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I ching symbolI am in a blogging group where I have been asked to make a post that takes a stand about something pertaining to my blog. The stand I take in my entire I Ching Meditations is a personal interpretation from a woman’s perspective. I can’t offer anything other than a woman’s perspective because I am a woman and all I Ching interpretation is subjective. I meditate on the meaning for each Hexagram and what it says to me and then create my own images and words to go with it.

I Ching interpretation is dominated by men from the origins of the I Ching itself, reaching back to pre-history as the Chinese language was developing. We need a woman’s view. I need a woman’s view.

Quoting my own article, “What is I Ching,”

I Ching is the quintessential symbol book of all time, containing layers of symbols, one within the other where symbols are used to describe other symbols. It is, therefore, no wonder that people find this book of wisdom obscure. Because the nature of a symbol always points to something beyond itself, the meanings can never be pinned down but are always open to each new reader.

. . . The power of the I Ching is only activated through the interaction of the human mind. The archetypes in the I Ching were programmed over the centuries by the continual input and evolution of many human psyches. Therefore I Ching reflects a collective response to the human condition as a part of nature.

Another difference in my I Ching Meditations from other interpretations is that I am illustrating the lines of each Hexagram, including one for the interpretation for the Image overview of each Hexagram, making 7 illustrations for each Hexagram. If I can finish this work, that will be a total of 448 images. I feel that any interpretation of the I Ching into any language other than Chinese is crying for images. The written Chinese language is not linear, but pictorial. There is a wonderful little book first published in 1936 by Ezra Pound called, “Fenollosa, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry.”

To elaborate on my cry for images in an English version of I Ching I use a small quote from Fenollosa’s essay.

“Chinese notation is something much more than arbitrary symbols. It is based on a vivid shorthand picture of the operations of nature. In the algebraic figure and in the spoken word here is no natural connection between thing and sign: all depends upon sheer convention. But the Chinese method follows natural suggestion.

. . . One superiority of verbal poetry as an art rests in its getting back o the fundamental reality of time. Chinese poetry has the unique advantage of of combining both elements. It speaks at once with the vividness of painting, and with the mobility of sounds. It is, in some sense, more objective than either, more dramatic. In reading Chinese  we do not seem to be juggling mental counters, but to be watching things work out their own fate.


. . . One of the most interesting facts about the Chinese language is that in it we can see, not only the forms of sentences, but literally the parts of speech growing  up, budding forth one from another. Like nature, the Chinese words are alive and plastic, because thing and action are not formally separated. The Chinese language naturally knows no grammar.

iChing_LiYan_I found A book,“The Illustrated Book of Changes” by Li Yan, published in 1997 by Foreign Languages Press in Beijing, China that includes illustrations for all the lines of I Ching. I scanned one of the images here, line four in Hexagram Ten.

"You were frightened because you stepped on a tiger's tail, but the result is fortunate."

"You were frightened because you stepped on a tiger's tail, but the result is fortunate."

I like Li Yan’s book. It adds to my total experience of I Ching. The black and white line drawings are charming and sometimes funny. I recommend all I Ching devotees to buy the book. Still this interpretation is not my experience for the meaning of Hexagram Ten and so publishing mine might resonate with someone else as well.

When I wrote about some of the history of my work with the I Ching I explained how I was confronted by early feminists as to why I could be interested in such a sexist book talking about the superior man throughout.

So I could say that the entire purpose of creating a personal interpretation with my I Ching Meditations has been taking what amounts to a life-long stand, a huge project that I believe is necessary to add to the collective pot of the I Ching. I don’t for a moment believe that my interpretation is a replacement for all the earlier works on this subject. My intention most of all is to create a work that helps me, and secondly to add a view that other women might also identify with, and hopefully men might enjoy as well.

I will  explain my process for how I work with I Ching, when asking a question or when I begin working on writing and illustrating a new Hexagram. Like most people who are not Chinese I rely on the interpretations that have been translated, Wilhelm being my first and favorite and lately the Stephen Karcher interpretation who adds a very interesting perspective. I approach the symbols I find in what ever version I am researching the way I approach a dream. Sometimes these symbols are quite literal, and other times point beyond themselves just the way dreams do. One has to go inward to find the meaning. This takes me what seems to me a long time to find my meaning and then create the images to go with it.

Staying with Hexagram Ten, line four, I show here examples of interpretation from James, Legge, Richard Wilhelm and Steven Karcher – all authorities in this subject. You can find links to their works in my Resources. I include my view here as well.

James Legge
Hexagram Ten, Line four

The fourth NINE, undivided, shows its subject treading on the tail of a tiger. He becomes full of apprehensive caution, and in the end there will be good fortune.

Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram Ten, line four

He treads on the tail of the tiger.
Caution and circumspection
Lead ultimately to good fortune.

This text refers to a dangerous enterprise. The inner power to carry it through is there, but this inner power is combined with hesitating caution in one’s external attitude. This line contrasts with the preceding line, which is weak within but outwardly presses forward. Here one is sure of ultimate success, which consists in achieving one’s purpose, that is, in overcoming danger by
going forward.

Stephen Karcher, Hexagram Ten, line four

Treading on the tiger’s tail. Joyous Dancer mates with the spirits.
Carefully, carefully present your petition.

Bring this to completion. Wise Words! The way opens.

Your purpose is moving. You meet the Great Person, the hidden spirit, the source of power. Present your case clearly and persuasively. Don’t be intimidatated. The way is open. Your purpose is moving. Here you acquire destiny.

Direction: Connect your inner and outer life. Take things in.Be open to the new and provide what is needed.

I Ching Meditations: Hexagram Ten, line four.

Hexagram 10, line 4

I feel the strength Of powerful animal instincts Taking care not to confuse Myself with the tiger.

I would appreciate it if my readers would comment on your experiences with the I Ching and especially your views of this post. Is it useful? Do you agree with me? What do my male readers think? Does a woman’s view interest you at all?

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4 Comments on I Ching Interpretation: Taking a Stand with Treading

  1. Melaine90No Gravatar says:

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  2. JaliyaNo Gravatar says:

    One of the amazing qualities of this oracle is how it opens our intuition to relate with the images, metaphors, and poetry … and Adele, your perspective, from all your years of study and from your exquisite illustrations, is profoundly important.

    Interesting to note that 10:4 changes to Hexagram 61, Inner Truth …

    A few other interpretations of 10:4 that I’ve found in my books (and I must order a copy of Li Yan’s book!) …

    From Palmer, et. al, I Ching: The Shamanic Oracle of Change: “You are in troubled times. Be cautious.”

    Jack Balkin, The Laws of Change: “…proceed with great caution. Use your common sense…With the right preparation, you can tread on the tail of the tiger and escape unscathed.”

    Sarah Dening, The Everyday I Ching: “Although you have the resources to achieve your aim, you must be very careful. Take no risks. If you proceed with caution and common sense, you can turn an apparently negative situation into something better.”

    Diane Stein, A Woman’s I Ching: “This is a sensitive action, but the superior woman has the power to prevail. She blends certainty with care and correctness … She is sure of her goal, and having attempted no more than she can handle, she succeeds.”

    … and from my own Quoteable I Ching, I might augment 10:4 with this:

    “Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.” (Norman Cousins)

    Take Diane Stein’s interpretation to heart, Adele … You are definitely prevailing with your beautiful, unique offerings here.
    .-= Jaliya´s last blog ..In the deeps (Hexagram 29) =-.

  3. AdeleNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Demitra,

    Thanks for commenting here and your wonderful complement.


  4. Hello Adele,

    I Ching has been part of my life for some 25 years now. My primary tool of divination, though, is the tarot deck, mainly because I am fundamentally a very visual person. Symbols and colour give me an immediate gut understanding, so I am instinctively drawn to them for that reason. Therefore, the idea of I Ching imagery appeals to me, and I suspect others much like myself as well. I expect that I probably would have had an easier time grasping the I Ching’s messages to me over the years had they been accompanied by both interesting and beautiful artworks, such as those you are creating. I believe your efforts are a great contribution to the world of I Ching.

    Best wishes to you and your continuing efforts,

    Demitra M.N.

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