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Hexagram 49 - Ko / Revolution (Molting) - James Legge Translation

hexagram 49
  • Above Tui the Joyous, Lake
  • Below Li the Clinging, Fire


What takes place as indicated by Ko is believed in only after it has been accomplished. There will be great progress and success. Advantage will come from being firm and correct. In that case occasion for repentance will disappear.

Meaning Commentary

The character called Ko or Keh is used here in the sense of changing. Originally used for the skin of an animal or bird, alive or dead, it received the significance of changing at a very early time. Its earliest appearance, indeed, in the first Book of the Shu, is in that sense. How the transition was made from the idea of a skin or hide to that of change is a subject that need not be entered on here. The author has before him the subject of changes occurring called for in the state of the country; it may be on the greatest scale. The necessity of them is recognized, and hints are given as to the spirit and manner in which they should be brought about.

For the way in which the notion of change is brought out of the trigrams of the figure. It is assumed in the Thwan that change is viewed by people generally with suspicion and dislike, and should not be made hastily. When made as a necessity, and its good effects appear, the issues will be great and good. A proved necessity for them beforehand; and a firm correctness in the conduct of them: these are the conditions by which changes should be regulated.

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The Image

Fire in the lake: the image of Revolution. Thus the superior man sets the calendar in order and makes the seasons clear.

Image Commentary

Fire below and the lake above combat and destroy each other. So too in the course of the year a combat takes place between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, eventuating in the revolution of the seasons, and man is able to adjust himself in advance to the demands of the different times.

King Wans explanation

  1. In Ko we see water and fire extinguishing each other; we see also two daughters dwelling together, but with their minds directed to different objects: on account of these things it is called the hexagram of Change.
  2. It is believed in only after it has been accomplished: when the change has been made, faith is accorded to it.
  3. We have cultivated intelligence as the basis of pleased satisfaction, suggesting great progress and success, coming from what is correct.
  4. When change thus takes place in the proper way, occasion for repentance disappears.
  5. Heaven and earth undergo their changes, and the four seasons complete their functions. Thang changed the appointment of the line of Hsia to the throne, and Wu that of the line of Sheng, in accordance with the will of Heaven, and in response to the wishes of men. Great indeed is what takes place in a time of change.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

Paragraph 1. Li, the lower trigram, represents fire, and Tui, the upper, represents water. Water will extinguish fire, and fire again will dry up water. Each, to all appearance, produces a change in the other. Again, according to king Wan's scheme of the trigrams Li is the second, and Tui the youngest daughter. Their wills are likely to differ in love and other things; but this symbolism does not so readily suggest the idea of change.

The first sentence suggests how the dislike to change on the part of people generally is overcome.

The second suggests how change proceeding from intelligence and giving general satisfaction will be successful.

Paragraph 3 tells us how the greatest natural and the greatest political changes are equally successful and admirable when conducted aright.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject as if he were bound with the skin of a yellow ox.

Line 1, at the bottom of the figure, may be taken as denoting change made at too early a period. It has no proper correlate or helper, moreover, above. Hence its subject is represented as tied up, unable to take any action.

The second SIX, divided, shows its subject making his changes after some time has passed. Action taken will be fortunate. There will be no error.

Line 2, though weak, is in its correct place. It is in the centre also of the trigram Li, signifying brightness and intelligence, and has a proper correlate in the strong 5. Let its subject take action in the way of change.

The third NINE, undivided, shows that action taken by its subject will be evil. Though he be firm and correct, his position is perilous. If the change he contemplates have been three times fully discussed, he will be believed in.

The symbolism of paragraph 3 is twofold. The line is strong, and in the correct position, but it has passed the centre of Sun and is on its outward verge. These conditions may dispose its subject to reckless and violent changing which would be bad. But if he act cautiously and with due deliberation, he may take action, and he will be believed in.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows occasion for repentance disappearing from its subject. Let him be believed in; and though he change existing ordinances, there will be good fortune.

Line 4 is strong, but in the place of a weak line. This might vitiate any action of its subject in the way of change, and give occasion for repentance. But other conditions are intimated that will have a contrary effect and if he have further secured general confidence, he may proceed to the greatest changes, even to change the dynasty, with good fortune. The conditions favorable to his action are said to be such as these: The line has passed from the lower trigram into the upper; water and fire come in it into contact; the fourth place is that of the minister immediately below the ruler's seat. All these considerations demand action from the subject of 4 in harmony with the idea of the hexagram.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows the great man producing his changes as the tiger does when he changes his stripes. Before he divines and proceeds to action, faith has been reposed in him.

Line 5 has every quality proper to the lord of the hexagram, and his action will be in every way beneficial. He is symbolled by the tiger; and the changes which he makes by the bright stripes of the tiger when he has changed his coat.

The sixth SIX, divided, shows the superior man producing his changes as the leopard does when he changes his spots, while small men change their faces and show their obedience. To go forward now would lead to evil, but there will be good fortune in abiding firm and correct.

Line 6 is weak, but its subject is penetrated with the spirit of the hexagram. If its subject be a superior man, only inferior to the great man, immediately below, the changes he makes will be inferior only to his. If he be a small man, he will be compliant and submissive. The lesson for him, however, is to abide firm and correct without taking any action of his own.