Upper trigram: K'an The Abysmal, Water
Lower trigram: Li The Clinging, Flame
After Completion. Success in small matters.
At the beginning good fortune,
At the end disorder.
Water over fire: the image of the condition
In After Completion.
Thus the superior man
Takes thoughts of misfortune
And arms himself against it in advance.
These texts apply only for the lines that were marked, when the hexagram was cast. Note that the lines are counted from the bottom up.
The bottom line marked means:
He brakes his wheels.
He gets his tail in the water.
The 2nd line marked means:
The woman loses the curtain of her carriage.
Do not run after it;
On the seventh day you will get it.
The 3rd line marked means:
The Illustrious Ancestor
Disciplines the Devil's Country.
After three years he conquers it.
Inferior people must not be employed.
The 4th line marked means:
The finest clothes turn to rags.
Be careful all day long.
The 5th line marked means:
The neighbor in the east who slaughters an ox
Does not attain as much real happiness
As the neighbor in the west
With his small offering.
The top line marked means:
He gets his head in the water. Danger.
The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.
Comments on the Hexagram
This hexagram is the evolution of T'ai PEACE (11). The transition from
confusion to order is completed, and everything is in its proper place even in
particulars. The strong lines are in the strong places, the weak lines in the
weak places. This is a very favorable outlook, yet it gives reason for thought.
For it is just when perfect equilibrium has been reached that any movement
may cause order to revert to disorder. The one strong line that has moved to
the top, thus effecting complete order in details, is followed by the other lines.
Each moving according to its nature, and thus suddenly there arises again the
hexagram P'i, STANDSTILL (12).
Hence the present hexagram indicates the conditions of a time of climax,
which necessitate the utmost caution.
The transition from the old to the new time is already accomplished. In
principle, everything stands systematized, and it si only in regard to details
that success is still to be achieved. In respect to this, however, we must be
careful to maintain the right attitude. Everything proceeds as if of its own
accord, and this can all too easily tempt us to relax and let thing take their
course without troubling over details. Such indifference is the root of all evil.
Symptoms of decay are bound to be the result. Here we have the rule
indicating the usual course of history. But this rule is not an inescapable law.
He who understands it is in position to avoid its effects by dint of unremitting
perseverance and caution.
When water in a kettle hangs over fire, the two elements stand in relation
and thus generate energy (cf. the production of steam). But the resulting
tension demands caution. If the water boils over, the fire is extinguished an
its energy is lost. If the heat is too great, the water evaporates into the air.
These elements here brought in to relation and thus generating energy are by
nature hostile to each other. Only the most extreme caution can prevent
damage. In life too there are junctures when all forces are in balance and
work in harmony, so that everything seems to be in the best of order. In such
times only the sage recognizes the moments that bode danger and knows how
to banish it by means of timely precautions.
The bottom line marked
In times following a great transition, everything is pressing forward, striving
in the direction of development and progress. But this pressing forward at
the beginning is not good; it overshoots the mark and leads with certainty to
loss and collapse. Therefore a man of strong character does not allow himself
to be infected by the general intoxication but checks his course in time. He
may indeed not remain altogether untouched by the disastrous consequences
of the general pressure, but he is hit only from behind like a fox that, having
crossed the water, at the last minute gets its tail wet. He will not suffer any
real harm, because his behavior has been correct.
The 2nd line from the bottom marked
When a woman drove out in her carriage, she had a curtain that hid her
from the glances of the curious. It was regarded as a breach of propriety to
drive on if this curtain was lost. Applied to public life, this means that a man
who wants to achieve something is not receiving that confidence of the
authorities which he needs, so to speak, for his personal protection.
Especially in times "after completion" it may happen that those who have
come to power grow arrogant and conceited and no longer trouble
themselves about fostering new talent.
This as a rule results in office seeking. If a man's superiors withhold their
trust from him, he will seek ways and means of getting it and of drawing
attention to himself. We are warned against such an unworthy procedure:
"Do not seek it." Do not throw yourself away on the world, but wait
tranquilly and develop your personal worth by your own efforts. Times
change. When the six stages of the hexagram have passed, the new era
dawns. That which is a man's own cannot be permanently lost. It comes to
him of its own accord. He need only be able to wait.
The 3rd line from the bottom marked
"Illustrious Ancestor" is the dynastic title of the Emperor Wu Ting of the Yin
dynasty. After putting his realm in order with a strong hand, he waged long
colonial wars for the subjection of the Huns who occupied the northern
borderland with constant threat of incursions.
The situation described is as follows. After times of completion, when a
new power has arisen and everything within the country has been set in
order, a period of colonial expansion almost inevitably follows. Then as a
rule long-drawn-out struggles must be reckoned with. For this reason, a
correct colonial policy is especially important. The territory won at such bitter
cost must not be regarded as an almshouse for people who in one way or
another have hade themselves impossible at home, but who are thought to
be quite good enough for the colonies. Such a policy ruins at the outset any
chance of success. This holds true in small as well as large matters, because it
is not only rising states that carry on a colonial policy; the urge to expand,
with its accompanying dangers, is part and parcel of every ambitious
The 4th line from the bottom marked
In a time of flowering culture, an occasional convulsion is bound to occur,
uncovering a hidden evil within society and at first causing a great sensation.
But since the situation is favorable on the whole, such evils can easily be
glossed over and concealed from the public. Then everything is forgotten and
peace apparently reigns complacently once more. However, to the thoughtful
man, such occurrences are grave omens that he does not neglect. This is the
only way of averting evil consequences.
The 5th line from the bottom marked
Religious attitudes are likewise influenced by the spiritual atmosphere
prevailing in times after completion. In divine worship the simple old forms
are replaced by an ever more elaborate ritual and an ever greater outward
display. But inner seriousness is lacking in this show of magnificence;
human caprice takes the place of conscientious obedience to the divine will.
However, while man sees what is before his eyes, God looks into the heart.
Therefore a simple sacrifice offered with real piety holds a greater blessing
than an impressive service without warmth.
The top line marked
Here in conclusion another warning is added. After crossing a stream, a
man's head can get into the water only if he is so imprudent as to turn back.
As long as he goes forward and does not look back, he escapes this danger.
But there is a fascination in standing still and looking back on a peril
overcome. However, such vain self-admiration brings misfortune. It leads
only to danger, and unless one finally resolves to go forward without
pausing, one falls a victim to this danger.
Here I add some perspectives on this hexagram, as well as other methods to read its meaning, in additon to what Richard Wilhelm derives from it above.
Meaning of the Trigrams Combined
Each hexagram combines two trigrams, making one the upper and the other the lower. The meaning of the hexagram is mainly derived from that combination. Here's what it means for this hexagram:
Water upon Flame
This is an odd constellation: water above the flame. Instability, indeed. If the water falls, it will extinguish the flame. If it doesn't, the flame will by time turn the water into steam. Still, the name of the hexagram is After Completion
, as if nothing more can happen. But of course it can.
The completion of which this I Ching hexagram speaks is an action or decision. When that choice is made, then the future unfolds accordingly. There will be consequences, whether they are expected or surprising, intended or unwanted. Things will evolve out of any choice made, any action taken.
The hexagram warns that one should prepare for those consequences. We tend to tell ourselves that we fix a problem and then it's gone. But in reality, any fix is bound to create new problems, sooner or later. There is no permanent solution in this world of constant change. So, at the moment of decision, consider what may be the long-time result.
The future is hidden in a thick mist. Anything can happen. This is suggested by this hexagram's water hovering above. The water trigram carries the concept of the primordial sea of chaos out of which the world was once born, according to many creation myths. If it falls and extinguishes the flame, then there is darkness and we have no way of controlling what comes next.
On the other hand, a flame can catch on and leave the world in ashes. So, the water above can be the rain that stops the forest fire. A savior against hasty decisions and their danger of creating mayhem.
Although fire can also be a destrutive force, here the flame is what light we have to guide us, as well as the power to resist blind fate. It stands for what we can do to avoid chaos, and how haphazard this resource is. So, we should be humble about our abilities - and take precautions.
Yin and Yang Significances
The hexagram has an equal number of Yin (broken) and Yang (full) lines, arranged in pairs. The basic forces of the world are in balance, although not by trigram but for the hexagram as a whole. And in each pair the Yin (earth) line is above the Yang (heaven) one, which is an oddity suggesting instability. The exact nature of this balance is not fixed forever. Still, they make a complete whole, and there is power to it, akin to that of electricity where plus and minus interact. Indeed, the hexagram is one of potency for change, not necessarily from chaos to order.
Read more about the polarity of Yin and Yang here:
Yin and Yang
Compare to the Reversed Trigrams
It's common to compare a hexagram to the one where the lines are the opposite: a full line is broken and a broken line full. But I find it much more interesting to compare hexagrams with the trigrams reversed: the upper trigram becomes the lower, and the lower trigram becomes the upper. That deepens the understanding of the trigrams at work - when they're not identical. Click the image to see what it means for the two trigrams of this hexagram:
The hexagram with the trigrams reversed
Compare to the Reversed Lines
You can also compare this hexagram to its opposite according to the six lines, where each broken line is full, and vice versa. In some cases it leads to the same hexagram as the one where the trigrams are switched. Here is the hexagram with reversed lines (click it to get to its webpage):
Hexagram with opposite lines
Click the header to read more about the eight trigrams that are combined into the 64 hexagrams.
The 64 I Ching Hexagrams
An I Ching hexagram is composed of two trigrams. Each of the 64 hexagrams has its own name, meaning, and divinatory text. Here they all are, in the traditional order. Click on the image of an I Ching hexagram to get to its webpage.
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