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Hexagram 43 - Kuai / Break-through (Resoluteness) - James Legge Translation

hexagram 43
  • Above Tui the Joyous, Lake
  • Below Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven


Kuai requires in him who would fulfil its meaning the exhibition of the culprit's guilt in the royal court, and a sincere and earnest appeal for sympathy and support, with a consciousness of the peril involved in cutting off the criminal. He should also make announcement in his own city, and show that it will not be well to have recourse at once to arms. In this way there will be advantage in whatever he shall go forward to.

Meaning Commentary

In Kuai we have the hexagram of the third month, when the last remnant, cold and dark, of winter, represented by the sixth line, is about to disappear before the advance of the warm and bright days of the approaching summer. In the yin line at the top king Wan saw the symbol of a small or bad man, a feudal prince or high minister, lending his power to maintain a corrupt government, or, it might be, a dynasty that was waxen old and ready to vanish away; and in the five undivided lines he saw the representatives of good order, or, it might be, the dynasty which was to supersede the other. This then is the subject of the hexagram, how bad men, statesmen corrupt and yet powerful, are to be put out of the way. And he who would accomplish the task must do so by the force of his character more than by force of arms, and by producing a general sympathy on his side.

The Thwan says that he must openly denounce the criminal in the court, seek to awaken general sympathy, and at the same time go about his enterprise, conscious of its difficulty and danger. Among his own adherents, moreover, as if it were in his own city, he must make it understood how unwillingly he takes up arms. Then let him go forward, and success will attend him.

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The Image

The lake has risen up to heaven: The image of Break-through. Thus the superior man dispenses riches downward and refrains from resting on his virtue.

Image Commentary

When the water of a lake has risen up to heaven, there is reason to fear a cloudburst. Taking this as a warning, the superior man forestalls a violent collapse. If a man were to pile up riches for himself alone, without considering others, he would certainly experience a collapse. If a man were to pile up riches for himself alone, without considering others, he would certainly experience a collapse. For all gathering is followed by dispersion. Therefore the superior man begins to distribute while he is accumulating. In the same way, in developing his character he takes care not to become hardened in obstinacy but to remain receptive to impressions by help of strict and continuous self-examination.

King Wans explanation

  1. Kuai is the symbol of displacing or removing. We see in the figure the strong lines displacing the weak. We have in it the attributes of strength and complacency. There is displacement, but harmony continues.
  2. The exhibition of the criminal's guilt in the royal courtyard' is suggested by the one weak line mounted on the five strong lines.
  3. There is an earnest and sincere appeal for sympathy and support, and a consciousness of the peril involved in the undertaking it is the realization of this danger, which makes the method of compassing the object brilliant.
  4. He should make an announcement in his own city, and show that it will not be well to have recourse at once to arms if he have recourse to arms, what he prefers will soon be exhausted.
  5. There will be advantage in whatever he shall go forward to: when the growth of the strong lines has been completed, there will be an end of the displacement.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The last clause of paragraph 1 is good in itself, showing that the strong and worthy statesman in removing a bad man from the state is not actuated by arty private feelings. The sentiment, however, as it is expressed, can hardly be said to follow from the symbolism.

Paragraph 2. The same may be said of all the notes appended to the different clauses of this second paragraph. Hu Ping-wan Yuan dynasty says: If but a single small man be left, he is sufficient to make the superior man anxious; if but a single inordinate desire be left in the mind, that is sufficient to disturb the harmony of heavenly principles. The eradication in both oases must be complete, before the labour is ended.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject in the pride of strength advancing with his toes. He goes forward, but will not succeed. There will be ground for blame.

Line 1 is strong, the first line of that trigram, which expresses the idea of strength. But it is in the lowest place. The stage of the enterprise is too early, and the preparation too small to make victory certain. Its subject had better not take the field.

The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject full of apprehension and appealing for sympathy and help. Late at night hostile measures may be taken against him, but he need not be anxious about them.

Line 2 is strong, and central, and its subject is possessed with the determination to do his part in the work of removal. But his eagerness is tempered by his occupancy of an even place and he is cautious, and no attempts, however artful, to harm him will take effect.

The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject about to advance with strong and determined looks. There will be evil. But the superior man, bent on cutting off the criminal, will walk alone and encounter the rain, till he be hated by his proper associates as if he were contaminated by the others. In the end there will be no blame against him.

Line 3 is strong, and its subject displays his purpose too eagerly. Being beyond the central position, moreover, gives an indication of evil. Lines 3 and 6 are also proper correlates; and, as elsewhere in the Yi, the meeting of yin and yang lines is associated with falling rain. The subject of 3, therefore, communicates with 6, in a way that annoys his associates; but nevertheless he commits no error, and, in the end, incurs no blame.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows one from whose buttocks the skin has been stripped, and who walks slowly and with difficulty. If he could act like. a sheep led after its companions, occasion for repentance would disappear. But though he hear these words, he will not believe them.

Line 4 is not in the centre, nor in an odd place, appropriate to it as undivided. Its subject therefore will not be at rest, nor able to do anything to accomplish the idea of the hexagram. He is symbolized by a culprit, who, according to the ancient and modern custom of Chinese courts, has been bastinadoed till he presents the appearance in the Text. Alone he can do nothing; if he could follow others, like a sheep led along, he might accomplish something, but he will not listen to advice.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows the small men like a bed of purslane, which ought to be uprooted with the utmost determination.

The subject of the line having such determination, his action, in harmony with his central position, will lead to no error or blame. Purslane grows in shady places, and hence we find it here in close contiguity to the topmost line, which is yin. As 5 is the ruler's seat, evil may come to him from such contiguity, and strenuous efforts must be made to prevent such an evil. The subject of the line, the ruler in the central place, will commit no error. It must be allowed that the symbolism in this line is not easily managed.

The sixth SIX, divided, shows its subject without any helpers on whom to call. His end will be evil.

The subject of the 6th line, standing alone, may be easily disposed of.