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Hexagram 62 - Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small - James Legge Translation

hexagram 62
  • Above Chen the Arousing, Thunder
  • Below Ken Keeping Still, Mountain


Hsiao Kuo indicates that in the circumstances which it implies there will be progress and attainment. But it will be advantageous to be firm and correct. What the name denotes may be done in small affairs, but not in great affairs. It is like the notes that come down from a bird on the wing; to descend is better than to ascend. There will in this way be great good fortune.

Meaning Commentary

The name Hsiao Kuo is explained both by reference to the lines of the hexagram, and to the meaning of the characters. The explanation from the lines appears immediately on comparing them with those of Ta Kwo, the 28th hexagram. There the first and sixth lines are divided, and between are four undivided lines; here the third and fourth lines are undivided, and outside each of them are two divided lines. The undivided or yang lines are great, the divided or yin lines are called small. In Hsiao Kuo the divided or small lines predominate. But this peculiar structure of the figure could be of no interest to the student, if it were not for the meaning of the name, which is small excesses or 'exceeding in what is small. The author, accepted by us as king Wan, had in his mind our distinction of essentials and non-essentials. Is it ever good to deviate from what is recognized as the established course of procedure? The reply is never in the matter of right but in what is conventional and ceremonial in what is nonessential the deviation may be made, and will be productive of good. The form may be given up, but not the substance. But the thing must be done very carefully, humbly and reverently, and in small matters.

The symbolism of the bird is rather obscure. The whole of it is intended to teach humility. It is better for the bird to descend, keeping near to where it can perch and rest, than to hold on ascending into the homeless regions of the air.

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The Image

Thunder on the mountain: The image of Preponderance of the Small. Thus in his conduct the superior man gives preponderance to reverence. In bereavement he gives preponderance to grief. In his expenditures he gives preponderance to thrift.

Image Commentary

Thunder on the mountain is different from thunder on the plain. In the mountains, thunder seems much nearer; outside the mountains, it is less audible than the thunder of an ordinary storm. Thus the superior man derives an imperative from this image: he must always fix his eyes more closely and more directly on duty than does the ordinary man, even though this might make his behavior seem petty to the outside world. He is exceptionally conscientious in his actions. In bereavement emotion means more to him than ceremoniousness. In all his personal expenditures he is extremely simple and unpretentious. In comparison with the man of the masses, all this makes him stand out as exceptional. But the essential significance of his attitude lies in the fact that in external matters he is on the side of the lowly.

King Wans explanation

  1. In Hsiao Kuo we see the small Lines exceeding the others, and giving the intimation of progress and attainment.
  2. Such exceeding, in order to its being advantageous, must be associated with firmness and correctness, that is, it must take place only according to the requirements of the time.
  3. The weak Lines are in the central places, and hence it is said that what the name denotes may be done in small affairs, and there will be good fortune.
  4. Of the strong Lines one is not in its proper place, and the other is not central, hence it is said that what the name denotes should not be done in great affairs.
  5. In the hexagram we have the symbol of a bird on the wing, and of the notes that come down from such a bird, for which it is better to descend than to ascend, thereby leading to great good fortune, to ascend is contrary to what is reasonable in the case, while to descend is natural and right.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

Paragraph 1. That the small Lines exceed the others appears at a glance. The intimation of progress and attainment is less clear. Compare the first paragraph of Appendix I to hexagram 33.

The requirements of the time in paragraph 2 cannot make right wrong or wrong right but they may modify the conventional course to be taken in any particular case.

It is easy to explain paragraphs 3 and 4, but what is said in them carries no conviction to the mind.

The sentiment of paragraph 5 is good, apart from the symbolism, which is only perplexing.

The Lines

The first SIX, divided, suggests the idea of a bird flying, and ascending till the issue is evil.

Line 1 is weak, in an odd place, and possessed by the idea of exceeding, which belongs to the hexagram. Its correlate is the strong 4, belonging to the trigram Chen, the attribute of which is movement. There is nothing to repress the tendency of it rather it is stimulated; and hence the symbolism.

The second SIX, divided, shows its subject passing by his grandfather, and meeting with his grandmother not attempting anything against his ruler, but meeting him as his minister. There will be no error.

Line 2 is weak, but in its proper place, and in the centre. Its correlate is 5, which is also a weak line. The lines 3 and 4 between them are both strong; and are supposed to represent the father and grandfather of the subject of 2 but he or she goes past them, and meets with the grandmother in 5. Again, 5 is the ruler's seat. The subject of 2 moves on to him, but not as an enemy but humbly and loyally, as his minister according to the attributes of a weak line in the central place. It must be allowed that this view of the symbolism and its interpretation is obscure and strained.

The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject taking no extraordinary precautions against danger and some in consequence finding opportunity to assail and injure him. There will be evil.

The subject of line 3 is too confident in his own strength, and too defiant of the weak and small enemies that seek his hurt.

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject falling into no error, but meeting the exigency of his situation, without exceeding in his natural course. If he go forward, there will be peril, and he must be cautious. There is no occasion to be using firmness perpetually.

Line 4 is also strong, but the exercise of his strength by its subject is tempered by the position in an even place. He is warned, however, to continue quiet and restrain himself.

The fifth SIX, divided, suggests the idea of dense clouds, but no rain, coming from our borders in the west. It also shows the prince shooting his arrow, and taking the bird in a cave.

Line 5, though in the ruler's seat, is weak, and incapable of doing anything great. Its subject is called king or duke because of the ruler's seat and the one whom in the concluding sentence he is said to capture is supposed to be the subject of 2.

The first part of the symbolism is the same as that of the Thwan under hexagram 9, q.v. I said there that it probably gave a testimony of the merit of the house of Kou, as deserving the throne rather than the kings of Shang. That was because the Thwan contained the sentiments of Wan, while he was yet only lord of Kou. But the symbolism here was the work of the Duke of Kou, after his brother king Wu had obtained the throne. How did the symbolism then occur to him? May we not conclude that at least the hsiang of this hexagram was written during the troubled period of his regency, after the accession of Wu's son, King Khang?

The Khang-hsi editors find in the concluding symbolism an incentive to humility the Duke, leaving birds on the wing, is content to use his arrows against those in a cave!

The sixth SIX, divided, shows. its subject not meeting the exigency of his situation, and exceeding his proper course. It suggests the idea of a bird flying far aloft. There will be evil.

The case is what is called one of calamity and self-produced injury. Line 6 is weak, and is at the top of the trigram of movement. He is possessed by the idea of the hexagram in an extreme degree, and is incapable of keeping himself under restraint.