The Book of Changes

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K'un / The Receptive

This hexagram is made up of broken lines only. The broken lines represents the dark, yielding,
receptive primal power of yin. The attribute of the hexagram is devotion; its image is the
earth. It is the perfect complement of THE CREATIVE --the complement, not the opposite--,
for the Receptive does not combat the Creative but completes it.

It represents nature in
contrast to spirit, earth in contrast to heaven, space as against time, the female-maternal as
against the male-paternal. However, as applied to human affairs, the principle of this
complementary relationship is found not only in the relation between man and woman, but
also in that between prince and minister and between father and son. Indeed, even in the
individual this duality appears in the coexistence of the spiritual world and the world of the


But strictly speaking there is no real dualism here, because there is a clearly defined
hierarchic relationship between the two principles. In itself of course the Receptive is just as
important as the Creative, but the attribute of devotion defines the place occupied by this
primal power in relation to the Creative.

For the Receptive must be activated and led by the
Creative; then it is productive of good. Only when it abandons this position and tries to stand
as an equal side by side with the Creative, does it become evil.

The result then is opposition to
and struggle against the Creative, which is productive of evil to both.



THE RECEPTIVE brings about sublime success,
furthering through the perseverance of a mare. (See Four Virtues)
If the superior man undertakes something and tries to lead,
He goes astray;
But if he follows, he finds guidance.
It is favorable to find friends in the west and south,
To forego friends in the east and north.
Quiet perseverance brings good fortune.

The four fundamental aspects of the Creative --"sublime success, furthering through perseverance"-- are
also attributed to the Receptive. Here, however, the perseverance is more closely defined: it is that of a
mare. The Receptive connotes spatial reality in contrast to the spiritual potentiality of the Creative. The
potential becomes real and the spiritual becomes spatial through a specifically qualifying definition. Thus
the qualification, "of a mare," is here added to the idea of perseverance. The horse belongs to earth just as
the dragon belongs to heaven. Its tireless roaming over the plains is taken as a symbol of the vast expanse
of the earth. This is the symbol chosen because the mare combines the strength and swiftness of the horse
with the gentleness and devotion of the cow.

Kun will be successful only after becoming absolutely acquiescent: "the perseverance of a mare". Its
action interacts with the other ones', what she makes becomes therefore framed inside an order in which
everyone has its own task.

Only because nature in its myriad forms corresponds with the myriad impulses of the Creative can it
make these impulses real. Nature's richness lies in its power to nourish all living things; its greatness lies
in its power to give then beauty and splendor. Thus it prospers all that lives. IT is the Creative that begets
things, but they are brought to birth by the Receptive. Applied to human affairs, therefore, what the
hexagram indicated is action in conformity with the situation. The person in questions not in an
independent position, but is acting as an assistant. This means that he must achieve something. It is not his
task to try to lead--that would only make him lose the way-but to let himself be led. If he knows how to
meet fate with an attitude of acceptance, he is sure to find the right guidance. The superior man lets
himself be guided; he does not go ahead blindly, but learns from the situation what is demanded of him
and then follows this intimation from fate.

Since there is something to be accomplished, we need friends and helpers in the hour of toil and effort,
once the ideas to be realized are firmly set. The time of toil and effort is indicated by the west and south,
for west and south symbolize the place where the Receptive works for the Creative, as nature does in
summer and autumn. If in that situation one does not mobilize all one's powers, the work to be
accomplished will not be done. Hence to find friends there means to find guidance. But in addition to the
time of toil and effort, there is also a time of planning, and for this we need this solitude. The east
symbolized the place where a man receives orders from his master, and the north the place where he
reports on what he has done. At that time he must be alone and objective. In this sacred hour he must do
without companions. So that the purity of the moment may not be spoiled by fictional hates and

Going with friends means to surrender to a community-sense work, where solidarity and cooperation are


The earth's condition is receptive devotion.
Thus the superior man who has breadth of character
Carries the outer world.

Just as there is only one heaven, so too there is only one earth. In the hexagram of heaven the doubling of
the trigram implies duration in time, but in the hexagram of earth the doubling connotes the solidity and
extension in space by virtue of which the earth is able to carry and preserve all things that live and move
upon it. The earth in its devotion carries all things, good and evil, without exception. In the same way the
superior man gives to his character breadth, purity, and sustaining power, so that he is able both to support
and to bear with people and things.

Like the earth, the virtuous man breadth is translated into his mental level; this way, his intelligence
understands the reason of all things and his capacity is good enough to transform, guide and help the
development of everybody.


Six at the beginning means:

When there is hoarfrost underfoot,
Solid ice is not far off.

Just as the light-giving power represents life, so the dark power, the shadowy, represents death. When the
first hoarfrost comes in the autumn, the power of darkness and cold is just at its beginning. After these
first warnings, signs of death will gradually multiply, until, in obedience to immutable laws, stark winter
with its ice is here.

In life it is the same. After certain scarcely noticeable signs of decay have appeared, they go on increasing
until final dissolution comes. But in life precautions can be taken by heeding the first signs of decay and
checking them in time.

Here, the reference is made at the beginning of a situation that steadily becomes less intense. Kun is
perfectly acquiescent, but it is strong and steadfast.

Six in the second place means:

Straight, square, great.
Without purpose,
Yet nothing remains unfurthered.

The symbol of heaven is the circle, and that of earth is the square. Thus squareness is a primary quality of
the earth. On the other hand, movement in a straight line, as well as magnitude, is a primary quality of the
Creative. But all square things have their origin in a straight line and into turn form solid bodies. In
mathematics, when we discriminate between lines, planes and solids, we find that rectangular planes result
from straight lines, and cubic magnitudes from rectangular planes. The Receptive accommodates itself to
the qualities of the Creative and makes them its own. Thus a square develops out of a straight line and a
cube out of a square. This is compliance with the laws of the Creative; nothing is taken away, nothing
added. Therefore the Receptive has no need of a special purpose of its own, nor of any effort' yet
everything turns out as it should.

Nature creates all beings without erring: this is its foursquareness. It tolerates all creatures equally: this
is its greatness. Therefore it attains what is right for all without artifice or special intentions. Man
achieves the height of wisdom when all that he does is as self-evident as what nature does.

In a correct and central way, one can promote all things without neither effort nor fail.

Six in the third place means:

Hidden lines.
One is able to remain persevering.
If by chance you are in the service of a king,
Seek not works, but bring to completion.

If a man is free of vanity he is able to conceal his abilities and keep them from attracting attention too
soon; thus he can mature undisturbed. If conditions demand it, he can also enter public life, but that too he
does with restraint. The wise man gladly leaves fame to others. He does not seek to have credited to
himself things that stand accomplished, but hopes to release active forces; that is, he completes his works
in such a manner that they may bear fruit for the future.

The key to success consists purely and exclusively on carrying out the appointed task entirely, leaving
aside vanity and the laborious search for recognition.

Six in the fourth place means:

A tied-up sack. No blame, no praise.

The dark element opens when it moves and closes when at rest. The strictest reticence is indicated here.
The time is dangerous, because any degree of prominence leads either to the enmity of irresistible
antagonists if one challenges them or to misconceived recognition if one is complaisant. Therefore a man
ought to maintain reserve, be it in solitude or in the turmoil of the world, for there too he can hide
himself so well that no one knows him.

The tied bag is the symbol of staying free from suspicion and, consequently, not to be accused. It also
means neutrality. This line mentions a situation in which the commitments should be avoided and,
because of that, caution should prevail.

Six in the fifth place means:

A yellow lower garment brings supreme good fortune.

Yellow is the color of the earth and of the middle; it is the symbol of that which is reliable and genuine.
The lower garment is inconspicuously decorated --the symbol of aristocratic reserve. When anyone is
called upon to work in a prominent but not independent position, true success depends on the utmost
discretion. A man's genuineness and refinement should not reveal themselves directly; they should
express themselves only indirectly as an effect from within.

Yellow, besides meaning the color of the earth in China, are the beauty, good omen, fortune and true
thing color. The underwear symbolizes an internal state, a feeling; and as it is also yellow it means that
the inner attitude is good and supposed to be right. The yellow underwear also means interior wealth,
therefore, it is not necessary to make any ostentation, because virtue consists on acting consequently
with what such a feeling that is in fact strong dictates, because it is not superficial but rather rooted in the
deep of the being.

Six at the top means:

Dragons fight in the meadow.
Their blood is black and yellow.

In the top place the dark element should yield to the light. If it attempts to maintain a position to which it
is not entitled and to rule instead of serving, it draws down upon itself the anger of the strong. A struggle
ensues in which it is overthrown, with injury, however, to both sides. The dragon, symbol of heaven,
comes to fight the false dragon that symbolized the inflation of the earth principle. Midnight blue is the
color of heaven; yellow is the color of earth. Therefore, when black and yellow blood flow, it is a sign
that in this unnatural contest both primal powers suffer injury. (1)

The nature of dragons is different: since yellow is the color of the earth, one of them belongs to the
terrestrial world and the other one to the celestial one, because black (midnight blue) is the color of
heaven. As the dragon is a celestial animal, it is inferred that one of them is not authentic, since it comes
from earth. This means that the conflict commences, because one of the fighters tries to assume a role
that doesn't fall to him and be raised in other people territory. Both of them bleeding symbolize that, no
matter who is right, both run a risk.

When all the lines are sixes, it means:

Lasting perseverance furthers.

When nothing but sixes appears, the hexagram of THE RECEPTIVE changes into the hexagram of THE
CREATIVE. By holding fast to what is right, it gains the power of enduring. There is indeed no advance,
but neither is there retrogression.

Final success will be achieved through the practice of constant perseverance.

(1) While the top line of THE CREATIVE indicates titanic pride and forms a parallel to the Greek legend
of Icarus, the top line of THE RECEPTIVE presents a parallel to the myth of Lucifer's rebellion against
God, or to the battle between the powers of darkness and the gods of Valhalla, which ended with the
Twilight of the Gods.