by Stefan Stenudd

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I Ching Hexagram 41.
Sun / Decrease


Hexagram 41

Upper trigram: Kên Keeping Still, Mountain

Lower trigram: Tui The Joyous, Lake


The Judgement

Decrease combined with sincerity
Brings about supreme good fortune
Without blame.
One may be persevering in this.
It furthers one to undertake something.
How is this to be carried out?
One may use two small bowls for the sacrifice.





The Image

At the foot of the mountain, the lake:
The image of Decrease.
Thus the superior man controls his anger
And restrains his instincts.


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:

Going quickly when one's tasks are finished
Is without blame.
But one must reflect on how much one may decrease others.


The 2nd line marked means:

Perseverance furthers.
To undertake something brings misfortune.
Without decreasing oneself,
One is able to bring increase to others.


The 3rd line marked means:

When three people journey together,
Their number decreases by one.
When one man journeys alone,
He finds a companion.


The 4th line marked means:

If a man decreases his faults,
It makes the other hasten to come and rejoice.
No blame.


The 5th line marked means:

Someone does indeed increase him.
Ten pairs of tortoises cannot oppose it.
Supreme good fortune.


The top line marked means:

If one is increased without depriving others,
there is no blame.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
It furthers one to undertake something.
One obtains servants
But no longer has a separate home.


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


Comments on the Hexagram

This hexagram represents a decrease of the lower trigram in favor of the upper, because the third line, originally strong, has moved up to the top, and the top line, originally weak, has replaced it. What is below is decreased to the benefit of what is above. This is out-and-out decrease. If the foundations of a building are decreased in strength and the upper walls are strengthened, the whole structure loves its stability. Likewise, a decrease in the prosperity of the people in favor of the government is out-and-out decrease. And the entire theme of the hexagram is directed to showing how this shift of wealth can take place without causing the sources of wealth can take place without causing the sources of wealth in the nation and its lower classes to fail.


The Judgement

Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretense. If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further undertakings. Indeed, there need by no concern if the outward beauty of the civilization, even the elaboration of religious forms, should have to suffer because of simplicity. One must draw on the strength of the inner attitude to compensate for what is lacking in externals; then the power of the content makes up for the simplicity of form. There is no need of presenting false appearances to God. Even with slender means, the sentiment of the heart can be expressed.


The Image

The lake at the foot of the mountain evaporates. In this way it decreases to the benefit of the mountain, which is enriched by its moisture. The mountain stands as the symbol of stubborn strength that can harden into anger. The lake is the symbol of unchecked gaiety that can develop into passionate drives at the expense of the life forces. Therefore decrease is necessary; anger must be decreased by keeping still, the instincts must be curbed by restriction. By this decrease of the lower powers of the psyche, the higher aspects of the soul are enriched/

The Lines

The bottom line marked
It is unselfish and good when a man, after completing his own urgent tasks, uses his strength in the service of others, and without bragging or making much of it, helps quickly where help is needed. But the man in a superior position who is thus aided must weigh carefully how much he can accept without doing the helpful servant or friend real harm. Only where such delicacy of feeling exists can one give oneself unconditionally and without hesitation.


The 2nd line from the bottom marked
A high-minded self-awareness and a consistent seriousness with no forfeit of dignity are necessary if a man wants to be of service to others. He who throw himself away in order to do the bidding of a superior diminishes his own position without thereby giving lasting benefit to the other. This is wrong. To render true service of lasting value to another, one must serve him without relinquishing oneself.


The 3rd line from the bottom marked
When there are three people together, jealousy arises. One of them will have to go. Avery close bond is possible only between two people. But when one man is lonely, he is certain to find a companion who complements him.


The 4th line from the bottom marked
A man's faults often prevent even well-disposed people from coming closer to him. His faults are sometimes reinforced by the environment in which he lives. But if in humility he can bring himself to the point of giving them up, he frees his well-disposed friends from an inner pressure and causes them to approach the more quickly, and there is mutual joy.


The 5th line from the bottom marked
If someone is marked out by fate for good fortune, it comes without fail. All oracles-as for instance those that are read from the shells of tortoises-are bound to concur in giving him favorable signs. He need fear nothing, because his luck is ordained from on high.


The top line marked
There are people who dispense blessings to the whole world. Every increase in power that comes to them benefits the whole of mankind and therefore does not bring decrease to others. Through perseverance and zealous work a man wins success and finds helpers as they are needed. But what he accomplishes is not a limited private advantage; it is a public good and available to everyone.



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 Lake

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 31
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 31
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.