfish friendships. Thus does he prove himself acting in accordance with the course of the due Mean.

The second line is strong, but in an even place. This is supposed to temper the strength of its subject; which is expressed by the first of his characteristics. But the even place is the central; and it is responded to by a proper correlate in the fifth line above. Hence come all the symbolism of the paragraph and the auspice of good fortune implied in it.

The third NINE, undivided, shows that, while there is no state of peace that is not liable to be disturbed, and no departure of evil men so that they shall not return, yet when one is firm and correct, as he realizes the distresses that may arise, he will commit no error.

There is no occasion for sadness at the certainty of such recurring changes; and in this mood the happiness of the present may be long enjoyed. Beneath the symbolism in paragraph 3 there lies the persuasion of the constant change that is taking place in nature and in human affairs. As night succeeds to day, and winter to summer, so calamity may be expected to follow prosperity, and decay the flourishing of a state. The third is the last of the lines of Ch'ien, by whose strength and activity the happy state of T'ai has been produced. Another aspect of things may be looked for but by firmness and correctness the good estate of the present may be long continued.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject fluttering down; not relying on his own rich resources, but calling in his neighbour's. They all come not as having received warning, but in the sincerity of their hearts. According to the treatise on the Thwan.

The subjects of the fourth and other upper lines are not the small returning as opponents of the strong lines below, as is generally supposed; but as the correlates of those lines, of one heart and mind with them to maintain the state of T'ai, and giving them, humbly but readily, all the help in their power.

The fifth six, divided, reminds us of king Ti-yi's rule about the marriage of his younger sister. By such a course there is happiness and there will be great good fortune. Ti-yi, the last sovereign but one of the Yin dynasty, reigned from B. C. 1191 to 1155; but what was the history of him and his sister here referred to we do not know. According to Khang-zze, Ti-yi was the first to enact a law that daughters of the royal house, in marrying princes of the states, should be in subjection to them, as if they were not superior to them in rank.

Here line 5, while occupying the place of dignity and authority in the hexagram, is yet a weak line in the place of a strong and its subject, accordingly, humbly condescends to his one, strong and proper correlate in line 2.

The sixth six, divided, shows us the city wall returned into the moat. It is not the time to use the army. The subject of the line may, indeed, announce his orders to the people of his own city; but however correct and firm he may be, he will have cause for regret.

The course denoted by T'ai has been run; and will be followed by one of a different and unhappy character. The earth dug from the moat had been built up to form a protecting wall; but it is now again fallen into the ditch. War will only aggravate the evil; and however the ruler may address good proclamations to himself and the people of his capital, the coming evil cannot be altogether averted.