20. Kuan / Contemplation (View)

A slight variation of tonal stress gives the Chinese name for this hexagram a
double meaning. It means both contemplating and being seen, in the sense
of being an example. These ideas are suggested by the fact that the hexagram
can be understood as picturing a type of tower characteristic of ancient China.

A tower of this kind commanded a wide view of the country; at the same
time, when situated on a mountain, it became a landmark that could be seen
for miles around. Thus the hexagram shows a ruler who contemplates the
law of heaven above him and the ways of the people below, and who, by
means of good government, sets a lofty example to the masses.

This hexagram is linked with the eight month (September-October). The
light-giving power retreats and the dark power is again on the increase.
However, this aspect is not material in the interpretation of the hexagram as a


CONTEMPLATION. The ablution has been made,
But not yet the offering.
Full of trust they look up to him.

The sacrificial ritual in China began with an ablution and a libation by which
the Deity was invoked, after which the sacrifice was offered. The moment of
time between these two ceremonies is the most sacred of all, the moment of
deepest inner concentration. If piety is sincere and expressive of real faith, the
contemplation of it has a transforming awe-spiring effect on those who
witness it.

Thus also in nature a holy seriousness is to be seen in the fact that natural
occurrences are uniformly subject to law. Contemplation of the divine
meaning underlying the workings of the universe gives to the man who is
called upon to influence others the means of producing like effects. This
requires that power of inner concentration which religious contemplation
develops in great men strong in faith. It enables them to apprehend the
mysterious and divine laws of life, and by means of profoundest inner
concentration they give expression to these laws in their own persons. Thus
a hidden spiritual power emanates from them, influencing and dominating
others without their being aware of how it happens.


The wind blows over the earth:
Thus the kings of old visited the regions of the world,
Contemplated the people,
And gave them instruction.

When the wind blows over the earth it goes far and wide, and the grass must
bend to its power. These two occurrences find confirmation in the hexagram.
The two images are used to symbolize a practice of the kings of old; in making
regular journeys the ruler could, in the first place, survey his realm and make
certain that none of the existing usages of the people escaped notice; in the
second, he could exert influence through which such customs as were
unsuitable could be changed.

All of this points to the power possessed by a superior personality. On the
one hand, such a man will have a view of the real sentiments of the great
mass of humanity and therefore cannot be deceived; on the other, he will
impress the people so profoundly, by his mere existence and by the impact of
his personality, that they will be swayed by him as the grass by the wind.


Six at the beginning means:
Boy like contemplation.
For an inferior man, no blame.
For a superior man, humiliation.

This means contemplation from a distance, without comprehension. A man
of influence is at hand, but his influence is not understood by the common
people. This matters little in the case of the masses, for they benefit by the
actions of the ruling sage whether they understand them or not. But for a
superior man it is a disgrace. He must not content himself with a shallow,
thoughtless view of prevailing forces; he must contemplate them as a
connected whole and try to understand them.

Six in the second place means:
Contemplation through the crack of the door.
Furthering for the perseverance of a woman.

Through the crack of the door one has a limited outlook; one looks outward
from within. Contemplation is subjectively limited. One tends to relate
everything to oneself and cannot put oneself in another’s place and
understand his motives. This is appropriate for a good housewife. It is not
necessary for her to be conversant with the affairs of the world. But for a man
who must take active part in public life, such a narrow, egotistic way of
contemplating things is of course harmful.

Six in the third place means:
Contemplation of my life
Decides the choice
Between advance and retreat.

This is the place of transition. We no longer look outward to receive pictures
that are more or less limited and confused, but direct out contemplation upon
ourselves in order to find a guideline for our decisions. This self-
contemplation means the overcoming of naive egotism in the person who
sees everything solely from his own standpoint. He begins to reflect and in
this way acquires objectivity. However, self-knowledge does not mean
preoccupation with one’s own thoughts; rather, it means concern about the
effects one creates. It is only the effects our lives produce that give us the
right to judge whether what we have done means progress or regression.

Six in the fourth place means:
Contemplation of the light of the kingdom.
It furthers one to exert influence as the guest of a king.

This describes a man who understands the secrets by which a kingdom can be
made to flourish. Such a man must be given an authoritative position, in
which he can exert influence. He should be, so to speak, a guest-that is, he
should be honored and act independently, and should not be used as a tool.

Nine in the fifth place means:
Contemplation of my life.
The superior man is without blame.

A man in an authoritative position to whom others look up must always be ready for
self-examination. The right sort of self-examination, however, consists not in idle
brooding over oneself but in examining the effects one produces. Only when these
effects are good, and when one’s influence on others is good, will the contemplation
of one’s own life bring the satisfaction of knowing oneself to be free of mistakes.

Nine at the top means:
Contemplation of his life.
The superior man is without blame.

While the preceding line represents a man who contemplates himself, here
in the highest place everything that is personal, related to the ego, is excluded.
The picture is that of a sage who stands outside the affairs of the world.
Liberated from his ego, he contemplates the laws of life and so realizes that
knowing how to become free of blame is the highest good.