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I Ching Hexagram 5.
Hsu / Waiting (Nourishment)


Hexagram 5

Upper trigram: K'an The Abysmal, Water

Lower trigram: Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven


The Judgement

Waiting. If you are sincere,
You have light and success.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.





The Image

Clouds rise up to heaven:
The image of Waiting.
Thus the superior man eats and drinks,
Is joyous and of good cheer.


The Lines

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:

Waiting in the meadow.
It furthers one to abide in what endures.
No blame.


The 2nd line marked means:

Waiting on the sand.
There is some gossip.
The end brings good fortune.


The 3rd line marked means:

Waiting in the mud
Brings about the arrival of the enemy.


The 4th line marked means:

Waiting in blood.
Get out of the pit.


The 5th line marked means:

Waiting at meat and drink.
Perseverance brings good fortune.


The top line marked means:

One falls into the pit.
Three uninvited guests arrive.
Honor them, and in the end there will be good fortune.


The interpretations above and comments below are from Richard Wilhelm's version of the I CHING.


Comments on the Hexagram

All beings have need of nourishment from above. But the gift of food comes in its own time, and for this one must wait. This hexagram shows the clouds in the heavens, giving rain to refresh all that grows and to provide mankind with food and drink. The rain will come in its own time. We cannot make it come; we have to wait for it. The idea of waiting is further suggested by the attributes of the two trigrams - strength within, danger in from. Strength in the face of danger does not plunge ahead but bides its time, whereas weakness in the face of danger grows agitated and has not the patience to wait.


The Judgement

Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal. Such certainty alone gives that light which leads to success. This leads to the perseverance that brings good fortune and bestows power to cross the great water. One is faced with a danger that has to be overcome. Weakness and impatience can do nothing. Only a strong man can stand up to his fate, for his inner security enables him to endure to the end. This strength shows itself in uncompromising truthfulness [with himself]. It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self- deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized. This recognition must be followed by resolute and persevering action. For only the man who goes to meet his fate resolutely is equipped to deal with it adequately. Then he will be able to cross the great water - that is to say, he will be capable of making the necessary decision and of surmounting the danger.


The Image

When clouds rise in the sky, it is a sign that it will rain. There is nothing to do but to wait until after the rain falls. It is the same in life when destiny is at work. We should not worry and seek to shape the future by interfering in things before the time is ripe. We should quietly fortify the body with food and drink and the mind with gladness and good cheer. Fate comes when it will, and thus we are ready.


The Lines

The bottom line marked
The danger is not yet close. One is still waiting on the open plain. Conditions are still simple, yet there is a feeling of something impending. One must continue to lead a regular life as long as possible. Only in this way does one guard against a premature waste of strength, keep free of blame and error that would become a source of weakness later on.


The 2nd line from the bottom marked
The danger gradually comes closer. Sand is near the bank of the river, and the water means danger. Disagreements crop up. General unrest can easily develop in such times, and we lay the blame on one another. He who stays calm will succeed in making things go well in the end. Slander will be silenced if we do not gratify it with injured retorts.


The 3rd line from the bottom marked
Mud is no place for waiting, since it is already being washed by the water of the stream. Instead of having gathered strength to cross the stream at one try, one has made a premature start that has got him no farther than the muddy bank. Such an unfavorable position invites enemies from without, who naturally take advantage of it. Caution and a sense of the seriousness of the situation are all that can keep one from injury.


The 4th line from the bottom marked
The situation is extremely dangerous. It is of utmost gravity now - a matter of life and death. Bloodshed seems imminent. There is no going forward or backward; we are cut off as if in a pit. Now we must simply stand fast and let fate take its course. This composure, which keeps us from aggravating the trouble by anything we might do, is the only way of getting out of the dangerous pit.


The 5th line from the bottom marked
Even in the midst of danger there come intervals of peace when things go relatively well. If we possess enough inner strength, we shall take advantage of these intervals to fortify ourselves for renewed struggle. We must know how to enjoy the moment without being deflected from the goal, for perseverance is needed to remain victorious.

       This is true in public life as well; it is not possible to achieve everything all at once. The height of wisdom is to allow people enough recreation to quicken pleasure in their work until the task is completed. Herein lies the secret of the whole hexagram. It differs from Chin OBSTRUCTION (39), in the fact that in this instance, while waiting, we are sure of our cause and therefore do not lose the serenity born of inner cheerfulness.


The top line marked
The waiting is over; the danger can no longer be averted. One falls into the pit and must yield to the inevitable. Everything seems to have been in vain. But precisely in this extremity things take an unforeseen turn. Without a move on one's own part, there is outside intervention. At first one cannot be sure of its meaning: is it rescue or is it destruction? A person in this situation must keep his mind alert and not withdraw into himself with a sulky gesture of refusal, but must greet the new turn with respect. Thus he ultimately escapes the danger, and all goes well. Even happy turns of fortune often come in a form that at first seems strange to us.



Further Reading


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 Heaven

This part of the text is being edited. It will be added shortly.


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:

I Ching Hexagram 6
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):

I Ching Hexagram 35
Hexagram with opposite lines


The I Ching Trigrams

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.


I Ching Hexagram 1
1
Creative
I Ching Hexagram 2
2
Receptive
I Ching Hexagram 3
3
Difficulty
I Ching Hexagram 4
4
Folly
I Ching Hexagram 5
5
Waiting
I Ching Hexagram 6
6
Conflict
I Ching Hexagram 7
7
Army
I Ching Hexagram 8
8
Union
I Ching Hexagram 9
9
Taming
I Ching Hexagram 10
10
Treading
I Ching Hexagram 11
11
Peace
I Ching Hexagram 12
12
Standstill
I Ching Hexagram 13
13
Fellowship
I Ching Hexagram 14
14
Possession
I Ching Hexagram 15
15
Modesty
I Ching Hexagram 16
16
Enthusiasm
I Ching Hexagram 17
17
Following
I Ching Hexagram 18
18
Decay
I Ching Hexagram 19
19
Approach
I Ching Hexagram 20
20
View
I Ching Hexagram 21
21
Biting
I Ching Hexagram 22
22
Grace
I Ching Hexagram 23
23
Splitting
I Ching Hexagram 24
24
Return
I Ching Hexagram 25
25
Innocence
I Ching Hexagram 26
26
Taming
I Ching Hexagram 27
27
Mouth
I Ching Hexagram 28
28
Preponderance
I Ching Hexagram 29
29
Abysmal
I Ching Hexagram 30
30
Clinging
I Ching Hexagram 31
31
Influence
I Ching Hexagram 32
32
Duration
I Ching Hexagram 33
33
Retreat
I Ching Hexagram 34
34
Power
I Ching Hexagram 35
35
Progress
I Ching Hexagram 36
36
Darkening
I Ching Hexagram 37
37
Family
I Ching Hexagram 38
38
Opposition
I Ching Hexagram 39
39
Obstruction
I Ching Hexagram 40
40
Deliverance
I Ching Hexagram 41
41
Decrease
I Ching Hexagram 42
42
Increase
I Ching Hexagram 43
43
Resoluteness
I Ching Hexagram 44
44
Coming
I Ching Hexagram 45
45
Gathering
I Ching Hexagram 46
46
Pushing
I Ching Hexagram 47
47
Oppression
I Ching Hexagram 48
48
Well
I Ching Hexagram 49
49
Revolution
I Ching Hexagram 50
50
Caldron
I Ching Hexagram 51
51
Arousing
I Ching Hexagram 52
52
Still
I Ching Hexagram 53
53
Development
I Ching Hexagram 54
54
Marrying
I Ching Hexagram 55
55
Abundance
I Ching Hexagram 56
56
Wanderer
I Ching Hexagram 57
57
Gentle
I Ching Hexagram 58
58
Joyous
I Ching Hexagram 59
59
Dispersion
I Ching Hexagram 60
60
Limitation
I Ching Hexagram 61
61
Truth
I Ching Hexagram 62
62
Small
I Ching Hexagram 63
63
After
I Ching Hexagram 64
64
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