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Hexagram 9 - Hsiao Chu / The Taming Power of the Small - James Legge Translation

hexagram 9
  • Above Sun the Gentle, Wind
  • Below Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven


Hsiao Chu indicates that under its conditions there will be progress and success. We see dense clouds, but no rain coming from our borders in the west.

Meaning Commentary

The name Hsiao Chu is interpreted as meaning small restraint. The idea of restraint having once been determined on as that to be conveyed by the figure, it is easily made out that the restraint must be small, for its representative is the divided line in the fourth place; and the check given by that to all the undivided lines cannot be great. Even if we suppose, as many critics do, that all the virtue of that upper trigram Sun is concentrated in its first line, the attribute ascribed to Sun is that of docile flexibility, which cannot long be successful against the strength emblemed by the lower trigram Ch'ien. The restraint therefore is small, and in the end there will be progress and success.

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The Image

The wind drives across heaven: The image of The Taming Power of the Small. Thus the superior man Refines the outward aspect of his nature.

Image Commentary

The wind can indeed drive the clouds together in the sky; yet, being nothing but air, without solid body, it does not produce great or lasting effects. So also an individual, in times when he can produce no great effect in the outer world, can do nothing except refine the expression of his nature in small ways.

King Wans explanation

  1. In Hsiao Chu the weak line occupies its proper position, and the lines above and below respond to it. Hence comes the name of Hsiao Chu Small Restraint.
  2. It presents the symbols of strength and flexibility. Strong lines are in the central places, and the will of their subjects will have free course. Thus it indicates that there will be progress and success.
  3. Dense clouds but no rain indicate the movement of the strong lines still going forward. The Commencing at our western border indicates that the beneficial influence has not yet been widely displayed.

Legge Footnotes on King Wans explanation

The weak line is said to occupy its proper position, because it is in the fourth, an even place. The responding on the part of all the other lines above and below is their submitting to be restrained by it and this arises simply from the meaning which king Wan chose to attach to the hexagram.

But the restraint can only be small. The attributes of the two parts of the figure do not indicate anything else. The undivided line represents vigour and activity, and such a line is in the middle of each trigram. There cannot but be progress and success.

It is not easy to explain the symbolism of the last paragraph in harmony with the appended explanations. What Khang-zze, Wang Fang, and other scholars say is to this effect: Dense clouds ought to give rain. That they exist without doing so, shows the restraining influence of the hexagram to be still at work. But the other and active influence is, according to the general idea of the figure, continuing in operation there will be rain ere long. And this was taking place in the western regions subject to the House of Kau, which still was only a fief of Shang. It was not for the inferior House to rule the superior. Kau was for a time restrained by Shang. Let their positions be reversed by Kau superseding Shang, and the rain of beneficent government would descend on all the kingdom. This seems to be the meaning of the paragraph. This is the answer to the riddle of it. Confucius, in his treatise on the Thwan, hints at it, but no Chinese critic has the boldness to declare it fully.

The Lines

The first NINE, undivided, shows its subject returning and pursuing his own course. What mistake should he fall into? There will be good fortune.

Line 1 is undivided, the first line of Khien, occupying its proper place. Its subject, therefore, notwithstanding the check of line 4, resumes his movement, and will act according to his strong nature, and go forward.

The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject, by the attraction of the former line, returning to the proper course. There will be good fortune.

Line 2 is also strong, and though an even place is not appropriate to it, that place being central, its subject will make common cause with the subject of line 1; and there will be good fortune.

The third NINE, undivided, suggests the idea of a carriage, the strap beneath which has been removed, or of a husband and wife looking on each other with averted eyes.

Line 3, though strong, and in a proper place, yet not being in the centre, is supposed to be less able to resist the restraint of line 4; and hence it has the ill omens that are given.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject possessed of sincerity. The danger of bloodshed is thereby averted, and his ground for apprehension dismissed. There will be no mistake.

The subject of line 4, one weak line against all the strong lines of the hexagram, might well expect wounds, and feel apprehension in trying to restrain the others; but it is in its proper place it is the first line also of Sun, whose attribute is docile flexibility. The strong lines are moved to sympathy and help, and there is no mistake.

The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject possessed of sincerity, and drawing others to unite with him. Rich in resources, he employs his neighbors in the same cause with himself.

Line 5 occupies the central place of Sun, and converts, by the sincerity, of its subject, 4 and 6 into its neighbour's, who suffer themselves to be used by it, and effect their common object.

The topmost NINE, undivided, shows how the rain has fallen, and the onward progress is stayed; so must we value the full accumulation of the virtue represented by the upper trigram. But a wife exercising restraint, however firm and correct she may be, is in a position of peril, and like the moon approaching to the full. If the superior man prosecute his measures in such circumstances, there will be evil.

In line 6, the idea of the hexagram has run its course. The harmony of nature is restored. The rain falls, and the onward march of the strong lines should now stop. But weakness that has achieved such a result, if it plume itself on it, will be in a position of peril and like the full moon, which must henceforth wane. Let the superior man, when he has attained his end, remain in quiet.