Tiger Leaps the Abyss

Of our recent explorations of the Bagua and the Book of Changes there is one Trigram which is most significant to A Tiger’s Tale; number 6 Kan.

Kan has one YANG line at the center between two YIN lines. We can say that the intention, desire and focus are build strongly inside, so although water moves constantly but it doesn’t mean easily pushed over by surrounding against what has been its principle.

The Water represents the power to move and flow constantly to reactive the life-force, restore balance and can adapt well into any situation. Water has strong persistence that moves constantly; no result in short time— one drop of water can drill a hole in a rock — if you heard about this before. Constant force can achieve same result like a powerful instantaneous force.

When talking about Feng Shui ( WInd & Water 風水: a topic for another post) we can consider its direction points north. Within the Bagua’s 5 Element system Trigram 6 is Water ( conceptually different than the water which comprises shuǐ 水). The trigram represents the abysmal, the gorge, since that’s where the water naturally travels. The nature of water is to flow to the lowest place, as is pointed out in Chinese philosophy. Used in divination or horoscopes it represents a household’s second or middle son. This trigram personifies the sailor, wanderer, entrepreneur or negotiator. This Trigram marks personalities noted both for knowledge, wisdom and prosperity as well as difficulty, envy and recklessness.

The difference between what this trigram represents and its neighbor, the Lake, (兌 duì) is subtle. Shouldn’t the lake, with its depth, be more abysmal than water? But the lake is usually experienced by its surface, not its depth, whereas water always insists on flowing downwards, seemingly forever. Water is heading for the abyss. The lines also imply this characteristic of water. A Yang (heavenly) line surrounded by Yin (earthly) lines. Water is earthbound, but moves of its own will, in spite of this captivity. It strives to go underground, but still it is stopped by ground, eventually — though that can be very deep down. The Chinese character for the trigram (above to the right) means pit, hole or trap, expressions of the downward movement of water. It also means crisis, probably from the threat of something in nature behaving in its own mysterious way, moving towards regions out of our control.

Kan: Prince of Tigers

Hexagram 29 is also named Kan (坎 kǎn)

䷜”Gorge”. Other variations include “the abyss” (in the oceanographic sense) and “repeated entrapment”. Its inner (lower) trigram is ☵ (坎 kǎn) gorge = (水) water, and its outer (upper) trigram is identical. Surprisingly, it is known for Mastering Pitfalls.

In mastering pitfalls there is truthfulness; thus the mind develops. There is excellence in practice.

Above is Water ☵, dangerous, and below is also Water ☵ dangerous; going from one danger to another, yet able to get through successfully in spite of danger, it is therefore called mastering pitfalls.

This hexagram represents the presence of white within black, restoring yang within yin; it follows on the previous hexagram nourishment. Nourishment means seeking fulfillment by emptiness, seeking the true yang that has fallen in a pit. In human beings, after heaven and earth interact, the one point of original yang runs to the palace of earth ☷; earth is filled in and becomes water ☵, and heaven ☷ changes into fire ☲. At this point yin traps the yang; the celestial root is obscured the mind gets involved with things. Though near to reality by nature, people become estranged from it by habit — descending lower and lower by daily repetition of habit, they fall into a state of ignorant obstinacy and do not know how to stop.

However, if one practices evil one becomes evil; if one practices good one becomes good — it is simply a matter of how people habitually act. Practice of evil is a way into danger, practice of good is a way out of danger. Getting out of danger requires that one believe it is dangerous — belief is the ruler of the mind. If one can believe in the danger, then one will not be seduced by external things. Practicing good, one can then be good; as it is said, once the one thought brings back the (celestial) mechanism, it is the same as if you were originally thus. Therefore in mastering pitfalls there is truthfulness; thus the mind develops.

If there is truthfulness, then the mind develops; without truthfulness, the mind does not develop. The mind with truthfulness is the mind of Tao; when the mind of Tao becomes manifest, the human mentality does not arise — sane energy grows, aberrant energy recedes, and one can thus go in and out of yin and yang without being constrained by yin and yang.

But believing there is danger requires one to practice so as to get out of danger; believing but not practicing is like not believing. Once one can believe and can practice, without hypocrisy or deception, practicing truly, one improves daily with daily practice, rising from lowliness to loftiness, gradually learning a state of exalted illumination, developing one’s essence to the fullest extent and realizing one’s purpose in life, returning one`s origin, without difficulty. Therefore the text says, There is excellence in practice. If one practices this, one can rise; without practice, one does not rise. Knowing this is only valuable when one puts it into practice.

— Liu Yiming,

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2 thoughts on “Tiger Leaps the Abyss”

  1. I think the tiger is more connected to wind rather than water in the ancient literature and annotations on the book of changes.

    • I would love to have a look at those sources. As I understand it, there’s a Tiger for every season; this year being a water Tiger year. Still, I would love to know more and appreciate your comment. I hope you’ll come back for more! 😃


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