by Stefan Stenudd

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I Ching Hexagram 23.
Po / Splitting Apart


Hexagram 23

Upper trigram: Kên Keeping Still, Mountain

Lower trigram: K'un The Receptive, Earth


The Judgement

Splitting Apart. It does not further one
To go anywhere.





The Image

The mountain rests upon the earth:
The image of Splitting Apart.
Thus those above can insure their position
Only by giving generously to those below.


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:

The leg of the bed is split.
Those who persevere are destroyed.
Misfortune.


The 2nd line marked means:

The bed is split at the edge.
Those who persevere are destroyed.
Misfortune.


The 3rd line marked means:

He splits with them. No blame.


The 4th line marked means:

The bed is split up to the skin.
Misfortune.


The 5th line marked means:

A shoal of fishes. Favor comes through the court ladies.
Everything acts to further.


The top line marked means:

There is a large fruit still uneaten.
The superior man receives a carriage.
The house of the inferior man is split apart.


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


Comments on the Hexagram

The dark lines are about to mount upward and overthrow the last firm, light line by exerting a disintegrating influence on it. The inferior, dark forces overcome what is superior and strong, not by direct means, but by undermining it gradually and imperceptibly, so that it finally collapses.

       The lines of the hexagram present the image of a house, the top line being the roof, and because the roof is being shattered the house collapses. The hexagram belongs to the ninth month (October-November). The yin power pushes up ever more powerfully and is about to supplant the yang power altogether.


The Judgement

This pictures a time when inferior people are pushing forward and are about to crowd out the few remaining strong and superior men. Under these circumstances, which are due to the time, it is not favorable for the superior man to undertake anything.

       The right behavior in such adverse times is to be deduced from the images and their attributes. The lower trigram stands for the earth, whose attributes. The lower trigram stands for the earth, whose attributes are docility and devotion. The upper trigram stands for the mountain, whose attribute is stillness. This suggests that one should submit to the bad time and remain quiet. For it is a question not of man's doing but of time conditions, which, according to the laws of heaven, show an alternation of increase and decrease, fullness and emptiness. It is impossible to counteract these conditions of the time. Hence it is not cowardice but wisdom to submit and avoid action.


The Image

The mountain rests on the earth. When it is steep and narrow, lacking a broad base, it must topple over. Its position is strong only when it rises out of the earth broad and great, not proud and steep. So likewise those who rule rest on the broad foundation of the people. They too should be generous and benevolent, like the earth that carries all. Then they will make their position as secure as a mountain is in its tranquillity.

The Lines

The bottom line marked
Inferior people are on the rise and stealthily begin their destructive burrowing from below in order to undermine the place where the superior man rests. Those followers of the ruler who remain loyal are destroyed by slander and intrigue. The situation bodes disaster, yet there is nothing to do but wait.


The 2nd line from the bottom marked
The power of the inferior people is growing. The danger draws close to one's person; already there are clear indication, and rest is disturbed. Moreover, in this dangerous situation one is as yet without help or friendly advances from above or below. Extreme caution is necessary in this isolation. One must adjust to the time and promptly avoid the danger. Stubborn perseverance in maintaining one's standpoint would lead to downfall.


The 3rd line from the bottom marked
An individual finds himself in an evil environment to which he is committed by external ties. But he has an inner relationship with a superior man, and through this he attains the stability to free himself from the way of the inferior people around him. This brings him into opposition to them of course, but that is not wrong.


The 4th line from the bottom marked
Here the disaster affects not only the resting place but even the occupant. No warning or other comment is added. Misfortune has reached its peak: it can no longer be warded off.


The 5th line from the bottom marked
Here, in immediate proximity to the strong, light-giving principle at the top, the nature of the dark force undergoes a change. It no longer opposes the strong principle by means of intrigues but submits to its guidance. Indeed, as the head of the other weak lines, it leads all of these to the strong line, just as a princess leads her maids-in-waiting like a shoal of fishes to her husband and thus gains his favor. Inasmuch as the lower element thus voluntarily places itself under the higher, it attains happiness and the higher also receives its due. Therefore all goes well.


The top line marked
Here the splitting apart reaches its end. When misfortune has spent itself, better times return. The seed of the good remains, and it is just when the fruit falls to the ground that food sprouts anew from its seed. The superior man again attains influence and effectiveness. He is supported by public opinion as if in a carriage. But the inferior man's wickedness is visited upon himself. His house is split apart. A law of nature is at work here. Evil is not destructive to the good alone but inevitably destroys itself as well. For evil, which lives solely by negation, cannot continue to exist on its own strength alone. The inferior man himself fares best when held under control by a superior man.



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:


Mountain upon Earth

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 15
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 43
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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I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism as well as other East Asian traditions. I'm also a historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.