The Book of Changes

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Chieh / Limitation Regulation

A lake occupies a limited space. When more water comes
into it, it overflows. Therefore limits must be set for the
water. The image shows water below and water above, with
the firmament between them as a limit.

The Chinese word for limitation really denotes the joints
that divide a bamboo stalk. In relation to ordinary life it
means the thrift that sets fixed limits upon expenditures. In
relation to the moral sphere it means the fixed limits that the
superior man sets upon his actions --the limits of loyalty and


Galling limitation must not be persevered in.

Limitations are troublesome, but they are effective. If we live
economically in normal times, we are prepared for times of want. To be
sparing saves us from humiliation. Limitations are also indispensable in
the regulation of world conditions.

In nature there are fixed limits for
summer and winter, day and night, and these limits give the year its
meaning. In the same way, economy, by setting fixed limits upon
expenditures, acts to preserve property and prevent injury to the people.

But in limitation we must observe due measure.

If a man should seek to
impose galling limitations upon his own nature, it would be injurious.
And if he should go too far in imposing limitations on others, they would
rebel. Therefore it is necessary to set limits even upon limitation.

The success here can be achieved by a careful planning. Limitation
means to put each thing in the right place, and to restrain them to their
proper sphere.

Galling limitation refers to the excessive control measurements that can
be cause of rebellion instead of inducing correct behavior.


Water over lake: the image of LIMITATION.
Thus the superior man
Creates number and measure,
And examines the nature of virtue and correct conduct.

A lake is something limited. Water is inexhaustible. A lake can contain
only a definite amount of the infinite quantity of water; this is its
peculiarity. In human life too the individual achieves significance
through discrimination and the setting of limits. Therefore what
concerns us here is the problem of clearly defining these
discriminations, which are, so to speak, the backbone of morality.
Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man; if they existed, his life
would only dissolve in the boundless. To become strong, a man's life
needs the limitations ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted. The
individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding
himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his
duty is.

To create number and measure means to evaluate and to adapt the
potential possibilities to achieve a specific goal. This means also to
discard some aspects and to keep only the relevant ones. This action
implies an initial, analyzing stage and a second, and final, tailoring

To examine the nature of virtue and correct conduct means to adjust the
behavior to the current situation, to actualize the norms to current


Nine at the beginning means:

Not going out of the door and the courtyard
Is without blame.

Often a man who would like to undertake something finds himself
confronted by insurmountable limitations. Then he must know where to
stop. If he rightly understands this and does not go beyond the limits set
for him, he accumulates an energy that enables him, when the proper
time comes, to act with great force. Discretion is of prime importance
in preparing the way for momentous things. Concerning this, Confucius

Where disorder develops, words are the first steps. If the prince
is not discreet, he loses his servant. If the servant is not discreet
he loses his life. If germinating things are not handled with
discretion, the perfecting of them is impeded. Therefore the
superior man is careful to maintain silence and does not go forth.

The door represents the limit; the courtyard represents the own place.
Therefore, not to leave the door and the courtyard means not to cross
the own limits. This implies accurate knowledge of the situation and
control of the own times. The door also represents a possibility to go,
and the courtyard means a safe place.

To know when the step is free and when it is closed means to know how
to wait for the opportunity. Also, not to leave the door and the courtyard
refers to a mandatory situation, to remain in a certain state or place.

Nine in the second place means:

Not going out of the gate and the courtyard
Brings misfortune.

When the time for action has come, the moment must be quickly seized.
Just as water first collects in a lake without flowing out, yet is certain to
find an outlet when the lake is full, so it is in the life of man. It is a good
thing to hesitate so long as the time for action has not come, but no
longer. Once the obstacles to action have been removed, anxious
hesitation is a mistake that is bound to bring disaster, because one
misses one's opportunity.

Not to leave the door and the courtyard means, in this case, to lose the
opportunity to cross the limits because conditions let do so. This leads
to misfortune, because such an attitude indicates doubts and insecurity.
This means also lack of information, not to see the opportunity.

Six in the third place means:

He who knows no limitation
Will have cause to lament.
No blame.

If an individual is bent only on pleasures and enjoyment, it is easy for
him to lose his sense of the limits that are necessary. If he gives himself
over to extravagance, he will have to suffer the consequences, with
accompanying regret. He must not seek to lay the blame on others. Only
when we realize that our mistakes are of our own making will such
disagreeable experiences free us of errors.

To know no limitation references to the unfortunate thing that is to violate
the basic rules that order the social relationships. For that reason, to try
to ignore them is to create the own crash with the reality. Not to know
any limitation means to abuse, to exaggerate; it also means lack of

Six in the fourth place means:

Contented limitation. Success.

Every limitation has its value, but a limitation that requires persistent
effort entails a cost of too much energy. When, however, the limitation
is a natural one (as for example, the limitation by which water flows only
downhill), it necessarily leads to success, for then it means a saving of
energy. The energy that otherwise would be consumed in a vain struggle
with the object, is applied wholly to the benefit of the matter in hand, and
success is assured.

Contented limitation means the fact of tolerating in a good way what
restricts one, accepting limitation peacefully. To take the limitation as a
way to learn and to overcome the own lacks is successful. This also
means to be capable of following the leading of the superiors.

Nine in the fifth place means:

Sweet limitation brings good fortune.
Going brings esteem.

The limitation must be carried out in the right way if it is to be effective.
If we seek to impose restrictions on others only, while evading them
ourselves, these restrictions will always be resented and will provoke
resistance. If, however, a man in a leading position applies the limitation
first to himself, demanding little from those associated with him, and
with modest means manages to achieve something, good fortune is the
result. Where such an example occurs, it meets with emulation, so that
whatever is undertaken must succeed.

A well-balanced man applies restrictions to himself before requesting
them to other people. By setting the correct example he incites others to
follow the good example. Going so smoothly this man is able to achieve
his goal and he also receives the public esteem.

Six at the top means:

Galling limitation.
Perseverance brings misfortune.
Remorse disappears.

If one is too severe in setting up restrictions, people will not endure
them. The more consistent such severity, the worse it is, for in the long
run a reaction is unavoidable. In the same way, the tormented body will
rebel against excessive asceticism. On the other hand, although ruthless
severity is not to be applied persistently and systematically, there may be
times when it is the only means of safeguarding against guilt and
remorse. In such situations ruthlessness toward oneself is the only
means of saving one's soul, which otherwise would succumb to
irresolution and temptation.

An exaggerated limitation can cause undesirable consequences, for
that reason to continue this way brings misfortune. Such bitter limitation
can be useful only for a while, and just when it is applied on oneself.