I Ching

VI. 訟 The Sung Hexagram

Sung intimates how, though there is sincerity in one's contention, he will yet meet with opposition and obstruction; but if he cherish an apprehensive caution, there will be good fortune, while, if he must prosecute the contention to the (bitter) end, there will be evil. It will be advantageous to see the great man; it will not be advantageous to cross the great stream.

1. The first SIX, divided, shows its subject not perpetuating the matter about which (the contention is). He will suffer the small (injury) of being spoken against, but the end will be fortunate.

2. The second NINE, undivided, shows its subject unequal to the contention. If he retire and keep concealed (where) the inhabitants of his city are (only) three hundred families, he will fall into no mistake.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows its subject keeping in the old place assigned for his support, and firmly correct. Perilous as the position is, there will be good fortune in the end. Should he perchance engage in the king's business, he will not (claim the merit of) achievement.

4. The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject unequal to the contention. He returns to (the study of Heaven's) ordinances, changes (his wish to contend), and rests in being firm and correct. There will be good fortune.

S. The fifth NINE, undivided, shows its subject contending;—and with great good fortune.

6. The topmost NINE, undivided, shows how its subject may have the leathern belt conferred on him (by the sovereign), and thrice it shall be taken from him in a morning.

讼 – Song
















鞶 = 上 (top) 般 下 (bottom) 革

Appendix 1

1. The upper portion of Sung is (the trigram representing) strength, and the lower (that representing) peril. (The coming together of) strength and peril gives (the idea in) Sung.

2. 'Sung intimates how, though there is sincerity in one's contention, he will yet meet with opposition and obstruction; but if he cherish an apprehensive caution, there will be good fortune:'—a strong (line) has come and got the central place (in the lower trigram).

'If he must prosecute the contention to the (bitter) end, there will be evil:'—contention is not a thing to be carried on to extremity.

'It will be advantageous to meet with the great man:'—what he sets a value on is the due mean, and the correct place.

'It will not be advantageous to cross the great stream:'—one (attempting to do so) would find himself in an abyss.

Appendix 2

(The trigram representing) heaven and (that representing) water, moving away from each other, form Sung. The superior man, in accordance with this, in the transaction of affairs takes good counsel about his first steps.

1. 'He does not perpetuate the matter about which (the contention is):'—contention should not be prolonged. Although 'he may suffer the small (injury) of being spoken against,' his argument is clear.

2. 'He is unequal to the contention; he retires and keeps concealed, stealthily withdrawing from it:'—for him from his lower place to contend with (the stronger one) above, would be to (invite) calamity, as if he brought it with his hand to himself.

3. 'He confines himself to the support assigned to him of old:'—(thus) following those above him, he will have good fortune.

4. 'He returns to (the study of Heaven's) ordinances, changes (his wish to contend), and rests in being firm and correct:'—he does not fail (in doing what is right).

5. 'He contends;—and 'with great fortune:—this is shown by his holding the due mean and being in the correct place.

6. 'He receives the robe through his contention:'—but still be is not deserving of respect.


VI We have strength in the upper trigram, as if to regulate and control the lower, and peril in that lower as if looking out for an opportunity to assail the upper; or, as it may be represented, we have one's self in a state of peril matched against strength from without. All this is supposed to give the idea of contention or strife. But the undivided line in the centre of Khân is emblematic of sincerity, and gives a character to the whole figure. An individual, so represented, will be very wary, and have good fortune; but strife is bad, and if persevered in even by such a one, the effect will be evil. The fifth line, undivided, in an odd place, and central, serves as a representative of 'the great man,' whose agency is sure to be good; but the topmost line being also strong, and with its two companions, riding as it were, on the trigram of peril, its action is likely to be too rash for a great enterprise. See the treatise on the Thwan, in loc.

The subject of line 1 is weak and at the bottom of the figure. He may suffer a little in the nascent strife, but will let it drop; and the effect will be good.

Line 2 represents one who is strong, and has the rule of the lower trigram;—he has the mind for strife, and might be expected to engage in it. But his strength is weakened by, being in an even place, and he is no match for his correlate in line 5, and therefore retreats. A town or city with only three hundred families is said to be very small. That the subject of the line should retire to so insignificant a place is further proof of his humility.

Line 3 is weak and in an odd place. Its subject therefore is not equal to strive, but withdraws from the arena. Even if forced into it, he will keep himself in the background;—and be safe. 'He keeps in the old place assigned for his support' is, literally, 'He eats his old virtue;' meaning that he lives in and on the appanage assigned to him for his services.

Line 4 is strong, and not in the centre; so that we are to conceive of its subject as having a mind to strive. But immediately above it is line 5, the symbol of the ruler, and with him it is hopeless to strive; immediately below is 3, weak, and out of its proper place, incapable of maintaining a contention. Its proper correlate is the lowest line, weak, and out of its proper place, from whom little help can come. Hence its subject takes the course indicated, which leads to good fortune.

Line 5 has every circumstance in favour of its subject.

Line 6 is strong and able to contend successfully; but is there to be no end of striving? Persistence in it is sure to end in defeat and disgrace. The contender here might receive a reward from the king for his success; but if he received it thrice in a morning, thrice it would be taken from him again. As to the nature of the reward here given, see on the Lî Kî, X, ii, 32.

P. Regis explains several of the expressions in the Text, both in the Thwan and the Hsiang, from the history of king Wăn and his son king Wû. Possibly his own circumstances may have suggested to Wăn some of the Thwan; and his course in avoiding a direct collision with the tyrant Shâu, and Wû's subsequent exploits may have been in the mind of the duke of Kâu. Some of the sentiments, however, cannot be historically explained. They are general protests against all contention and strife.

App-1-1:VI Paragraph 1 here is much to the same effect as the first sentence in the notes on the Thwan of the Text. It is said, 'Strength without peril would not produce contention; peril without strength would not be able to contend.'

2. 'A strong line has come and got the central place:'—this sentence has given rise to a doctrine about the changes of trigrams and hexagrams, which has obscured more than anything else the interpretation of the Yî. Where has the strong second line come from? From a hundred critics we receive the answer,—'From Tun ( ).' The reader will see that if the second and third lines of the lower trigram there be made to change places, there results or Sung. The doctrine of changing the figures by the manipulation of the stalks did spring up between the time of Wăn and his son and that of the composition of the Appendixes; but there is no trace of it in the real Text of the Yî; and it renders any scheme for the interpretation of the figures impossible. The editors of the imperial Yî allow this, and on the present passage discard the doctrine entirely, referring to the language of the Thwan on hexagrams 11 and 12 as fatal to it. See the notes there, and the Introduction, pp. 11-16. 'A strong line has come' is to be taken as equivalent simply to a strong line is there.'

What 'the great man sets a value on being the due mean and the correct place,' his decision in any matter of contention is sure to be right.

App-2-1:VI The symbolism here is different from that in the Text of the Thwan. We have the visible sky ascending and water or rain descending, which indicate, one hardly sees how, opposition and contention. The lesson as to the course of the superior man is a good one, but might with equal propriety be deduced from many other hexagrams.

Hsiang An-shih (Sung dynasty) says that the first part of paragraph 2 is all to be taken as the language of the duke of Kâu, the characters being varied; the rest is the remark of the writer of this treatise.

It is observed that the returning to (the study of Heaven's) ordinances, and changing the wish to contend, in paragraph 4, are not two things, but only one; 'the ordinances (ming) meaning what is right in principle.' The wish to contend was wrong in principle, and is now abandoned.

'The robe' takes the place of 'the leathern sash' in paragraph 6; but the sash was merely an appendage of the robe.