Ch'ien / Modesty
This hexagram is made up of the trigrams Kên, Keeping Still, mountain, and K'un. The
mountain is the youngest son of the Creative, the representative of heaven and earth. It
dispenses the blessings of heaven, the clouds and rain that gather round its summit, and
thereafter shines forth radiant with heavenly light. This shows what modesty is and how it
functions in great and strong men. K'un, the earth, stands above. Lowliness is a quality of the
earth: this is the very reason why it appears in this hexagram as exalted, by being placed above
This shows how modesty functions in lowly, simple people: they are lifted up
MODESTY creates success.
The superior man carries things through.
It is the law of heaven to make fullness empty and to make full what is modest; when the sun is at its
zenith, it must, according to the law of heaven, turn toward its setting, and at its nadir it rises toward a new
dawn. In obedience to the same law, the moon when it is full begins to wane, and when empty of light it
waxes again. This heavenly law works itself out in the fates of men also. It is the law of earth to alter the
full and to contribute to the modest.
High mountains are worn down by the waters, and the valleys are
filled up. It is the law of fate to undermine what is full and to prosper the modest. And men also hate
fullness and love the modest.
The destinies of men are subject to immutable laws that must fulfill themselves. But man has it in his
power to shape his fate, according as his behavior exposes him to the influence of benevolent or of
destructive forces. When a man holds a high position and is nevertheless modest, he shines with the light
of wisdom; if he is in a lowly position and is modest, he cannot be passed by. Thus the superior man can
carry out his work to the end without boasting of what he has achieved.
Here the balance with which the superior man should act when undertaking a task is the key to success.
He should leave aside the arrogance and to be humble. This way, his modesty lets his aptitude can be
noticed fully; on the other hand, an arrogant attitude would hinder the progress.
Within the earth, a mountain:
The image of MODESTY.
Thus the superior man reduces that which is too much,
And augments that which is too little.
He weighs things and makes them equal.
The wealth of the earth in which a mountain is hidden is not visible to the eye, because the depths are
offset by the height of the mountain. Thus high and low competent each other and the result is the plain.
Here an effect that it took a long time to achieve, but that in the end seems easy of accomplishment and
self-evident, is used as the image of modesty. The superior man does the same thing when he establishes
order in the world; he equalizes the extremes that are the source of social discontent and thereby creates
just and equable conditions.(1)
A hidden mountain under the earth means no ostentation. The superior man doesn't show what he has in
excess and cultivate what he has scarcely, because everyone has virtues and shortages, for that reason,
in this case, the volume of the mountain is used to fill the empty depth, and this way, to even. That is why
such a personality is in the search of the balance.
The mountain means wealth and the earth represents the moderate use of this. The hidden mountain
under the earth means also to maintain reservation. Not to show what one has in excess, but using that
energy in achieving what is not still possessed.
Six at the beginning means:
A superior man modest about his modesty
May cross the great water.
A dangerous enterprise, such as the crossing of a great stream, is made much more difficult if many
claims and considerations have to be taken into account. On the other hand, the task is easy if it is
attended to quickly and simply. Therefore the unassuming attitude of mind that goes with modesty fits a
man to accomplish even difficult undertakings: he imposes no demands or stipulations but settles matters
easily and quickly. Where no claims are put forward, no resistances arise.
To add more humility to its modesty means not to be overestimated, but to be aware of the true value of
the own aptitude and to act starting from there with all the effectiveness that the same one provides, with
the result that one is under conditions of crossing the great river, that is to say, one is under conditions of
carrying out a great effort. To cross the great river also means to be under conditions of growing, that is
to say to be prepared to evolve and, in consequence, to feel happy. For this reason it is also enunciated
that with such an attitude the virtue of a man is perfected.
Six in the second place means:
Modesty that comes to expression. Perseverance brings good fortune.
"Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh." When a man's attitude of mind is so modest that this
expresses itself in his outward behavior, it is a source of good fortune to him. For the possibility of
exerting a lasting influence arises of itself and no one can interfere.
Here reference is made to the advantages that provides the modesty when it is natural and spontaneous
in a person, since such an attitude will be easily noticed and grateful, for that reason it is said that he
takes the modesty in his heart, that is to say that humility is part in his way of being. This also means that
one's reputation is heard or taken into account.
Nine in the third place means:
A superior man of modesty and merit
Carries things to conclusion.
This is the center of the hexagram, where its secret is disclosed. A distinguished name is readily earned
by great achievements. If a man allows himself to be dazzled by fame, he will soon be criticized, and
difficulties will arise. If, on the contrary, he remains modest despite his merit, he makes himself beloved
and wins the support necessary for carrying his work through to the end.
Here reference is made to a person whose modesty has taken it to occupy a place of honor. However,
such a personality wouldn't change its way of being, instead it will continue being consequent until the
end. For that reason, he will continue receiving the support from those who facilitated their rise. This
means reciprocal loyalty and represents that the man who has arrived to the place of honor, maintains
the values that he sustained from a principle.
Six in the fourth place means:
Nothing that would not further modesty
Everything has its proper measure. Even modesty in behavior can be carried too far. Here, however, it is
appropriate, because the place between a worthy helper below and a kindly ruler above carries great
responsibility. The confidence of the man in superior place must not be abused nor the merits of the man
in inferior placed concealed. There are officials who indeed do not strive for prominence; they hide
behind the letter of ordinances, decline all responsibility, accept pay without giving its equivalent in work,
and bear empty titles. This is the opposite of what is meant here by modesty. In such a position, modesty
is shown by interest in one's work.
This one is dedicated entirely to carry out his duties.
Six in the fifth place means:
No boasting of wealth before one's neighbor.
It is favorable to attack with force.
Nothing that would not further.
Modesty is not to be confused with weak good nature that lets things take their own course. When a man
holds a responsible position, he must at times resort to energetic measures. In doing so he must not try to
make an impression by boasting of his superiority but must make certain of the people around him. The
measures taken should be purely objective and in no way personally offensive. Thus modesty manifests
itself even in severity.
It will be useful if he makes use of the force, that is to say, not to let things get out of his hands, resulting
the rebel should be disciplined and adjusted to the established rules.
Six at the top means:
Modesty that comes to expression.
It is favorable to set armies marching
To chastise one's own city and one's country.
A person who is really sincere in his modesty must make it show in reality. He must proceed with great
energy in this. When enmity arises nothing is easier than to lay the blame on another.
A weak man takes
offense perhaps, and draws back, feeling self-pity; he thinks that it is modesty that keeps him from
defending himself. Genuine modesty sets one to creating order and inspires one to begin by disciplining
one's own ego and one's immediate circle. Only through having the courage to marshal one's armies
against oneself, will something forceful really be achieved.
This implies to assume what matters to one and recognize if something is not still completely well driven;
for this reason the objective has not still been carried out.
This means that there are factors that hinder
the realization, with the result that it will be favorable to mobilize troops, that is to say, to start the
corrections. This type of attitude should be carried out first in the own inner circle, with an own behavior,
with the result that the own town and country would be corrected. This means the highest degree in the
humility that consists on recognizing own mistakes and assuming this way the responsibility of what one
(1) This hexagram offers a number of parallels to the teachings of the Old and the New Testament, e.g.,
"And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted";
"Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be
made straight, and the rough places plain"; "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble". The
concept of the Last Judgement in the Parsee religion shows similar features. The Greek notion of the
jealousy of the gods might be mentioned in connection with the third of the biblical passages here cited.