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Hexagram 36 - Ming I / Darkening of the light - James Legge Translation

hexagram 36
  • Above K'un the Receptive, Earth
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


Ming I indicates that in the circumstances which it denotes it will be advantageous to realize the difficulty of the position, and maintain firm correctness.

Meaning Commentary

In this hexagram we have the representation of a good and intelligent minister or officer going forward in the service of his country, notwithstanding the occupancy of the throne by a weak and unsympathizing sovereign. Hence comes its name of Ming I, or Intelligence Wounded, that is, injured and repressed. The treatment of the subject shows how such an officer will conduct himself, and maintain his purpose. The symbolism of the figure is treated of in the same way in the first and second Appendixes. Appendix VI merely says that the advance set forth in hexagram 35 is sure to meet with wounding, and hence Zin is followed by Ming I.

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The Image

The light has sunk into the earth: The image of Darkening of the light. Thus does the superior man live with the great mass: He veils his light yet still shines.

Image Commentary

In a time of darkness it is essential to be cautious and reserved. One should not needlessly awaken overwhelming enmity by inconsiderate behavior. In such times one ought not to fall in with the practices of others; neither should one drag them censoriously into the light. In social intercourse one should not try to be all-knowing. One should let many things pass, without being duped.

King Wans explanation

  1. The symbol of the Earth and that of Brightness entering into the midst of it give the idea of Ming I Brightness wounded or obscured.
  2. The inner trigram denotes being accomplished and bright; the outer, being pliant and submissive. The case of king Wan was that of one who with these qualities was yet involved in great difficulties.
  3. It will be advantageous to realize the difficulty of the position, and maintain firm correctness: that is, the individual concerned should obscure his brightness. The case of the count of Ki was that of one who, amidst the difficulties of his House, was able thus to maintain his aim and mind correct.
  4. Ming I indicates that in the circumstances which it denotes it will be advantageous to realize the difficulty of the position, and maintain firm correctness.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The sun disappearing, as we say, below the earth, or, as the Chinese writer conceives it, I into the midst of, or within the earth, sufficiently indicates the obscuration or wounding of brightness, the repression and resistance of the good and bright.

King Wan was not of the line of Shang. Though opposed and persecuted by its sovereign, he could pursue his own course, till his line came in the end to supersede the other. It could not be so with the count of Ki, who was a member of the House of Shang. He could do nothing that would help on its downfall.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject, in the condition indicated by Ming I, flying, but with drooping wings. When the superior man is revolving his going away, he may be for three days without eating. Wherever he goes, the people there may speak derisively of him.

Line 1 is strong, and in its right place; its subject should be going forward. But the general signification of the hexagram supposes him to be wounded. The wound, however, being received at the very commencement of its action, is but slight. And hence conies the emblem of a bird hurt so as to be obliged to droop its wings. The subject then appears directly as the superior man. He sees it to be his course to desist from the struggle for a time, and is so rapt in the thought that he can fast for three days and not think of it. When he does withdraw, opposition follows him but it is implied that he holds on to his own good purpose.

The second SIX, divided, shows its subject, in the condition indicated by Ming I, wounded in the left thigh. He saves himself by the strength of a swift horse; and is fortunate.

Line 2 is weak, but also in its right place, and central; giving us the idea of an officer, obedient to duty and the right. His wound in the left thigh may impede his movements, but does not disable him. He finds means to save himself, and maintains his good purpose.

The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject, in the condition indicated by Ming I, hunting in the south, and taking the great chief of the darkness. He should not be eager to make all correct at once.

Line 3, strong and in a strong place, is the topmost line of the lower. trigram. It responds also to line 6, in which the idea of the sovereign, emblemed by the upper trigram, is concentrated. The lower trigram is the emblem of light or brightness, the idea of which again is expressed by the south, to which we turn when we look at the sun in its meridian height. Hence the subject of the line becomes a hunter pursuing his game, and successfully. The good officer will be successful in his struggle; but let him not be over eager to put all things right at once.

The fourth six, divided, shows its subject just entered into the left side of the belly of the dark land. But he is able to carry out the mind appropriate in the condition indicated by Ming I, quitting the gate and courtyard of the lord of darkness.

Line 4 is weak, but in its right place. Ku Hsi says he does not understand the symbolism, as given in the Text. The translation indicates the view of it commonly accepted. The subject of the line evidently escapes from his position of danger with little damage.

The fifth six, divided, shows how the count of Ki fulfilled the condition indicated by Ming I. It will be advantageous to be firm and correct.

Line 5 should be the place of the ruler or sovereign in the hexagram; but 6 is assigned as that place in Ming I. The officer occupying 5, the centre of the upper trigram, and near to the sovereign, has his ideal in the count of Ki, whose action appears in the Shu, III. He is a historical personage.

The sixth six, divided, shows the case where there is no light, but only obscurity. Its subject had at first ascended to the top of the sky; his future shall be to go into the earth.

Line 6 sets forth the fate of the ruler, who opposes himself to the officer who would do him good and intelligent service. Instead of becoming as the sun, enlightening all from the height of the sky, he is as the sun hidden below the earth. I can well believe that the writer had the last king of Shang in his mind.