51 Zhen4

The lower: Zhen (to move, the thunder). The upper: Zhen (to move, the thunder).

Zhen: the thunder, to move (or to act); to calmly face a challenge unperturbed.






No one can perform better than the eldest son when he takes charge of worshiping with the sacrificial vessel (Ding) at the ceremony; therefore Zhen is granted.  Zhen signifies to move. Trigram Zhen denotes the eldest son, while Ding (the cauldron) is the main ritual vessel for worshiping at the sacrificial ceremony. The one in charge of worshiping with Ding is the eldest son, suggesting succession. After hexagram Ge (49), reform or revolution, and hexagram Ding (50), the symbol of a new regime, hexagram Zhen steps onto the stage of the I Ching and presides at the sacrificial ceremony.

Trigram Zhen is one masculine line beneath two feminine lines, where the masculine tends to move while the feminine remains still; therefore it is quaking and rumbling like thunder. The thunder arouses all beings and inspires them to move; therefore trigram Zhen is signified as to move. Hexagram Zhen is composed of double thundering; it crashes repeatedly enlivening people who feel trepidation as well.

The reverse hexagram of Zhen is Gen (52), to remain still like a mountain. Its inner hexagram Jian3 (39) signifies difficulty in proceeding, and its changing hexagram Xun (57) prostrates itself, exhibiting humility and devotion. Therefore the eldest son moves through terrifying conditions yet must remain calm and composed; he must prepare himself properly as there are many difficulties to overcome. After having undergone all challenges, he will become humble and devout in leading the country.


Text: Zhen, (which deserves) smooth progress.  Zhen (the thunder) comes and frightens people (虩虩), (the eldest son is) laughing and chatting. Ho! Ho!  Zhen (the thunder) rumbles for a hundred miles, (but the eldest son) doesn’t let the ritual spoon or wine fall.

Commentary on the text: Zhen, (which deserves) smooth progress.  Zhen (the thunder) comes and frightens people, (but) fear can bring good fortune.  (The eldest son is) laughing and chatting.  Ho! Ho!  Afterwards, (he is able) to act according to the principle (which has been learned through experiencing the crisis).  Zhen (the thunder) shocks for a hundred miles; far and near, all are startled and fearful.  (The eldest son, who) doesn’t let the ritual spoon or wine fall, (is appointed) to take up the post of protecting the shrine and country, (and) to act as chief worshiper (at the sacrificial ceremony).

Text explanation:

Zhen is the thunder; it inspires all life but also makes people feel fearful (like the rage of Heaven). The one in charge of worshiping remains composed and laughs through the thunder. The thunder is terribly powerful but won’t cause him to panic and drop the ritual spoon and wine during the sacrificial ceremony. xi4 is a gecko; 虩虩 depicts a kind of shock and dread like a gecko dropping its tail and running for its life when threatened.

The thunder makes people fearful, yet fear can bring good fortune when people become alert and transform peril into safety. The thunder suggests a sudden and grave event; people must remain composed when facing a crisis like thunder. The eldest son is the one who assumes the family undertakings. The new leader is assigned to preside over the sacrificial ceremony; he has such self-cultivation that he doesn’t panic when he hears the powerful sound of the thunder spreading for a hundred miles. After having experienced Zhen with composure and calm, he can definitely progress smoothly with the assigned task.

The inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water) is peril, while the inner lower trigram Gen (keeping still, the mountain) signifies composure and calm. The ritual spoon is used to take food from Ding (the cauldron); the ritual spoon and wine are held personally by the chief worshiper to entertain Heaven and the ancestors.

Commentary on the image: Thundering repeatedly; Zhen.  A gentleman in accordance with this, fearfully reflects on himself and then cultivates himself accordingly.

Thunder sounds, one crash after another, which makes the gentleman feel fearful; he reflects on whether he has done anything wrong to anger Heaven. 


It thunders repeatedly and terrifies people; one must face danger (or a challenge) with caution, calmly and unperturbed, i.e. not to panic in the rush of negative developments. One who weathers a crisis merits an assignment on an important mission.

Zhen is the eldest son; the eldest son takes charge of worshipping at the sacrificial ceremony symbolising succession, or recovery of a regime.

The movement of Zhen is also signified as taking action; therefore it possesses the virtue of smooth progress.

People must reflect on themselves when it thunders repeatedly, terrifying them. The changing hexagram is Xun (57), to enter, where its feminine line prostrates itself beneath the masculine lines, signifying that after a person has experienced such terror, he will become humble and modest like Xun.






Except for lines 1 and 4, the representative lines of the lower and the upper trigram, all the lines are fearful of the thunder of hexagram Zhen. The lines must not panic but remain calm; they should be wary rather than scared and perform what is requested of them at each step in order to accomplish their assigned missions.

Line 1 is the representative line of hexagram Zhen, the eldest son, whose mission is to secure legitimacy; position 5 is the king’s position where the sacrificial ceremony takes place. The line, starting from position 1 through to 5, struggles along the timeline to protect its position as the chief worshiper at the sacrificial ceremony.


The 1st line

Text: Zhen (the thunder) comes and frightens people; afterwards (the eldest son is) laughing and chatting.  Ho! Ho!  (This is of) auspiciousness.

Text explanation:

Line 1 is the first line as well as the representative line of hexagram Zhen, the thunder and the eldest son. The thunder starts crashing which frightens people, but the eldest son doesn't panic and remains calm, like facing a sudden and grave change without fear and while considering countermeasures. After he learns how to deal with the crisis calmly without panicking, he is able to meet challenges and can be assigned to an important mission, or appointed to an important post.

Line 1 stays at its right position and acts righteously according to what is demanded; therefore he laughs and chats despite the thunder.

Commentary on the image: Zhen (the thunder) comes and frightens people; fear will bring good fortune.  (The eldest son is) laughing and chatting. Ho! Ho!  Afterwards, (he) acts according to the principle (which has been learned through experiencing the crisis).

Enlightenment through nine one: be prudent and calm in dealing with events, and gain experience. It starts thundering and people feel afraid. If a person responds to fear by being watchful, calmly facing danger and managing the crisis, this will become experience useful in the future; then he will be capable of taking charge of an important mission; this is auspicious. Should this line change to feminine, the hexagram would become Yu (16), to take precautions against calamity, as line 4 wins all the support.


The 2nd line
Text: Zhen
(the thunder) comes and (creates a state of) sternness and cruelty; it is speculated, and calmly accepted, that (a large number of) () the shells are lost; (the eldest son ought) to climb to the top of nine high mountains, (and) not to go in pursuit of (what was lost), (as) it will be retrieved in seven days.
Text explanation

The thunder is booming again and the situation becomes stern and cruel. It is speculated that a great treasure has been lost. However one must face what was lost with equanimity, and bravely keep moving toward to one's goal.

The inner lower trigram Gen denotes the mountain. Mounting to the top of nine high mountains signifies a move upward (to the upper trigram Zhen) nearing the centre of the thunder, i.e. position 5 (the king's position) and suggests that line 2 should move forward and pass through the mountain in order to reach position 5. There all that was lost at position 2 can be recovered once the post at position 5 is secured.



Line 2 stays at its right position and therefore acts righteously, according to what it should. Seven days can be understood as (the lost shell of) feminine line 2 coming back to position 2 after moving forward seven steps and through position 5. Alternatively, ten is one full section and five is half, while seven days indicates a period of time that isn't immediate but will arrive before the end.

If line 2 changed to masculine and failed to act righteously, the inner lower trigram would become Li (clinging, fire) which denotes shellfish. This indicates that the lost treasure would be retrieved but the masculine line 2 would miss the opportunity to accomplish its assigned mission because the hexagram would become Gui Mei (54), wherein a woman marries her brother-in-law becoming his concubine, i.e. a secondary position after the wife. In ancient China the shell was used as a form of currency.



yi4 originally meant peace or stability, i.e. feeling comfortable and maintaining an equilibrium; it later acts as the phonetic loan characters denoting 100,000 (archaic) or 100,000,000 (current) and what one thinks in one’s mind (yi4). It is interpreted here as a large number, as well as speculating and bearing (loss) with equanimity, i.e. in line 2. To bear in mind and maintain one's mission is seen in line 5.

Commentary on the image: Zhen (the thunder) comes and (creates a state of) sternness and cruelty, (which is due to tenderness) riding over rigidity.

Feminine line 2 is affected and in a stern and cruel state as it rides on masculine line 1 (the representative line of the lower trigram Zhen, the thunder). It should climb to the top of nine high mountains represented by masculine line 4, even though it would again represent tenderness riding over rigidity. Nine (high mountains) here signifies the old masculine, i.e. the masculine line 4.

Enlightenment through six two: 1) to persist in following the plan and 2) not to forfeit the large to save the small. It is thundering again and the situation becomes dangerous. One must be brave in face of challenges and calmly accept the loss, even if it is significant. What was lost is worldly possessions which can be recovered if one keeps moving forward and secures the post. Should this line change to masculine and not act righteously, the hexagram would become Gui Mei (54).


The 3rd line

Text: Zhen (the thunder) frightens people into a trance (蘇蘇); Zhen (spurs) action (on), (which will result in) no man-made calamity or fault (or eye ailment) ().

Text explanation:

The thunder continues and seems endless; it terrifies people into a kind of trance. The eldest son should remain conscious and keep moving forward in pursuit of his goal; then he can free himself from the calamity caused by inactivity. su1 means coming back to consciousness; 蘇蘇 depicts the mental state of one just recovering from unconsciousness induced by fright.

Line 3 reaches the upper extremity of the lower trigram Zhen (the thunder); the upper trigram above is another Zhen; it is not a place suitable for staying. However feminine line 3 tends to remain still as if it is scared in a kind of trance. Provided it can move as Zhen (i.e. to move and the eldest son) and exchange positions with line 4, the upcoming peril of the inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water) will disappear. Peril will lead to calamity which is a self-made one because of its staying still. Even though the inner lower trigram still appears in the form of Kan after exchanging positions, the inner upper trigram becomes Zhen (to move), and the upper trigram Kun (submission, earth) which represents the plains. As a result, it can leave peril.


The original meaning of sheng3 (man-made calamity) is an eye ailment, i.e. the eye is covered with an unhealthy film which leads to blurred vision and mistakes. After line 3 exchanges positions with line 4, the lower trigram becomes Li (clinging, fire) denoting the eyes, for which all the lines are at their right positions, signifying the eye is in good condition, and the fault can be avoided.

Commentary on the image: Zhen (the thunder) frightens people into a trance, (as) the position (where it stays) is inappropriate (to it).

Feminine line 3 remains still at the position for masculine and for marching upward, like losing consciousness becoming inactive and missing an opportune moment.

Enlightenment through six three: 1) to be brave and invincible, and 2) to act according to what one has been requested to do but in a less aggressive way. The thunder terrifies people into a kind of trance. One must remain conscious and bravely move forward; this will free one from self-made calamity (i.e. resigning oneself to failure at a mid-point). The hexagram that forms after this line is activated and changes to masculine is Feng (55), a grand and abundant state. Here it moves toward its target in a less aggressive way to avoid being pushed down by those above.


The 4th line

Text: Zhen (to move) is bogged down in the mud.

Text explanation:

Zhen is signified as to move and is designated to move; however moving in the mud will cause it to be trapped even further.

Position 4 is a place of rest and feminine. The masculine tends to move and line 4 represents the upper trigram Zhen, to move, signifying that it doesn't act righteously according to its place at position 4; therefore it is bogged down when it recklessly moves in the mud.

The inner upper trigram Kan (water) here looks like water pouring onto the earth (of an enlarged trigram Kun) therefore making it mud.



Commentary on the image: Zhen (to move) is bogged down in the mud, (as it) can't radiate brightness yet.

Line 4 is approaching the core position; the target is at hand but it encounters another wave of thunder (of the upper trigram Zhen). The shock of terror is greater than the first round of thunder. Here it is ridden over by feminine line 5 and surrounded by four feminine lines, like being restrained by villains, like being plunged into the mud; its masculine brightness is shed but unable to radiate.

Enlightenment through nine four: 1) remember it is darkest before dawn, and 2) to stay put and work out a solution. While moving in the mud, one gets bogged down; one faces a dilemma as further movement will cause one to sink even deeper. The situation seems hopeless. However, if this line can remain still like feminine, the hexagram will become Fu (24), the recovery of masculinity, where masculine will grow stronger gradually (along the timeline) with more masculine lines joining it.


The 5th line

Text: Zhen (the thunder) is moving back and forth (which causes a state of) sternness and cruelty; (the eldest son ought) to keep in mind () that his mission (of maintaining the post in charge of the sacrificial ceremony) shouldn’t be lost.

Text explanation:

It is thundering repeatedly and heavily; severe challenges come one after another. The situation is sterner and crueller than at position 2, signifying not merely the loss of a treasure but loss of legitimacy. What must be taken into account is how to secure one's position as chief worshiper at the sacrificial ceremony.

Feminine line 5 is at the centre of the upper trigram Zhen and rides on masculine line 4, the representative line of the upper trigram Zhen. Therefore the thunder sounds everywhere, like conflicts for power occurring everywhere. Position 5 is the king’s position where the sacrificial ceremony takes place; however the feminine isn't suited to this position and it sits at the top of the inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water), peril. Thus line 5 must uphold its legitimacy and remain at the core position, as well as act moderately (i.e. in a neither inflexible nor compromising manner) and calmly preside over the sacrificial ceremony.

Commentary on the image: Zhen (the thunder) is moving back and forth (which creates a state of) sternness and cruelty, (signifying it is) an act in peril.  The one takes charge (of the sacrificial ceremony) staying at the core position (or, the middle position of the upper trigram where the principle of moderation is available); ensuring against loss (of legitimacy) is very important.

The thunder is crashing everywhere; moving back and forth below the thunder is somewhat risky. However, to secure the position of the chief worshiper is more important to one who possesses legitimacy and occupies the core position.

Enlightenment through six five: 1) to secure what one is entitled to, or 2) nothing ventured, nothing gained. It is thundering back and forth; the situation becomes extremely dangerous. The eldest son must act with the principle of moderation, remaining at the core position and always bearing in mind that the position of legitimacy must not be lost. The hexagram that appears while this line is activated changing to masculine is Sui (17), to follow, where one will progress greatly and smoothly if one can perform in accordance with the occasion.


The 6th line
: Zhen (the thunder) makes people flinch (索索), (and) look around uneasily (矍矍); it is ominous to undertake a venture.  Zhen (the thunder) doesn’t strike one’s own body (but) that of a neighbour, (which is of) no calamity (or fault).  A wedding elicits criticism.

Text explanation:

The thunder continues and reaches its extremity, which makes a person flinch and look fearful. It is ominous for him to take aggressive action when he is scared and timid. The force of thunder (in the form of lightning) didn’t strike him but his neighbour, signifying that the thunder is quite close, warning him to stay away; this can free him from calamity. suo3 signifies a twisted rope, and 索索 depicts that people hug one another, twist and shrink from fear. jue2 signifies to look left and right repeatedly in fright.

On the other hand, feminine line 6 that has passed the moment of regime change at position 5 should remain still, i.e. stay righteously at its position and not take any aggressive action. To ignore this and seek alliance (i.e. to get involved in conflict for power and rule) will be criticised, i.e. if line 6 intended to marry (to ally with) line 3, it would have to change to masculine, and the hexagram would become Shi He (21). Then if it were to go down to position 5 and exchange positions with line 5, the upper trigram would become Dui (the marsh, to speak) which here can be referred to as criticism, and it would stay beneath its representative line and be ridden over by it.


Commentary on the image: Zhen (the thunder) makes people flinch, (which is due to the fact that line 6) doesn't acquire the core position (or the principle of moderation, i.e. neither inflexible nor compromising).  Though it is ominous, there is no calamity (or fault), (which is due to) being afraid of (what has happened to) the neighbour and abstaining from (doing the same).

Line 6 should remain still like a feminine line (rather than moving back and forth below the thunder, like line 5 fighting left and right for the right of succession at the power centre). It should wait for the end of hexagram Zhen and the arrival of the next hexagram Gen, keeping still (52), where it can learn how to restrain its thoughts from straying beyond its position, as the force of the thunder had stricken line 5 and the regime was already awarded to it.
Enlightenment through six six: 1) the right moment has passed, and 2) be worldly wise and play it safe. The thunder reaches its extremity causing people to feel afraid and timid; the force of the thunder has stricken one’s neighbour with a warning. It is ominous to take aggressive action and there will be no calamity if one can refrain from moving under the thunder. One will be criticised if one seeks an alliance for a conflict over the right of succession because one’s neighbour has already been awarded the regime. Should this line not abide by the advice and change to masculine, terrible strife would take place while hexagram Shi He (21), biting through, appears.