The Book of Changes

Ask your question


Wei Chi / Before Completion Not Yet Fording

This hexagram indicates a time when the transition from
disorder to order is not yet completed. The change is indeed
prepared for, since all the lines in the upper trigram are in
relation to those in the lower.

However, they are not yet in
their places. While the preceding hexagram offers an
analogy to autumn, which forms the transition from summer
to winter, this hexagram presents a parallel to spring, which
leads out of winter's stagnation into the fruitful time of
summer. With this hopeful outlook the Book of Changes
comes to its close.


But if the little fox, after nearly completing the crossing,
Gets his tail in the water,
There is nothing that would further.

The conditions are difficult. The task is great and full of responsibility. It
is nothing less than that of leading the world out of confusion back to
order. But it is a task that promises success, because there is a goal that
can unite the forces now tending in different directions.

At first,
however, one must move warily, like an old fox walking over ice. The
caution of a fox walking over ice is proverbial in China. His ears are
constantly alert to the cracking of the ice, as he carefully and
circumspectly searches out the safest spots. A young fox who as yet has
not acquired this caution goes ahead boldly, and it may happen that he
falls in and gets his tail wet when he is almost across the water.

Then of
course his effort has been all in vain. Accordingly, in times "before
completion," deliberation and caution are the prerequisites of success.

For crossing the river, careful preparations must be made, this implies
not to do anything randomly, analyze and plan, taking into account all
the risks for not giving them place during the execution of the work.

To cross the river symbolizes a difficult transition, between chaos and

The warning about getting the tail in the water points to the difficulties of
the endeavor. One must have a surplus of strength and prudence to face
such a task. If one can't carry the endeavor out to the end, everything
will be in vain.


Fire over water:
The image of the condition before transition.
Thus the superior man is careful
In the differentiation of things,
So that each finds its place.

When fire, which by nature flames upward, is above, and water, which
flows downward, is below, their effects take opposite directions and
remain unrelated. If we wish to achieve an effect, we must first
investigate the nature of the forces in question and ascertain their proper
place. If we can bring these forces to bear in the right place, they will
have the desired effect and completion will be achieved. But in order to
handle external forces properly, we must above all arrive at the correct
standpoint ourselves, for only from this vantage can we work correctly.

The fire over water represents the wrong place of the factors, before the
completion. Fire above water can't be used to cook food.

To differentiate the things to allow them to be placed in the right places
means to recognize the potential of each thing and to order and
structure them in function of the objective.


Six at the beginning means:

He gets his tail in the water.

In times of disorder there is a temptation to advance oneself as rapidly as
possible in order to accomplish something tangible. But this enthusiasm
leads only to failure and humiliation if the time for achievement has not
yet arrived. In such times it is wise to spare ourselves the opprobrium of
failure by holding back.(1)

The submerged tail implies improvisation, lack of planning, analysis
and caution.

The humiliation implies pain, but it serves to know the own limits, and to
turn back, avoiding further danger.

Nine in the second place means:

He brakes his wheels.
Perseverance brings good fortune.

Here again the time to act has not yet come. But the patience needed is
not that of idle waiting without thought of the morrow. Kept up
indefinitely, this would not lead to any success. Instead, an individual
must develop in himself the strength that will enable him to go forward.
He must have a vehicle, as it were, to effect the crossing. But he must
for the time being use the brakes. Patience in the highest sense means
putting brakes on strength. Therefore he must not fall asleep and lose
sight of the goal. If he remains strong and steadfast in his resolve, all
goes well in the end.

To brake the wheels means not to go forward at the moment, but
invigorate one to face the challenge in the future.

Perseverance means to make preparatory tasks, without forgetting the
main goal.

Six in the third place means:

Before completion, attack brings misfortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.

The time of transition has arrived, but one lacks the strength to complete
the transition. If one should attempt to force it, disaster would result,
because collapse would then be unavoidable. What is to be done? A new
situation must be created; one must engage the energies of able helpers
and in this fellowship take the decisive step --cross the great water. Then
completion will become possible.

To cross the great water means, in this line, to be placed at the level
that the situation demands, renovating the endeavor with external help,
and getting ready to the challenge.

Nine in the fourth place means:

Perseverance brings good fortune.
Remorse disappears.
Shock, thus to discipline the Devil's Country.
For three years, great realms are rewarded.

Now it is the time of struggle. The transition must be completed. We
must make ourselves strong in resolution; this brings good fortune. All
misgivings that might arise in such grave times of struggle must be
silenced. It is a question of a fierce battle to break and to discipline the
Devil's Country, the forces of decadence. But the struggle also has its
reward. Now is the time to lay the foundations of power and mastery for
the future.

The carefully planned advance is going smoothly, thus remorse

Shock and discipline symbolize the means to control and repress an
undesirable factor: the Devil's Country.

The Devil's Country denotes something that is unaware to the norms,
that is away from the own circle, that is a source of danger.

The three years mean one period of disputes and achievements. The
realms are a symbol of domain symbol, of control; therefore, great
realms are rewarded means that there will be achievements with a great
domain of the situation.

In other interpretation level, the Devil's Country also denotes all those
fears that one should conquer. To shock and discipline them, that is to
say, to overcome what perturbs.

Six in the fifth place means:

Perseverance brings good fortune.
No remorse.
The light of the superior man is true.
Good fortune.

The victory has been won. The power of steadfastness has not been
routed. Everything has gone well. All misgivings have been overcome.
Success has justified the deed. The light of a superior personality shines
forth anew and makes its influence felt among men who have faith in it
and rally around it. The new time has arrived, and with it good fortune.
And just as the sun shines forth in redoubled beauty after rain, or as a
forest grows more freshly green from charred ruins after a fire, so the
new era appears all the more glorious by contrast with the misery of the

To win the struggle was required a hard attitude, but to administer the
new domains is propitious a more softly approach.

The light of the superior man points to sincerity, civility and
enlightenment that he already had. Such ruler empowers the capable
men on the basis of objective merit.

This one abides in the middle of the trigram of the light, and none is
concealed from his perception.

Nine at the top means:

There is drinking of wine
In genuine confidence. No blame.
But if one wets his head,
He loses it, in truth.

Before completion, at the dawning of the new time, friends foregather in
an atmosphere of mutual trust, and the time of waiting is passed in
conviviality. Since the new era is hard on the threshold, there is no blame
in this. But one must be careful in all this to keep within proper bounds.
If in his exuberance a man gets drunk, he forfeits the favorableness of
the situation through his intemperance.

The new time is on the threshold, but the situation is unfulfilled yet. To
celebrate the end of the old stage and to get ready to receive a new
one is not bad. However, the wine implies all those factors needed to
know how to manage correctly, to avoid danger.

To wet the head means exaggeration, and also to lose control on the
final step. This line is a warning about to get dizzy when success is at

NOTE. The hexagram AFTER COMPLETION represents a gradual
transition from a time of ascent past a peak of culture to a time of
standstill. The hexagram BEFORE COMPLETION represents a
transition from chaos to order. This hexagram comes at the end of the
Book of Changes. It points to the fact that every end contains a new
beginning. Thus it gives hope to men. The Book of Changes is a book of
the future.

(1) Note how this situation differs from that in the first line of the
preceding hexagram.