The Book of Changes

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Ku / Work on what has been spoiled [Decay] Renovation

The Chinese character ku represents a bowl in whose contents worms are breeding. This
means decay. It has come about because the gentle indifference in the lower trigram has come
together with the rigid inertia of the upper, and the result is stagnation. Since this implies
guilt, the conditions embody a demand for removal of the cause. Hence the meaning of the
hexagram is not simply "what has been spoiled" but "work on what has been spoiled".


Has supreme success.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Before the starting point, three days.
After the starting point, three days.

What has been spoiled through man's fault can be made good again through man's work. It is not
immutable fate, as in the time of STANDSTILL (12), that has caused the state of corruption, but rather the
abuse of human freedom. Work toward improving conditions promises well, because it accords the
possibilities of the time. We must not recoil from work and danger-symbolized by crossing of the great
water-but must take hold energetically. Success depends, however, on proper deliberation.


This is
expressed by the lines, "Before the starting point, three days. After the starting point, three days." We
must first know the cause of corruption before we can do away with them; hence it is necessary to be
cautious during the time before the start. Then we must see to it that the new way is safely entered upon,
so that a relapse may be avoided; therefore we must pay attention to the time after the start. Decisiveness
and energy must take the place of inertia and indifference that have led to decay, in order that the ending
may be followed by a new beginning.

The renovation suggests a previous destruction or deterioration; this implies a situation in which certain
causes deteriorate a situation. To renovate means to begin again, to build on the previous foundations;
recovering finally the essence.

Renovation is a great task, because it is not a work that implies to erase all the above mentioned, but
rather a work referred to leave alive the first forms.

For that reason it is convenient to cross the great
river, that is to say to move on and begin the effort. But such a task should be made making an
exhaustive evaluation of the facts that drove to corruption; this is meant by the three previous days and
the three next days after the starting point.

In other level, the three previous days and the three days after pointed to the essential adaptation time to
accustom people to the new rules.


The wind blows slow on the mountain:
The image of DECAY.
Thus the superior man stirs up the people
And strengthens their spirit.

When the wind blow s slow on the mountain, it is thrown back and spoils the vegetation. This contains a
challenge to improvement. It is the same with debasing attitudes and fashions; they corrupt human society.
His methods likewise must be derived from the two trigrams, but in such a way that their effects unfold in
orderly sequence. The superior must first remove stagnation by stirring up public opinion, as the wind
stirs up everything, and must strengthen and tranquilize the character of the people, as the mountain gives
tranquillity and nourishment to all that grows in its vicinity.

In a state of decadence, the mentality also falls in a period of stagnation. For it, "the superior man stirs
up the people" to awake them and "strengthens their spirit" to made them capable of a new beginning.


Six at the beginning means:

Setting right what has been spoiled by the father.
If there is a son,
No blame rests upon the departed father.
Danger. In the end good fortune.

Rigid adherence to tradition has resulted in decay. But the decay has not yet penetrated deeply and so can
still be easily remedied. It is as if a son were compensated for the decay his father allowed to creep in.
Then no blame attaches to the father. However, one must not overlook the danger or take the matter too
lightly. Only if one is conscious of the danger connected with every reform will everything go well in the

Here there are conflicts not overcome that come from the past. The father gives the idea of the past, and
also means moral conscience, education. In this case there are conflicts caused by a rigid or
inappropriate education, or basic errors. To renovate what the father has decayed means to cut in the
root the errors, to go in search of the first cause.

"What has been spoiled by the father" also means received inheritance, out-of-date tradition, antiquated
ways; then, to recompose would mean to change, to modify, to establish a new order. As this the first line
of the hexagram, this means that it is in the beginning of the renovation; this supposes it is a proper
moment, and that to attack the problem here would be the less traumatic approach.

Nine in the second place means:

Setting right what has been spoiled by the mother.
One must not be too persevering.

This refers to mistakes that as a result of weakness have brought about decay-hence the symbol, "what has
been spoiled by the mother. "In setting things right in such a case, a certain gentle consideration is called
for. In order not to wound, one should not attempt to proceed too drastically.

In this line, the mother represents delicate matters; to recompose what the mother has ruined means to
approach the problem with care and softness and not to come in a too energetic or violent way. In
another analysis level this refers to correct some situation without punishing the responsible one (the

Nine in the third place means:

Setting right what has been
spoiled by the father.
There will be little remorse. No great blame.

This describes a man who proceeds a little too energetically in righting the mistakes of the past. Now and
then, as a result, minor discourse and annoyances will surely develop. But too much energy is better than
too little. Therefore, although he may at times have slight cause for regret, he remains free of any serious

Here, the line is similar to the first one. But being the third line of the hexagram means that it has elapsed
before undertaking the renovation and this makes the task even harder, with the result that there will be a
slight regret.

Six in the fourth place means:

Tolerating what has been spoiled by the father.
In continuing one sees humiliation.

This shows the situation of someone too weak to take measures against decay that has its roots in the past
and is just beginning to manifest itself. It is allowed to run its course. If this continues, humiliation will

There is a situation of exaggerated tolerance. "Tolerating what has been spoiled by the father", means
lack of will to break up with the past, weakness to carry out a root change. In another interpretation level,
to support what the father has ruined implies to have a dogmatic, rigid conception not able to change
according to current times.

Six in the fifth place means:

Setting right what has been spoiled by the father.
One meets with praise.

An individual is confronted with corruption originating from neglect in former times. He lacks the power
to ward it off alone, but with able helpers he can at least bring about a thorough reform, if he cannot
create a new beginning, and this also is praiseworthy.

Using softness and yielding one can receive help to carry out the renovation (from second yang) and
obtain a good reputation.

Nine at the top means:

He does not serve kings and princes,
Sets himself higher goals.

Not every man has an obligation to mingle in the affairs of the world. There are some who are developed
to such a degree that they are justified in letting the world go its own way and refusing to enter public life
with a view to reforming it. But this does not imply a right to remain idle or to sit back and merely
criticize. Such withdrawal is justified only when we strive to realize in ourselves the higher aims of
mankind. For although the sage remains distant from the turmoil of daily life, he creates incomparable
human values for the future.

The last line symbolizes a great wise detached from world affairs. Here it is not a question of pleasing
anybody nor solving third party problems, but carrying out own goals.