47 Kun4

The lower: Kan (the abyss, water). The upper: Dui (joy, the marsh).

Kun4: to be besieged; the task of hexagram Kun4 is to extricate people from adversity.






Ceaseless rising (Sheng) will definitely lead to ‘being besieged’; therefore Kun4 is granted. Unchecked rising will lead to ‘being exhausted’, and one will be besieged after being exhausted.

The Chinese character kun4 depicts wood () surrounded by a square, boxed in, signifying being besieged (in great difficulty). The lower trigram Kan is water, while the upper trigram is a marsh. Water below a marsh signifies that the water of the marsh is leaking out and the marsh will become dry, which would be a state of the marsh being depleted and the plants around it stripped of sustenance. The masculine line of the lower trigram Kan is trapped between two feminine lines, and the two masculine lines of the upper trigram Dui are ridden by a feminine line; therefore the masculine is besieged and oppressed by the feminine.                           

The inner hexagram of Kun4 is Jia Ren (37), the household. It faces difficulties but is still optimistic due to the care and support of the family. Its changing hexagram is Bi4 (22), to grace. The original purpose of Bi4 is to trim the edge (of the penal code) and lubricate the surface in order to progress smoothly. However, too much grace will cause the essence to be besieged.

The preceding hexagram Sheng (46) describes the phenomenon of a germinated seed exerting itself, sprouting through earth and growing upward. Kun4 is a tree, boxed in and besieged, as the marsh running dry. The next hexagram is Jing (48), the well, signifying to drill a well to water the tree when the marsh is dry.


Text: Kun4 (to be besieged), (one must maintain) smooth progress.  Persistence, (which will bring) the great lord auspiciousness, (and) no calamity.  Whatever is said won’t be believed.

Commentary on the text: Kun4 (to be besieged); (the one of) rigidity (i.e. the masculine line) is shaded.  (Hexagram Kun4 exhibits its norm in the form of) peril (as being plunged into the lower trigram Kan) with joy (of the external trigram Dui), (and) being besieged but not losing what will allow for smooth progress, it must be (the behaviour of) a gentleman.  Persistence (in the norm of hexagram Kun4 will bring) the great lord auspiciousness, (as the one of) rigidity (i.e. lines 5) is the axle centre.  Whatever is said won’t be believed, (as) an inclination to argue or plead leads to exhaustion.

Text explanation:

The internal trigram Kan is peril, while the external trigram Dui is joy. A person must remain alert internally but optimistic externally when facing adversity. He must act in such a way that progress will be smooth. Line 5 is a rigid axle centre, i.e. strong and firm, as well as righteous and moderate, like a great lord who maintains his position and faith when facing difficulties; it is auspicious for him. The great lord can be seen as King Wen of Zhou. When he was imprisoned at You Li (羑里), he maintained his integrity, and kept his spirits up to endure his adversity and grow stronger by it.

The internal trigram Kan also denotes sincerity and trust, and the external trigram Dui is to speak. Though it has a sincere and trustworthy interior, what is said won’t be believed. Because the masculine is besieged by the feminine, i.e. the villain, it is better to remain silent. In the time of Kun4, leaving adversity must count on action.

The Confucian aspects of Kun4 can be understood from his comments in Xi Ci Zhuan (the commentary on the text tagging). Kun4 allows one to exhibit one’s virtue; one needs to learn how to reduce complaints and rancour while undergoing Kun4. One must exert oneself in order to breakthrough a predicament, then one will proceed more freely after Kun4.

Commentary on the image: No water in the marsh; Kun4. The gentleman, in accordance with this, stakes his life to achieve his ends.

The marsh is drying up; all life around it is about to perish. The gentleman submits to the inevitable end of physical life and inspires himself to realize his aspirations.


In the time of being besieged, one should remain alert but optimistic. Smooth progress and persistence are the virtues that Kun4 possesses. It is auspicious for the person who has integrity, fortitude and a sense of moderation to maintain his ground and aspirations. To persist will lead to smooth progress. It is better to take a pragmatic approach; it is useless to argue with, or try to convince, others; what is said won’t be believed and will only make things worse.

Its commentary on the image suggests persisting vigorously and stubbornly in what is engaged in to the last.

The changing hexagram is Bi4 (22), to grace, i.e. to apply lubricant on a surface for smoother progress.

Hexagram Kun4 emphasises the need for patience, waiting for the right time, while its lines exhibit appropriate action, at the right time, when facing difficulties.






In the era of hexagram Kun4, all lines are besieged. The feminine line here represents ordinary people as it inhabits wild places with deep valleys, rocks and puncture vines, as well as thick kudzu vines. The masculine line is a gentleman at the Court. Ordinary people are usually besieged by trouble in their daily lives, i.e. family quarrels and a lack of living essentials, money and regard. However, a gentleman is besieged because he can't carry out his aspirations. The lower trigram Kan, peril, is where Kun4 takes place as it is the cause of trouble. Line 1 is plunged into adversity from the very beginning due to the exhaustion from its ceaseless rising in the last hexagram, Sheng (46). Line 2 is still far from the end of Kun4; therefore it shouldn't take any aggressive action. The upper trigram Dui, joy, is symbolic of optimism. All its lines can be released from their difficulties if the correct actions are taken. Line 6 reaches the end of hexagram Kun4, so aggressive action must be taken based on the experiences it has undergone.

As to its form, Kun4 is created after the top line of trigram Qian (perseverance, heaven) descends to the middle position of trigram Kun1 (submissiveness, earth), and the middle line of Kun1 ascends to the top position of Qian, which causes all the masculine lines being shaded.


The 1st line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) the hip being besieged (Kun4) at a bare tree, entering into a deep valley, (and) not being seen for three years.

Text explanation:

 A person has neither the solution to his on-going predicament, nor hope for the future. He is plunged into adversity and can't get out, so he hides himself. This will last for quite awhile.

Line 1 stays at the bottom of the hexagram, like a hip pressed hopelessly into the ground. The inner lower trigram Li (clinging, fire) is a hollow and withering tree. Line 1 sits under the bare tree, i.e. with no shelter. The lower trigram Kan is the abyss, which here is referred to as the deep valley, while the inner lower trigram Li, the eyes, can't cover it. Therefore it enters into the deep valley and won’t be seen for awhile.




The figure from one to ten is one unit; five is half and three precedes half. Three years constitutes a period of time that is not very long but not short either. Alternatively, three years can be understood as the time it will be besieged until the line rises by three steps to reach the upper trigram Dui.

Commentary on the image: (Line 1 is in a state of) entering into a deep valley, (which leads to) obscurity rather than clarity. 

The deep valley is obscure and not clear, like the future. Line 1 is the feminine in the first phase of hexagram Kun4, i.e. it doesn't know how to tackle its difficulties and doesn't have enough energy to extricate itself. Even though it is in correlation with line 4, no hand up can be offered since line 4 is besieged as well and will come to it for evading peril (see line 4); therefore it is unable to get out once it falls into the deep valley.

Enlightenment through six one: be patient in undergoing what is happening. The hip is besieged at a bare tree signifying that one has no solution, no support, and therefore no hope. Entering into a deep valley and not being seen for three years means that one will be in exile for quite awhile. The hexagram that appears while this line is activated is Dui (58), joy, which suggests remaining firm internally and optimistic externally. This is possibly the advice of enduring difficult circumstances as this is just the beginning of hexagram Kun4.


The 2nd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Kun4 (being besieged) amidst food and drink, the bright red kneecap has just come; it is advantageous (or appropriate) to undertake the preparation of sacrifices for a ceremony (亨祀); it is ominous to undertake a venture; (there will be) no calamity (or fault).

Text explanation:

Enjoyment in the midst of adversity is physically ideal since one doesn’t lack food or drink. However, mentally, one is besieged because one's aspirations cannot be carried out, and one is also exhausted by endless banquets and entertainment. A new job has just been assigned, but it is not yet the right time to realise one's aspirations. For the time being, it is appropriate to demonstrate one’s sincerity and trust by preparing sacrifices for a ceremony and wait for the good fortune that will ensue from this (at position 5). It is ominous to take aggressive action; one will be free from calamity if one can act accordingly.

The bright red kneecap refers to the noble attire of the king, and what a courtier sees when he kneels in front of the king to receive an offer. Line 2 is that which originally came from position 6 of hexagram Pi (12), the shrine's position. Here it is taken for an assignment coming from the country, which has been just conferred.



However, line 2 doesn’t stay at a position appropriate to it and has no correlation with line 5, the king, signifying that it isn't correctly posted and will have no access to the king.

Although line 2 can't carry out its aspirations, it doesn’t want for food or drink as inner trigram Xun (to enter, the wind) is wood and the inner lower trigram Li is fire. Wood enters into fire signifying preparation for cooking.


Line 2 should exhibit the sincerity and trust of the lower trigram Kan while preparing sacrifices for a ceremony. When line 5, the king, presides over the sacrificial ceremony, it will be recognized. For the time being, it shouldn't take any aggressive action.

of heng (to progress smoothly) si4 (to offer sacrifices to Heaven or ancestors) can be taken for both xiang3 (to offer) or peng (to cook). Here it is better understood as peng (to cook). 亨祀 means to prepare sacrifices for a ceremony, i.e. to convert food and drink (which it enjoys) into sacrifices that can be used at a ceremony.

Commentary on the image: (Line 2 is in a state of) Kun4 (being besieged) amidst food and drink, (but) the axle centre deserves a celebration.

The bright masculine denotes the happiness of an individual, while a celebration stands for a group of people being happy together. The day will come when line 2 is recognised, and moves to position 5 where the king presides over a ceremony (see line 5). There will be a celebration because all the lines of the upper trigram will change to masculine and elude the menace of feminine.

Enlightenment through nine two: to prepare oneself and wait for the right time. When this line is triggered to move (toward femininity transforming along the way), it signifies being busy for life and exhausted by meaningless social obligations. A new job has just been offered, but it is not yet the right time to realise one's aspirations. It is advantageous or appropriate to exhibit sincerity and trust by preparing a way to express oneself, and obtain recognition. There will be no fault or calamity if one acts accordingly, but it is ominous to take aggressive action. The hexagram that appears while this line is activated, changing to feminine and correlating with line 5, is Cui (45), to gather together, where those below join in those above when called.


The 3rd line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Kun4 (being besieged) amidst rocks, and crouching on puncture vines.  While entering the house, (it is) unable to see (its) wife; (this is) an ominous omen.

Text explanation:

In grave difficulties, one has no way out. He suffers extensive setbacks yet no support at home. He is completely besieged internally and externally.

Feminine line 3 arrives at the upper extremity of the lower trigram Kan, peril, and the position to leave it; however, it has no access to position 6 and feminine tends to remain still; therefore it is besieged.

Masculine lines 4 and 5 are rigid like rocks in front. Masculine line 2 is the representative line of the lower trigram Kan which is a rigid tree covered with thorns and here is referred to as the puncture vine; feminine line 3 rides on line 2 like crouching on puncture vines.



He comes home (after leaving the rocks and puncture vines in the deep valley of position 1) but finds that his wife has left him, as the upper trigram Dui, the wife, stays externally. One in hexagram Kun4 must remain optimistic, which is possible through the care and support of its internal hexagram Jia Ren (37), the household; to lose inner inspiration is ominous.

Confucius’s remarks in Xi Ci Zhuan (the commentary on text tagging): To be besieged by that which should not besiege one; one's name is definitely ruined; to occupy (i.e. to crouch on) that which should not be occupied, one is definitely in peril. (While one is in a state of) humiliation and peril, death is near; how could one see one's wife?

Commentary on the image: (Line 3 is in a state of) crouching on puncture vines, (signifying) riding on (the one of) rigidity.  While entering the house, (it is) unable to see the wife, (which is) a sign of misfortune.

Enlightenment through six three: Rash advance (from position 2 to 3) leads to a disaster. Being besieged amidst rocks and crouching on puncture vines signifies that a person is suffering external torture and anguish. When returning home, he can't see his wife, signifying that he has been betrayed by his family. This is ominous. Even if this line changes to masculine, the hexagram will become Da Guo (28), a bent ridgepole. This signifies that adversity always follows no matter what is done.


The 4th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) coming slowly and slowly, (and) Kun4 (being besieged) on a gold carriage, (which is of) resentment, (but) there will be an ending.

Text explanation:

In ancient times, carriages were reserved for the nobility; those riding in a gold carriage must occupy a very high position. One is besieged at a high-ranking post signifying that one who ascends to great heights falls hard. However the predicament can be resolved through slow retreat.

Masculine line 4 stays at the courtier’s position which is a place designated for feminine. As a result it is a rigid masculine serving the king (line 5) of rigid masculine. This signifies difficulty in getting along; therefore its aspirations can't be carried out. As it is in correlation with line 1, it can step down to position 1, a place for masculine.

The lower trigram Kan here is taken for a gold carriage, as it forms after a masculine line of trigram Qian (perseverance, heaven) occupies the middle position of the original trigram Kun1 (submissiveness, earth), a cart, and Qian is gold. Therefore it takes a gold carriage moving to position 1. The process is slow and it must be slow, as it evades serving the king and the way along trigram Kan is perilous. This is resented, as it is leaving a high-ranking post and experiences peril when retreating; however this will end if it reaches its destination at position 1.


After line 4 succeeds in reaching position 1, the lower trigram Kan disappears and becomes Dui, and the upper trigram changes to Kan, peril and the gold carriage.



Commentary on the image: (Line 4 is in a state of) coming slowly and slowly; (its) aspiration is (to be with those) below; although (it is) not a position in power, there are companions.

Coming signifies to move backward along the timeline. Those below, and the companions, are line 1.

Enlightenment through nine four: to retreat in order to get out of adversity. Most of the time advancing depends on opportunity, while retreat calls for wisdom. When retreating, one is besieged on a gold carriage, i.e. a high-ranking position but perilous, which moves very slowly and must be slow. Although this is resented, there will come an end, and one will find one's place and companions. If this line changes to feminine, remaining still yet sustaining line 5, the hexagram will become Repeated Kan (29), multiple peril. Here it is advised to win acceptance from line 5 and leave peril together.


The 5th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) cutting off the nose and amputating the feet, (and) Kun4 (being besieged) at the red kneecap; (it is able) to gain release () through slow action; it is advantageous (or appropriate) to undertake a sacrificial ceremony.

Text explanation:

Cutting off nose and amputating feet were two punishments from the ancient penal code. They can eliminate a person's capacity for action, and opportunity to see others for aid.

Line 5 at the king’s position was in correlation with the original line 2, the representative line of trigram Kun1 (submissiveness, earth), the people. But trigram Kun1 disappears after hexagram Kun4 forms. Then it encounters masculine line 4, the courtier, which is unfriendly next to it. This is like a king who is restricted by his powerful courtier to the extent that he is unable to reach his people and carry out his aspirations. It is appropriate or advantageous to undertake a sacrificial ceremony to declare his legitimacy and express his will. The means for gaining release must proceed calmly and slowly, in the way that line 4 will retreat by itself once it realises that it can’t carry out what is intended.  At that point he can avoid adversity.

If line 4 were feminine, the inner upper trigram would be Gen (keeping still, the mountain) which represents the nose, and the inner lower trigram would be Zhen (to move, the thunder) which represents the feet. In actuality, line 4 is masculine; because of that, the nose is cut off and the feet are amputated. This signifies that due to line 4’s existence, severe punishments scare the people away and separate the king from his people. The red kneecap is the noble attire of the courtier, by whom line 5 is besieged.




If line 5 goes to position 6, the place of the shrine, to undertake a sacrificial ceremony, the feminine line 5 will ride over line 4 as well as correlate with line 2, signifying that it gets support from those below and the threat from line 4 is suppressed.



dui3, the Chinese name of trigram Dui, is annotated as (shuo: to speak, or shui4: to persuade, or yue4: to please, or tuo: to escape); tuo here is signified as freeing oneself.

Commentary on the image: (Line 5 is in a state of) cutting off the nose and amputating the feet, (signifying) aspiration cannot be carried out.  (It is able) to gain release through slow action, (and) by virtue of (the principle of) moderation and straightforwardness.  It is advantageous (or appropriate) to undertake a sacrificial ceremony (in order to) be blessed with good fortune.

After line 5 goes to the shrine at position 6, the upper trigram becomes Li (clinging, fire), denoting the arrow which is sharp and straight. Line 5 represents it and occupies the axle centre; thus, the great difficulty is resolved through straightforwardness (i.e. no concession) and the principle of moderation (neither overbearing nor servile). In the meantime, the inner upper trigram becomes Kan, aspiration, i.e. the aspiration appears and is realized.



According to the commentary on the hexagram text, line 5 is the great lord, strong and firm, as well as righteous and moderate, who maintains his integrity with faith and optimism while enduring adversity. Above shows how he takes advantage of undertaking a sacrificial ceremony to resolve the crisis.

Enlightenment through nine five: to repel opposition resolutely, albeit in a moderate way. Cutting off the nose and amputating the feet will deprive one of the ability to act and seek aid. Being besieged by the red kneecap signifies that one is restricted by a dignitary with power and influence. To preside over a sacrificial ceremony means to exhibit one’s legitimacy and will. One can gain release slowly through moderation with no concessions. After this line is activated and changes to feminine, the hexagram becomes Xie (40), delivery from crisis.


The 6th line

Text: (The subject is in a state of) Kun4 (being besieged) in kudzu vines (i.e. creeping vines), (and) unsteady with fear; (line 6 is) saying: ‘the move causes regret which has (me) repent’; to undertake a venture is auspicious.

Text explanation:

The situation is like untangling a knotted net and becoming entangled in the process; however, there is no opportunity to escape the dangerous circumstance without undergoing trials.

Line 6 reaches the end and upper extremity of hexagram Kun4. Seemingly it will soon be released from its adversity. However, it is in fact entangled in creeping vines and is floundering in fear. Its move causes regret and it repents, signifying that it reflects over what has been done wrong and will take corrective action. This will lead to a breakthrough as true reflection facilitates collection of experiences in dealing with trouble.

The inner upper trigram Xun (to enter, the wind), behind line 6, represents wood which here is taken for the creeping vines. Seemingly there is no way to leave here as it reaches the end. If it tries to retreat by changing to masculine and exchanging positions with line 3, the lower trigram will appear in the form of Xun, and it will fall into the creeping vines and be trapped in another crisis of hexagram Da Guo (28), a bent ridgepole.




As long as it can admit that retreat is not what it should do, and make correction by moving forward (i.e. following the sequence); it can leave hexagram Kun4 and get out of the adversity, as the next hexagram is Jing (48), where a well is available and the plants around the dried marsh can be watered. Therefore it is auspicious to take aggressive action after one knows what is right to do.

Commentary on the image: (Line 6 is in a state of) Kun4 (being besieged) in kudzu vines (i.e. the creeping vines), (what has been done is) not appropriate; the move causes regret which makes (it) repent; it is auspicious to act (according to what is correct to do, instead of remaining still like feminine behaving).

Enlightenment through six six: to reflect over what has been done wrong and take corrective action, and then to move ahead bravely. By blocking sunlight the thick kudzu vines can kill the tree that they creep. Therefore one is being approached by them and going to be overwhelmed. While struggling to find a way out, one must constantly review what causes failure. Then it is auspicious to bravely face difficulties and advance with correct actions. When this line changes to masculine, the hexagram appears as Song (6), litigation, and it will be deprived of all its power (as whatever it says won’t be believed). This suggests that one must count on action, i.e. repeated trials and reflection, to leave adversity.