19 and 20
The bigger picture
Hexagram 19 and 20 are about overseeing - 19 seeing the road you are going, 20 seeing the landscape you pass through. When you get 19 for an answer, it tells you that this step is just one step and many more will have to follow. Don't work for the harvest, but for a healthy crop. When you get 20, then try to see the whole, not just your own piece of it.
In old texts 'lin' is often used for descending towards a valley. It is nearing, but it is also overseeing. From high above one sees the whole valley. In regard to ‘nearing’ people it means to see them in their totality, with all the things they do and have, need or reject, like or fear. Seeing the whole picture, not just the details. And most important of all: without judgment. It is the condition for helping or organizing. For the person who is seen this way, it feels safe.
In 'Cave in the snow', Tenzin Palmo says: "Why does one go
into retreat? One goes into a retreat to understand who one really is and what
the situation truly is. When one begins to understand oneself then one can truly
understand others because we are all interrelated. It is very difficult to
understand others while one is still caught up in the turmoil of one's emotional
involvement - because we're always interpreting others from the standpoint of
our own needs. That's why, when you meet hermits who have really done a lot of
retreat, say twenty-five years, they are not cold and distant. On the contrary.
They are absolutely lovely people. You know that their love for you is totally
without judgment because it doesn't rely on who you are or what you are doing,
or how you treat them. It's totally impartial. It's just love. It's like the sun
- it shines on everyone."
Guan is also seeing, but here the emphasis is on understanding. Contemplating what one sees, and drawing conclusions or knowledge from it. It is not outward active, like hex.19, but inward. It generates wisdom, and for the other person it feels comprehended.
Harmen Mesker sent me a mail about hexagram 20, with some
information about Chinese characters, which one can only know when
studying (or being) Chinese. I am/do neither, so I am very happy with
In the graph Guan we see two parts: at left and at right. is the phonetic element: it gives the pronunciation, in this case guan. Jian gives the meaning. This character is interesting, because it denotes very specific the inherent meaning of hexagram 20.
In Chinese there are two characters which have to do with 'seeing': kan and jian . They differ from each other like the English words 'looking' and 'seeing'. Kan is a hand above an eye, it represents looking sharply, looking in a direction, but it does not include you really see anything. Jian is a man with emphasis on the eyes: he sees actually. In kan the action is directed from out the viewer, it is more active. In jian it comes toward him, it is more passive. In jian there is a result, often it is used like the word dao (towards, until) which is used as addition to a verb, to denote that the action has - at least for now - been done. E.g. "Ni kandao di jiye le?" "You look-arrived number (like: -th) howmuch-page le". (Le is difficult to translate, it indicates more or less past tense). "At which page have you arrived?"
Jian is used in this same way, like in the most common expressions kanjian (look - and actually seeing), and tingjian (listen - and actually hearing).
So kan is directed looking, jian is observing. For hexagram 20 this means one is not meant to look at something, but to observe that-which-is-already-there.
This was jian. In the Yi every part, however small, has its meaning.
Likewise, the left part, guan, is more than just phonetic (although most sinologists will protest). According to Wieger (L72-J) it is a calling heron. This reminds me of the calling crane of hex.61, line 2. The two hexagrams 20 and 61 differ by the two lines, 1 and 2, which in a certain sense belong together, being the "earth" part of the hexagram. But maybe this is too far-fetched.
A calling bird (Wieger says 'with a crest') attracts the attention. Together with jian (actually getting it), gives me the idea an impulse has been forwarded, and now one observes the reaction on it. Hexagram 20 might be observing after a conscious action preceding it.
At then finally some expressions, with a meaning which might complete
the understanding of the character:
Guan Yin: the Goddess of Mercy. Literally 'observe - call', the goddess who hears your call.
Guan feng: according to Mathews: to examine into the custom of a place; to watch the development of things in order to act accordingly. And according to Wenlin: to serve as lookout; to look for opportunities. The Far-East dictionary expounds further: to stand watch when a robbery or larceny is being committed by a confederate or confederates. Interesting here because in hex.20 the upper trigram is the wind.
An interesting proverb: 'observe - past - knowledge - comes', or 'By looking back to the past, one learns for the future'.
guan in the fourth tone is a Daoist monastery or altar.
Today - June 2011 - Sybil sent me a mail with a beautiful image of 19
"Today, I had an inspiration. Please allow me to share it with you:n
I looked at the old sign (a) of hexagram 19 Lin, the one were the objects are connected to the eye. Suddenly, it occurred to me that it looks like a sailboat (a katamaran?) with (people in it holding) ropes, and the sail bulging toward the right.
So the meaning would be "captain of a sailboat".
This would also explain the mysterious "Reaching the eighth month, there is a pitfall". I was always wondering why there would be bad luck at exactly that time.
For the captain of a Chinese trading sailboat to India or Persia, however, it's obvious: In September (= 8th month counting from the Chinese New Year) the trade winds in the Indian Ocean start to change from southwest to northeast. In October, bad storms in the Bay of Bengal make it very dangerous to sail. So if a captain stays in India or Persia later than August (because of the many good business opportunities), he will either endanger the ship and the crew, or he won't be able to return home until 6 months later (and that will eat up his profit).
I think that goes very well with both the "supervising" and the "opportunities, decision making" aspect of the hexagram."
I love Sybil's image.