by Stefan Stenudd

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I Ching Hexagram 12.
P'i / Standstill (Stagnation)


Hexagram 12

Upper trigram: Ch'ien The Creative, Heaven

Lower trigram: K'un The Receptive, Earth


The Judgement

Standstill. Evil people do not further
The perseverance of the superior man.
The great departs; the small approaches.





The Image

Heaven and earth do not unite:
The image of Standstill.
Thus the superior man falls back upon his inner worth
In order to escape the difficulties.
He does not permit himself to be honored with revenue.


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:

When the ribbon grass is pulled up, the sod comes with it.
Each according to his kind.
Perseverance brings good fortune and success.


The 2nd line marked means:

They bear and endure;
This means good fortune for inferior people.
The standstill serves to help the great man attain success.


The 3rd line marked means:

They bear shame.


The 4th line marked means:

He who acts at the command of the highest
Remains without blame.
Those of like mind partake of the blessing.


The 5th line marked means:

Standstill is giving way.
Good fortune for the great man.
"What if it should fail, what if it should fail?"
In this way, he ties it to a cluster of mulberry shoots.


The top line marked means:

The standstill comes to an end.
First standstill, then good fortune.


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


Comments on the Hexagram

This hexagram is the opposite of the preceding one. Heaven is above, drawing farther and farther away, while the earth below sinks farther into the depths. The creative powers are not in relation. It is a time of standstill and decline. This hexagram is linked with the seventh month (August- September), when the year has passed its zenith and autumnal decay is setting in.

The Judgement

Heaven and earth are out of communion and all things are benumbed. What is above has no relation to what is below, and on earth confusion and disorder prevail. The dark power is within, the light power is without. Weakness is within, harshness without. Within are the inferior, and without are the superior. The way of inferior people is in ascent; the way of superior people is one the decline. But the superior people do not allow themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is closed to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.


The Image

When, owing to the influence of inferior men, mutual mistrust prevails in public life, fruitful activity is rendered impossible, because the fundaments are wrong. Therefore the superior man knows what he must do under such circumstances; he does not allow himself to be tempted by dazzling offers to take part in public activities. This would only expose him to danger, since he cannot assent to the meanness of the others. He therefore hides his worth and withdraws into seclusion.


The Lines

The bottom line marked
The text is almost the same as that of the first line of the preceding hexagram, but with a contrary meaning. In the latter a man is drawing another along with him on the road to an official career; here a man is drawing another with him into retirement form public life. This is why the text says here, "Perseverance brings good fortune and success," and not "Undertakings bring good fortune." If it becomes impossible to make our influence count, it is only by retirement that we spare ourselves humiliation. Success in a higher sense can be ours, because we know how to safeguard the value of our personalities. The 2nd line from the bottom marked
Inferior people are ready to flatter their superiors in a servile way. They would also endure the superior man if he would put an end to their confusion. This is fortunate for them. But the great man calmly bears the consequences of the standstill. He does not mingle with the crowd of the inferior; that is not his place. By his willingness to suffer personally he insures the success of his fundamental principles.


The 3rd line from the bottom marked
Inferior people who have risen to power illegitimately do not feel equal to the responsibility they have taken upon themselves. In their hearts they begin to be ashamed, although at first they do not show it outwardly. This marks a turn for the better. The 4th line from the bottom marked
The time of standstill is nearing the point of change into its opposite. Whoever wishes to restore order must feel himself called to the task and have the necessary authority. A man who sets himself up a capable of creating order according to his own judgment could make mistakes and end in failure. But the man who is truly called to the task is favored by the conditions of the time, and all those of like mind will share in his blessing. The 5th line from the bottom marked
The time undergoes a change. The right man, able to restore order, has arrived. Hence "good fortune." But such periods of transition are the very times in which we must fear and tremble. Success is assured only through greatest caution, which asks always, "What if it should fail?" When a mulberry bush is cut down, a number of unusually strong shoots sprout from the roots. Hence the image of tying something to a cluster of mulberry shoots is used to symbolize the way of making success certain. Confucius says about this line: Danger arises when a man feels secure in his position. Destruction threatens when a man seeks to preserve his worldly estate. Confusion develops when a man has put everything in order. Therefore the superior man does not forget danger in his security, not ruin when he is well established, nor confusion when his affairs are in order. In this way he gains personal safety and is able to protect the empire.


The top line marked
The standstill does not last forever. However, it does not cease of its own accord; the right man is needed to end it. This is the difference between a state of peace and a state of stagnation. Continuous effort is necessary to maintain peace: left to itself it would change into stagnation and disintegration. The time of disintegration, however, does not change back automatically to a condition of peace and prosperity; effort must be put forth in order to end it. This shows the creative attitude that man must take if the world is to be put in order.



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:


Heaven upon Earth

Heaven covering Earth, Earth resting below Heaven - that's how it is and how it should be. The original state of things, the order that nature always returns to. When this is the situation, there is no cause for any kind of action.

       This is the obvious reason for standstill and no furthering. Why change the optimal order of the universe, why even try?

       If this hexagram appears in divination, it means that things are as they should be, so one should be very cautious about acting at all. Nothing big, nothing out of the ordinary. Things have fallen into their places, the puzzle is complete. Only the most minor of adjustments are called for.

       The Jugdement is nothing other than this: The situation makes it evident that this is how things should be. It can be compared to the basic arrangement of the cosmos into Heaven above and Earth below. The present situation should be this natural, or there is something wrong. The time is such that what takes place can be compared to the most basic and yet most magnificent of orders - that of Heaven and Earth. So, who's to object or interfere?


Yin and Yang Significances

The hexagram is also the equal blending in a sublime order of Yang (full) and Yin (broken) lines. So, it's a symbol of the Yin and Yang unity. Things are in perfect balance. Again an argument for not disturbing the situation by careless action.

       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:

I Ching Hexagram 11
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 11
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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