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Hexagram 16 - Yu / Enthusiasm - James Legge Translation

hexagram 16
  • Above Chen the Arousing, Thunder
  • Below K'un the Receptive, Earth


Yu indicates that, in the state which it implies, feudal princes may be set up, and the hosts put in motion, with advantage.

Meaning Commentary

The Yu hexagram denoted to king Win a condition of harmony and happy contentment throughout the kingdom, when the people rejoiced in and readily obeyed their sovereign. At such a time his appointments and any military undertakings would be hailed and supported. The fourth line, undivided, is the lord of the figure, and being close to the fifth or place of dignity, is to be looked on as the minister or chief officer of the ruler. The ruler gives to him his confidence; and all represented by the other lines yield their obedience.

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The Image

Thunder comes resounding out of the earth: The image of Enthusiasm. Thus the ancient kings made music In order to honor merit, and offered it with splendor to the Supreme Deity, Inviting their ancestors to be present.

Image Commentary

When, at the beginning of summer, thunder--electrical energy--comes rushing forth from the earth again, and the first thunderstorm refreshes nature, a prolonged state of tension is resolved. Joy and relief make themselves felt. So too, music has power to ease tension within the heart and to loosen the grip of obscure emotions. The enthusiasm of the heart expresses itself involuntarily in a burst of song, in dance and rhythmic movement of the body. From immemorial times the inspiring effect of the invisible sound that moves all hearts, and draws them together, has mystified mankind. Rulers have made use of this natural taste for music; they elevated and regulated it. Music was looked upon as something serious and holy, designed to purify the feelings of men. It fell to music to glorify the virtues of heroes and thus to construct a bridge to the world of the unseen. In the temple men drew near to God with music and pantomimes (out of this later the theater developed). Religious feeling for the Creator of the world was united with the most sacred of human feelings, that of reverence for the ancestors. The ancestors were invited to these divine services as guests of the Ruler of Heaven and as representatives of humanity in the higher regions. This uniting of the human past with the Divinity in solemn moments of religious inspiration established the bond between God and man. The ruler who revered the Divinity in revering his ancestors became thereby the Son of Heaven, in whom the heavenly and the earthly world met in mystical contact. These ideas are the final summation of Chinese culture. Confucius has said of the great sacrifice at which these rites were performed: 'He who could wholly comprehend this sacrifice could rule the world as though it were spinning on his hand.'

King Wans explanation

  1. In Yu we see the strong line responded to by all the others, and the will of him whom it represents being carried out; and also docile obedience employing movement for its purposes. From these things comes Yu the Condition of harmony and satisfaction.
  2. In this condition we have docile obedience employing movement for its purposes, and therefore it is so as between heaven and earth; how much more will it be so among men in the setting up of feudal princes and putting the hosts in motion!
  3. Heaven and earth show that docile obedience in connection with movement, and hence the sun and moon make no error in time, and the four seasons do not deviate from their order. The sages show such docile obedience in connection with their movements, and hence their punishments and penalties are entirely just, and the people acknowledge it by their submission. Great indeed are the time and significance indicated in Yu!

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

What is said in paragraph 1 about the lines has been pointed out in the notes on the Text. Obedience is the attribute of K'un, the lower trigram, which takes the initiative in the action of the figure; and here makes use of the movement, which is the attribute of Chen, the upper trigram.

I can hardly trace the connection between the different parts of Paragraph 2. Does it not proceed on the harmony produced by the thunderous explosion between heaven and earth, as declared in Appendix II? Then the analogy between natural phenomena and human and social experiences comes into play.

Paragraph 3 is also tantalizing. Why does the writer introduce the subject of punishments and penalties? Are they a consequence of putting the hosts in motion?

The Lines

The first SIX, divided, shows its subject proclaiming his pleasure and satisfaction. There will be evil.

Line 1 is weak, and has for its correlate the strong 4. Its subject may well enjoy the happiness of the time. But he cannot contain himself, and proclaims, or boasts of, his satisfaction; which is evil.

The second SIX, divided, shows one who is firm as a rock. He sees a thing without waiting till it has come to pass; with his firm correctness there will be good fortune.

Line 2, though weak, is in its correct position, the centre, moreover, of the lower trigram. Quietly and firmly its subject is able to abide in his place, and exercise a far-seeing discrimination. All is indicative of good fortune.

The third SIX, divided, shows one looking up for favours, while he indulges the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. If he would understand! If he be late in doing so, there will indeed be occasion for repentance.

Line 3 is weak, and in an odd place. Immediately below line 4, its subject keeps looking up to the lord of the figure, and depends on him, thinking of doing nothing, but how to enjoy himself. The consequence will be as described, unless he speedily change.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows him from whom the harmony and satisfaction come. Great is the success which he obtains. Let him not allow suspicions to enter his mind, and thus friends will gather around him.

The strong subject of line 4 is the agent to whom the happy condition is owing; and it is only necessary to caution him to maintain his confidence in himself and his purpose, and his adherents and success will continue.

The fifth six, divided, shows one with a chronic complaint, but who lives on without dying.

Line 5 is in the ruler's place; but it is weak, and he is in danger of being carried away by the lust of pleasure. Moreover, proximity to the powerful minister represented by 4 is a source of danger. Hence he is represented as suffering from a chronic complaint, but nevertheless he does not die.

The topmost six, divided, shows its subject with darkened mind devoted to the pleasure and satisfaction of the time; but if he change his course even when it may be considered as completed, there will be no error.

Line 6, at the very top or end of the hexagram, is weak, and its subject is all but lost. Still even for him there is a chance of safety, if he will but change.