The 13th Hexagram of the Yi Jing, "Congregating Man"

The thirteenth hexagram is most commonly known by the name "Fellowship with Men". The name given above results from a rendering into English of the two Chinese characters "tong" and "ren". The following article carries the transliteration into English of the Chinese text to the hexagram, that is to say, each character of the original Chinese has been rendered by a single English word. This results in a version which is terse and telegraphic and quite ungrammatical. Without the prepositions, articles and tense structures of modern English, this translation seems at first difficult to understand. Yet its effect is poetic, and allows associations between images and concepts which are free from the more usual restraints of time and space which are imposed by verb aspects and articles.

The transliteration is one of the readings of the texts appended to hexagrams available in the san shan software and it is accompanied, as it is below, by explanatory notes.


Notes on the Structure: In this hexagram there is only one YIN line, with whom the other five YANG lines wish to associate. The upper trigram is QIAN, Heaven which is above, and the lower trigram is LI whose nature as Fire is to flame upward. Therefore on both of these levels we have a situation in which the idea of association is presaged. The rulers of the hexagram are the six in the second place and the nine in the fifth place, who are in a relationship of correspondence with each other. Moreover, the YIN in the second place by virtue of its correct place, is able to maintain fellowship with all four remaining YANGs. Because the relationship of correspondence is considered at its optimum when the YANG line is below the YIN line, the relationship here is an incorrect one as far as the second YIN is concerned. The nuclear hexagram of TONG REN is GOU, Encountering, [KW44], also a hexagram dealing with fellowship and relationship but of a quite different order. In GOU, a relationship is sought which is based on incorrect values. The exchanged and inverse hexagram is DA YOU, Great Having, [KW14]. The opposite hexagram is SHI, Army, [KW07], where a single Yang line in the second place unites and binds five Yins. In the Army, we have danger (KAN) within and obedience (KUN) without, the character of a warlike army which needs one strong man among the many who are weak. In TONG REN, we have clarity (LI) within and strength (QIAN) without, the character of a peaceful union of people, which in order to hold together, needs one yielding nature among many firm persons.

    congregating man towards wilds . success .     beneficial wading-through great stream .     beneficial noble son steadfast(ness) .

Notes on the Decision : The hexagram symbolises the ideal of universal human brotherhood and the judgement text sets forth the conditions which should govern the time of people ("man") "congregating" together in fellowship. In the "wilds" can be seen as meaning in the open, in full public view, and as such it has two connected meanings. Firstly, the concept that true union or fellowship between human beings must be free of selfish motives and factionalism, that the union or fellowship must be held together by the universal goals of humanity. Which is to say, "open" for all rather than the private interests of the individual. If others are barred from fellowship through prejudice, mistrust or favouritism, then it cannot be said that the fellowship is open. Such reservations of attitude will not lead to the "success" augured in the second line. Secondly, there is the concept that such fellowship is easier to find in the more remote districts, far from the sophisticated decadence and greed of urban society and court intrigue. This is fully in keeping with an idea which held much interest in early Chinese thought and philosophy: that it is only by eschewing contact with civilisation, by returning to Nature, that man can realise his inner virtue and become a truly "noble" man.

The following ideas are expressed: the "man" who wishes to bring about a "congregating" with others in the true sense of coming together in universal brotherhood should do so in the open, without ulterior motives; in addition, there is the idea that the "man" who wishes to "congregate" in accordance with this ideal, needs to leave inhabited areas and seek out the "wild" areas, the places where the pure and unalloyed power of nature can resonate with the pure and unalloyed power of the inner self. The overall quality of clarity suggested by this is supported by the fact that the lower trigram is LI, amongst whose attributes is clarity and openness. Inasmuch as this trigram is the lower one, then the argument is put forward that a necessary precondition of such a "congregating" of "men" is that there is such clarity and openness within the heart of the individual. The "wilds" may also be interpreted as the open field for action, the place the "noble" "son" chooses for his great task of bringing humanity together, and where through his "steadfastness" he can begin work bringing about such an ideal as is represented in the hexagram. When such a union exists between people even the most difficult tasks can be accomplished, and the maximum benefit for all can be gained. The "great" "stream" represents any particularly hazardous undertaking, but it also represents this particular task, namely that of bringing about universal human fellowship. Such a task as this is perhaps the most hazardous of all, for the attributes of the developed human being are necessary in order both to realise it within the hearts of men and then to come together and work outwardly for it. In recognition of the problems facing such a project, the text states that what is most "beneficial" is that the man of developed qualities remains "steadfast". Inasmuch as this hexagram embodies the ideal of universal human brotherhood, the lines themselves detail the varied obstructions to attaining the ideal. Each of them seeks a fellowship on the basis of narrower relationships, and therefore none of them attains the success envisaged in the Judgement.


first nine .congregating man towards gate .without error .

Notes on the first Line : This Yang is in the correct place, and because it is strong in a strong place it actively seeks fellowship. But, finding it has no correlate in the fourth place above, it seeks a union with the Yin in the second place.

The reason the text speaks of the subject of this line moving "towards" the "gate" is because the second YIN is open and receptive to this line, like a gate. Here then there is a union. This is not the perfect and ideal union of all, because it represents only a "congregating" with that or those which are nearby, that is to say, close at hand like the gate to one's own house. Any text or material which serves as a way into or approach to a doctrine, school of thought or philosophy is also given the appellation "gate", and it may therefore be read as the incipient stages in a man's education or self-cultivation. In addition, there is expressed the idea that any fellowship with others must of necessity begin close to ourselves and our own hearts. The "gate" is the place where what is inside meets with what is outside, and is the place where people meet before they set out in their task. Because the second YIN is correct and also central, this union is said to be "without" "error". Even the envious third and fourth Yangs cannot obstruct it from uniting or "congregating" with the second YIN. The association is without self-interest and egotism, and it is broad and impartial, without personal bias or prejudice (these are the "errors" spoken of). Any secret agreements would bring misfortune.


six two .     congregating man towards tribe .     shame .

Notes on the second Line : This YIN is central and correct and finds correspondence with the YANG in the fifth place.

Because of the close and almost intimate relationship between the subject of this line and the one or those ones with whom it seeks a union, the text speaks of the "tribe". That is to say, that here we have an association or "congregating" based on personal and egotistical motives, leading to the formation of factions and cliques. People are coming together for altogether selfish reasons, looking only for a chance to advance themselves and their own partial and limited agenda. Such factions as these, instead of welcoming all men regardless of social status, are exclusive. They hold together because they condemn others and are united only through the fear shared by their members. We should remember that the hexagram as a whole favours open relations (the judgement text speaks of relationships in the "wild"), not ones limited in such a manner as this, and therefore such nepotistic relationships as envisaged here are regrettable and likely to cause oneself nothing but humiliation ("shame"). If the impulse for union with others is based on motives which are inferior and selfish, then how can the result be anything else?


nine three .     concealing weaponry towards coppice .     climbing (one)'s high barrow .     three year-long not rising-up .

Notes on the third Line : This YANG is in its correct place but it has no proper correlate in the top line. Nor is it central. It is anxious to unite with the second YIN (as are all the YANGs) by holding together with her, by associating with her using adamantine force, but is afraid of the strength of the YANG in the fifth place, with whom the YIN has a strong relationship. Therefore he abstains from action.

Here we are in the third line of the hexagram, a position fraught with difficulties and dangers. Every association formed with others on the basis of what is low and mean, where the members of the group are out solely to advance their own interests, becomes in due course an arena where each displays his mistrust. "Weapons" are concealed in secret places, and violent and uncouth people ("coppice" stands also for uncultivated undergrowth, therefore uncultured people) conceal weapons on their persons. Ambushes are planned for those who dare to reveal themselves. In addition, every man is watching continually the moves of the others. Feeling in his own heart nothing but this mistrust, he suspects it in all those around him, and so resolves to stay perpetually armed and in readiness. For this reason, he is seen as "climbing" a vantage point in order that he may better see any approach from the others. Where he spies from is his "barrow", that is to say the earth mound over the tomb of his own ancestors. So mistrustful of the others is he that he dare not leave the relative safety of his own ancestral homelands. The phrase also has connotations that by behaving in such a manner he does nothing more than hasten the blood-letting, by promoting ("climbing") the possibility of a gloomy conclusion. There is then here the picture of insurmountable obstacles in the way of a true and lasting "congregating". If one reveals oneself one may be ambushed. And furthermore there is a general feeling of alienation which cuts people off, not only from others, but also from the heart's own preferred path. How is the situation to be handled? As long as no action is taken, as long as the subject remains hidden, no misfortune or calamity will arise, even though the motives of the subject might be questionable. Remain vigilant, stay close to home, conceal your weaponry, and wait patiently ("not" "rising-up") for the situation to change. Because this is the third line of the hexagram, then the text speaks of waiting for "three" years. Another meaning of the final phrase is that no good can come of the situation for a long time.


nine four .     riding (one)'s parapet .     absolutely-not prevailing setting-to-work .     good-fortune .

Notes on the fourth Line : This YANG is in a weak place and so is not as strong as the YANG in line three, but it too would like to make an attempt on the second YIN. The second YIN has a strong bond with the fifth YANG, and a lesser bond with the third YANG because it holds together with it.

The subject of this line wants to form a bond with another but there are overpowering obstacles in the way. He cannot contend with the other elements in the situation and herein lies its eventual "good- fortune". The difficulties and exigencies of the situation require one to remain at home, maintain vigilance and maintain one's defences ("riding" one's "parapet"). Under no circumstances whatsoever ("absolutely-not") is one to attempt to force the matter through to a resolution ("prevailing" "setting-to-work"). Although it seems that there is some chance of reconciliation, this is still some way off: there are other parties involved who would still like to deliver a knock-out blow if it were possible. However, good sense prevails. The receptivity of this line (it is in a weak place) brings it to its senses and it renounces its aims and returns to the right way. This self-reform is "good fortune" indeed.


nine five .     congregating man beforehand weeping wailing and afterwards laughing .     great army prevailing assisting meeting .

Notes on the fifth Line : This YANG is central and correct and has a strong correspondence with the single YIN. Because of the correctness of their relative positions they will eventually unite, even though at the outset they are prevented from doing so by the third and fourth YANGs.

Two people who are united in their inner hearts are separated through outward circumstances. There is a strong tendency towards an association such as is envisaged at a time of "congregating", but there are great obstacles in the way of their physically coming together. This is indeed a cause for "weeping" and "wailing". Because the false cannot prevail, they will ultimately come together, although the difficulties involved are great. The eventual union with one with whom one feels a special affinity is a cause for "laughing" and much rejoicing. One gathers all one's forces ("great" "army") and notwithstanding a great struggle brings about what one truly wishes. When the text states that such an action is "assisting", it means that it is through the mutual action of both parties involved. It is important to remember that this association with the YIN is also through personal liking, and is not the substance of universal community. This line is in the position of leadership: is this partiality towards individuals the Way of leadership? However, although the ideal of universal brotherhood is not reached, two people, who through inner destiny belong to one another, find one another. This is indeed a cause for rejoicing.


above nine .     congregating man towards outskirts .     without remorse .

Notes on the top Line : This top YANG is in a weak place and it is therefore not correct.

At the end of the time of "congregating" it is in the position of an outsider and has no correspondent so in the end has no one to truly associate with. The time of association as is envisaged in the hexagram is by this stage past, as the line is itself at the very top of the hexagram. In addition, the line denotes the outside of things, rather than the warm attachment of the heart. The spontaneous "congregating" is lacking here, but in spite of this we associate with those who dwell near. The fellowship does not include everyone, for it is not in the "wild", but includes only those who live in the "outskirts". This is to say that it includes only those who are close to one another by virtue of geographical location, rather than that of the fifth YANG which represents an association demanded by one's inner destiny. Although the fellowship does not include all, and the ideal of universal community is not attained, there is no need for reproach. This is why the text states that the situation is "without" "remorse". There is nothing in what one is doing or will do which will lead in any way to the necessity of remorse or repentance, (this being a state which leads to a change of heart).


heaven combining-with fire . congregating man .     noble son using organising clan distinguishing beings .

Notes on the Image : The lower trigram is LI, Fire, which illuminates all things and enables all things to achieve their differentiation and individuality. In the natural world, the most fiery of things are the stars and therefore LI represents not only the sun, but the stars in the firmament, according to which the vastness of space can be demarcated. When the light shines, individual creatures can perceive themselves and one another. The upper trigram is QIAN, Heaven, whose overall movement is upward. No matter how far upward one goes Heaven continues to recede into its own vastness. It is only because of the fires burning in Heaven, that void and nothingness have any relation to human beings. In any ocean, there must be points of navigation and systematic division. Otherwise, without reference points, experience becomes meaningless. Because the movements of fire and of heaven are the same in their overall direction, these two are said to be "combining-with".

What is the precept here for the "noble" "son"? The developed man understands the meaning of the interaction of these two trigrams as it applies to the human condition. Because all things follow the same pattern, because what is below (on earth) is a resonance of what is above (in heaven), then human life and society is subject to the same laws as the planetary bodies. Just as cosmic space is void without the illumination of the stars, so too is human society ("congregating" "man") merely a chaos if it is not divided and arranged. To this end the developed man is careful that he separates ("organising") people into their different categories ("clan"). For the confucianist state as it evolved, this was an exhortation to divide society into a rigid class system which dominated every aspect of social life, resulting in the fossilisation of society. To the developed man it means no such thing. The "clan" is the extended family, the group of people who shared the same ancestor. The developed man knows that things are as they are because of causes deeply rooted in the past. He understands that a primal cause in the past can have evolved organically and naturally into manifold effect. In his dealings with people and events he is careful to investigate the nature of things so that he "distinguishes" between what comes from one place and what comes from another. He must distinguish between "beings" who are good and beings who are bad. In this way the developed man brings the light of his own understanding to bear on the seeming void, and organises both it and his own response. The developed man knows that within each category or "clan", all things are the same or "congregating"; but he is careful to make distinctions between the categories of things. This is the organic arrangement of evolutionary process, and leads to an understanding of primal causes. Whilst his inner illumination shines impartially on all creatures, it is the illumination which throws them into relief and organises them into meaningful experience. In this sense, the developed man is like a star radiating light into the void; it is only by virtue of his presence that the void is known.

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