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The I Ching series

The “I Ching” or “Book of Changes” originated in China at least 5000 years ago, and like most ancient wisdoms was passed orally down the generations. It is reputed to have first been written down in 1123 BC by King Wen and his son the Duke of Chou. Confucius later added further commentaries.

Brought to the West in the Victorian age, the I Ching wrongly acquired a reputation as a book of fortune-telling, but in the mid 20th century became popular again for what it truly is: a book of wisdom and guidance to help and caution those who consulted it. It directs us to deeper levels of consciousness, reaching to and prompting our innate skills and knowledge: it tells us what needs to happen and what we should do in any set of circumstances in order to change for the better. The great psychologist C G Jung championed its use, and wrote the foreword to one of the best known translations of the book (“I Ching or Book Of Changes”, by Richard Wilhelm, published by Routledge & Kegan Paul). In my paintings I have drawn upon the imagery of Wilhelm’s text.

The I Ching consists of 64 hexagrams, figures of six lines of different combinations. The lines are either ‘broken’ or ‘unbroken’, representing the opposing forces of Yin and Yang. Each of the 64 hexagrams has a number and a name. Traditionally, yarrow straws are drawn at random to determine which hexagram and which types of lines are relevant to whatever problem or question is at the forefront of your mind. Answers can be found from the interpretation of the hexagram.

If you want to find out more about the I Ching, you will find many links and resources on the internet. A good place to start is HERE.

The pages here show my pictorial interpretations of 28 of the 64 chapters, together with a brief explanation based on the Richard Wilhelm text. Click on a button below to see the picture. This will open in a new window, or maybe a new tab if you’re using a netbook or phone. To return to this page, just close the window or tab.

Have a look at the ‘Cards and Prints’ section of my shop if you would like a copy of any of the paintings.

No 1 –  Ch’ien

The Creative

Picture size 100cm H x 80cm W

The six unbroken lines stand for primal power, which is light-giving, active, strong and of the spirit. The hexagram is consistently strong in character, and since it is without weakness its essence is energy.

The beginning of all things lies still in the beyond in the form of ideas that have yet to become real. The Creative has the power to lend form to these archetypes of ideas.

The six lines are the six different positions given in the hexagram and are represented by the dragon symbol (the electrically charged, dynamic arousing force). Each step attained becomes a preparation for the next. Time is no longer a hindrance but the means of making actual what is potential.

Dynamic energy, unless used wisely can be destructive. The more power held the more care must be taken not to abuse it. There is a danger of over-ambition, arrogance and excessive pride leading to the creation of havoc. Equally there is an opportunity to become a considerable positive influence and a source of great inspiration.

No 2 –  K’un

The Receptive

Picture size – to follow

A receptive and responsive attitude is the key to dealing with matters at this time. Do not try to take control or initiate action without receiving thoughts of others; the results will lead to confusion. However, you must make choices and decisions – what matters is how you go about it. Have an open mind. Be prepared to listen and learn. Try to discover what the situation most needs. Find out what would best serve the interests of those involved. With this information you can then decide what contribution you can usefully make. Be generous and willing to accommodate others. You have the abilities and resources to benefit all concerned. Share your decisions with others and kindly receive their help to carry out your plans. Very great success will be achieved.

No 3 –  Chun
Difficulty at the Beginning

Picture size 85cm H x 60cm W

The name of the hexagram, Chun, represents a new shoot pushing against obstacles and struggling to burst its way through the soil in the first days of spring, hence the meaning, “difficulty at the beginning.” The situation points to chaotic confusion and thunder and rain fill the air. The chaos clears and the thunderstorm brings release from tension.

Times of growth are beset by difficulties resembling a first birth. A new cycle is beginning, involving change and reassessment of beliefs and values. It is important not to remain alone but to seek out experienced helpers to overcome the chaos. In order to find one’s place in the infinity of being, one must be able both to separate and to unite.

No 4 – Meng
Youthful Folly

Picture size 53cm H x 81cm W

Stopping in perplexity on the brink of danger is a symbol of the folly of youth. Folly is not an evil and success can be achieved in spite of it as long as an experienced teacher is found, and the right attitude to learning is developed. First of all the youth must become aware of his lack of experience and must seek out the teacher. Only with this modesty has he demonstrated the necessary receptivity which should express itself in respectful acceptance of the teacher. Therefore the teacher must not offer himself but must wait until sought. The teacher’s answers to the pupil’s questions must be clear and definite in order to form the basis for decision making. If mistrustful or unintelligent questioning is kept up the teacher will ignore it in silence.

Water is something that of necessity flows on. When a spring gushes, at first it does not know which direction to take but its steady flow fills up all the dips and holes in its path and only then is progress ensured. In the same way, given a perseverance that does not slacken, the pupil will master the points one by one and success is sure to follow.

No 5 – Hsu
Waiting

Picture size 75cm H x 75cm W

The idea of waiting is suggested by the attributes of the two trigrams, strength within, danger in front. Strength in the face of danger does not plunge ahead but bides its time, whereas weakness in the face of danger grows agitated and does not have the patience to wait. No direct action can be taken at the present. All beings have need of nourishment of one kind or another but this will come in its own time, we cannot make it come, we have to wait. We should not worry and seek to shape the future by interfering in things before the time is ripe. We should quietly fortify the body with food and drink and the mind with gladness and good cheer. Fate comes when it will. Patient anticipation is not wishful thinking. There is an inner certainty of reaching the goal. There is an opportunity for standing back and getting an objective view of the matter and once the situation is seen clearly and unemotionally the best way forward will start to emerge.

No 6 – Sung
Conflict

Picture size 75cm H x 75cm W

Conflict develops when one feels himself to be in the right and runs into opposition. If a man is entangled in a conflict his only salvation lies in being so clear-headed and inwardly strong that he is always ready to come to terms by meeting the opponent halfway. To carry on the conflict to the bitter end has evil effects even when one is in the right, because the enmity is then perpetuated. It is important to find an impartial authority to terminate the conflict amicably and assure a just decision.

To avoid conflict everything must be taken carefully into consideration in the very beginning. If rights and duties are clearly defined, or if, in a group, the spiritual trends of the individuals harmonise, the cause of conflict is removed in advance.

No 7 – Shih
The Army

Picture size 70cm H x 70cm W

Ground water is invisibly present within the earth in the same way as power is invisibly present in the masses. During times of war ordinary people are drawn from all walks of life to become soldiers. After the war, it is better that they be paid an appropriate financial settlement and returned to their civilian lives rather than be awarded ruling positions lest power be abused.

The hexagram denotes an efficient General who maintains obedience in the army by his authority. He captures the heart of the people and awakens their enthusiasm, he explains the justifying cause of the war and outlines clear and intelligible war aims. There will be no victory unless the army can unite with strength and conviction behind a definite objective. The General has a responsibility to ensure that where energetic combat is thoroughly justified, it is properly directed and does not degenerate into a mayhem where mob rule and excessive force prevails.

The General remains in the midst of his army, in touch with it and sharing good and bad with those he leads. Should he receive the recognition of the rulers and be awarded decorations the whole army is honoured in his person.

No 8 – Pi
Holding together

I CHING - No.8 Pi - Holding together An interpretation in watercolour painted by Faye Edmondson, Somerset.

Picture size 70cm H x 70cm W

What is required is that we unite with others, in order that all may complement and aid one another through holding together.  But such holding together calls for a central figure around whom other persons may unite.  To become a centre of influence holding people together is a grave matter and fraught with great responsibility.  It requires greatness of spirit, consistency, and strength.  Therefore let him who wishes to gather others about him ask himself whether he is equal to the undertaking, for anyone attempting the task without a real calling for it makes confusion worse than if no union at all had taken place.

No 9 – Hsiao Ch’u
The Taming Power of the Small

Picture size 68cm H x 67cm W

Circumstances are such that it is impossible to take significant action, and it would be unwise to make a show of strength. Abilities are considerable but the position is not secure enough to allow a major impact on the situation. However, preparations can be made in small ways for the changes to come, such as paying attention to details, planning and information gathering. Only through the small means of friendly persuasion can any influence be exerted.

No 11- T’ai
Peace

Picture size 59cm H x 83cm W

Celestial and terrestrial forces are in communion with one another and all things move freely without restraint. In the world of man it is a time of social harmony, those in high places show favour to the lowly, and the lowly are well disposed toward the highly placed. There is an end to feuds. It is a time of universal flowering and prosperity.

Action must be taken now to lay the foundations of future success. It is not a time for complacency.

No 15- Ch’ien
Modesty

Picture size 57cm H x 57cm W

The wealth of the earth in which a mountain is hidden is not visible to the eye because the depths are offset by the height of the mountain. Thus high and low complement each other, and the result is the plain. Here an effect that it took a long time to achieve, but that in the end seems easy of accomplishment and self evident, is used as the image of modesty. The enlightened man does the same thing when establishing order in the world; extremes that are the source of social discontent are equalised thereby creating just and equable conditions.

When a man hold a high position and is nevertheless modest he shines with the light of wisdom; if he is in a lowly position and is modest, he cannot be passed by. His work is carried out to the end without boasting of what he has achieved.

Modesty is not to be confused with weak good nature that lets things take their own course. Where responsibility is held there are times when energetic measures are called for. These measures should be purely objective and in no way personally offensive, nor should any effort be used in creating a good impression.

When enmity arises it is easy to lay blame on another. A weak man takes offence perhaps and draws back, feeling self-pity. He thinks it is modesty that keeps him from defending himself. Genuine modesty sets one to creating order and inspires one to begin by disciplining one’s own ego and one’s immediate circle. Only through having the courage to marshal one’s armies against oneself, will something forceful really be achieved.

No 18- Ku
Work on What Has Been Spoiled

Picture size 57cm H x 57cm W

The Chinese character Ku is said to represent “a bowl in whose contents worms are breeding” suggesting decay which has been brought about through gentle indifference and rigid inertia. The situation demands action. In this instance it is not immutable fate that brought about a state of corruption but the abuse of human freedom. What has been damaged by man can also be made good again through man’s work.

However, time must be given to understanding the causes of the problems before they can be rectified. Changes and improvements must unfold in orderly sequence in order to firmly establish progress on the right path and to prevent relapsing.

No 20 – Kuan
Contemplation

Picture size 80cm H x 80cm W

Natural occurrences are uniformly subject to law. Contemplation of the meaning underlying the workings of the universe give to those individuals who are called upon to influence others the means of producing like effects. As a result they will have an understanding of the real sentiments of humanity and therefore cannot be deceived, which will enable them to effect changes to a situation without any effort on their part.

No 24 – Fu
Return

Picture size 76cm H x 76cm W

The hexagram is linked with the time of the winter solstice, the turning point between a year gone and a year yet to come. Transformation of the old becomes easy. The old is discarded and the new introduced. Societies of people sharing the same views are formed, all selfish separatist tendencies are excluded. Movement is accomplished in six stages and the seventh brings Return. Underlying all natural change is a consistent rhythm, night into day and winter into spring. It is only necessary to tune into this natural rhythm as it manifests itself in our lives. The time of Return suggests relaxing and conserving energy. The return of health after illness and understanding after an estrangement must be treated tenderly and with care so that the return may lead to a flowering.

No 25 – Wu Wang
Innocence

Picture size 81cm H x 76cm W

Man has received from heaven a nature innately good. By devotion to this divine spirit within himself, he attains an unsullied innocence that leads him to do right with instinctive sureness and without any ulterior thoughts of reward and personal advantage.

The original impulses of the heart are always good, so that we may follow them confidently, assured of good fortune.

We should do every task for its own sake as time and place demand, and not with an eye to the result.

Sometimes undeserved misfortune befalls a man at the hands of another. In all transactions, no matter how innocent, we must accommodate ourselves to the demands of the time, otherwise unexpected misfortune overtakes us.

No 27 – I
Nourishment

Picture size 81cm H x 53cm W

Nourishment of oneself, regarding the body, is represented in the lower trigram , while the upper trigram represents nourishment and care of others in a higher, spiritual sense.

If we wish to know someone, we need only observe on whom he bestows his care and what sides of his own nature he develops and nourishes.

Words are a movement going from within outward. Eating and drinking are movements from without inward. These movement can be modified by tranquillity, keeping the words coming out of the mouth from exceeding proper measure and keeping the food going into the mouth from exceeding its proper level. In this way character is moulded.

The original impulses of the heart are always good, so that we may follow them confidently, assured of good fortune.

We should do every task for its own sake as time and place demand, and not with an eye to the result.

Sometimes undeserved misfortune befalls a man at the hands of another. In all transactions, no matter how innocent, we must accommodate ourselves to the demands of the time, otherwise unexpected misfortune overtakes us.

No 28 – Ta Kua
Preponderance of the Great

Picture size 75cm H x 91cm W

The weight of the great is excessive. The load is too heavy for the strength of the supports. It is an exceptional time and situation and therefore extraordinary measures are demanded. It is necessary to find a way of transition as quickly as possible and to take action. Nothing is to be achieved by forcible measures, the problem must be solved by gentle penetration to the meaning of the situation then the change-over to other conditions will be successful. The time resembles flood times when the lake rises over the treetops. But such conditions are temporary. The attitude required for these exceptional times is to stand firm even though one stands alone and to remain undaunted even if one must renounce the world.

No 29 – K’an
The Abysmal

Picture size 70cm H x 59cm W

The hexagram means “repetition of danger” and the image of a ravine is used to symbolise this danger. It indicates a situation in which a man is in the same pass as the water in a ravine, and like the water, he can escape if he follows its example.

Water flows on and on and fills up all the places through which it passes, never shrinking from danger nor any plunge. The water does not lose its essential nature, remaining true to itself regardless of conditions. In danger the facts must be faced and the courage found to undertake all that has to be done, thoroughly, and then to move forward in order not to perish through tarrying in danger.

The hexagram suggests that goodness should be an established attribute of character rather than an accidental and isolated occurrence.

No 31 – Hsien
Influence

Picture size 70cm H x 85cm W

A mountain that is sunken at the summit and does not jut out as a peak is able to form a lake and is stimulated by the moisture of the lake. The image suggests that the mind be kept humble and free so that it can remain receptive to good advice. A wise man draws people to himself by his own receptivity and is able to listen and instruct, thereby developing good relationships from which all may benefit. The universal mutual attraction between the sexes is represented here. By keeping still within while experiencing joy without it is possible to prevent the joy from going to excess and hold it within proper bounds creating a sound foundation for successful personal and social relationships.

No 37 – Chia Jen
The Family

Picture size 84cm H x 59cm W

The hexagram represents the laws within the family structure. All the connections and relationships within the family find their appropriate expression. When the family is in order, all the social relationships of mankind will be in order. The family is society in embryo, and the performance of moral duty is made easy through natural affection, so that within a small circle a basis of moral practice is created and this extends itself to include all human relationships in general.

Influence works from within outward and in order to be capable of producing such an influence, one’s words must have power and this is achieved only if these words are supported by one’s entire conduct. Only firm and consistent conduct will make such an impression on others that they can adapt and conform to.

No 42 – I
Increase

Picture size 83cm H x 71cm W

Sacrifice on the part of those above for the increase of those below produces a sense of joy and gratitude. A man brings about real increase by creating in himself the conditions for it, that is, through receptivity to and love of the good. True kindness does not count upon nor ask about merit and gratitude, but acts from inner necessity. And such a truly kind heart finds itself rewarded in being recognised, and thus the beneficent influence will spread unhindered.

No 48 – Ching
The Well

Picture size 84cm H x 63cm W

The Well from which water is drawn conveys the idea of an inexhaustible dispensing of nourishment. Whereas cities can be moved and changed along with styles of architecture over the centuries, the well cannot be moved, and the shape has remained essentially the same. Thus the well is the symbol of that social structure which, evolved by mankind to meet its most primitive needs, is independent of all political and religious forms. A well neither increases nor decreases; people come and go and draw water to their satisfaction.

For a favourable outcome it is necessary to go down to the very foundations of life. Any superficial ordering of life that leaves its deepest needs unsatisfied is as ineffectual as if no attempt had been made. Excessive use of power must be avoided (by which the jug is broken), resulting in making the well unusable for all.

However people may differ in disposition and education, the foundations of human nature are the same in everyone, all share the same emotional and spiritual needs for love, support and inspiration. Every human being can draw from the inexhaustible wellspring of the divine in man’s nature. There are two dangers to be avoided, a failure to penetrate to the real roots of humanity and therefore remaining fixed in convention, and neglect of self-development.

No 50 – Ting
The Cauldron

Picture size 65m H x 75cm W

The Cauldron is the symbol of the nourishment it contains and it is also the sacrificial vessel. The hexagram refers to the cultural superstructure of society. The sages of old cooked their sacrifices in order to make them more acceptable to the supreme being, and made lavish feasts to nourish their wise and capable helpers.

The fate of fire depends on wood and as long as there is wood below the fire will burn above. It is the same with human life, there is a fate that lends power to life. If a man succeeds in assigning the right place to life and to fate, thus bringing the two into harmony, he puts his fate on a firm footing.

It is important to make the most of natural gifts and skills and put them at the service of others. Putting aside self-interest in favour of more spiritual values such as kindness and generosity and by being sensitive to the needs of others becomes a source of inspiration and strength.

No 51 – Chên
The Arousing

Picture size 81cm H x 65cm W

The shock is so violent that it arouses terror. When a man has learned within his heart what fear means he develops such a profound inner seriousness from which all outer terrors glance off harmlessly. The hexagram outlines various reactions to shock.

No 53 – Chien
Gradual development

Picture size 75cm H x 62cm W

A tree on a mountain is visible from afar and its development influences the landscape of the entire region. It does not shoot up like a swamp plant, its growth proceeds gradually.

The keynote of the hexagram is patience and hasty or premature action is discouraged. The situation is compared to the traditional period of engagement before marriage. The various formalities must be disposed before the marriage takes place.

Within the personality too, development must follow the same path if lasting results are to be achieved. Gentleness that is adaptable, but at the same time penetrating, is the outer form that proceeds from inner calm.

 

No 56 – Lu
The Wanderer

Picture size 75cm H x 75cm W

A Wanderer has no fixed abode or large a circle of acquaintances and therefore cannot afford an obstinate and overbearing manner. When travelling in a strange environment it is sensible to be cautious, reserved, adaptable, to be even-tempered, intelligent and to have a quiet and understanding heart to realise what is happening and to conform to the local customs.

No 59 – Huan
Dispersion

Picture size 79cm H x 69cm W

Dispersion leads to gathering together. During the autumn and winter months water freezes into ice and then when the warm winds of spring come, the rigidity is dissolved and the elements that have been dispersed in ice floes are reunited. It is the same with the human mind. The heart becomes rigid through selfishness and hardness leading to separation from others. Gentleness and tactfulness will dissolve the blockage, assist the breakdown of factions and enable the process of reconciliation. One individual’s well-being cannot be separated from that of other people. One person’s suffering will affect all concerned in some way. A consciousness of the common origin of all creatures erodes all barriers just as when a boat is in difficulty on the water all hands must unite in a joint task.

No 61 – Chung Fu
Inner Truth

Picture size 85cm H x 72cm W

The force of inner truth depends mainly on inner stability and preparedness. This force is not the same as a simple intimacy or a secret bond. Such close ties may exist also amongst criminals which does act as a force but is not invincible. All attachments on the basis of common interests only remain so up to a certain point. When the community of interest ceases so also does the holding together and friendships can often turn into hatred. The way to influence a situation is through commitment to the truth.

Pigs and fish were considered the least intelligent of animals and therefore extremely difficult to influence. To do so required the force of inner truth to be greatly developed. Even the most difficult people will respond to somebody whose motivation is genuinely sincere. The secret of success rests upon finding the right approach, ridding oneself of all prejudice and letting the psyche of the other person act on one without restraint. Once it is known what matters to the recipient, it will be obvious how to establish contact.

Whenever a feeling is expressed with truth and frankness and a deed is a clear expression of sentiment, a strong and far-reaching influence is exerted. Any intention to force an effect destroys the possibility of producing it.

No 62 – Hsiao Kua
Preponderance of the small

Picture size 75cm H x 50cm W

The hexagram indicates an exceptional situation requiring extraordinary prudence, modesty and conscientiousness. However, this does not mean empty form and subservience but correct dignity in personal behaviour. In this situation a man must fix his eyes more closely and more directly on duty than does the ordinary man, even though this might make his behaviour appear petty to the outside world. He is exceptionally conscientious in his actions and in bereavement emotion means more to him than ceremoniousness. In all his personal expenditure his is simple and unpretentious.

Small things may be accomplished at this time but not great things. The structure of the hexagram gives rise to the idea that this message is brought by a bird, the image of a soaring bird. But a bird should not try to surpass itself and fly into the sun, it should descend to the earth where its nest is.

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