by Stefan Stenudd

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I Ching Hexagram 38.
K'uei / Opposition


Hexagram 38

Upper trigram: Li The Clinging, Flame

Lower trigram: Tui The Joyous, Lake


The Judgement

Opposition. In small matters, good fortune.





The Image

Above fire; below, the lake:
The image of Opposition.
Thus amid all fellowship
The superior man retains his individuality.


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:

Remorse disappears.
If you lose your horse, do not run after it;
It will come back of its own accord.
When you see evil people,
Guard yourself against mistakes.


The 2nd line marked means:

One meets his lord in a narrow street.
No blame.


The 3rd line marked means:

One sees the wagon dragged back,
The oxen halted,
A man's hair and nose cut off.
Not a good beginning, but a good end.


The 4th line marked means:

Isolated through opposition,
One meets a like-minded man
With whom one can associate in good faith.
Despite the danger, no blame.


The 5th line marked means:

Remorse disappears.
The companion bites his way through the wrappings.
If one goes to him,
How could it be a mistake?


The top line marked means:

Isolated through opposition,
One sees one's companion as a pig covered with dirt,
As a wagon full of devils.
First one draws a bow against him,
Then one lays the bow aside.
He is not a robber; he will woo at the right time.
As one goes, rain falls; then good fortune comes.


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


Comments on the Hexagram

This hexagram is composed of the trigram Li above, i.e., flame, which burns upward, and Tui below, i.e., the lake, which seeps downward. These two movements are indirect contrast. Furthermore, LI is the second daughter and Tui the youngest daughter, and although they live in the same house they belong to different men; hence their wills are not the same but are divergently directed.


The Judgement

When people live in opposition and estrangement they cannot carry out a great undertaking in common; their points of view diverge too widely. In such circumstances one should above all not proceed brusquely, for that would only increase the existing opposition; instead, one should limit oneself to producing gradual effects in small matters. Here success can still be expected, because the situation is such that the opposition does not preclude all agreement.

       In general, opposition appears as an obstruction, but when it represents polarity within a comprehensive whole, it has also its useful and important functions. The oppositions of heaven and earth, spirit and nature, man and woman, when reconciled, bring about the creation and reproduction of life. In the world of visible things, the principle of opposites makes possible the differentiation by categories through which order is brought into the world.


The Image

. The two elements, fire and water, never mingle but even when in contact retain their own natures. So the sutured man is never led into baseness or vulgarity through intercourse or community of interests with persons of another sort; regardless of all commingling, he will always preserve his individuality.


The Lines

The bottom line marked
Even in times when oppositions prevail, mistakes can be avoided, so that remorse disappears. When opposition begins to manifest itself, a man must not try to bring about unity by force, for by so doing he would only achieve the contrary, just as a horse goes farther and farther away if one runs after it. It it is one's won horse, one can safely let it go; it will come back of its own accord. So too when someone who belongs with us is momentarily estranged because of a misunderstanding, he will return of his own accord if we leave matters to him. One the other hand, it is well to be cautious when evil men who do not belong with us force themselves upon us, again as the result of a misunderstanding. Here the important thing is to avoid mistakes. We must not try to shake off these evil men by force; this would give rise to real hostility. We must simply endure them. They will eventually withdraw of their own accord.


The 2nd line from the bottom marked
As a result of misunderstandings, it has become impossible for people who by nature belong together to meet in the correct way. This being so, an accidental meeting under informal circumstances may serve the purpose, provided there is an inner affinity between them.


The 3rd line from the bottom marked
Often it seems tot a man as though everything were conspiring against him. He sees himself checked and hindered in his progress, insulted and dishonored. However, he must not let himself be misled; despite this opposition, he must cleave to the man with whom he knows he belongs. Thus, notwithstanding the bad beginning, the matter will end well.


The 4th line from the bottom marked
If a man finds himself in a company of people from whom he is separated by an inner opposition, he becomes isolated. But if in such a situation a man meets someone who fundamentally by the very law of his being, is kin to him, and whom he can trust completely, he overcomes all the dangers of isolation. His will achieves its aim, and he becomes free of faults.


The 5th line from the bottom marked
Coming upon a sincere man, one fails to recognize him at first because of the general estrangement. However, he bites his way through the wrappings that are causing the separation. When such a companion thus reveals himself in his true character, it is one's duty to go to meet him and to work with him.


The top line marked
Here the isolation is due to misunderstanding; it is brought about not by outer circumstances but by inner conditions. A man misjudges his best friends, taking them to be as unclean as a dirty pig in and as dangerous as a wagon full of devils. He adopts an attitude of defense. But in the end, realizing his mistake, he lays aside the bow, perceiving that the other is approaching with the best intentions for the purpose of close union. Thus the tension is relieved. The union resolves the tension, just as falling rain relieves the sultriness preceding a thunderstorm. All goes well, for just when opposition reaches its climax it changes over to its antithesis.



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:


Flame 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 49
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 39
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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