I Ching

XXXIX. 蹇 The Kien Hexagram

In (the state indicated by) Kien advantage will be found in the south-west, and the contrary in the north-east. It will be advantageous (also) to meet with the great man. (In these circumstances), with firmness and correctness, there will be good fortune.

1. From the first SIX, divided, we learn that advance (on the part of its subject) will lead to (greater) difficulties, while remaining stationary will afford ground for praise.

2. The second SIX, divided, shows the minister of the king struggling with difficulty on difficulty, and not with a view to his own advantage.

3. The third NINE, undivided, shows its subject advancing, (but only) to (greater) difficulties. He remains stationary, and returns (to his former associates).

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows its subject advancing, (but only) to (greater) difficulties. He remains stationary, and unites (with the subject of the line above).

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject struggling with the greatest difficulties, while friends are coming to help him.

6. The topmost SIX, divided, shows its subject going forward, (only to increase) the difficulties, while his remaining stationary will be (productive of) great (merit). There will be good fortune, and it will be advantageous to meet with the great man.

蹇 – Jian
















Appendix 1

1. Kien denotes difficulty. There is (the trigram expressive of) perilousness in front. When one, seeing the peril, can arrest his steps (in accordance with the significance of the lower tri. gram), is he not wise?

2. (The language of) Kien, that 'advantage will be found in the south-west,' refers to the (strong fifth line) advanced and in the central place. That 'there will be no advantage in the north-east,' intimates that the way (of dealing with the Kien state) is exhausted. That 'it will be advantageous to see the great man,' intimates that advance will lead to achievement. That the places (of the different lines after the first) are those appropriate to them indicates firm correctness and good fortune, with which the regions (of the kingdom) are brought to their normal state. Great indeed is the work to be done in the time of Kien!

Appendix 2

(The trigram representing) a mountain, and above it that for water, form Kien. The superior man, in accordance with this, turns round (and examines) himself, and cultivates his virtue.

1. 'Advancing will conduct to (greater) difficulties, while remaining stationary will afford ground for praise:'—the proper course is to wait.

2. 'The minister of the king struggles with difficulty on difficulty:'—in the end no blame will be attached to him.

3. 'He advances, (but only) to (greater) difficulty; he remains stationary, and returns to his former associates:'—they, (represented in) the inner (trigram), rejoice in him.

4. 'To advance will (only be to) encounter (greater) difficulties; he remains stationary, and unites (with the subject of the line above):'—that is in its proper place and has the solidity (due to it in that position).

5. 'He struggles with the greatest difficulties, while friends are coming (to help him):'—he is in the central position, and possesses the requisite virtue.

6. 'To advance will (only) increase the difficulties, while his remaining stationary will (be productive of) great (merit):'—his aim is to assist the (subject of the line) inside of him.

'It will be advantageous to meet the great man:'—by his course he follows that noble (lord of the figure).


XXXIX Kien is the symbol for incompetency in the feet and legs, involving difficulty in walking; hence it is used in this hexagram to indicate a state of the kingdom which makes the government of it an arduous task. How this task may be successfully performed, now by activity on the part of the ruler, and now by a discreet inactivity:—this is what the figure teaches, or at least gives hints about. For the development of the meaning of the symbolic character from the structure of the lineal figure, see Appendixes I and II.

The Thwan seems to require three things—attention to place, the presence of the great man, and the firm observance of correctness—in order to cope successfully with the difficulties of the situation. The first thing is enigmatically expressed, and the language should be compared with what we find in the Thwan of hexagrams 2 and 40. Referring to Figure 2, in Plate III, we find that, according to Win's arrangement of the trigrams, the southwest is occupied by Khwăn ( ), and the north-east by Kăn ( ). The former represents the champaign country; the latter, the mountainous region. The former is easily traversed and held; the latter, with difficulty. The attention to place thus becomes transformed into a calculation of circumstances; those that promise success in an enterprise, which should be taken advantage of, and those that threaten difficulty and failure, which should be shunned.

This is the generally accepted view of this difficult passage. The Khang-hsî editors have a view of their own. I have been myself inclined to find less symbolism in it, and to take the southwest as the regions in the south and west of the kingdom, which we know from the Shih were more especially devoted to Wăn and his house, while the strength of the kings of Shang lay in the north and east.

'The idea of "the great man," Mencius's "minister of Heaven,"' is illustrated by the strong line in the fifth place, having for its correlate the weak line in 2. But favourableness of circumstances and place, and the presence of the great man do not dispense from the observance of firm correctness. Throughout these essays of the Yî this is always insisted on.

Line 1 is weak, whereas it ought to be strong as being in an odd place. If its subject advance, he will not be able to cope with the difficulties of the situation, but be overwhelmed by them. Let him wait for a more favourable time.

Line 2 is weak, but in its proper place. Its correlation with the strong 5, and consequent significance, are well set forth.

Line 3 is strong, and in a place of strength; but its correlate in 6 is weak, so that the advance of its subject would be unsupported. He waits therefore for a better time, and cherishes the subjects of the two lines below, who naturally cling to him.

Line 4 is weak, and, though in its proper place, its subject could do little of himself. He is immediately below the king or great man, however, and cultivates his loyal attachment to him, waiting for the time when he shall be required to act.

Line 5 is the king, the man great and strong. He can cope with the difficulties, and the subjects of 2 and the other lines of the lower trigram give their help.

The action of the hexagram is over; where can the weak 6 go forward to? Let him abide where he is, and serve the great man immediately below him. So shall he also be great;—in meritorious action at least.

App-1-2:XXXIX The upper or front trigram is Khân, the attribute of which is perilousness; the lower is Kăn, of which the arresting, actively or passively, of movement or advance is the attribute. We can understand how the union of these attributes gives the ideas of difficulty and prudent caution.

The explanations in paragraph 2 of the phraseology of the Thwan are not all easily followed. It is said that the advantageousness of the south-west is due to the central line in 5; but if we are to look for the meaning of south-west in Khwăn, as in the diagram of king Wăn's trigrams, there is no strong central line in it. May Khân, as a yang trigram, be used for Khwăn?

App-2-2:XXXIX The Symbolism is described here a little differently from the form of it in Appendix I. Khăng-žze brings the same meaning out of it, however, in the following way:—'We have here a steep and difficult mountain, and again on the top of that there is water; each of the two trigrams is an emblem of perilousness. There is peril, both above and below, in the figure; and hence it represents the difficulties of the state.' The application of the symbolism is illustrated by the words of Mencius, 'When we do not, by what we do, realise (what we desire), we must turn inwards and examine ourselves in every point.'

From the lesson in paragraph 2 we saw that the moral value of conduct is independent of failure or success. It is said, 'Though the difficulties be too great for him to overcome, the sage accepts his desire, in order to stimulate others to loyal devotedness.'

On paragraph 3, Khung Ying-tâ says:—'Of the three lines of the lower trigram only the third is yang, above the two others which are of the yin nature. They cling to it, and are represented as if rejoicing in it.

The view given of paragraph 4 is that of the Khang-hsî editors.

'The friends' in paragraph 5 are the subjects of the second line, the correlate of 5, and also of the two other lines of the lower trigram.

Sû Shih (A. D. 1036-1101) remarks on paragraph 6 that by 'the inside,' and 'the noble,' we are to understand the subject of line 5.