The Book of Changes

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Tun / Retreat

The power of the dark is ascending. The light retreats to
security, so that the dark cannot encroach upon it. This
retreat is a matter not of man's will but of natural law.
Therefore in this case withdrawal is proper; it is the correct
way to behave in order not to exhaust one's forces. (1)

In the calendar this hexagram is linked with the sixth month
(July-August), in which the forces of winter are already
showing their influence.


RETREAT. Success.
In what is small, perseverance furthers.

Conditions are such that the hostile forces favored by the time are
advancing. In this case retreat is the right course, and it is not to be
confused with flight. Flight means saving oneself under any
circumstances, whereas retreat is a sign of strength. We must be careful
not to miss the right moment while we are in full possession of power
and position.

Then we shall be able to interpret the signs of the time
before it is too late and to prepare for provisional retreat instead of
being drawn into a desperate life-and-death struggle. Thus we do not
simply abandon the field to the opponent; we make it difficult for him to
advance by showing perseverance in single acts of resistance. In this way
we prepare, while retreating, for the counter-movement. Understanding
the laws of a constructive retreat of this sort is not easy. The meaning
that lies hidden in such a time is important.

Some factors, in certain circumstances, don't leave another alternative
more than retreating. Retreat means to become behind, not to continue
or insist. The retreat should be carried out in the precise moment. The
retreat allows keeping the own image, without losing it. The retreat also
means to go to the background, not to be outstanding.


Mountain under heaven: the image of RETREAT.
Thus the superior man keeps the inferior man at a distance,
Not angrily but with reserve.

The mountain rises up under heaven, but owing to its nature it finally
comes to a stop. Heaven on the other hand retreats upward before it into
the distance and remains out of reach. This symbolizes the behavior of
the superior man toward a climbing inferior; he retreats into his own
thoughts as the inferior man comes forward. He does not hate him, for
hatred is a form of subjective involvement by which we are bound to the
hated object. The superior man shows strength (heaven) in that he brings
the inferior man to a standstill (mountain) by his dignified reserve.

The inferior man will stop at certain point, when he reaches the maximum
of his capabilities. The superior man only would retreat from these lower
places. The highest goals are inaccessible for those whose nature is
not properly prepared; thus the inferior one wouldn't reach the superior


Six at the beginning means:

At the tail in retreat. This is dangerous.
One must not wish to undertake anything.

Since the hexagram is the picture of something that is retreating, the
lowest line represents the tail and the top line the head. In a retreat it is
advantageous to be at the front. Here one is at the back, in immediate
contact with the pursuing enemy. This is dangerous, and under such
circumstances it is not advisable to undertake anything. Keeping still is
the easiest way of escaping from the threatening danger.

The most convenient thing would be to stop. The danger has come and
this is not time for a retreat. The conflict must be faced, and it should not
give the back to it.

In another interpretation level, the tail in retreat gives the idea of not
overcoming conflicts that come from the past.

Six in the second place means:

He holds him fast with yellow oxhide.
No one can tear him loose.

Yellow is the color of the middle. It indicates that which is correct and
in line with duty. Oxhide is strong and not to be torn.

While the superior men retreat and the inferior press after them, the
inferior man represented here holds on so firmly and tightly to the
superior man that the latter cannot shake him off. And because he is in
quest of what is right and is so strong in purpose, he reaches his goal. (2)
Thus the line confirms what is said in the Judgment: "In what is small"
--here equivalent to "in the inferior man"-- "perseverance furthers."

Yellow represents what is balanced and exact. The ox leather
represents the strength; therefore, leather of yellow ox means what will
stay firmly in the right way. This means that the posture is overwhelming
and his zeal is strong.

Nine in the third place means:

A halted retreat
Is nerve-wracking and dangerous.
To retain people as men- and maidservants
Brings good fortune.

When it is time to retreat it is both unpleasant and dangerous to be held
back, because then one no longer has freedom of action. In such a case
the only expedient is to take into one's service, so to speak, those who
refuse to let one go, so that one may at least keep one's initiative and not
fall helplessly under their domination. But even with this expedient the
situation is far from satisfactory --for what can one hope to accomplish
with such servants?

The halted retreat is not only uncomfortable, but also rather dangerous,
because of the anguish and the risk. The convenient thing at this
moment will be to make some type of concession towards who hinders
the retreat. This is symbolized by retaining them as if they were servants.

In another analysis level, halted retreat also means a lack of freedom
This lack of freedom may be the result of external or internal factors,
and about the last ones, Wang Bi says that to be so attached to a place
can be good for a servant, but not for a superior man, as this is the way
to misfortune and humiliation.

Nine in the fourth place means:

Voluntary retreat brings good fortune to the superior man
And downfall to the inferior man.

In retreating the superior man is intent on taking his departure willingly
and in all friendliness. He easily adjusts his mind to retreat, because in
retreating he does not have to do violence to his convictions. The only
one who suffers is the inferior man from whom he retreats, who will
degenerate when deprived of the guidance of the superior man.

A superior man can develop his virtue where he goes and he will be the
same one in any place or circumstance. On the contrary, the vulgar man
is not qualified to facing new circumstances without help.

Nine in the fifth place means:

Friendly retreat. Perseverance brings good fortune.

It is the business of the superior man to recognize in time that the
moment for retreat has come. If the right moment is chosen, the retreat
can be carried out within the forms of perfect friendliness, without the
necessity of disagreeable discussions. Yet, for all the observance of
amenities, absolute firmness of decision is necessary if one is not to be
led astray by irrelevant considerations.

Friendly retreat means the most convenient way to retreat; it implies not
to give place to the conflicts. To retire in a friendly way is to leave an
open door; it is not to lose a connection point that can be necessary in
the future.

Nine at the top means:

Cheerful retreat. Everything serves to further.

The situation is unequivocal. Inner detachment has become an
established fact, and we are at liberty to depart. When one sees the way
ahead thus clearly, free of all doubt, a cheerful mood sets in, and one
chooses what is right without further thought. Such a clear path ahead
always leads to the good.

This person has a spirit of non-attachment that gives freedom to his life
and puts him beyond reach of inferior people.

(1) The idea expressed by this hexagram is similar to that in the saying of
Jesus: "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil" (Matt. 5:39).

(2) A similar idea is suggested in the story of Jacob's battle with the angel
of Peniel: "I will not let thee go, except you bless me" (Gen. 32:26).