38 Kui2



The lower: Dui (joy, the marsh). The upper: Li (clinging, fire).

Kui: alienation (owing to discrepancy); the mission of hexagram Kui is to not defy discrepancy but rather undertake reconciliation for common interests or goals.






Alienation emerges when the household (Jia Ren) is deprived of its norm; therefore Kui is granted. If a wealthy and prestigious household isn’t build on a righteous basis, like the masculine line 6 of hexagram Jia Ren (37) at the position of feminine, its descendents will fight one another for family possessions and become estranged once hexagram Jia Ren turns upside down and becomes hexagram Kui. The original meaning of Kui is “(people) do not watch (one another) directly” owing to conflict; its common annotation in the I Ching is alienation due to differing thoughts, positions or interests, etc. In Confucius’s remarks he suggested that people should try to work toward a common goal in order to benefit all concerned when discrepancies invariably arise. Kui is the reverse hexagram of Jia Ren, the household, the cohesiveness of which is directed inward, while the centrifugal force of hexagram Kui is directed outward; therefore they become estranged from one another.

The lower trigram Dui is the marsh, while the upper trigram Li is fire. The marsh remains below with its water tending to flow downward. However, fire is on top and its flames blaze upward; they become alienated from each other, which will cause separation.

The lower trigram Dui is the youngest daughter, and the upper trigram Li is the 2nd daughter. They stay together in one house (i.e. one hexagram) but marry different men; hence their aspirations diverge.

The inner hexagram of Kui is Ji Ji (63), wherein all lines stay in their right place and correlate with one another. This is the aim of hexagram Kui, i.e. to work together for the common good. Its changing hexagram is Jian3 (39), difficulty in proceeding, signifying if all act according to their own wishes, nothing can be achieved.


Text: Kui (alienation), it is auspicious to lessen it (or, it is auspicious to take action on a small scale).

Commentary on the text: Kui (alienation), the flames (of the upper trigram Li) blaze upward, (while the water of) the marsh (of the lower trigram Dui) flows downward; two females live together, but they have different aspirations.  (Kui exhibits its norm in the form of) being joyous (like the internal trigram Dui) and then clinging to brightness (of the external trigram Li); (the one of) tenderness advances and goes upward, (as well as) attains the core (position of the upper trigram) and correlates with (the one of) rigidity, therefore it is auspicious to lessen it (or, it is auspicious to take action on a small scale).  Heaven and earth are Kui (different) but what they engage in is the same; male and female are Kui but their aspirations can reach each other; the whole of creation is Kui but they serve one another.  In the time of Kui to make (appropriate) use of (Kui) is momentous!

Text explanation:

People alienate one another owing to discrepancies; thus it is auspicious to minimize them and reach agreement around common goals or interests; or, it is auspicious to take action on a small scale if one intends to do something in a climate of alienation.

Hexagram Kui forms after the feminine line 2 of hexagram Wu Wang (25) moves upward to position 5 and exchanges positions with line 5; hereafter the upper trigram Li and the lower trigram Dui are created and diverge from each other because of their discrepancies. On the other hand trigram Dui is signified as joy, and trigram Li is brightness (of civilization) and to cling to; the lower trigram Dui joyously clings to the brightness of the upper trigram Li suggesting that discrepancy can be put aside and reconciliation can be reached.



Additionally, hexagram Kui forms due to the fact that a tender feminine ascends and occupies the dominant position at position 5, wherein it is in correlation with the rigid masculine which is replaced by it. It had better eliminate misunderstanding and reach reconciliation. Or, it had better undertake tasks on a small scale.

 Heaven and earth are different but they collaborate in nourishing the life of the world; the male and the female are different but they adore each other, which gives birth to new life. The whole of creation contains different species but they are designated to serve one another. When discrepancy inevitably occurs, to seek a common goal and integrate different talents to achieve what is good for all and what wouldn't be possible otherwise, is momentous.

Commentary on the image: Fire is on top and the marsh at the bottom; Kui.  A gentleman, in accordance with this, develops his diversity based on the common (ground).

Fire and the marsh alienate each other because they behave differently; a gentleman won't deny differences among people but develops his own focus and expertise based on the common good, such as common values, interests, and goals, rather than standing apart.


People become estranged due to discrepancies in their ideals, thoughts, interests, etc; it is auspicious to put differences aside and reach reconciliation. The best approach is to make use of different talents in the attainment of common interests, something that is not possible to achieve alone.

Kui possesses none of the four virtues; thus it is auspicious to undertake a task on a small scale. Its changing hexagram is Jian3 (39), difficulty in proceeding.

Its commentary on the image suggests people developing their expertise from the perspective of dividing work and collaborating on one goal.

According to the commentary on the text tagging (Xi Ci Zhuan), to arch wood and form a bow (of the inner upper trigram Kan) and to cut wood and shape a arrow (of the upper trigram Li) so as to make use of the bow and arrow to deter the world (from division) is hexagram Kui; hence Kui is regarded as a hexagram of armament, and one must be prepared for the peril which will befall the king and nation in the next hexagram Jian4 (39).






Line 5 is the founding line, which originally comes from position 2 of hexagram Wu Wang (25) and forms hexagram Kui. Hereafter the lower trigram Dui and the upper trigram Li are created and become alienated from each other. However, the mission of hexagram Kui is to seek a common goal in order to reach reconciliation and resolve alienation, like the lower trigram Dui joyously clinging to the upper trigram Li.

Although the alienation is not created by line 2, it is involved; therefore it is seeking a way to eliminate it. Line 1 should neither intentionally reduce it but actually deteriorate it by following line 5 (in going upward to the upper trigram) nor ignore it by refusing to deal with line 4 when alienation inevitably occurs. Line 3 is the representative line of hexagram Kui and the lower trigram Dui, it is completely alienated but it persists in approaching the upper trigram Li in order to reach a reconciliation. Line 4 steps onto the upper trigram Li and its desire to eliminate alienation is going to be realised. Line 6 eventually eliminates all misgivings and distrust, and reaches reconciliation.

In the world of Kui, alienation exists everywhere, i.e. between the masculine and feminine lines due to their different essence; and among the masculine lines or feminine lines because of their different positions. However association through correlative relation offers an oppor-tunity to reach reconciliation between the lines which have discrepancies, and between the lower and the upper trigram.


The 1st line

Text: Regret will be gone.  The escaping horse should not be chased (as) it will come back by itself.  (The subject ought) to see an evil man, (which will result in) no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

The escaping horse will shy and run further away if it is chased. The evil person will behave more wickedly and discrepancies will heighten if he is completely repulsed. The horse will come home of its own accord if its bolting is accepted; the evil man will leave if he finds no fellowship. At the beginning of alienation, do not intentionally eliminate it nor intentionally evade dealing with it.

Line 2 of hexagram Wu Wang (25) left for position 5, which causes alienation between the lower trigram Dui and the upper trigram Li. Line 1 remains still instead of running away with the bolting horse which would make it worse. Thanks to no further alienation, regret will be gone once the lonely wanderer returns.

The inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water) is a horse with a beautiful spine; its representative line, line 4, isn't in correlation with line 1, signifying the horse runs beyond the control of line 1. If line 1 changed to feminine, it would be possible for line 1 to chase it. However, should line 1 move to position 4, the horse would disappear.




The inner upper trigram Kan represented by line 4 is a bandit, which will cause calamity; the inner lower trigram Li denotes the eyes and sits between lines 1 and 4, but there is no correlation or association between them; thus this won’t result in calamity.




Commentary on the image: (Line 1 ought) to see an evil man, (by virtue of which) to avert calamity.

To see the evil man instead of avoiding him can minimize his ferocity and preclude his revenge. To pay attention to alienation at the initial stage can avert the calamity caused by it later.

Enlightenment through nine one: accept difference, do not overlook it; it is the first critical moment to stop the expansion of alienation. Do not intentionally eliminate the difference, nor ignore its existence. Regret will be gone like a horse running away but coming back by itself if it isn't chased and scared away. The calamity can be averted if the existence of evil man is not ignored. Should this line change to feminine and not follow the advice, the hexagram would become Wei Ji (64), not completed yet, signifying all previous efforts are in vain.


The 2nd line

Text: (The subject ought) to run across the master in an alley, (which is of) no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

To run across someone means an unintentional and unofficial meeting. The alley is a path which is meandering but can reach the end, and it is not an open place. Line 5, the counterpart, stays at the king’s position; the one below approaching the one above to eliminate alienation must work neither officially nor directly, and not in public.

Kui forms as the feminine line 2 of the original hexagram Wu Wang (25) rises to position 5; after that alienation exists between lines 2 and 5. Line 5 is the tender feminine but at the king’s position; thus line 2 should soften its masculine rigidity in approaching line 5 in order to eliminate the alienation. As both are moderate, this can proceed without calamity.

When line 2 takes action to eliminate the alienation and approaches line 5, the inner lower trigram becomes Gen (keeping still, the mountain) which is the footpath (on the mountain) and here is taken for an alley. The original inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water), peril, is gone as well, which signifies that as long as the alienation can be eliminated properly, there will be no calamity.



Commentary on the image: (Line 2 ought) to run across the master in an alley, (signifying it) doesn’t lose (its) road (i.e. course or norm).

Avenues and alleys are both routes to a destination. The norm of Kui is to put discrepancy aside and reach reconciliation; although it is done indirectly and not in public, it still meets the norm of Kui.

Enlightenment through nine two: make great concessions in order to accommodate the situation. Running across the master in an alley signifies to eliminate alienation indirectly and not in public. As long as reconciliation can be properly achieved, there will be no calamity. If this line changes to feminine and remains still, the hexagram will become Shi He (21), biting through (a barrier in the mouth), signifying that the barrier must be removed; otherwise the reconciliation can't be reached.


The 3rd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) seeing a cart being dragged back, (and) its ox being restrained, (as well as) its driver’s face being tattooed () and nose cut off; (there is) no beginning but an ending.

Text explanation:

Feminine line 3 is in correlation with masculine line 6 and stays between two masculine lines, signifying it is entirely surrounded by masculinity. Even if line 3 intends to eliminate alienation with line 6, there are two other discrepancies that bear upon it.  Although it is very difficult to reach reconciliation before the end of the lower trigram (i.e. the first half of hexagram Kui), line 3 must continue its mission, march toward the upper trigram and last to the end, as there will be a good result at position 6. 

Line 3 is at the position for marching upward, i.e. to associate with line 6 in order to seek common ground and reach a reconciliation; however it is dragged back by masculine line 2 behind it and restrained by masculine line 4 in front of it. In addition line 3 is feminine and feminine tends to remain still. Owing to these obstructions, no alienation can be eliminated for the time being.

The inner trigram Kan (the abyss, water) is the wheel and line 2 drags it.



The upper trigram Li (clinging, fire) denotes a hollow tree with a withered upper body, which here is taken for the headboard (i.e. a cross wood on an ax’s horns for preventing them from hurting people); line 3 is occupied by line 4, like an ox being restrained.



The upper trigram originally is Qian (perseverance, heaven), the head; it becomes a tattooed face after the shaded feminine line occupies position 5. In the meantime the original inner lower trigram Gen (keeping still, the mountain) disappears and Gen is the nose. After hexagram Kui forms, it becomes completely different from the others and is branded as a dissident, like a convict being tattooed and having his nose cut off.




tian is annotated as the punishment of shaving a head but it can also be interpreted as tattooing the face. Tattooing the face, cutting off the nose, amputating a foot, castration and decapitation were five brutal punishments in ancient China. The punishments of tattooing the face and cutting off the nose would mark the criminal for all time as different from ordinary people.

Commentary on the image: (Line 3 is in a state of) the cart being dragged back, (which is due to) the position (where it stays) is inappropriate (to it)(There is) no beginning but an ending, (which is due to) encountering (those of) rigidity.

One tender feminine encounters three rigid masculine. It is not possible to reach a reconciliation which will benefit it. However, alienation can be expected to end when feminine and masculine mate at the end.

Enlightenment through six three: to endure all disgrace and insults in order to accomplish the task. The cart is being dragged back and its ox restrained; the driver’s face is tattooed and his nose is cut off, i.e. it is not possible to make any movement or acquire any recognition since it differs entirely from others. However it must continue seeking common ground in order to achieve reconciliation even though no result is possible at the moment. Should this line give up and change to masculine, the hexagram would appear as Da You (14), abundant posse-ssions, where feminine line 5 (i.e. the one who creates alienation) possesses all masculine lines.


The 4th line

Text: Kui (alienation) is lonely; (the subject is in a state of) running across a true man (元夫); (it ought) to associate by sincerity and trust (or, they capture each other) (), (which is of) sternness and cruelty (but) no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

Masculine line 4 arrives at the upper trigram and occupies a position between two feminine lines; in the midst of alienation it feels alone. Line 1, at the correlation position, is a true man who possesses the same essence (i.e. masculinity) but occupies a different position. Line 4 remains in the middle of the inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water), sincerity and trust, radiating them in dealing with line 1. Even though trigram Kan denotes peril and suspicion as well, it will dissolve the suspicion and gain recognition as long as it can maintain sincerity and trust; then there will be no fault or calamity.

yuan2 of 元夫fu (an adult male) signifies first or primary, as well as great or large; 元夫 here is masculine line 1 and is interpreted as a large and great man, i.e. a true man. In the I Ching is annotated as the spring of goodness, like line 1 which is the only line located at a right position in hexagram Kui.

In addition to sincerity and trust, the character fu2 can also mean “capture” as seen in trigram Kan which shows one masculine line trapped by two feminine lines. The masculine line 4 is alone and unexpectedly meets a true man, i.e. line 1; both are trying to subdue each other (as they are in hostile correlation, confronting each other, and line 4 is mistaken for an evil man as it represents trigram Kan, the bandit).

It is said that Shao Kang 少康 (one of the kings of the Xia dynasty: 2200 to 1760 B.C., who is well known in Chinese history for his restoration story) had been captured by the district chief of his opponent while travelling to the Yu Yu (有虞) tribe to seek shelter. The development was dangerous but in the end, thanks to his sincerity and trust, he succeeded in winning the recognition of the district chief and fled without calamity.

Footnote: Shao Kang's father, Hsiang (), was expelled and killed by rebellious courtiers. At that time, his mother had already conceived him and fortunately fled back to her family tribe where she gave birth to Shao Kang. The rebels tried to locate Shao Kang in order to eradicate the Xia's influence. As a result, after Shao Kang grew up, he fled to the Yu Yu (有虞) tribe and sought asylum. Among the Yu Yu, he married the daughter of the chieftain and received ten square kilometres of land. Thereafter Shao Kang secretly summoned the people still loyal to Xia and gathered five hundred warriors. Day and night, he drilled his troops and prepared to recover Xia. In 2079 B.C. Shao Kang launched his military reprisal and succeeded in defeating the rebels, recovering the throne and re-establishing the Xia dynasty.

Commentary on the image: To associate by sincerity and trust can be freedom from calamity (or fault), (and) aspiration is being carried on.

To be sincere and trustworthy in seeking reconciliation can eliminate alienation. Trigram Kan is aspiration as well; while sincerity and trust are exhibited, the aspiration (of eliminating alienation, or fleeing to Yu Yu in order to recover Xia) will be realized.

Enlightenment through nine four: be sincere and trustworthy, as well as tolerant in order to dissolve alienation and gain recognition. Owing to alienation, one feels alone. One meets a strong but righteous opponent and deals with him through sincerity and trust (or, they capture each other). It is stern and cruel but with no calamity, since its sincerity and trust as well as aspirations are recognised. Should this line change to feminine and lose sincerity and trust, the hexagram would become Sun (41), to diminish (those below to enrich those above), which is seen as loss to those below. Here it is advised to seek a win-win solution.


The 5th line

Text: Regret will be gone; one’s clansman bites the skin; (if one is able) to be bound for (one's clansman, or to go forward to position 6), what calamity (or fault) will there be?

Text explanation:

Line 5 is the host line and also the founding line of hexagram Kui. The masculine line 2 with which it correlates is its clansman, as the original upper trigram from which line 2 comes is Qian (perseverance, heaven), the father, whose lineage represents the clan. Although alienation is created by line 5, line 2 has delivered a message of reconciliation through the alley and will accept it if it is willing to give up its undeserved desire (which changed the hexagram from Wu Wang (25) to Kui) and return like the escaped horse. Regret will vanish and alienation will easily be eliminated, like the clansman (i.e. people belonging to one close-knit community) biting through the skin, so pleasant (like eating meat) and determined (like biting it through sharply). If a correction can be made in a timely fashion, what calamity (or fault) will there be?

The lower trigram Dui is the mouth. After line 5 returns to position 2, the inner lower trigram becomes Gen (keeping still, the mountain) which looks like the skin, and the hexagram changes back to the original Wu Wang, i.e. the status before alienation, wherein the lower trigram Zhen (to move, the thunder) moves and acts in following the norm of Heaven, the upper trigram Qian. Furthermore, the inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water), peril, that which will lead to calamity is gone as well.




Although alienation has occurred, the counterpart has the intent to seek reconciliation with the one who created it, and both follow the principle of moderation (through the route from one middle position to the other); therefore consensus can easily be reached.

Commentary on the image: One’s clansman bites through the skin; (if one is able) to be bound for (one's clansman, or to go forward to position 6) and there will be a celebration.

The masculine line represents brightness signifying no shade and no sadness, which is symbolic of happiness. Once the happiness of an individual is extended to all, it becomes a celebration. After lines 5 and 2 exchange positions, the upper trigram changes back to Qian, a celebration, as it is composed wholly of the masculine lines.

Although Shao Kang succeeded in fleeing arrest at position 4, the rebels intensified their search. Yu Yu was the harbour he sought; however, would Yu Yu take him in, or hand him over to the enemy? His future was vague and unknown. To go forward (to position 6) as suggested since there will be a celebration for the wedding (i.e. the reconciliation between masculine and feminine). 

Enlightenment through six five: don't be afraid, but be moderate in seeking reconciliation. Regret will be gone as the counterpart will pleasantly and sharply eliminate alienation like a clansman biting through the skin. Even though the counterpart is rigid, what calamity (or fault) will there be if a correction is made according to the principle of moderation? When this line is activated and appears as masculine, the hexagram becomes Lu (10), to tread on the tiger's tail, but the tiger won't bite if people act according to etiquette, i.e. the order of a system.


The 6th line

Text: Kui (alienation) is lonely; (the subject is in a state of) seeing a pig with mud painted on its back, (and) a cart fully loaded with ghosts, (as well as) drawing the bow first (but) relaxing it later.  It is not a robbery but a wedding; (it will be of) auspiciousness if one encounters rain while going forward (or, being bound for the discrepancy).

Text explanation:

A pig with mud painted on its back and a cart loaded with ghosts were what Shao Kang (少康) saw the night he arrived at Yu Yu. Understandably he felt alone and had misgivings, wondering whether the people there were friendly or hostile; his fate, whether he would live or die, was unknown. What he had seen were illusions stoked by the suspicion that grew out of mistrust and alienation. He was worried and nervous, as well as vigilant; therefore he drew his bow then put it aside. Fortunately the outcome was auspicious; the chieftain arranged for his daughter to wed him.

Masculine line 6 sits at the top of hexagram Kui, wherein alienation reaches its upper extremity; it is in correlation with feminine line 3 but feels lonely as reconciliation seemingly appears impossible, i.e. line 3 exhibits a completely different appearance from others. Actually this is only a suspicion, or assumption like seeing mud painted on a pig's back, or drawing a bow, ready to shoot an approaching cart loaded with ghosts. The feminine line 3 is friendly and it is auspicious once they mate, since rain will be created after masculine and feminine interact.

The inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water) is a pig; here it is also referred to as a cart loaded with ghosts, as trigram Kan is a wheel the feminine of which in China is annotated as the realm of the dead, i.e. ghosts. Trigram Kan is the bow, while the upper trigram Li is the arrow; the arrow is charged on the bow but hasn't been released yet. Trigram Kan is the bandit as well. All these images exist between lines 6 and 3.




Commentary on the image: The auspiciousness of encountering rain, (signifying) all suspicions are gone.

Once lines 6 and 3 exchange positions and mate, the inner upper trigram Kan, which is signified as worry, disappears, i.e. the rain flushes out all suspicions, and the hexagram becomes Da Zhuang (34), where the great strength is available and wil be guided onto a right track.




Enlightenment through nine six: don't be suspicious but dissolve mistrust and seek recon-ciliation. Alienation reaches its upper limit and one feels alone; one seemingly sees a pig with mud painted on its back, and a cart loaded with ghosts. One draws a bow first and later puts it aside; all suspicion and corresponding acts are due to mistrust. Actually it is not a robbery but a wedding (reconciliation), since the counterpart also intends to eliminate alienation, although he looks different. It will be auspicious if one goes forward and encounters rain, like advancing through hexagram Jian4 (39), difficulty in proceeding, to hexagram Xie (40), alleviation (of the drought by a timely rain), i.e. reconciliation is reached. Should this line change to feminine and disconnect correlation from line 3, the hexagram would become Gui Mei (54), a younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law as the concubine (in order to maintain a firm and long-lasting relationship between two clans), where it is advised that taking aggressive action is ominous (as the concubine must act as her status, prudently and conservatively).





Jia Ren (37, the household, wherein all its members are in a righteous and harmonious state), Kui (38, alienation owing to discrepancy), Jian3 (39, difficulty in processing), and Xie (40, alleviation) have very close inter-relationships.

The reverse hexagram of Jia Ren is Kui. Kui is the changing hexagram of Jian3. Jian3 is the reserved hexagram of Xie, while Xie is the changing hexagram of Jia Ren.



The last line of Jia Ren (37) is the only line that doesn’t stay at its right position in the household; thus alienation of Kui (38) comes next when it remains unchanging. On the other hand, the hexagram will become Ji Ji (63), completion and a perfect state, if it changes (to feminine).

The first line of Kui (38) is the only line that stays at the right position in alienation, thus it is the first critical moment to stop alienation. If it changes, the hexagram will become Wei Ji (64), not completed yet, i.e. all previous efforts are in vain.

Line 1 of Jian3 (39) is a misstep at the beginning of difficulty to proceed as it isn’t at a right position, but the other lines all stay in their right places. Provided it changes, the hexagram will become Ji Ji (63), i.e. a happy ending.

The last line of Xie (40) is the only line that stays at the right position; thus the hexagram ends up in alleviation. If it changes, the hexagram will become Wei Ji (64), not completed yet, i.e. all previous efforts are in vain and a fresh start is required.

The inner hexagram of both Jia Ren (37) and Jian3 (39) is Wei Ji (64), wherein all its lines do not stay at their right positions but correlate with one another, which suggests a latent crisis but also a revival. The inner hexagram of both Kui (38) and Xie (40) is Ji Ji (63), wherein all the lines stays at their right positions and correlate with one another, which signifies that they possess the intent of seeking reconciliation.