First annotations of the I Ching
The first annotations of the I Ching, known as the “tuan`” or “tuan` shu” were written prior to the Period of the Warring States (403-221 B.C.). The next book of annotations, the “xiang”, was written during the Period of the Warring States.
The first annotations include references to nature and to ways of government. Those that refer to nature most likely predate the Period of Warring States while those referring to the ways of government may have been written during the years leading up to the Period of Warring States and during the formation of these states. This may indicate that the first annotations to the I Ching may have been written during the overlapping years of the Period of Spring and Autumn (722-481 B.C.) and the Period of the Warring States (403-221 B.C.), i.e., during 481-403 B.C.
Most of the classical interpretations of the I Ching are based on lost historical references that have rendered any modern reading of the I Ching almost meaningless, and references to the way of government in the annotations obscure the original meaning of the hexagrams.
Here are the 64 hexagrams and some of their ancient references found in the “tuan` shu” or first book of annotations of the I Ching that most likely predate any political and historical reference to the way of government. The ancient references found in the first annotations would then pertain only to myth and to nature.
Heaven over Heaven
Ancient myth says that the sun moves in the sky riding a vehicle. On the vehicle ride six dragons with the mother of Xi (Fu Xi*) and the mother and the guardians guard and protect the son Fu Xi* together. Therefore there is the saying: “Time rides with the six dragons to govern and protect the sky.”
* Fu Xi is the mythical god who taught the Chinese to establish the family as a social unit.
Earth over Earth
Kun is the name of the trigram for Earth. The character kun consists of an earth radical and a character meaning to extend. It is a character that means extended land. The ancient meaning of the hexagram refers to a female horse, an ancient mare known as the pin` ma”’. The pin` ma”’ is a terrestrial animal that roamed the lands without boundaries. It was a female animal with a very tame temperament and obeyed human commands.
Water over Thunder
The ancient meaning is that thunder brings water when water fills the sky.
Mountain over Water
The first annotation says that both the mountains and the waters are dangerous.
Water over Heaven
The first annotation says there must be rain to rake the land.
Heaven over Water
A person who is a scheming person (Water trigram at bottom) and a bully (Heaven trigram on top) [shang gang xia ying] brings on legal conflict. The Chinese character name of this hexagram is “sung”, specifically meaning legal conflict, legal contention, legal affairs. the character itself consists of the radical for speech and the character meaning in public. Speaking in public (thus before a court) is the original meaning of the name of this hexagram “sung.”
Earth over Water
The original indication is to become a king.
Water over Earth
The first annotation says those who arrive first will have good fortune, but those who come late will meet with misfortune. A story in the “Guo Yu-Lu Yu” (Chronicles of the Kingdoms-The Kingdom of Lu) says: “The ancient King Yu met and conferred with all the gods on the mountain. Fang Feng came late and was beheaded by King Yu.”
[Note] Early water or first water over Earth in the form of rain is good fortune and will guarantee a good harvest. Late rain, rain in the late planting season, or the arrival of later water as thunderstorms and tsunamis bring misfortune.
Wind over Heaven
Originally this indicated five upright gentlemen are needed to subdue one mischievous person, i.e., five upright gentlemen are needed to subdue one bad person. (Five solid responding to one soft)
Heaven over Lake
The original story is about a man and a tiger. The saying “ren lu” hu wei, bu zhi` ren” means “a person steps on the tiger’s tail but the tiger does not turn around to bite the person.” Later on, this became a political advise for apeasement. If the weak makes the strong and violent bully angry, one should treat the strong and violent one with a smiling and peaceful attitude so that the strong and violent one will not cause harm.
Earth over Heaven
The original meaning of this hexagram is that all events and all outcomes are possible when the female and the male interact with each other and when Earth and Heaven interact with each other.
Heaven over Earth
When Heaven is separated from Earth, nothing will be achieved. If Heaven and Earth do not interact, there will be no nations on earth.
Heaven over Fire
The name of this hexagram is tong ren, meaning together. In ancient times, there was no such term meaning “together.” The hexagram may indicate the “extension of Heaven.”
Fire over Heaven
To follow the Heavens marks the progression of time.
Herth over Mountain
Humbleness brings good fortune and success.
Thunder over Earth
To move in accordance to nature’s rhythms brings happiness.
Lake over Thunder
To follow in time, or to follow in a timely manner is of great significance.
Mountain over Wind
To finish and to begin again is the movement of Heaven.
Earth over Lake
The original annotation notes that there is misfortune in the 8th month. The 8th month is mid autumn when the yang weakens and the yin grows, i.e., summer heat cools down and the chill sets in, plants and trees shed their leaves and insects die.
Wind over Earth
The first annotation says this hexagram advises observing the heavens and observing the winds.
Fire over Thunder
This indicates chewing something in the mouth. It is an interplay between the hard teeth that break up food and the soft tongue that discerns the taste. It is the alternate use of the hard and the soft.
Mountain over Fire
The soft decorative facade hides the hard core.
Mountain over Earth
In winter, coldness rises and heat dissipates. The king’s power is weakened by the many corrupt officials who serve him. When the power of the corrupt officials grow, the king’s power is overthrown and the kingdom collapses.
Earth over Thunder
Extreme softness leads to the return of the strong. Extreme winter brigns back spring and summer.
Heaven over Thunder
The strong comes from outside. To take action makes one healthy and strong.
Mountain over Heaven
The first annotation says this hexagram indicates thickness or denseness like the mountain where trees grow and birds and land animals live.
Mountain over Thunder
The first annotation says to observe the face of others and to judge a person by observing those with whom he associates.
Lake over Wind
That which is big like a beam is strong in the middle but weak at the ends.
Water over Water
Deep water is dangerous.
Fire over Fire
Originally this hexagram indicates beauty. The sun rises to beautify the heavens.
Lake over Mountain
Originally this hexagram indicates feeling and response to feelings.
Thunder over Wind
This hexagram indicates consistency in its original meaning. It indicates thunder is above the wind and this is a consistent natural phenomenon.
Heaven over Mountain
Originally this indicates withdrawal like the sun setting behind the mountain.
Thunder over Heaven
The big is strong. In nature, the male is large and hard and the female is soft and small.
Fire over Earth
Originally this indicates sunrise.
Earth over Fire
Originally this indicates sunset.
Wind over Fire
The first annotation says that this hexagram establishes the proper role of the man and the woman. The man dealt with external affairs while the proper role of the woman was to deal with family affairs.
The next annotation of the I Ching, the Xiang Shu, indicates that wind comes from fire. We know that conflagrations whip up strong winds in forest fires.
Fire over Lake
The first annotation says that this hexagram depicts two women living together and serving one husband and there will be conflict and domestic disputes out of jealousy.
Water over Mountain
The first annotation notes that both water and mountain present dangers ahead.
Thunder over Water
This hexagram advises movement to avoid danger. The first annotation says: “move away from danger and one shall be outside of danger. (Dong yu xian zhi wai)”
Mountain over Lake
The first annotation may have come about during the period leading up to the establishment of the kingdoms of the Period of Warring States because the primary annotation says that this hexagram indicates that the officials (Mountain) who rule over the people (Lake) are harming the people to benefit the officials. The first annotation says that this hexagram indicates overtaxing the people to benefit the ruling officialdom.
Wind over Thunder
This hexagram explains that the officialdom should provide more benefits to the people to make the people happy, and to reduce taxation and exploitation of the people by the king. The king should be humble in listening to the voices of the people. This also may have come about during the years leading up to the formation of the kingdoms of the Period of the Warring States.
Lake over Heaven
This hexagram which consists of one male solid line over five broken female lines indicates that one scheming emperor and dictator rules over the majority of gentlemen officials. The hexagram also predicts that such a government will soon collapse. The good and honest gentlemen officials will overthrow the evil ruler.
Heaven over Wind
The original indication of this hexagram is “to meet, the meeting of the soft and the hard.”
Lake over Earth
The original meaning of this hexagram is to gather. It advises observation of those whom a gathers as friends and employees and subservient officials in order to see the true nature of the master and ruler.
Earth over Wind
the orighinal meaning is this hexagram is to rise or to rise up.
Lake over Water
The original meaning of this hexagram is to cover, and it includes a later interpretation of those who are virtuous and talented are being suppressed by those schemers and ambitious but incompetent officials with no talent and no virtue.
Water over Wind
The iriginal meaning of this hexagram describes a wooden bucket being lowered into a well to fetch water and the water well serves to nourish people (villagers).
Lake over Fire
Originally, this hexagram says that water and fire annihilate each other. It also describes two women living together and they will destroy each other.
Fire over Wind
This hexagram refers specifically to the “ding”, a tripod for incense in ancestral worship ceremonies and a cooking utensil which is used to cook food for the emperor, the officials as well as the people.
Thunder over Thunder
In worship ceremonies, gong and drums are beaten to make extremely oud noises so that the enemy afar will hear and be scared to launch any attacks.
Mountain over Mountain
The original indication of this hexagram is to stop. Etymologists say that the character “zhi” (stop) was equivalent in ancient times to the character “bei” (back). This comes from the feng shui lore that the throne and thus the residence must “sit in the north and face the south” (zuo bei cao nan). In feng shui lore, it is also said that a house should “bei shan mian shui” or “with the back to the mountain and the front facing water (sea)”.
Wind over Mountain
The original indication of this hexagram is “to advance, to progress” and that “it is good fortune for the woman to advance to the groom’s family and secure a place”.
Thunder over Lake
This hexagram originally indicates that the coupling of a man and a woman is the way of Heaven. The hexagram consists of Thunder (the roaring male) over the (receptive female) and the penetrating movement of the male on top pleases the receptive female underneath.
Thunder over Fire
the original indication is a great harvest. The thunder is an announcement of the coming of rain that will nourish the growth (inner fire) of living things.
Fire over Mountain
The original indication of this hexagram is that it is good fortune for the man of the house to leave home and become a traveler, like the rising sun.
Wind over Wind
the original indication of this hexagram is strong wind both over the surface of the earth and in the sky.
Lake over Lake
The annotation of this hexagram may have been written during the years of the Period of the Warring States because the name of this hexagram, “dui”, according to Chinese etymologists, is equivalent to the Chinese character ‘rui” meaning “happy.” Thus the annotation says: “Junzi yi zheng dao rui min” i.e., “the king uses the righteoug way to please his people.”
By convincing the people, the people can be ordered, the people will forget their hardship, and by convincing the people to take risks, the people will forget about death. This is seen in the absolute obedience of soldiers to the commander.
Wind over Water
The original indication of this hexagram is that water flows without stop and flowing water overcomes all obstacles.
Water over Lake
The original indication is that man must act accdording to rules and regulations and established social norms. This annotation may have come about later as an advice for good government.
Wind over Lake
Originally the name of this hexagram “zhong fu” means “trust”.
Thunder over Mountain
Originally, this hexagram refers to a water bird called “hu””, commonly known as the swan. Thunder represents the swan, and the name of the hexagram “xiao guo” describes a swan flowing over a hill.
Water over Fire
Originally, this hexagram indicates “completion, that which is established”.
Fire over Water
Originally this hexagram indicates that which is not been accomplished. The original folklore of this hexagram is about a small fox that has not learned to swim. The young fox jumps into the water but cannot stay afloat for the entire crossing and thus sinks into the water with only the tail above the surface. The hexagram takes up the extended meaning of ignorant people who do not plan ahead but plunge into a situation without knowing what to do and thus drown instead of continuing. As a result, the task is not accomplished due to stupidity.