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A Classic I-ching Reading

Let us examine more closely one of these early oracle pronouncements in which, in addition to the positive or negative augury, a certain feeling for the course of change is already present. It concerns an event in the early part of the seventh century b.c. At that time, Li, a ruler of the small state of Ch'en, who had gained power illegitimately, consulted the I Ching about the fate of his young son, Ching-Chung, in order to assure himself of the permanence of his dynasty. The hexagram indicated by the oracle was Kuan, Contemplation (View) (20), and the Judgment reads:

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    The ablution has been made, but not yet the offering. Full of trust they look up to him.

It is a situation where the preparations for the great sacrifice have all been carried out and every one awaits the sacred ritual full of trust and faith. The Image shows wind blowing over the earth. The six in the fourth place was the changing line, and the accompanying text says:

    Contemplation of the light of the kingdom. It furthers one to exert influence as the guest of a king.

The change in this line resulted in the hexagram P'i, Standstill (12). Here the Judgment reads:

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

The Image shows heaven (or the princes) striving to get away from the earth.

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As we see, the oracle's message was not a simple answer in a positive or negative sense; favorable and adverse influences were intermingled. The interpretation by the priest in charge has come down as follows:

    When it is said, "Contemplation of the light of the kingdom. It furthers one to exert influence as the guest of a king," does this mean that he will own the kingdom (the country) for Ch'ien? In any case, it will not be here, but in another state. And it will not be he himself, but his sons and grandchildren. The light is far away and he will receive its brightness from others. K'un means the earth, Sun is wind, and Ch'ien heaven. If wind changes into heaven standing over the earth, then it is as if a mountain were there. If he has the qualities of a mountain and is illuminated by the light of heaven (or the ruler), then he will tarry on earth. This is why it is said: "One contemplates the light of the kingdom. It furthers one to exert influence as the guest of a king." The king's court is full and many guests are there. Let jade and silk be brought to him—all that is of beauty between heaven and earth. Then it will further one to tarry as the guest of a king. (The position of the weak line at the top of the lower nuclear trigram, and its relationship of holding together with the strong line over it in the middle of the upper primary trigram, suggests the idea of mutual giving and taking, which is also expressed in the Commentary Tsa Kua [Tenth Wing, 485].) However, now we have the hexagram Kuan, View, therefore I say that it will be only his descendants that will benefit by it. The wind wanders and is everywhere on earth. Therefore I say it will be in another state. If it is in another state, it will certainly be in one whose rulers bear the family name of Chiang. The Chiang are the descendants of the officials in charge of the sacrifices to the holy mountains. The holy mountains are next to heaven. There is nothing equal to them in greatness. If Ch'ien collapses, will he then flourish in that other state (i.e., in Ch'i)?

The annals state that thereafter Ch'en was conquered by his mighty neighbor, Ch'u, and so heaven (the prince) had to part with his country, but that the descendants of Ching-Chung gradually won recognition in Ch'i and finally mounted the throne.

From Hellmut Wilhelm: Understanding the I-ching, Princeton University Press, 1995, p.123-126.


Read also a modern aproach of I-ching answer about the year 2012 here

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