I Ching

XLVIII. 井 The Žing Hexagram

(Looking at) Žing, (we think of) how (the site of) a town may be changed, while (the fashion of) its wells undergoes no change. (The water of a well) never disappears and never receives (any great) increase, and those who come and those who go can draw and enjoy the benefit. If (the drawing) have nearly been accomplished, but, before the rope has quite reached the water, the bucket is broken, this is evil.

1. The first SIX, divided, shows a well so muddy that men will not drink of it; or an old well to which neither birds (nor other creatures) resort.

2. The second NINE, undivided, shows a well from which by a hole the water escapes and flows away to the shrimps (and such small creatures among the grass), or one the water of which leaks away from a broken basket.

3. The third NINE, undivided, shows a well, which has been cleared out, but is not used. Our hearts are sorry for this, for the water might be drawn out and used. If the king were (only) intelligent, both he and we might receive the benefit of it.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows a well, the lining of which is well laid. There will be no error.

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows a clear, limpid well, (the waters from) whose cold spring are (freely) drunk.

6. The topmost SIX, divided, shows (the water from) the well brought to the top, which is not allowed to be covered. This suggests the idea of sincerity. There will be great good fortune.

井 – Jing
















1: 繘 = 纟 + (橘 - 木) 2: 咎 = 上 (top) "秋" 下 (bottom) "瓦"

Appendix 1

1. (We have the symbol of) wood in the water and the raising of the water; which (gives us the idea of) a well. A well supplies nourishment and is not (itself) exhausted.

2. 'The site of a town may be changed, while the fashion of its wells undergoes no change:'—this is indicated by the central position of the strong lines (in the second and fifth places).

'The drawing is nearly accomplished, but the rope has not yet reached the water of the well:'—its service has not yet been accomplished.

'The bucket is broken:'—it is this that occasions evil.

Appendix 2

(The trigram representing) wood and above it that for water form Žing. The superior man, in accordance with this, comforts the people, and. stimulates them to mutual helpfulness.

1. 'A well so muddy that men will not drink of it:'—this is indicated by the low position (of the line).

'An old well to which the birds do not come:'—it has been forsaken in the course of time.

2. 'A well from which by a hole the water escapes, and flows away to the shrimps:'—(the subject of this second line has) none co-operating with him (above).

3. 'The well has been cleared out, but is not used:'—(even) passers-by would be sorry for this.

A prayer is made 'that the king were intelligent:'—for then blessing would be received.

4. 'A well the lining of which is well laid. There will be no error:'—the well has been put in good repair.

5. 'The waters from the cold spring are (freely) drunk:'—this is indicated by the central and correct position (of the line).

6. 'The great good fortune' at the topmost place indicates the grand accomplishment (of the idea in the hexagram).


XLVIII Žing, which gives its name to this hexagram, is the symbol of a well. The character originally was pictorial (井), intended to represent a portion of land, divided into nine parts, the central portion belonging to the government, and being cultivated by the joint labour of the eight families settled on the other divisions. In the centre of it, moreover, was a well, which was the joint property of all the occupants.

What is said on Žing might be styled 'Moralisings on a well,' or Lessons to be learned from a well for the good order and government of a country.' What a well is to those in its neighbourhood, and indeed to men in general, that is government to a people. If rulers would only rightly appreciate the principles of government handed down from the good ages of the past, and faithfully apply them to the regulation of the present, they would be blessed themselves and their people with them.

In the Thwan we have the well, substantially the same through many changes of society; a sure source of dependance to men, for their refreshment and for use in their cultivation of the ground. Its form is what I have seen in the plains of northern China; what may be seen among ourselves in many places in Europe. It is deep, and the water is drawn up by a vessel let down from the top; and the value of the well depends on the water being actually raised. And so the principles of government must be actually carried out.

Line 1, being weak, and at the very bottom of the figure, suggests, or is made to suggest, the symbolism of it. Many men in authority are like such a well; corrupt, useless, unregarded.

Line 2 is strong, and might very well symbolise an active spring, ever feeding the well and, through it, the ground and its cultivators; but it is in an inappropriate place, and has no proper correlate. Its cool waters cannot be brought to the top. So important is it that the ministers of a country should be able and willing rightly to administer its government. In the account of the ancient Shun it is stated that he once saved his life by an opening in the lining of a well.

Line 3 is a strong line, in its proper place; and must represent an able minister or officer. But though the well is clear, no use is made of it. I do not find anything in the figure that can be connected with this fact. The author was wise beyond his lines. After the first sentence of the paragraph, the duke of Kâu ceases from his function of making emblems; reflects and moralises.

Line 4 is weak, but in its proper place. Its subject is not to be condemned, but neither is he to be praised. He takes care of himself, but does nothing for others.

Line 5 is strong, and in its right place. The place is that of the ruler, and suggests the well, full of clear water, which is drawn up, and performs its useful work. Such is the good Head of government to his people.

Line 6 is in its proper place, but weak. If the general idea of the figure was different, a bad auspice might be drawn from it. But here we see in it the symbol of the water drawn up, and the top uncovered so that the use of the well is free to all. Then the mention of 'sincerity' suggests the inexhaustibleness of the elemental supply.

App-1-2:XLVIII Kăng Khang-Khăng says:—'Khân, the upper trigram, represents water, and Sun, the lower, wood. This wood denotes the water-wheel or pulley with its bucket, which descends into the mouth of the spring, and brings the water up to the top.' This may be a correct explanation of the figure, though the reading of it from bottom to top seems at first to be strange.

Paragraph 2. That the fashion of the well does not undergo any (great) change is dwelt upon as illustrating the unchangeableness of the great principles of human nature and of government. But that this truth may be learned from the strong and central lines only produces a smile. So do the remarks on the other two sentences of the Thwan.

App-2-2:XLVIII The Great Symbolism here may well enough represent a well, it being understood that the water which is above the wood is that raised by it for irrigation and other uses. What is said, moreover, in the application is more akin to the idea of the hexagram than in most of the other cases. It is certainly one way in which the ruler should nourish the people.

Ii is said on paragraph 1:—'Those who have a mind to do something in the world, when they look at this line, and its symbolism, will learn how they ought to exert themselves.'

Rather in opposition to what I have said on the Text of line 4, the 'Daily Lecture' observes here:—'The cultivation of one's self, which is represented here, is fundamental to the government of others.'