Li / The Clinging, Fire
This hexagram is another double sign. The trigram Li means "to cling to something," and also
"brightness." A dark line clings to two light lines, one above and one below --the image of an
empty space between two strong lines, whereby the two strong lines are made bright. The
trigram represents the middle daughter.
The Creative has incorporated the central line of the
Receptive, and thus Li develops. As an image, it is fire. Fire has no definite form but clings to
the burning object and thus is bright.
As water pours down from heaven, so fire flames up
from the earth. While K'an means the soul shut within the body, Li stands for nature in its
THE CLINGING. Perseverance furthers.
It brings success.
Care of the cow brings good fortune.
What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter. A luminous thing giving
out light must have within itself something that perseveres; otherwise it will in time burn itself out.
Everything that gives light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may continue to
clarity of the dedicated man clings to what is right and thereby can shape the world. Human life on earth is
conditioned and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself dependent upon the
harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he achieves success.
The cow is the symbol of extreme
docility. By cultivating in himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires
clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world.(1)
The fact of being part, of belonging, of being affirmed in a certain situation is mentioned here. To be
docile as a cow means to let be guided. If one knows that a certain path leads to the wanted objective, to
take attitudes that cause rejections and complicate the achievement must be avoided. To be docile as a
cow also means to know when one should make concessions.
That which is bright rises twice:
The image of FIRE.
Thus the great man, by perpetuating this brightness,
Illumines the four quarters of the world.
Each of the two trigrams represents the sun in the course of a day. The two together represent the
repeated movement of the sun, the function of light with respect to time. The great man continues the
work of nature in the human world. Through the clarity of his nature he causes the light to spread farther
and farther and to penetrate the nature of man ever more deeply.
The increased clarity means to begin to glimpse things entirely. It also refers to doubts that vanish. The
mention to the four quarters of the world means that with their lucidity it reaches a global understanding of
things and this allows him to access to all the places.
Nine at the beginning means:
The footprints run crisscross.
If one is seriously intent, no blame.
It is early morning and work begins. The mind has been closed to the outside world in sleep; now its
connections with the world begin again. The traces of one's impressions run crisscross. Activity and haste
prevail. It is important then to preserve inner composure and not to allow oneself to be swept along by the
bustle of life. If one is serious and composed, he can acquire the clarity of mind needed for coming to
terms with the innumerable impressions that pour in. It is precisely at the beginning that serious
concentration is important, because the beginning holds the seed of all that is to follow.
Here reference is made to the moment when it is still not possible to reach the clarity, with the result that
one walks confusedly. This represents the initial intent to set a clear path for a future and successful
actuation. The correct approximation to handle the situation is defined here.
Six in the second place means:
Yellow light. Supreme good fortune.
Midday has come; the sun shines with a yellow light. Yellow is the color of measure and mean. Yellow
light is therefore a symbol of the highest culture and art, whose consummate harmony consists in holding
to the mean.
Here reference is made to the point where it is possible to reach the correct way of acting. This is
symbolized by the yellow shine. Yellow is the color of the balance, the fair way, the clarity that allows
distinguishing the correct way.
Nine in the third place means:
In the light of the setting sun,
Men either beat the pot and sing
Or loudly bewail the approach of old age.
Here the end of the day has come. The light of the setting sun calls to mind the fact that life is transitory
and conditional. Caught in this external bondage, men are usually robbed of their inner freedom as well.
The sense of the transitory nature of life impels them to uninhibited revelry in order to enjoy life while it
lasts, or else they yield to melancholy and spoil the precious time by lamenting the approach of old age.
Both attitudes are wrong. To the superior man it makes no difference whether death comes early or late.
He cultivates himself, awaits his allotted time, and in this way secures his fate.
The sunlight to the west represents the perishable thing, the cycle that will be completed compulsorily.
When nothing could improve the situation, the only wise thing is to forget all ambitions --also
permanence-- and to practice non-purposeful action (wu wei).
Nine in the fourth place means:
Its coming is sudden;
It flames up, dies down, is thrown away.
Clarity of mind has the same relation to life that fire has to wood. Fire clings to wood, but also consumes
it. Clarity of mind is rooted in life but can also consume it. Everything depends upon how the clarity
functions. Here the image used is that of a meteor or a straw fire. A man who is excitable and restless
may rise quickly to prominence but produce no lasting effects. Thus matters end badly when a man spends
himself too rapidly and consumes himself like a meteor.
This implies a very quick process, without the necessary maturation time to consolidate. To coming
suddenly means to appear in an improper moment, to appear out of the right time, in advance. To be
thrown means that lack of support, disconnection. To be thrown also means appearance that finally
doesn't fill expectations, with the result that it cannot be accepted.
Six in the fifth place means:
Tears in floods, sighing and lamenting.
Here the zenith of life has been reached. Were there no warning, one would at this point consume oneself
like a flame. Instead, understanding the vanity of all things, one may put aside both hope and fear, and sigh
and lament: if one is intent on retaining his clarity of mind, good fortune will come from this grief. For
here we are dealing not with a passing mood, as in the nine in the third place, but with a real change of
This shows a regret attitude. With this attitude mental clarity can be reached, and consequently good
Nine at the top means:
The king used him to march forth and chastise.
Then it is best to kill the leaders
And take captive the followers. No blame.
It is not the purpose of chastisement to impose punishment blindly but to create discipline. Evil must be
cured at its roots. To eradicate evil in political life, it is best to kill the ringleaders and spare the
followers. In educating oneself it is best to root out bad habits and tolerate those that are harmless. For
asceticism that is too strict, like sentences of undue severity, fails in its purpose.
To be a king partisan means an act of trust, suitability recognition. To repress means to put in their place
to those who have abused, with the result that the end is to reestablish the state order, that is to say, to
recompose the structure, to give it its original form. To kill the leaders and capture the followers mean to
deal with the root of a problem, with the cause but not the effects.
(1) It is a noteworthy and curious coincidence that fire and care of the cow are connected here just as in
the Parsee religion.