Hexagram 9, line 4

有孚血去. 惕出. 无咎.

It has been more than a year since I wrote my last Translation Note. This has mainly to do with one word: punctuation. The original Chinese text does not have any punctuation and for months I did not know how to parse the sentence. A very similar sentence is found at hexagram 59, line 6: 渙其血去逖出无咎. I figured that knowing how to punctuate this line would also help me punctuate H9.4. I thought I was the first to struggle with this punctuation problem but at H59 Jack Kuo gives three possible options:

    1. 渙其血,去逖出
    2. 渙, 血去逖出
    3. 渙其血, 血去逖出 (a suggestion done by Yu Yue 俞樾《古書疑義舉例》. See also 《闻一多全集》, Vol. 10, p. 293)
      《周易古占筮法》, p. 514

Jack chooses the last option , and has decided to parse it different from H9.4: 有孚,血去 惕出, 无咎。To me however it is unacceptable to punctuate two sentences that share a common pattern in two different ways. After a long period of doubt, coffee and sleepless nights I decided to parse both sentences as:

H9.4:   有孚血去。惕出。无咎。
H59.6: 渙其血去。逖出。无咎。

Now both sentences have the same punctuation and are still translatable.

You fu 有孚: see here.

Xu 血: According to Lu Deming 陸德明 (556?–630) Ma Rong 馬融 (79–166) said 「當作恤,憂也。」: ‘Should be read as xu 恤 – worry, sadness’. A few translators follow this reading (Fendos, Christensen, Huang).  Xu 恤 is already used in the Yijing and occurs only in the expression 勿恤, ‘do not worry’ (H11.3, H35.5, H37.5, H43.2, H45.1, H46.0). Reading 血 as 恤 would be a curious exception. I believe we should read it in its original meaning: (sacrificial) blood.

Some oracle bone forms of xue 血 are very similar to the forms of the character meng 盟, and in transcriptions xue is sometimes read with the meaning of meng (see 《殷墟甲骨刻辞类纂》, p. 1022-1023). Depending on the context there might be a relationship between the meaning of the two characters. Meng 盟 is 古代諸侯為釋疑取信而對神立誓締約的一種儀禮。多殺牲歃血: a ritual for the spirits, performed by feudal lords to confirm the covenant that they had just established, involving the killing of animals and the smearing of their blood (漢語大詞典).

The lord frequently makes covenants, the disorder thereby grows…
– Shijing 詩經 M198, tr. B. Karlgren

When feudal princes see one another at a place and time not agreed on beforehand, the interview is called ‘a meeting.’ When they do so in some open place agreed on beforehand, it is called ‘an assembly.’ When one prince sends a great officer to ask about another, it is called ‘a message of friendly inquiry.’ When there is a binding to mutual faith, it is called ‘a solemn declaration.’ When they use a sacrificial animal;, it is called ‘a covenant.’
– Liji 禮記, tr. J. Legge

There are numerous sources from early China explaining meng as a blood sacrifice to spirits or as a ritual act of drinking or smearing blood of the sacrificial animal in order to seal one’s promise, lest they be harmed by the spirits. A detailed explanation is given by Kong Yingda, a Tang dynasty commentator of the Chunqiu zuozhuan; the Son of Heaven and hegemons depended on meng ritual in order to tighten their relationship during the Spring and Autumn period:

The meng ritual (mengli 盟禮) in general is to sacrifice an animal and smear its blood, sealing their oath to the numinous spirits, saying, “if anyone betrays [the oath], let the spirits deliver calamity and misfortune as [we have done to] this sacrificial animal.” . . . The one who assembles regional lords should cut the ear of an oxen, take the blood and smear it to seal their covenant.
凡盟禮, 殺牲歃血, 告誓神明, 若有背違, 欲令神加殃咎, 使如此牲也。… 合諸 侯者, 必割牛耳, 取其血, 歃之以盟。

In this passage, Kong Yingda explains that smearing the blood of an ox on each participants’ lips will establish a covenant among them and that whoever breaks the covenant will be punished by the numinous spirits. He explained meng another way in the Liji: “The way of meng, . . . kill the sacrificial animal on top of a pit, cut its left ear and put it in a pearl basin, and draw its blood and pour it into a jade bowl until it’s full. Use the blood for [or to write] meng, (用血為盟) and when the writing is done, smear the blood and read the words (書成, 乃歃血而讀書).” Similar to the Liji commentary, the Zuozhuan, borrowing the words of Duke Ai, says, “Meng is to make trust solid (周信). Therefore, control it with the heart, honor it with jade and silk, tighten it with words, and promise it by numinous spirits” (盟, 所以周信也, 故心以制之, 玉帛以奉之, 言以结之, 明神以要之。). Whether smearing blood or writing an oath with blood, the purpose of meng was to make the oath-takers keep their word and convince those who broke their word that they would be punished by the spirits. The oath-takers were obliged not only to each other but also to ghosts to keep their word.
– Daniel Sungbin Sou, In The Government’s Service: A Study Of The Role And Practice Of Early China’s Officials Based On Excavated Manuscripts (dissertation) – Sou, p. 70-71

It is tempting to read 血 as related to 盟, a ritual to secure a covenant, in this line text, especially because the former hexagram speaks of the forming of alliances. Whatever the purpose, I think it is save to assume that, considering the possible reference to a sacrifice in the Judgement text, the blood that this line speaks of is related to a blood sacrifice.

Ti 惕: fear, distress

Chu 出: expel, get rid of

About wujiu 無咎 see the third line of hexagram 1.

There is blessing and protection.
Blood is leaving (the body of the victim),
Expelling fear.
There is no curse from the ancestors.

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5 Responses to Hexagram 9, line 4

  1. SJM says:

    You say it’s safe to assume the reference to blood refers to a blood sacrifice, but what do you think ‘blood is leaving’ or ‘blood goes’ means then in the context of a sacrifice?

    I can only see the reference to blood as referring to something like hotheadedness going, when one’s ‘blood is up’. Or the idea that the danger of bloodshed is dissipating. But I don’t find these ideas very satisfactory either.

    In 59/6 the reference to ‘his blood’ could be close relations. Again, just guessing.

    I think the idea that the blood is sacrificial blood is too easy and, unless it can be explained what it may mean for such blood to leave or go, it must be dismissed.

    • I assume that with ‘blood is leaving’ is meant that the blood is leaving the body of the victim. I’ll add it to the translation to make that more clear.

      It reminds me of the 㲹 ritual that is mentioned on OBI. “One of the usage of ji 㲹 in oracle-bone inscriptions was to take human sacrifices’ blood to worship spirits. This
      blood was then spread on the surface of the sacrifice utensils.” (Wang Ping, Methods of killing Human Sacrifice in Shang-dynasty Oracle-bone Inscriptions, p. 7) To make this possible I think it is convenient that the blood has left the body of the victim.

      • SJM says:

        Hmm, maybe. Seems an odd thing to record though. But it would contrast the sacrifice in 54/6 I guess. Interesting.

  2. Andrew Shamash says:

    “Blood is leaving (the body of the victim)” is awkward English. A less cumbersome phrase such as ‘blood comes out’ or ‘blood us coming out’ may express the same idea:

    “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Friday night that Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly “had blood coming out of her eyes” when she aggressively questioned him during Thursday’s presidential debate.” (WaPo)

    In any case, it’s something you can draw a picture of. “Expelling fear” is not, so I’m curious as to why you read 惕 as the object of 出. It seems to me to make more sense as an adjective or adverb, as some others have translated it (along the lines of ‘going out fearfully’). I’m wondering if you’ve ruled that out somehow…

    • Thanks for the suggestion, ‘coming out’ sounds much better.

      About 惕出: I have not found examples in which 惕 is used as an adjective or adverb, and I think it follows the standard S-V-(O) pattern just like 血去 does. If ‘going out fearfully’ (which doesn’t make sense to me in the context of this line text) was meant I expect it would say 出惕 instead of 惕出.

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