Hexagram 6, line 3

食舊德, 貞厲 終吉, 或從王事, 无成.

Shi 食: to ‘eat it’ – to speak about it but not putting it into practice (謂言已出而反吞之,不實行).

Jiude 舊德: the virtues and good deeds of the former kings and ancestors.

食舊德 therefore means to talk about the virtues of the ancestors but not putting them into practice. Without the proper conduct based on the teachings of the ancient ones the divination (zhen 貞) will be dangerous (li 厲). The outcome will be auspicious (ji 吉), but in royal assignments there will be no accomplishments (see also hexagram 2, line 3), as you do not have the full support of the forefathers .

Talking about old virtues but not practising them.
To divine will be dangerous.
In the end auspicious.
There is participation in royal affairs,
But no accomplishments.

Hexagram 6, line 2

不克訟.歸而逋其邑人. 三百戶.無眚.

Buke 不克: unable to win (the fight or battle – 不能戰勝)

Song 訟: dispute, lawsuit, accusation

Gui 歸: return, go back. Also loan for kui 愧, ‘ashamed’

Bu 逋: flee, run away

Yiren 邑人: the people from a fief, feud

Hu 戶: measure word for households

Sheng 眚: Same as sheng 省, cut down, reduce; mitigate (a punishment)

Cannot win the dispute. Returns and flees from the people from his fief. Three-hundred households will not be spared.

Hexagram 6, Judgement


About you fu 有孚 see here.

窒惕: Many assume that zhiti 窒惕 forms a fixed phrase, and I follow that same route although this is by no means an established fact – we do not find this phrase in other books so we don’t have any reassuring references for it. But this passage consists of several set phrases: 有孚, 中吉, 終凶, 利見大人 and 不利涉大川, which makes the possibility that zhiti is a fixed phrase very likely (Lu Deming 陸德明 suggests the text should be punctuated differently: as “有孚窒.” and “惕中吉.”). But we can only guess at its meaning. To make matters more complicated the variant texts all give other characters for this phrase:

MWD: 洫寧
GD: 懥6-0-GD
XP: 懫惕

Let us start with zhi 窒 and its variants. There is a common theme, some sort of overlap, in some of the meanings that these characters have. I have singled these out:

窒: perverse behaviour; disagreeable character (乖戾;執拗)

Zigong said, “Surely even the better person must have hatreds? Confucius said, “He has hatreds. He hates those who point out what is evil in others. He hates those who dwelling in low estate revile all who are above them. He hates those who love deeds of daring but neglect propriety. He hates those who are active and venturesome, but are violent in temper.

(Lunyu 論語, tr. Arthur Waley)

洫: ruin, corrupt (敗壞). Also a loan for yi 溢, ‘excessive, overdo, go beyond the normal limit’.

懥: anger, resent, hate (憤怒;憤恨)

When you are angry, you cannot be correct.
(Daxue 大學, tr. Charles Muller)

The Kangxi Zidian 康熙字典 says that 懫, which is used in the Xiping Stone Classics 熹平石經 version of the Yijing, is a variant of 懥.

The general idea that speaks to me here is that of outrage, going over the limit, undesired behaviour. This has to be 惕: ‘watched out for’, you have to be watchful and alert, but the anger also has to be ning 寧, ‘pacified, calm down’, as the MWD text puts it.

Although anger and outrage is to some extent justified it should not be taken to the limit, nor should it be used all the way.

There is blessing and protection.
To temper anger halfway is auspicious. At the end is inauspicious.
Advantageous to see the great man.
Not advantageous to wade through the great river.

Hexagram 5, line 5 & 6

line 5


Waiting with wine and food. The divination is auspicious.

line 6

入于穴. 有不速之客三人來敬之. 終吉.

Ru 入: in old texts often used with the meaning of ‘to accept’ (taxes, tribute or a gift; 古文字通假字典, p. 766-767). This meaning of ru is used in several bronze inscriptions, like the Song 頌 bronzes:

又膳夫山鼎、頌鼎、頌壺、頌毀有 “反入堇章” 語,即受冊命者 “返納瑾璋” 於王。
The shanfu 膳夫 Shan Ding, Song Ding, Song Hu and Song Gui have the phrase “he returned and accepted a jade tablet”, that is he who received the emperor’s order to confer titles of nobility on his relatives “returned and accepted a jade tablet” from the king.
(古文字通假字典, p. 767)

A shanfu served the king personally, “taking out and bringing in” royal commands for administrative or military purposes.
(Maria Khayutina, Studying the Private Sphere of the Ancient Chinese Nobility through the Inscriptions on Bronze Ritual Vessels, in Chinese Concepts of Privacy, p. 87)

The term for the jade scepter (…) refers not to just any jade ornament, but to one that symbolized the delegation of authority in the archaic period.
(David W. Pankenier, Caveat lector: comments on Douglas j. Keenan, ‘astro-historiographic chronologies of early china are unfounded’ in Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 10(2), 137-141 (2007) )

Edward Shaughnessy translates 反入堇章 as “he returned and brought in a jade tablet” (The Cambridge History of Ancient China, p. 299), but to my knowledge a jade scepter was given by a superior to its subject and not the other way around.

Bu su 不速: uninvited; unexpected.

Ke 客: distinguished guests .

Jing 敬: use gifts to show appreciation or pay respect (以禮物表示謝意或敬意).

Acceptance (of gifts) at the hole. There are three uninvited visitors coming to pay respect with this. In the end auspicious.

Hexagram 5, line 4


Xue 血: loan for xue 洫, the irrigation ditches between fields; a small water channel. (古代漢語通假字大字典, p. 769)

鄒漢勳 Zou Hanxun (1805 – 1854) also follows this hypothesis,  arguing that the fourth line is at the start of the upper trigram Water ☵ (see 古代漢語通假字大字典).

Chu zi 出自: ‘coming from, going out at':

The wife with the boy in her arms came forth from her room…
禮記 – Liji

The viands came forth from the room on the east…
春秋繁露 – Chun Qiu Fan Lu

O sun; O moon,
Which come forth from the east!
詩經 – Book of Poetry

I go out at the north gate…
詩經 – Book of Poetry

Xue 穴: water course, drain, originating with a hole in a hill or mountain. The Erya 爾雅 explains the word guiquan 氿泉, a spring coming out of a hillside, as:

A spring coming out from the side. Xuchu 穴出 means zechu 仄出, ‘coming out from the side’.
爾雅 – Er Ya

Waiting at the ditch coming forth from a hole (in the hillside).


Hexagram 5, line 2

需于沙. 小有言. 終吉.

Sha 沙: the sandy river shore. Lu Deming’s 陸德明 Jingdian Shiwen 經典釋文 says that Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 used zhi 沚, ‘islet’. 

The Shanghai Museum MSS has 5-2-1. The 古文字通假字典 says that 5-2-2 is a known variant of 沙 in bronze inscriptions and in the Baoshan texts (p. 508; see also 包山楚簡文字編, p. 141), so 5-2-1 is most likely a variant of 沙. The 土 component indicates the earth aspect of the meaning.

小有言: see this article.

Waiting at the river shore.
The common people will have criticism.
In the end auspicious.

Hexagram 5, line 1


Jiao 郊: general reference to the area outside the city, the open country. The Shanghai Museum MSS has hao 蒿, which in several texts is used as a loan for jiao (古文字通假字典, p. 158).

Heng 恆: perseverance, constancy. In the Lun Yu heng is mentioned as a necessary quality for witch doctors or shamans when doing a divination:

The Master said, “The people of the south have a saying – ‘A man without constancy cannot be either a wizard or a doctor.’ Good! Inconstant in his virtue, he will be visited with disgrace.” The Master said, “This arises simply from not attending to the prognostication.”
(tr. James Legge)

A different version of this anecdote is found in the Liji:

The Master said, ‘The people of the south have a saying that “A man without constancy cannot be a diviner either with the tortoise-shell or the stalks.” This was probably a saying handed down from antiquity. If such a man cannot know the tortoise-shell and stalks, how much less can he know other men? It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, v, ode 1, 3), “Our tortoise-shells are wearied out, And will not tell us anything about the plans.” The Charge to Yue says (Shu, IV, Viii, sect. 2, 5, 11), “Dignities should not be conferred on men of evil practices. (If they be), how can the people set themselves to correct their ways? If this be sought merely by sacrifices, it will be disrespectful (to the spirits). When affairs come to be troublesome, there ensues disorder; when the spirits are served so, difficulties ensue.” It is said in the Yi, “When one does not continuously maintain his virtue, some will impute it to him as a disgrace – (in the position indicated in the Hexagram.) When one does maintain his virtue continuously (in the other position indicated), this will be fortunate in a wife, but in a husband evil.”
(tr. James Legge)

The phrase 不恆其德,或承之羞 is mentioned in the 3rd line of hexagram 32, Heng 恆. See also this site.

Waiting outside the city.
Favourable to persevere.
There is no curse from the ancestors.

Hexagram 5, Judgement


Xu 需: hesitate, wait and see (觀望). Some translators translate it as ‘to want, to need’ (需要) but this meaning is relatively young (starting with Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) ).



About you fu 有孚 see here and here.

About guang heng 光亨 see here.

She 涉: to cross a river.

Da chuan 大川: a great river, probably referring to the Yellow River. In the Zhuangzi we read:

Feng Yi got It, and by It swam in the Great River

In the Soushenji 搜神記 it is said that Feng Yi drowned in the Yellow River:

In the times of the Sung state, Feng Yi of Hung-nung Commandery was a man from the head of the levee in the T’ung district at Hua-yin. On the first keng day of the eight month, he crossed the Yellow River and was drowned. The lord of heaven made him the Ho-po (Lord of Rivers). The Wu-hsing Shu says: “Ho-po died on the day keng-ch’en. On this day it is not propitious to take boats on long journeys for one may drown and never return.
(DeWoskin & Crump (tr.), In Search of the Supernatural, p. 45)

There is blessing and protection.
Glorious accepted offering.
The divination will be auspicious.
Advantageous to cross the great river.