Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small
While in the hexagram Ta Kuo, PREPONDERANCE OF
THE GREAT (28), the strong lines preponderate and are
within, inclosed between weak lines at the top and bottom,
the present hexagram has weak lines preponderating, though
here again they are on the outside, the strong lines being
This indeed is the basis of the exceptional situation
indicated by the hexagram. When strong lines are outside, we
have the hexagram I, PROVIDING NOURISHMENT (27), or
Chung Fu, INNER TRUTH, (61); neither represents an
exceptional state. When strong elements within
preponderate, they necessarily enforce their will.
creates struggle and exceptional conditions in general. But in
the present hexagram it is the weak element that perforce
must mediate with the outside world. If a man occupies a
position of authority for which he is by nature really
inadequate, extraordinary prudence is necessary.
PREPONDERANCE OF THE SMALL. Success.
Small things may be done; great things should not be done.
The flying bird brings the message:
It is not well to strive upward,
It is well to remain below.
Great good fortune.
Exceptional modesty and conscientiousness are sure to be rewarded with
success; however, if a man is not to throw himself away, it is important
that they should not become empty form and subservience but be
combined always with a correct dignity in personal behavior. We must
understand the demands of the time in order to find the necessary offset
for its deficiencies and damages. In any event we must not count on great
success, since the requisite strength is lacking. In this lies the
importance of the message that one should not strive after lofty things
but hold to lowly things.
The structure of the hexagram gives rise to the idea that this message is
brought by a bird. In Ta Kuo, PREPONDERANCE OF THE GREAT (28),
the four strong, heavy lines within, supported only by two weak lines
without, give the image of a sagging ridgepole. Here the supporting weak
lines are both outside and preponderant; this gives the image of a soaring
bird. But a bird should not try to surpass itself and fly into the sun; it
should descend to the earth, where its nest is. In this way it gives the
message conveyed by the hexagram.
The PREPONDERANCE OF THE SMALL means a time in which force is
scarce and it is only possible to aspire to small achievements. For that
reason, when there is not place for big works, one should carry out the
The flying bird symbolizes the risk of overdoing, as a bird that flies too
high and loses its nest. To fly below means to be humble and not
ambitious. It is a warning not to overdoing, not to going too far.
The good fortune is the result of being focused on small achievements.
Thunder on the mountain:
The image of PREPONDERANCE OF THE SMALL.
Thus in his conduct the superior man gives preponderance to
In bereavement he gives preponderance to grief.
In his expenditures he gives preponderance to thrift.
Thunder on the mountain is different from thunder on the plain. In the
mountains, thunder seems much nearer; outside the mountains, it is less
audible than the thunder of an ordinary storm. Thus the superior man
derives an imperative from this image: he must always fix his eyes more
closely and more directly on duty than does the ordinary man, even
though this might make his behavior seem petty to the outside world. He
is exceptionally conscientious in his actions. In bereavement emotion
means more to him than ceremoniousness. In all his personal
expenditures he is extremely simple and unpretentious. In comparison
with the man of the masses, all this makes him stand out as exceptional.
But the essential significance of his attitude lies in the fact that in
external matters he is on the side of the lowly.
To preponderate the reverence in the behavior means to accept and
respect the social norms, to the utmost grade.
To preponderate the grief and to be thrifty in expenditures means to
accept one's condition of inferiority, without false pretensions.
This is a time for humbleness, prudence and consciousness. This isn't a
time for shinning or issuing commands.
Six at the beginning means:
The bird meets with misfortune through flying.
A bird ought to remain in the nest until it is fledged. If it tries to fly
before this, it invites misfortune. Extraordinary measures should be
resorted to only when all else fails. At first we ought to put up with
traditional ways as long as possible; otherwise we exhaust ourselves and
our energy and still achieve nothing.
Here reference is made to the blows produced by inexperience. A small
bird that flies by and suffers misfortune symbolizes this. Misfortune
takes place when one is trying to carry out something before time, that is
to say, what is made without sustenance will fall by itself.
Six in the second place means:
She passes by her ancestor
And meets her ancestress.
He does not reach his prince
And meets the official.
Two exceptional situations are instanced here. In the temple of
ancestors, where alternation of generations prevails, the grandson stands
on the same side as the grandfather. Hence his closest relations are with
the grandfather. The present line designates the grandson's wife, who
during the sacrifice passes by the ancestor and goes toward the
ancestress. This unusual behavior is, however, an expression of her
modesty. She ventures rather to approach the ancestress, for she feels
related to her by their common sex. Hence her deviation from the rule is
not a mistake.
Another image is that of the official who, in compliance with regulation,
first seeks an audience with his prince. If he is not successful in this, he
does not try to force anything but goes about conscientious fulfillment
of his duty, taking his place among the other officials. This extraordinary
restraint is likewise not a mistake in exceptional times. (The rule is that
every official should first have an audience with the prince by whom he
is appointed. Here the appointment is made by the minister.)
The lines of this hexagram symbolize the family members. The second
yin is the wife of third yang (the father) and the fifth yin is the wife of forth
yang (the grandfather). Thus, this line corresponds to fifth line, the
To go towards the ancestries means to already fulfill the established
rules, to follow the hierarchies. To meet the ancestries instead of
meeting the ancestor or to meet the minister instead of meeting the
prince means that one takes exceptional care when approaching
authority, not demanding so much. This also means to follow the line of
Nine in the third place means:
If one is not extremely careful,
Somebody may come up from behind and strike him.
At certain times extraordinary caution is absolutely necessary. But it is
just in such life situations that we find upright and strong personalities
who, conscious of being in the right, disdain to hold themselves on
guard, because they consider it petty. Instead, they go their way proud
and unconcerned. But this self-confidence deludes them. There are
dangers lurking for which they are unprepared. Yet such danger is not
unavoidable; one can escape it if he understands that the time demands
that he pay especial attention to small and insignificant things.
Here reference is made to the negligence that can cause unexpected
attacks, with the result that if somebody were not cautious enough it
would be suddenly hit. That means to be attacked and betrayed
because of excessive trust or credulity, hence misfortune will come. To
be struck from the back means that there is a very vulnerable aspect
which one ignores. This means also to underestimate the enemy, to
allow the enemy to advance without trying to stop it.
Nine in the fourth place means:
No blame. He meets him without passing by.
Going brings danger. One must be on guard.
Do not act. Be constantly persevering.
Hardness of character is tempered by yielding position so that no
mistakes are made. The situation here calls for extreme caution; one
must make no attempt of one's own initiative to reach the desired end.
And if one were to go on endeavoring one must be on guard and not act
but continue inwardly to persevere.
This is a warning to be quiet and restrained. To be on guard means to
wait and see.
Six in the fifth place means:
No rain from our western territory.
The prince shoots and hits him who is in the cave.
As a high place is pictured here, the image of a flying bird has become
that of flying clouds. But dense as the clouds are, they race across the
sky and give no rain. Similarly, in exceptional times there may be a born
ruler who is qualified to set the world in order, but who cannot achieve
anything or confer blessing on the people because he stands alone and
has no helpers. In such times a man must seek out helpers with whose aid
he can carry out the task. But these helpers must be modestly sought out
in the retirement to which they have withdrawn. It is not their fame nor
their great names but their genuine achievements that are important.
Through such modesty the right man is found, and the exceptional task is
carried out in spite of all difficulties.
Clouds but no rain means a partial result that it has been achieved. The
small thing has already made enough, but it can't cause rain. Therefore,
the moment of going in search of a new way has come.
The prince shooting who is in the cave means to learn an uncanny
factor, which is hidden in a cave. The text doesn't mention fortune nor
blame, but to hit the cave dweller is a success in itself.
Six at the top means:
He passes him by, not meeting him.
The flying bird leaves him.
This means bad luck and injury.
If one overshoots the goal, one cannot hit it. If a bird will not come to its
nest but flies higher and higher, it eventually falls into the hunter's net.
He who in times of extraordinary salience of small things does not know
how to call a halt, but restlessly seeks to press on and on, draws upon
himself misfortune at the hands of gods and men, because he deviates
from the order of nature.
He passes him by, without meeting anybody refers to the fact of not
respecting the stages concerning an undertaken activity, with the result
that somebody passes without stopping. This means that as well as
steps are skipped, the objective will be skipped without being noticed.
The bird leaving means that it overreaches the objective. All previous
steps will be in vain if the final objective is missed, thus misfortune is