Shih Ho / Biting Through Bite Together
This hexagram represents an open mouth (cf. hexagram 27) with an obstruction (in the fourth
place) between the teeth. As a result the lips cannot meet. To bring them together one must
bite energetically through the obstacle. Since the hexagram is made up of the trigrams for
thunder and for lightning, it indicates how obstacles are forcibly removed in nature.
biting through overcomes the obstacle that prevents joining of the lips; the storm with its
thunder and lightning overcomes the disturbing tension in nature.
Recourse to law and
penalties overcomes the disturbances of harmonious social life caused by criminals and
slanderers. The theme of this hexagram is a criminal lawsuit, in contradistinction to that of
Sung, CONFLICT (6), which refers to civil suits.
BITING THROUGH has success.
It is favorable to let justice be administered.
When an obstacle to union arises, energetic biting through brings success. This is true in all situations.
Whenever unity cannot be established, the obstruction is due to a talebearer and traitor who is interfering
and blocking the way. To prevent permanent injury, vigorous measures must be taken at once. Deliberate
obstruction of this sort does not vanish of its own accord. Judgment and punishment are required to deter
or obviate it.
However, it is important to proceed in the right way. The hexagram combines Li, clarity, and Chên,
excitement. Li is yielding, Chên is hard. Unqualified hardness and excitement would be too violent in
meting out punishment; unqualified clarity and gentleness would be too weak. The two together create the
just measure. It is of moment that the man who makes the decisions (represented by the fifth line) is
gentle by nature, while he commands respect by his conduct in his position.
The bite, in this case, is a symbol of velocity, sovereign decision, energetic action, resolution, and
execution of the law.
The purpose of the bite is to fully remove all obstruction that hinders the normal way of life of a
community or enterprise.
In another analysis level, this means to act vigorously on something one is sure and convinced about.
Thunder and lightning:
The image of Biting Through.
Thus the kings of former times made firm the laws
Through clearly defined penalties.
Penalties are the individual applications of the law. The laws specify the penalties. Clarity prevails when
mild and severe penalties are clearly differentiated, according to the nature of the crimes. This is
symbolized by the clarity of lightning. The law is strengthened by a just application of penalties. This is
symbolized by the terror of thunder. This clarity and severity have the effect of instilling respect; it is not
that the penalties are ends in themselves. The obstructions in the social life of man increase when there is
lack of clarity in the penal codes and slackness in executing them. The only way to strengthen the law is to
make it clear and to make penalties certain and swift.
The clarity of the lightning represents the laws and its punishments. This means that all legal order
establishes clearly what is allowed and what is not. For that reason, it seems the lightning allows noticing
that, in consequence, the thunder will show up with all its power. The thunder means the weight of law, the
power of justice. The laws can seem pure formalism and inoffensive at first sight, just like the lightning,
but the thunder appears later, that is to say, its forcefulness appears through the public force; the ancient
kings behaved this way. They represent the group of laws, the social order that is previous to any recent
fact. To the current kings, it means that this order is the maximum and sovereign, for that reason they
executed the laws applying the instituted punishments, that is to say, law was completed and justice
In another interpretation level, the ancient kings represent the conscience that is previous to any
possible behavior; therefore, to execute the law means to respond at such a level of conscience and not
to transgress it.
Nine at the beginning means:
His feet are fastened in the stocks,
So that his toes disappear.
If a sentence is imposed the first time a man attempts to do wrong, the penalty is a mild one. Only the
toes are put in the stocks. This prevents him from sinning further and thus he becomes free of blame. It is
a warning to halt in time on the path of evil.
As this is the first line of the hexagram, the punishment is beginning here as a preventive action. The
stocks represent the force of law; the feet represent the immobilized transgression; only toes mean light
punishment, in fact to take the case on time it is not necessary an excessive rigor, it is enough what has
been applied. There is not a mistake, since under these conditions one won't be able to walk, that is to
say, one won't be able to continue with a bad behavior.
Six in the second place means:
Bites through tender meat,
So that his nose disappears.
It is easy to discriminate between right and wrong in this case; it is like biting through tender meat. But
one encounters a hardened sinner, and, aroused by anger, one goes a little too far. The disappearance of
the nose in the course of the bite signifies that indignation blots out finer sensibility. However, there is
no great harm in this, because the penalty as such is just.
Here punishment seems to be applied in excessive form. To lose the sense of smell means not to have
compassion. The soft meat also means vulnerability and, therefore, in this case, it would represent
arguments more than enough to condemn, thus there is not misunderstanding and, what seems
excessive, perhaps is not so much. To lose the sense of smell also means to be very enthusiastic.
Six in the third place means:
Bites on old dried meat
And strikes on something poisonous.
Slight humiliation. No blame.
Punishment is to be carried out by someone who lacks the power and authority to do so. Therefore the
culprits do not submit. The matter at issue is an old one-as symbolized by salted game-and in dealing with
it difficulties arise. This old meat is spoiled: by taking up the problem the punisher arouses poisonous
hatred against himself, and in this way is put in a somewhat humiliating position. But since punishment
was required by the time, he remains free of blame.
The dried meat represents an old problem that somebody should try to solve. Here one is facing a
recalcitrant person, who would make a counterattack to preserve his interests. The poison means the
anger with which the investigation will be received. This can make feel depressed to who is carrying out
the punishment. The slight humiliation is due to the insufficient power or incorrect course of the
Nine in the fourth place means:
Bites on dried gristly meat.
Receives metal arrows.
It furthers one to be mindful of difficulties
And to be persevering.
There are great obstacles to be overcome, powerful opponents are to be punished. Though this is arduous,
the effort succeeds. But it is necessary to be hard as metal and straight as an arrow to surmount the
difficulties. If one knows these difficulties and remains persevering, he attains good fortune. The difficult
task is achieved in the end.
To bite dried gristly meat represents resistance difficult to overcome. In this case, it is not enough with
biting, but rather it is necessary to appeal to another form of acting, for that reason, arrows are gotten. To
get arrows means change of means or elements. The arrow represents speed, rightness and penetration.
To get arrows also means to find the correct form of facing the matter, since the hard meat won't be able
to resist the power of the impact of the arrows. Also, to get arrows represents to find guiding signs, data,
and information. But it is a difficult task, with obstacles. "He does not yet give light," said Confucius,
meaning that the punishment will take a logical time.
Six in the fifth place means:
Bites on dried lean meat.
Receives yellow gold.
Perseveringly aware of danger.
The case to be decided is indeed not easy but perfectly clear. Since we naturally incline to leniency, we
must make every effort to be like yellow gold-that is, as true as gold and as impartial as yellow, the color
of the middle [the mean]. It is only by remaining conscious of the dangers growing out of the
responsibility we have assumed that we can avoid making mistakes.
This mentions to a complex work to solve this situation. However, the fifth line is qualified for such an
end, thus it receives yellow gold. Yellow is the color of fortune, of good omen. The gold refers to the most
valuable; to get yellow gold it means to possess what is worth for such an end, that is to say to possess
valuable means. For that reason, he is absolutely sure in what is carried out, with the result that there is
not error and he is in the correct direction.
In other times, in a civil case, both parties, before they were heard, brought to the court an arrow (or a
bundle of arrows), in testimony of their rectitude, after which they were heard; in a criminal case, they
deposited thirty pounds of gold each, or some other metal. [Legge]
Nine at the top means:
His neck is fastened in the wooden cangue,
So that his ears disappear.
In contrast to the first line, this line refers to a man who is incorrigible. His punishment is the wooden
cangue, and his ears disappear under it-that is to say, he is deaf to warnings. This obstinacy leads to
The "wooden cangue" means that he is a dangerous transgressor. "His ears disappear" means that it is
no longer necessary to notice it or to try to make him understand, because he is an incorrigible one. For
that reason, having covered the ears refers to the impossibility of incorporating new concepts; therefore
he is no longer listening to anybody. In another interpretation level, this also refers to isolation.
(1) Apart from the meaning of the hexagram as a whole, the single lines are explained as follows: the
persons represented by the first and the top line suffer punishment, the others inflict it (see the
corresponding lines in hexagram 4, Mêng, YOUTHFUL FOLLY).
(2) It should be noted that there is an alternative interpretation of this hexagram, based on the idea, "Above,
light (the sun); below, movement." In this interpretation the hexagram symbolizes a market below, full of
movement, while the sun is shinning in the sky above. The allusion to meat suggestd that it is a food
market. Gold and arrows are articles of trade. The disappearance of the nose means the vanishing of
smell, that is, the person in question is not covetous. The idea of poison points to the dangers of wealth,
and so on throughout.
Confucius says in regard to the nine at the beginning in this hexagram: "The inferior man is not ashamed
of unkindness and does not shrink from injustice. If no advantage beckons he makes no effort. If he is
not intimidated he does not improve himself, but if he is made to behave correctly in small matters he
is careful in large ones. This is fortunate for the inferior man."
On the subject of the nine at the top Confucius says: "If good does not accumulate, it is not enough to
make a name for a man. If evil does not accumulate, it is not strong enough to destroy a man.
Therefore the inferior man thinks to himself, 'Goodness in small things has no value,' and so neglects
it. He thinks, "Small sins do no harm,' and so does not give them up. Thus his sins accumulate until
they can no longer be covered up, and his guilt becomes so great that it can no longer be wiped out."