About Tuan 彖 and Hexagram 1, Judgment and lines 1-4

What in most translations is called The Judgment Text has the Chinese title Tuan 彖. This character might be related to 㣇, which is read as 祟 on oracle bones, meaning ‘to expel evil spirits’ (古文字古林, Vol. 8, p. 409). Here it is also said that cuan 䞼 (which has 彖 as a component) is the old form of dun 遯, the name of hexagram 33, and is also related to the meaning of ‘to expel’. That this is more or less possible is shown by the Mawangdui text, which has chuan 椽 (with 彖 as a component) as name for hexagram 33. In the Baoshan divination scripts we see examples of divinations to expel malicious spirits. (see Constance A. Cook, Death in Ancient China).

Tuan 彖


Honestly, I don’t know how to translate the name of hexagram 1, Qian 乾. From the context in the third line (see below) I can deduce that it is a verb. A detailed analysis of the character shows that it is connected to the image of a banner, which is the focus in a town or centre. That is why I chose the meaning of ‘(to) focus’ but I am well aware that this is more interpretation than translation.

For the origin of yuan heng li zhen 元亨利貞 see this article.

Focus: Greatly accepted offering.
Favourable to divine.

First line


Yong is ‘handle, act’ (行事; 行動), as in the Shijing 詩經:

All ye princely men,
Know ye not his virtuous conduct?
He hates none; he covets nothing; –
What does he which is not good?

A submerged dragon. Don’t act.

Second line


See for ‘chief diviner’ as meaning of daren 大人 the fifth line.

See a dragon in the cultivated fields. Favourable to see the chief diviner.



The Mawangdui text has ni 泥 for ti 惕, and a commentary found with this text has yi 沂 which is probably a loan for xin 昕, ‘dawn’. Ti 惕 is ‘fearful and watchful’ (戒懼). Jiu 咎, along with xiong 凶, ji 吉 and hui 悔 , is typical of Chinese divination manuscripts. In these manuscripts jiu seems to refer to a curse from the ancestors (甲骨文字典; p. 896), or, as Donald Harper translates it, ‘spirit odium’ (D. Harper, ‘The Textual Form of Knowledge: Occult Miscellanies in Ancient and Medieval Chinese Manuscripts, Fourth Century B.C. to Tenth Century A.D.’, in F. Bretelle-Establet (ed.), Looking at It from Asia: The Processes that Shaped the Sources of History of Science, p. 54).

The lord is all day focused.
At sunset fearful and watchful as if there are threats.
There is no curse from the ancestors.

Fourth line


Huo 或: According to the Jinwen Gulin Bu 金文詁林補 and the Guwenzi Tongjia Zidian 古文字通假字典 you 又–> you 有, ‘there is also’. According to 古代漢語通假字大字典 loan character for ru 如, ruo 若, ‘(as) if’. See also hexagram 2, third line and hexagram 7, line 3. It is interesting that huo occurs mostly at the third line in hexagrams:

1st line: 0x
2nd line: 1x
3rd line: 7x
4th line: 2x
5th line:1x
6th line: 2x
( 1-4, 2-3, 6-3, 6-6, 7-3, 25-3, 32-3, 41-5, 42-2, 42-6, 53-4, 61-3, 62-3)

See for a comprehensive discussion of the usage of huo 或 in the Yijing: Peng Zhanci 彭展賜, 《周易》簡帛異文硏究, p. 137-164.

Yue 躍: Mawangdui text has [魚+龠], but 龠 and 翟 are probably exchangeable, like with 46-2: where the received text has 禴 the MWD text has 濯. 躍 and [魚+龠] can be similar to  䠯, which also means ‘to jump’.

There is a leap over an abyss.
There is no curse from the ancestors.

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9 Responses to About Tuan 彖 and Hexagram 1, Judgment and lines 1-4

  1. Han Boering says:

    Je studie van de tekst van de Yi-jing begint fascinerende vormen aan te nemen, Harmen. Veel dank voor het delen ervan. Dit zou nog wel eens kunnen leiden tot vernieuwing van inzichten en interpretaties.

    • Dank voor je aardige bericht, Han. Met het vertalen van de Yi voel ik me als een kind in een speelgoedwinkel. Zo veel te zien, zo veel te ontdekken… Ik hoop dat de vertaling nooit afkomt. Zo’n boeiende reis hoort geen eindbestemming te kennen.

  2. Rob Versteeg says:

    Beste Harmen,

    Ik hoorde net via Radio 4 dat Brahms ongeveer 20 jaar over een bepaald Quintet heeft gedaan en uiteindelijk nog niet tevreden was. Hij liet de Eerste Uitgave vergezeld gaan met een afbeelding van een Man met een Pistool tegen zijn Hoofd om zijn ongenoegen met het Stuk Kracht bij te zetten.
    Het is overigens een Briljant Stuk Muziek geworden.
    Zover hoef je het dus niet te laten komen.
    En uiteraard is niet iedereen hetzelfde.
    Ik vind het Geweldig om te zien hoe je op dit soort Vertalingen werpt.
    Bijzonder boeiend en Leerzaam voor deze Leek.
    Waarschijnlijk wordt de Omslag van deze vertaling stukken Opwekkender.
    Succes met de rest; die ik zeker blijf volgen.

    Groet Rob

  3. Sparhawk says:

    Hi Harmen,

    I follow you are interpreting more than translating and I thought that If you’ll be using something like “focus” for 乾, which I find a little dissonant within the context of the hexagram, perhaps another word with similar or close meaning would work and sound better. I thought “nexus” could be such a word:


    • Hi Luis, thanks for the suggestion. The context of line 3 in which qian is used shows that it is a verb. Is ‘nexus’ also a verb? If so, what does it mean?

      • Sparhawk says:

        No, nexus isn’t a verb but a noun. ‘Focus’, on the other hand, can be both, a verb or a noun.

        I think I misinterpreted what you are trying to do. You were focused (no pun intended) in seeing 乾 as a verb and I still see it as primarily a noun. However, many gua names have both functions (i.e. 10, 31, 41, 42, etc.), so it isn’t a bad idea. I am thinking, though, that fixing 乾, the name of the gua, as a verb, based on the context of the same repeated characters in line 3, subtracts from its potential meanings. Reading 乾乾 as ‘focused’, within the context of the text, is alright (mind you, I am talking about ‘interpreting’ not ‘translating’ as you obviously have much more knowledge than I do with the language), but reading a lone 乾 as ‘focus’ is, for me, constricting.

        • I see what you mean. I’m not yet sure if I want to translate qian both as a verb and as a noun though, I think I can make a better decision when I have looked at the other 君子XX patterns (like the ones at hexagrams 15 & 43).

  4. Sparhawk says:

    Good point. I still remember you very good notes on ” 坎坎 ” (六三 來之坎坎。險且枕。入于坎窞。勿用。), a repetition that also happens in a third line.

  5. Pingback: The elusively simple Hexagram 1 | Answers I Ching blog

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