The Book of Changes

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P'i / Standstill [Stagnation] Obstruction

This hexagram is the opposite of the preceding one. Heaven is above, drawing farther and
farther away, while the earth below sinks farther into the depths. The creative powers are not
in relation. It is a time of standstill and decline. This hexagram is linked with the seventh
month (August-September), when the year has passed its zenith and autumnal decay is setting


STANDSTILL. Evil people do not further
The perseverance of the superior man.
The great departs; the small approaches.

Heaven and earth are out of communion and all things are benumbed. What is above has no relation to
what is below, and on earth confusion and disorder prevail.

The dark power is within, the light power is
without. Weakness is within, harshness without. Within are the inferior, and without are the superior. The
way of inferior people is in ascent; the way of superior people is on the decline. But the superior people
do not allow themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is
closed to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.

This is a period of lack of progress, where the unable ones --the evil people-- take advantage of the
unfavorable circumstances in their own benefit, obstructing the superior man's way. The circumstances
do not allow one to act according to its principles; thus one remains faithful to its lifestyle.

In another interpretation level, the stagnation time means a period of personal difficulties in which things
don't come out as one wanted. Low men don't help here, which means in such times one should not be
appealed to low thoughts that could take one towards a mistaken road. For that reason, the convenient

lost and bad thing increases.


Heaven and earth do not unite:
The image of STANDSTILL.
Thus the superior man falls back upon his inner worth
In order to escape the difficulties.
He does not permit himself to be honored with revenue.

When, owing to the influence of inferior men, mutual mistrust prevails in public life, fruitful activity is
rendered impossible, because the fundaments are wrong. Therefore the superior man knows what he must
do under such circumstances; he does not allow himself to be tempted by dazzling offers to take part in
public activities. This would only expose him to danger, since he cannot assent to the meanness of the
others. He therefore hides his worth and withdraws into seclusion.

Heaven and earth represent indispensable complementary factors for the production; but these don't
unite, they are dissociated, therefore, things don't prosper and one lives a stagnation state. For that
reason, in such times, the virtuous man stays faithful to himself and does not get involved in questions
that are not up to him.


Six at the beginning means:

When ribbon grass is pulled up, the sod comes with it.
Each according to his kind.
Perseverance brings good fortune and success.

The text is almost the same as that of the first line of the preceding hexagram, but with a contrary
meaning. In the latter a man is drawing another along with him on the road to an official career; here a man
is drawing another with him into retirement form public life. This is why the text says here, "Perseverance
brings good fortune and success," and not "Undertakings bring good fortune." If it becomes impossible to
make our influence count, it is only by retirement that we spare ourselves humiliation. Success in a higher
sense can be ours, because we know how to safeguard the value of our personalities.

This is the beginning of the stagnation period. To pull up ribbon grass symbolizes the first symptoms and
how the capable man faces such process: avoiding to get involved in weakness. The sod that comes
with it implies good men will retreat at once.


Six in the second place means:

They bear and endure;
This means good fortune for inferior people.
The standstill serves to help the great man to attain success.

Inferior people are ready to flatter their superiors in a servile way. They would also endure the superior
man if he would put an end to their confusion. This is fortunate for them. But the great man calmly bears
the consequences of the standstill. He does not mingle with the crowd of the inferior; that is not his
place. By his willingness to suffer personally he insures the success of his fundamental principles.

Small people, without further vision, can only bear up while being ordered, employing the utmost
compliance with the superiors.

On the other hand, the great man takes advantage of such a state to rearm and to be prepared when the
Stagnation culminates. For that reason this personality doesn't follow the behavior of the mass, that is to
say he doesn't simply stay and obey orders, hoping the stagnation finishes, but rather continues
projecting to transcend him.


Six in the third place means:

They bear shame.

Inferior people who have risen to power illegitimately do not feel equal to the responsibility they have
taken upon themselves.

In their hearts they begin to be ashamed, although at first they do not show it
This marks a turn for the better.

Somebody occupies a position that is very above its capacity, but its lameness will become obvious and
embarrassing. His continuity in such a position won't be durable since he is not in the appropriate place.


Nine in the fourth place means:

He who acts at the command of the highest
Remains without blame.
Those of like mind partake of the blessing.

The time of standstill is nearing the point of change into its opposite. Whoever wishes to restore order
must feel himself called to the task and have the necessary authority. A man who sets himself up a capable
of creating order according to his own judgment could make mistakes and end in failure. But the man who
is truly called to the task is favored by the conditions of the time, and all those of like mind will share in
his blessing.

The command of the highest means the state of things just as they are, beyond what ordinary people can
see, to agree with this command means, therefore, to capture such a situation and to anticipate to the
events. To proceed following the command of the highest, it also means to rehearse a more complex
analysis of the reality instead of remaining in a superficial plane.


Nine in the fifth place means:

Standstill is giving way.
Good fortune for the great man.
"What if it should fail, what if it should fail?"
In this way he ties it to a cluster of mulberry shoots.

The time undergoes a change. The right man, able to restore order, has arrived. Hence "good fortune." But
such periods of transition are the very times in which we must fear and tremble. Success is assured only
through greatest caution, which asks always, "What if it should fail?" When a mulberry bush is cut down, a
number of unusually strong shoots sprout from the roots. Hence the image of tying something to a cluster
of mulberry shoots is used to symbolize the way of making success certain. Confucius says about this

Danger arises when a man feels secure in his position. Destruction threatens when a man seeks
to preserve his worldly estate. Confusion develops when a man has put everything in order.
Therefore the superior man does not forget danger in his security, not ruin when he is well
established, nor confusion when his affairs are in order. In this way he gains personal safety
and is able to protect the empire.

The cluster of mulberry shoots refers to all the important things that were dispersed and now have been
united. Also, to be a cluster refers to the capable men who have met to take the leading in the coming
stage. They are firm and resolved, for that reason shoots are tied, because it is the place that
corresponds to them in this new circumstance.

In another analysis level, the cluster of mulberry shoots means to put all the capacity in a single place
and in a single objective. It also symbolizes the unity of efforts. From another point of view, it means to
reorder the thought or the ideas and to put them in agreement with the future change, not to be out of the


Nine at the top means:

The standstill comes to an end.
First standstill, then good fortune.

The standstill does not last forever. However, it does not cease of its own accord; the right man is needed
to end it. This is the difference between a state of peace and a state of stagnation. Continuous effort is
necessary to maintain peace: left to itself it would change into stagnation and disintegration. The time of
disintegration, however, does not change back automatically to a condition of peace and prosperity; effort
must be put forth in order to end it. This shows the creative attitude that man must take if the world is to
be put in order.

This is the end of the stagnation time, and then the whole potential of one can now be liberated.