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Hexagram 24 - Fu / Return (The Turning Point) - James Legge Translation

hexagram 24
  • Above K'un the Receptive, Earth
  • Below Chen the Arousing, Thunder


When decadence and overthrow have completed their work, recreation and reintegration commence. Return. Fu indicates that there will be free course and progress in what it denotes. The subject of it finds no one to distress him in his exits and entrances; friends come to him, and no error is committed. He will return and repeat his proper course. In seven days comes his return. There will be advantage in whatever direction movement is made.

Meaning Commentary

Fu symbolizes the idea of returning, coming back or over again. The last hexagram showed us inferior prevailing over superior men, all that is good in nature and society yielding before what is bad. But change is the law of nature and society. When decay has reached its climax, recovery will begin to take place. In Po we had one strong topmost line, and five weak lines below it; here we have one strong line, and five weak lines above it. To illustrate the subject from what we see in nature, Po is the hexagram of the ninth month, in which the triumph of cold and decay in the year is nearly complete. It is complete in the tenth month, whose hexagram is Khwan then follows our hexagram Fu, belonging to the eleventh month, in which was the winter solstice when the sun turned back in his course, and moved with a constant regular progress towards the summer solstice. In harmony with these changes of nature are the changes in the political and social state of a nation. There is nothing in the Yi to suggest the hope of a perfect society or kingdom that cannot be moved.

he strong bottom line is the first of Chen, the trigram of movement, and the upper trigram is K'un, denoting docility and capacity. The strong returning line will meet with no distressing obstacle, and the weak lines will change before it into strong, and be as friends. The bright quality will be developed brighter and brighter from day to day, and month to month.

The sentence, In seven days comes his return, occasions some perplexity. If the reader will refer to hexagrams 44, 33, 12, 20, 23, and 2, he will see that during the months denoted by those figures, the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th, the yin lines have gradually been prevailing over the yang, until in Khwan 2 they have extruded them entirely from the lineal figure. Then comes our Fu, as a seventh figure, in which the yang line begins to reassert itself, and from which it goes on to extrude the yin lines in their turn. Explained therefore of the months of the year, we have to take a day for a month. And something analogous we cannot say exactly what must have place in society and the state.

The concluding auspice or oracle to him who finds this Fu by divination is what we might expect.

Fu represents the opposite set of conditions, the return of growth and life, to those presented in hexagram 23 Po decay and death.

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The Image

Thunder within the earth: The image of The Turning Point. Thus the kings of antiquity closed the passes at the time of solstice. Merchants and strangers did not go about, and the ruler did not travel through the provinces.

Image Commentary

The winter solstice has always been celebrated in China as the resting time of the year--a custom that survives in the time of rest observed at the new year. In winter the life energy, symbolized by thunder, the Arousing, is still underground. Movement is just at its beginning; therefore it must be strengthened by rest so that it will not be dissipated by being used prematurely. This principle, ie., of allowing energy that is renewing itself to be reinforced by rest, applies to all similar situations. The return of health after illness, the return of understanding after an estrangement: everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning, so that the return may lead to a flowering.

King Wans explanation

  1. Fu indicates the free course and progress of what it denotes: it is the coming back of what is intended by the undivided line.
  2. Its subject's actions show movement directed by accordance with natural order. Hence he finds no one to distress him in his exits and entrances, and friends come to him, and no error is committed.
  3. He will return and repeat his proper course; in seven days comes his return such is the movement of the heavenly revolution.
  4. There will be advantage in whatever direction movement is made: the strong lines are growing and increasing.
  5. Do we not see in Fu the mind of heaven and earth?

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The movement of the heavenly revolution in paragraph 3 has reference to the regular alternations of darkness and light, and of cold and heat, as seen in the different months of the year. Hau Hsing-kwo of the Thang dynasty refers to the expressions in the Shih, I, xv, ode 1, the days of our first month, second month, as illustrating the use of day for month, as we have it here but that is to explain what is obscure by what is more so though I believe, as stated on the Text, that seven days is here equivalent to seven months.

The mind of heaven and earth is the love of life and of all goodness that rules in the course of nature and providence.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject returning from an error of no great extent, which would not proceed to anything requiring repentance. There will be great good fortune.

The subject of line 1 is of course the undivided line, meaning here, says Khang-zze, the way of the superior man. There must have been some deviation from that, or returning could not be spoken of.

The second SIX, divided, shows the admirable return of its subject. There will be good fortune.

Line 2 is in its proper place, and central; but it is weak. This is more than compensated for, however, by its adherence to line 1, the fifth line not being a proper correlate. Hence the return of its subject is called excellent or admirable.

The third SIX, divided, shows one who has made repeated returns. The position is perilous, but there will be no error.

Line 3 is weak, and in the uneven place of a strong line. It is the top line, moreover, of the trigram whose attribute is movement. Hence the symbolism; but any evil issue may be prevented by a realization of danger and by caution.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject moving right in the centre among those represented by the other divided lines, and yet returning alone to his proper path.

Line 4 has its proper correlate in 1 different from all the other weak lines; and its course is different accordingly.

The fifth SIX, divided, shows the noble return of its subject. There will be no ground for repentance

Line 5 is in the central place of honour, and the middle line of Khwan, denoting docility. Hence its auspice.

The topmost SIX, divided, shows its subject all astray on the subject of returning. There will be evil. There will be calamities and errors. If with his views he put the hosts in motion, the end will be a great defeat, whose issues will extend to the ruler of the state. Even in ten years he will not be able to repair the disaster.

Line 6 is weak; and being at the top of the hexagram, when its action of returning is all concluded, action on the part of its subject will lead to evils such as are mentioned. Ten years seems to be a round number, signifying a long time, as in hexagram 3.