Hexagram 2, Judgement

Name

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

元亨.利牝馬之貞.君子有攸往.先迷後得主利.西南得朋.東北喪朋.安貞吉.

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.
Advantageous.
In the West and South allies are obtained,
In the East and North they are lost.
Divining about peace: auspicious.

Tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Hexagram 2, Judgement

  1. I read somewhere recently the assertion that there *were* ploughs drawn by oxen (that’s the plural of ‘ox’, English is ridiculous) in Zhou times after all. So perhaps that might link up your translation of the name with the ‘female oxen’.

    What difference does it make, do you think, to read ‘west and south’ rather than ‘southwest’?

    • Thanks for correction :-). About ploughs: Robert Temple says in The Genius of China:

      The most basic and universal form of plough is called an ‘ard’. It has a shallow ploughshare and makes only a slight furrow, so is sometimes preferred in area’s of continual winds and thin, dry soiL. (…) Triangular stone ploughshares for ards have been excavated in China which go back as far as the fourth or even early fifth millennium BC. Ox-drawn ards were therefore in use in China from neolithic times. Some sixteenth-century BC bronze ploughshares for true ploughs (more exactly, turn-ploughs) have been excavated in Tonkin in Vietnam, a region with which China had trade contacts at that time. Most Chinese ploughshares, however, seem to have been of wood at this time, and consequently have not survived.

      Indeed, the ox-drawn plough appeared quite early in China.

      Reading the directions separately fits the early Chinese cosmology better, with all the implications that this might have for your interpretation of this line. I don’t follow the traditional view that links the directions to the houtian bagua, I believe we have to see the directions as pointing to certain areas around the capital, or outside the state.

      • Markku Kotiranta says:

        The houtian bagua approach would be an easy solution. Southwest (kun 坤) referring to receptiveness and northeast (gen 艮) to stubbornness. This goes well also with hexagram 39.

        • As I said, “Reading the directions separately fits the early Chinese cosmology better, with all the implications that this might have for your interpretation of this line. I don’t follow the traditional view that links the directions to the houtian bagua, I believe we have to see the directions as pointing to certain areas around the capital, or outside the state.” I don’t use trigram systems when translating/interpreting the text of the Yi.

  2. I find interesting, about plowing, the narration in 系辭下傳. 第二章, third section:
    “包羲氏沒,神農氏作,斲木為耜,揉木為耒,耒耨之利,以教天下,蓋取諸益”
    where 耜 and 耒 are used in connection with plowshare and plowing.

    Same connection, more subtle, in Schuessler, p.479:
    “耜:
    The usual gloss is ‘plowshare, to plow’ [Shi]; however this implement consisted of a
    blade-like spade which was attached to a 耒, digging stick which thus became its
    handle (Bodde 1975: 233ft), hence ‘spade, to cultivate with a spade’. It originated perh. in the Yao culture (W. Eberhard Lokalkulturen II: 224). Syn. 犁.”

    So, to speak, I’m impressed by resemblance btw i.e. 梩 -variant of 耜, with the proper meaning of ‘a basket in which to carry earth’ – and ‘our’ 坤, but naturally this is only a ‘scherzo’.

Leave a comment