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Hexagram 57 - Sun / The Gentle (The Penetrating, Wind) - James Legge Translation

hexagram 57
  • Above Sun the Gentle, Wind, Wood
  • Below Sun the Gentle, Wind, Wood


Sun intimates that under the conditions which it denotes there will be some little attainment and progress. There will be advantage in movement onward in whatever direction. It will be advantageous also to see the great man.

Meaning Commentary

With Sun as the fifth of the Fu-hsi trigrams we have become familiar. It symbolizes both wind and wood; and has the attributes of flexibility nearly allied to docility and penetration. In this hexagram we are to think of it as representing wind with its penetrating power, finding its way into every corner and cranny.

Confucius once said Analects 12. 19: The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend when the wind blows upon it. In accordance with this, the subject of the hexagram must be understood as the influence and orders of government designed to remedy what is wrong in the people. The Daily Lecture says that the upper trigram denotes the orders issuing from the ruler, and the lower the obedience rendered to them by the people; but this view is hardly borne out by the Text.

But how is it that the figure represents merely some little attainment? This is generally explained by taking the first line of the trigram as indicating what the subject of it can do. But over the weak first line are two strong lines, so that its subject can accomplish but little. The Khang-hsi editors, rejecting this view, contend that, the idea of the whole figure being penetration, line 1, the symbol of weakness and what is bad, will not be able to offer much resistance to the subjects of the other lines, which will enter and dispel its influence. They illustrate this from processes of nature, education, and politics; the effect they say is described as small, because the process is not to revolutionize or renew, but only to correct and improve. Such as it is, however, it requires the operation of the strong and virtuous, the great man. Even all this criticism is not entirely satisfactory.

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The Image

Winds following one upon the other: The image of The Gently Penetrating. Thus the superior man spreads his commands abroad and carries out his undertakings.

Image Commentary

The penetrating quality of the wind depends upon its ceaselessness. This is what makes it so powerful; time is its instrument. In the same way the ruler's thought should penetrate the soul of the people. This too requires a lasting influence brought about by enlightenment and command. Only when the command has been assimilated by the people is action in accordance with it possible. Action without preparation of the ground only frightens and repels.

King Wans explanation

  1. The double Sun shows how, in accordance with it, governmental orders are reiterated.
  2. We see that the strong fifth line has penetrated into the central and correct place, and the will of its subject is being carried into effect; we see also the weak first and fourth Lines both obedient to the strong Lines above them. It is hence said, There will be some little attainment and progress. There will be advantage in movement onward in whatever direction. It will be advantageous also to see the great man.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The language of this paragraph has often occurred to me in reading commands and addresses issued by the emperors of China, such as the essays on the precepts in what is called the Sacred Edict, the reiteration employed in many of which is remarkable.

The obedience of the weak Lines to the strong ones grows, in a way not very perceptible, from the idea of the hexagram, and the quality of the trigram as denoting penetration and flexibility.

The Lines

The first SIX, divided, shows its subject now advancing, now receding. It would be advantageous for him to have the firm correctness of a brave soldier.

Line 1 is weak, where it should be strong. The movements of its subject are expressive of perplexity. He wants vigour and decision.

The second NINE, undivided, shows the representative of Sun beneath a couch, and employing diviners and exorcists in a way bordering on confusion. There will be good fortune and no error.

Line 2 is strong, and in the right place, and has a good auspice. Things are placed or hidden beneath a couch or bed; and the subject of the line appears as searching for them. He calls in divination to assist his judgment, and exorcists to expel for him what is bad. The work is great and difficult, so that he appears almost distracted by it but the issue is good. For this successful explanation of the line, I am indebted to the Khang-hsi editors. The writer of the Text believed of course in divination and exorcism; which was his misfortune rather than his fault or folly.

The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject penetrating only by violent and repeated efforts. There will be occasion for regret.

Line 3 is in the right place for a strong line. But its position at the top of the lower trigram is supposed to indicate the restlessness, and here the vehemence, of its subject. And 6 is no proper correlate. All the striving is ineffective, and there is occasion for regret.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows all occasion for repentance in its subject passed away. He takes game for its threefold use in his hunting.

Line 4 is weak, as is its correlate in 1. But 4 is a proper place for a weak line, and it rests under the shadow of the strong and central 5. Hence the omens of evil are counteracted and a good auspice is obtained. The game caught in hunting was divided into three portions: the first for use in sacrifices the second for the entertainment of visitors and the third for the kitchen generally. A hunt which yielded enough for all these purposes was deemed very successful.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows that with firm correctness there will be good fortune to its subject. All occasion for repentance will disappear, and all his movements will be advantageous. There may have been no good beginning, but there will be a good end. Three days before making any changes, let him give notice of them; and three days after, let him reconsider them. There will thus be good fortune.

On line 5 Khang-zze says: It is the seat of honour, and the place for the lord of Sun, from whom there issue all charges and commands. It is central and correct; we must find in its subject the qualities denoted by Sun in their greatest excellence. But those qualities are docility and accordance with what is right; and the advantage of firm correctness is insisted on. With this all will be right. With the concluding sentence compare the conclusion of the Thwan of hexagram 18.

The sixth NINE, undivided, shows the representative of penetration beneath a couch, and having lost the axe with which he executed his decisions. However firm and correct he may try to be, there will be evil.

The evil that paragraph 6 concludes with would arise from the quality of Sun being carried to excess. I have followed the Khang-hsi editors in adopting a change of one character in the received Text.