The Book of Changes

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Chun / Difficulty at the Beginning Sprouting

The name of the hexagram, Chun, really connotes a blade of grass pushing against an obstacle
as it sprouts out of the earth --hence the meaning, "difficulty at the beginning." The hexagram
indicates the way in which heaven and earth bring forth individual beings.

It is their first
meeting, which is beset with difficulties. The lower trigram Ch?n is the Arousing; its motion
is upward and its image is thunder. The upper trigram K'an stands for the Abysmal, the
dangerous. Its motion is downward and its image is rain. The situation points to teeming,
chaotic profusion; thunder and rain fill the air. But the chaos clears up. While the Abysmal
sinks, the upward movement eventually passes beyond the danger. A thunderstorm brings
release from tension, and all things breathe freely again.



DIFFICULTY AT THE BEGINNING works supreme success,
Furthering through perseverance.(See Four Virtues)
Nothing should be undertaken.
It furthers one to appoint helpers.

Times of growth are beset with difficulties. They resemble a first birth. But these difficulties arise from
the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form . Everything is in motion: therefore if one
perseveres there is a prospect of great success, in spite of the existing danger. When it is a man's fate to
undertake such new beginnings, everything is still unformed, dark. Hence he must hold back, because any
premature move might bring disaster. Likewise, it is very important not to remain alone; in order to
overcome the chaos he needs helpers.

This is not to say, however, that he himself should look on
passively at what is happening. He must lend his hand and participate with inspiration and guidance.

It is time to set the basis of future developments, to affirm the innate potential, as the root must be steady
into the soil before sprouting. The situation is unstable and the task couldn't be done without the help of


Clouds and thunder:
Thus the superior man
Brings order out of confusion.

Clouds and thunder are represented by definite decorative lines; this means that in the chaos of difficulty
at the beginning, order is already implicit. So too the superior man has to arrange and organize the
inchoate profusion of such times of beginning, just as one sorts out silk threads from a knotted tangle and
binds them into skeins. In order to find one's place in the infinity of being, one must be able both to
separate and to unite.

The superior man should order and classify things in order to convert potential capabilities into a real


Nine at the beginning means:

Hesitation and hindrance.
It furthers one to remain persevering.
It furthers one to appoint helpers.

If a person encounters a hindrance at the beginning of an enterprise, he must not try to force advance but
must pause and take thought. However, nothing should put him off his course; he must persevere and
constantly keep the goal in sight. It is important to seek out the right assistants, but he can find them only
if he avoids arrogance and associated with his fellows in a spirit of humility. Only then will he attract
those with whose help he can combat the difficulties.

By recognizing the merits and making (the yang line) the subordinates feel useful (the yin lines) one then
dominates people and organizes the support for further expansion.

Six in the second place means:

Difficulties pile up.
Horse and wagon part.
He is not a robber;
He wants to woo when the time comes.
The maiden is chaste,
She does not pledge herself.
Ten years --then she pledges herself.

We find ourselves beset by difficulties and hindrances. Suddenly there is a turn of affairs, as if someone
were coming up with a horse and wagon and unhitching them. This event comes so unexpectedly that we
assume the newcomer to be a robber. Gradually it becomes clear that he has no evil intentions but seeks
to be friendly and to offer help. But this offer is not to be accepted, because it does not come from the
right quarter. We must wait until the time is fulfilled; ten years is a fulfilled cycle of time. Then normal
conditions return of themselves, and we can join forces with the friend intended for us.

Using the image of a betrothed girl who remains true to her lover in face of grave conflicts, the hexagram
gives counsel for a special situation. When in times of difficulty a hindrance is encountered and
unexpected relief is offered from a source unrelated to us, we must be careful and not take upon
ourselves any obligations entailed by such help; otherwise our freedom of decision is impaired. If we bide
our time, things will quiet down again, and we shall attain what we have hoped for.(1)

The second yin is harassed by the first yang, but her true lover is the fifth yang so she waits for him a
whole period.

This is not the appropriate time to take on any obligations or compromise our will.

Six in the third place means:

Whoever hunts deer without the forester
Only loses his way in the forest.
The superior man understands the signs of the time
And prefers to desist.
To go on brings humiliation.

If a man tries to hunt in a strange forest and has no guide, he loses his way. When he finds himself in
difficulties he must not try to steal out of them unthinkingly and without guidance. Fate cannot be duped;
premature effort, without the necessary guidance, ends in failure and disgrace. Therefore the superior
man, discerning the seeds of coming events, prefers to renounce a wish rather than to provoke failure and
humiliation by trying to force its fulfillment.

Here, a reference is made about the ambition of a person who doesn't measure the consequences of
obtaining what it wants. The deer represents the desire, the forest symbolizes the unknown and
dangerous where he will be taken by his ambition and the fact of going into that place with no guide
means how this desire has blinded and confused him.

Six in the fourth place means:

Horse and wagon part.
Strive for union.
To go brings good fortune.
Everything acts to further.

We are in a situation in which it is our duty to act, but we lack sufficient power. However, an opportunity
to make connections offers itself. It must be seized. Neither false pride nor false reserve should deter us.
Bringing oneself to take the first step, even when it involves a certain degree of self-abnegation, is a sign
of inner clarity. To accept help in a difficult situation is not a disgrace. If the right helper is found, all
goes well.

This line is not qualified to solve the inconvenience by itself, for that reason it looks for the union with the
first yang line.

Nine in the fifth place means:

Difficulties in blessing.
A little perseverance brings good fortune.
Great perseverance brings misfortune.

An individual is in a position in which he cannot so express his good intentions that they will actually take
shape and be understood. Other people interpose and distort everything he does. He should then be
cautious and proceed step by step. He must not try to force the consummation of a great undertaking,
because success is possible only when general confidence already prevails. It is only through faithful and
conscientious work, unobtrusively carried on, that the situation gradually clears up and the hindrance

One should preserve its energy, waiting for the propitious time.

Six at the top means:

Horse and wagon part.
Bloody tears flow.

The difficulties at the beginning are too great for some persons. They get stuck and never find their way
out; they fold their hands and give up the struggle. Such resignation is the saddest of all things. Therefore
Confucius says of this line: "Bloody tears flow: one should not persist in this."

There are no helpers and no suitable place for moving. Blood tears represent an exaggerated attitude;
more stressful in the lament than when really corresponds. The line has gone too far and it doesn't make
sense to remain in that attitude.

(1) A different translation is possible here, which would result in a different interpretation:
Difficulties pile up.
Horse and wagon turn about.
If the robber were not there,
The wooer would come.
The maiden is faithful, she does not pledge herself.
Ten years -then she pledges herself.