Hexagram 08, line 5


Xian 顯: appear, become visible, make public, (to) display,  (to) manifest. Also a loan for xin 欣, ‘joyful (appearance)’. Xianbi 顯比 can mean that the alliance is made public.

Sanqu 三驅: a ceremonial royal hunt with specific features. It is mentioned in the Wen Xuan 文選:

若乃順時節而蒐狩, (…)
申令三驅. (…)
In accord with the seasons they perform the ritual hunts, (…)
Then, raising the beacons, beating the drums,
They order the three-sided battu to begin. (…)
They enjoy themselves, but not to extremes;
They kill, but do not destroy everything in sight.
– Tr. David Knechtges, Wen Xuan or Selections of Refined Literature, Vol. 1, p. 157-163

Knechtges says about the sanqu:

There are basically two explanations of sanqu 三驅. One, mentioned in the Classic of Changes (Hexagram 8, 9/5), and repeated by Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (a.d. 127-200),Wang Bi 王弼 (a.d. 226—249), and Kong Yingda 孔穎達 (a.d. 574-648), is that qu means a three-sided battu in which the beaters drive the game from three sides and leave one side open to allow some animals to escape. It was thought that this practice was an indication of the ruler’s humane desire not to exterminate everything. (…) The second explanation equates san qu with the san tian 三田 (“three hunts”), each conducted in a different season (according to this scheme there was no summer hunt) for a specific purpose: 1) to provide cured meat for the sacrificial vessels; 2) to entertain guests; 3) to fill the ruler’s larder. (…) Since the meaning of qu is “to drive” or “to chase”, the proper meaning of san qu clearly must be three-sided battu.”
(p. 160)

The second explanation is followed by Lu Deming 陸德明 (556-627) in his 周易音義 where he quotes Ma Rong 馬融 (78-186): 三驅者,一曰乾豆 ,二曰賓客,三曰君庖. I can not reconcile this meaning with the next phrase 失前禽 that follows 王用三驅.

Elsewhere in the Wen Xuan the sanqu is mentioned again, in relation to a kind emperor who does not kill excessively but shows moderation in his doings (see Knechtges, p. 288-289). In the Li Ji 禮記 it is said

田不以禮, 曰暴天物. 天子不合圍, 諸侯不掩群.
To hunt without observing the rules (for hunting) was deemed cruelty to the creatures of Heaven. The son of Heaven did not entirely surround (the hunting ground); and a feudal prince did not take a (whole) herd by surprise.
(Tr. Legge)

Royal hunts were used to forge alliances with other states (G. Shelach-Lavi, The Archaeology of Early China, p. 223). The game captured was used for the sacrifices to the ancestors, I assume to inform them of the new alliance and to ask for their consent:

The hunt, as recorded in bone inscriptions, is first and foremostly the prerogative of the king. It was not just a royal sport but rather a symbolic undertaking, that led to royal sacrifice and guaranteed the king’s role as supreme religious and political leader. Hunted animals were not buried or offered in sacrifice outside the ancestor cult. The primary purpose of hunting was thus not only to legitimize the king’s power but to provide sacrifice in maintaining the blessing of royal ancestor spirits.
E. Childs-Johnson, The Metamorphic Image: A Predominant Theme in the Ritual Art of Shang China, BMFEA 70, p. 38

There is another expression with the same pronunciation that is said to have the meaning of san qu 三驅, ‘three times drive/expel’. The Zuozhuan contains an unknown text that is said to be from hexagram 18 in the Yijing:


James Legge translates this as

The thousand chariots thrice are put to flight,
What then remains you catch,
– the one fox wight
(Zuozhuan, p. 167)

Richard Rutt renders it as

A thousand cars thrice turn in flocks;
And when three times they’ve fled your shocks
Your prize will be a poxy fox
(Zhouyi, p. 180)

But this meaning does not fit the context of the line text of H8-5.

It is tempting to see the meaning of ‘three-sided hunt’ in the composition of the character qu 驅. This character consists of ma 馬 ‘horses’ and qu ‘區’. The latter evokes the picture of a three -sided round-up and the ‘horses’ component shows they used horses to do it. However this reading is not in any way substantiated by etymological studies of the character.

It is important to recognize the sanqu as a ceremonial procedure and not as an ordinary hunt. The ceremonial meaning will explain the 邑人不誡 part in the line text.

Shi 失: (let) escape; ignore.

Qian 前: the front, in the front.

Qin 禽: general name for animals, beasts.

Yiren 邑人: the (common) people.

〈殷虚文字外编〉第三四片 (zie 03 甲骨文獻集成.pdf p. 344)=合集799According to the Great Dictionary of Chinese History (Zhongguo Lishi Da Cidian 中国历史大辞典) it is a title for a government position during the Shang and Zhou dynasty. As an example for an oracle bone inscription where yiren has this meaning it cites Heji #799 (see image on the right; click to enlarge). However, Qiu Xigui 裘錫圭 reads yiren in this inscription as ‘cityfolk’:

Crack on guiyou, the king divining: From today guiyou reaching until yiyou, will the cityfolk see the borderlanders, or will (they) not see the borderlanders?
– Qiu Xigui, An Examination of Whether The Charges in Shang Oracle-Bone Inscriptions are Questions, Early China 14 (1989), p. 82

In bronze inscriptions yiren often refers to the people of Yi (Li Feng, “Offices” in Bronze Inscriptions and Western Zhou Government Administration, Early China Vol. 26/27 (2001–2002), pp. 1-72 ). But in most texts yiren refers to the common people, or the people in general:

(So if) Heaven does possess the people, how could it be that it does not love them?
– Tr. I Johnston, The Mozi – A Complete Translation, p. 241

More specifically yiren might refer to people within a settlement or city, different from nomadic tribes. The 漢語大詞典 reads it as people from a feudal state.

Bu jie 不誡: not cautious, not suspicious; reassured, at ease. Because of the sanqu ceremonial hunt that shows the benevolent nature of the king the people of the new alliance are reassured. This line seems to talk of a realized bonding, effectuated by a joined hunt in which the king shows his benevolent attitude towards the other party. The yiren 邑人 might refer to the people of the other party.

Manifested alliance.
The king performs a sanqu and lets the game at the front escape.
The people (of the new ally) are reassured.
No curse from the ancestors.

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7 Responses to Hexagram 08, line 5

  1. Kevin Sheffield says:

    Hi Harmen

    Thanks for this.

    Adding: Generally in hunting if beaters or nets are used on three sides then the fourth side necessarily has the hunters. As anyone who has hunted in these ways knows it is just the obvious way to do it.

    This does not prevent the netsmen or hunters allowing game to escape. Perhaps in the front in this case?

    • Hi Kevin, thank you for your comment. If this were a normal hunt then you would definitely be right, but since this is a ceremonial hunt I think we have to look at it differently. The ceremonial hunt did not have the capturing of animals as its main purpose. It mainly served as a demonstration of the king’s kindness and humaneness. Also, the game that is allowed to escape at the front are probably the animals that are strong and fast enough to make the run. The game that comes within shooting range of the archers would be the weak, sick or less intelligent animals. By capturing the weak animals the strong would have a better chance to survive and procreate, assuring the food on the table during the next years. So I don’t think there were any hunters at the front – that would not be in accord with the benevolent nature of the king. As is said in the Liji, ‘the king does not completely surround the hunting ground’.

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for coming back on this. Yes, I understand and I am sure you are correct on the intent of the passage and the ritual.

    Where does one deploy three nets?

    It is curiosity from someone who has hunted with nets as a youngster, though the Magistrate used another term, such an arrangement only requires two nets.Certainly one is not required in front of the hunters.

    Again, it is easy to allow animals to pass a net if the nets men are organised.

    Please don’t let me waste your time on this.

    I enjoy your work imensley. Thanks for it.

  3. SJM says:

    I have accepted this three-sided hunt idea, with the game escaping on the fourth side, for a long time. Now I wonder whether the idea that it shows the king’s fair-mindedness is another example of a hand-me-down interpretation that doesn’t really hold up. That kind of hunt doesn’t seem particularly effective. When and where are the animals actually killed if they’re just being driven forwards? Usually you would drive towards the hunters. And if the hunt is to provide ritual animals for sacrifice as well as for food, are the old stragglers the desired quarry or the fit strong animals that are apparently allowed to escape?

    • I too must confess that I find this whole idea of a three-sided hunt not 100% convincing. I could not find out if this kind of hunt was actually used or whether it was just an idealistic utopian advise and guideline for the ruler. But the sources that mention the sanqu 三驅 are scarce, and what I can find about it seems to be confirmed by later sources. I do not believe that it refers to 3 hunts in one year, equal to santian 三田, as some authors say, because I would not know how to fit in the 失前禽 part. Gao Heng mentions a story (see Rutt) about a king who tried to shoot a bird but failed because the bird was scared away by a inhabitant of the district. But this story comes from the Yanzi Chunqiu 晏子春秋 which records the words and deeds of Yan Ying 晏嬰 (d. 500BC), a famous minister of the Qi state in the Chunqiu period. I believe the Yi is written before that, but who knows? Also Gao retold the story in his own words, making it fit the language and words of the Yi (for instance, Gao mentions 邑人 in his version but the Yanzi Chunqiu talks about a 野人, ‘savage’ instead of a 邑人 – see http://ctext.org/yanzi-chun-qiu/jing-gong-yu-zhu-hai-niao). What I wrote on my website is what I could find so far. If anything new pops up I will reconsider my findings.

      • SJM says:

        I wonder whether it refers to a hunt at all. Hunts elsewhere in the Yi, such as where three types of game are caught, don’t appear to demonstrate such a magnanimous attitude to the animals on behalf of the ruler. Perhaps it is rather a demonstration (a metaphor) of the idea of an alliance. Those who wish to join do so, but those who do not are allowed to go their own way without repercussions.

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