I Ching

LIII. 漸 The Kien Hexagram

Kien suggests to us the marriage of a young lady, and the good fortune (attending it). There will be advantage in being firm and correct.

1. The first SIX, divided, shows the wild geese gradually approaching the shore. A young officer (in similar circumstances) will be in a position of danger, and be spoken against; but there will be no error.

2. The second SIX, divided, shows the geese gradually approaching the large rocks, where they eat and drink joyfully and at ease. There will be good fortune.

3. The third NINE, undivided, shows them gradually advanced to the dry plains. (It suggests also the idea of) a husband who goes on an expedition from which he does not return, and of a wife who is pregnant, but will not nourish her child. There will be evil. (The case symbolised) might be advantageous in resisting plunderers.

4. The fourth SIX, divided, shows the geese gradually advanced to the trees. They may light on the flat branches. There will be no error.

5. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows the geese gradually advanced to the high mound. (It suggests the idea of) a wife who for three years does not become pregnant; but in the end the natural issue cannot be prevented. There will be good fortune.

6. The sixth NINE, undivided, shows the geese gradually advanced to the large heights (beyond). Their feathers can be used as ornaments. There will be good fortune.

渐 – Jian
















衎 = 彳 + 干 + 亍

Appendix 1

1. The advance indicated by Kien is (like) the marrying of a young lady which is attended by good fortune.

2. (The lines) as they advance get into their correct places:—this indicates the achievements of a successful progress.

The advance is made according to correctness:—(the subject of the hexagram) might rectify his country.

3. Among the places (of the hexagram) we see the strong undivided line in the centre.

4. 'In (the attributes of) restfulness and flexible penetration we have (the assurance of) an (onward) movement that is inexhaustible.

Appendix 2

(The trigram representing) a mountain and above it that for a tree form Kien. The superior man, in accordance with this, attains to and maintains his extraordinary virtue, and makes the manners of the people good.

1. 'The danger of a small officer (as represented in the first line)' is owing to no fault of his in the matter of what is right.

2. 'They eat and drink joyfully and at ease:'—but not without having earned their food.

3. 'A husband goes and does not return:'—he separates himself from his comrades.

'A wife is pregnant, but will not nourish her child:'—she has failed in her (proper) course.

'It might be advantageous in resisting plunderers:'—by acting as here indicated men would preserve one another.

4. 'They may light on the flat branches:'—there is docility (in the line) going on to flexible penetration.

5. 'In the end the natural issue cannot be prevented. There will be good fortune:'—(the subject of the line) will get what he desires.

6. 'Their feathers can be used as ornaments. There will be good fortune:'—(the object and character of the subject of the line) cannot be disturbed.


LIII Kien is ordinarily used in the sense of gradually; but there is connected with that the idea also of progress or advance. The element of meaning in the character is the symbol of water; and the whole of it denotes gradual advance, like the soaking in of water. Three hexagrams contain in them the idea of advance, Žin (35), Shăng (46), and this Kien; but each has its peculiarity of meaning, and that of Kien is the gradual manner in which the advance takes place. The subject then of the hexagram is the advance of men to offices in the state, how it should take place gradually and by successive steps, as well as on certain other conditions that may be gathered from the Text. P. Regis gives this exposition of the subject, as taken by him from the symbolism, which he ascribes to Confucius:—'Viri probi, seu republica digni, in virtutis soliditate instituendi sunt a sapiente, bonisque regulis ut altis radicibus firmandi, nec alii ad rempublicam tractandam promovendi, nisi qui paulatim per varios minoresque gradus ad magnum hoc regimen periculo facto ascendere digni sint.' He then illustrates this sentiment by the words of Pliny:—'Eligetur multis experimentis eruditus, et qui futura possit ex praeteritis praevidere.'

But how does the lineal figure give the idea of a gradual advance? We shall see how it is attempted in the Great Symbolism to get this from the component trigrams. The account there is not satisfactory; and still less so is what else I have been able to find on the subject. E. g., the trigrams were originally Khwăn and Khien; but the third line of Khwăn and the first of Khien have changed places; and the trigrams now denote 'the youngest son,' and 'the eldest daughter.' If all this, which is a mere farrago, were admitted, it would not help us to the idea of an advance.

Again, the lines 2, 3, 4, 5 are all in the places proper to them as strong or weak; we ascend by them as by regular steps to the top of the hexagram; and this, it is said, gives the notion of the gradual steps of the advance. But neither does this carry conviction with it to the mind. We must leave the question. King Wăn, for reasons which we cannot discover, or without such reasons, determined that the hexagram Kien should denote the gradual advance of men to positions of influence and office.

The marriage of a young lady is mentioned in the Thwan as an illustration of an important event taking place with various preliminary steps, continued from its initiation to its consummation. But all must he done in an orderly and correct manner. And so must it be with the rise of a man in the service of the state.

The goose from the most ancient times played an important part in the marriage ceremonies of the Chinese; and this may have suggested the use of it in the symbolism of the different lines. Its habits as a bird of passage, and flying in processional order, admirably suited the writer's purpose. In paragraph 1 it appears for the first time in the season approaching the shore. Then comes the real subject of the line; and the facts of its being weak, and without a proper correlate, agree with, if they do not suggest, what is said about him, and the caution added.

The geese have advanced in line 2, and so has the officer, though he is not mentioned. The line is weak or humble, and central, and has a proper correlate in 5. Hence comes the good auspice.

Line 3 is strong, and has passed the central place, to the top of the lower trigram, and has not a proper correlate in 6. Its subject is likely to be violent and at the same time unsuccessful in his movements. He is like a husband who does not care for his wife, or a wife who does not care for her child. But in the case supposed, his strength in the end would be useful.

The web-footed goose is not suited for taking hold on the branches; but on flat branches it can rest. Line 4, weak, but in an even place, does not promise a good auspice for its subject; but it is the first line in the trigram of humility, and it is concluded that he will not fall into error.

Line 5 is a strong line in the ruler's seat; and yet it appears here as the symbol of a wife. Somehow its subject has been at variance with, and kept in disgrace by, calumniating enemies such as the plunderers of paragraph 3; but things come right in the end. The wife, childless for three years, becomes at last a mother; and there is good fortune.

The subject of line 6 has reached the top of the hexagram. There is no more advance for him; and he has no correlate. But he may still do some good work for the state, and verify the auspice derived from the ornamental plumes of the geese.

App-1-2:LIII The first sentence of paragraph 2 describes the lines from 2 to 5 all getting into their proper places, as has been pointed out on the Text, and that sentence is symbolical of what is said in the second. 'The rectification of the country' is the reality of 'the successful progress.'

'The strong undivided line' in paragraph 3 is the fifth of the figure.

Out of rest comes movement to go on for an indefinite time, and be succeeded by rest again;—as says paragraph 4.

App-2-2:LIII The Khang-hsî editors, to bring out the suitability of the Great Symbolism and its application, say:—'A tree springing up on the ground is a tree as it begins to grow. A tree on a hill is high and large. Every tree when it begins to grow, shows its branches and twigs gradually becoming long. Every morning and every evening show some difference; and when the tree is high and great, whether it be of an ordinary or extraordinary size, it has taken years to reach its dimensions. This illustrates the difference between the advance in Shăng (46) and that in Kien. Then the maintenance of extraordinary virtue in the application and the improvement of manners is a gradual process. The improvement of the manners, moreover, flows from the maintenance of the extraordinary virtue; which implies also a gradual operation and progress.'

Paragraph 1. The danger is the result of circumstances; the small officer has not brought it on himself.

Paragraph 2. Only the geese appear in this paragraph; but the writer is thinking of the advancing officer. I cannot but think that in the language and sentiment also there is an echo of the Shih King, 1, ix, ode 6.

The 'separation from his comrades' has respect to line 3 not finding its correlate in 6. 'The wife's failing in her proper course' has respect to the line being undivided and not in the centre.

Khăng-žze says, on paragraph 4, that humility and right-doing will find rest and peace in all places and circumstances.

Paragraph 5. 'The natural issue cannot be prevented:'—the wife will have a child minister and ruler will meet happily.

Paragraph 6. See on the Text. But it is difficult to see the aptness of the symbolism.