Hexagram 02, line 1 & 2

First line


Thread on frost: hard ice comes.

Second line


See for zhi 直, ‘to receive’ and other meanings this page. See also Scott Barnwell’s excellent article about de 德, The Evolution of the Concept of De in Early China, p. 5-6.  Zhi is a known loan of de 德 in early texts, meaning (besides ‘virtue’ and similar connotations) ‘to receive’ (古文字通假字典, p. 232). In Warring States texts the phrase 德賜 occurs, which the 漢語大詞典 reads as ‘to bestow; a favour’ (‘恩賜’); 戰國古文字典 reads ‘grant a favour’ (‘施賜恩德’, p. 68). Xi 習 means ‘to repeat’ (consult the oracle again) (‘借用有重復之意’; Ma Rusen 马如森, ‘殷墟甲骨学: 带你走进甲骨文的世界’, p. 289)

The land that is received is great.
No need to repeat.
Nothing is not favourable.

Hexagram 02, Judgment


Just as with the name of hexagram 1, the name of hexagram 2, kun 坤 is difficult to translate, because the character only occurs in the Yijing and nowhere else (accept later books in which it is a reference to hexagram 2). In the Mawangdui text the name is chuan 川, ‘river’. This character is related to the character shun 順, ‘smooth; obey, follow’, which is a known symbol for kun. Shun is also known with the meaning of xun 巡, ‘make an inspection tour’ (漢語大詞典, vol. 12, p. 231), which we will see at line 2. The component 巛 in the character 巡 is a known variant of 川. The Xiping Stone Classics use a character which is almost identical: . Note the hooks at the bottom, which distinguish it from 川. It reminds me of the plough being pushed into the earth, making furrows. That is why I tentatively translate kun as ‘ploughed land’. For more about 川 and 巛 see Ding Sixin  丁四新, “楚竹書與漢帛書<周易>校注”, p. 351-353.

Tuan 彖


牝馬之貞 could refer to a divination about a mare whether it is pregnant or not. On oracle bones pi 牝 refers to a female ox (新編甲骨文字典, p. 47). It is possible that we have to read 牝馬 as separate words, ‘female ox’ and ‘horse’. See for the phrase youwang 攸往 meaning ‘far journey’ here.

Zhu 主 refers to the topic or subject of the divination (主體). The Fuyang Zhouyi fragments contain additional comments on how to interpret a certain line of the Yi, one of the fragments has the sentence …主得百病不…, ‘…the subject will have numerous diseases, will not…’.

Peng 朋 is ‘friends, allies’.

The four directions should be read separately (West, South, East, North), not combined (South-West, North-East), see Aihe Wang, Cosmology and Political Culture in Early China, p. 26-).

Ploughed Land: Greatly accepted offering.
Advantageous divination for female oxen and horses.
The lord undertakes a far journey.
First he goes astray, later he gets it.
In the West and South allies are obtained,
In the East and North they are lost.
Divining about peace: auspicious.

Hexagram 01, line 5 & 6, surplus text

Fifth line


Daren 大人 (see also line 2) can refer to a person in a high position, like the nobility. In the Shijing 詩經 it is used as the title for a diviner, probably the chief diviner, divining dreams:

吉夢維何、維熊維羆、 維虺維蛇。
On the rush-mat below, and that of fine bamboos above it,
Here may he repose in slumber!
May he sleep and awake,
[Saying] ‘ Divine for me my dreams.
What dreams are lucky?
They have been of bears and grisly bears;
They have been of cobras and [other] serpents. ‘
The chief diviner will divine them.
The bears and grisly bears,
Are the auspicious intimations of sons.
The cobras and [other] serpents,
Are the auspicious intimations of daughters.

Your herdsmen shall dream, –
Of multitudes and then of fishes;
Of the tortoise-and-serpent; and then of the falcon banners.
The chief diviner will divine the dreams,
How the multitudes dissolving into fishes,
Betoken plentiful years;
How the tortoise-and-serpent dissolving into the falcon banners,
Betoken the increasing population of the kingdom.

In the Yi the daren might refer to the chief diviner who would perform the bone oracle ritual after the offering has been accepted by the ancestors.

Flying dragon in the sky.
Advantageous to see the chief diviner.

Sixth line


About ‘overconfident’ as a meaning of kang 亢, and hui 悔 as ‘misfortune’ see hereHui also means ‘regret’ and ‘repent’ because of misfortune caused by your own actions.

An overconfident dragon will have misfortune.

Extra text, ‘Ongoing nines’ (用九)

See a flock of dragons without head.


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.

Hexagram 06, line 1


bu yong 不永, ‘not eternal’. Suo shi 所事, ‘this matter’ (指某一件事,這件事). Xiao 小 refers to the common people. (about 小有言 see here).

This matter does not last forever. The common people will have criticism. In the end auspicious.

The Shanghai Museum Manuscript has chu 出 instead of yong 永, and instead of suo 所 another character which is equalled to yu 御, ‘to manage’. That would translate to ‘do not go out to manage affairs’.