from Rediscovering the I Ching

The I Ching on the Net

Hexagram 21
biting through




Biting through.
Biting through is blessed.
It is favorable to apply punishments.

lowest line
He wears fetters that cover his feet.
This averts harm.

second line
He bites into flesh so deeply
      that it covers his nose.
No harm.

third line
He bites into dried meat
      and hits poison.
A little trouble, but no harm.

fourth line
He bites into dried meat
      and finds an arrowhead of bronze.
It is favorable to persevere
      against adversity.
Good fortune.

fifth line
He bites into dried meat
      and finds yellow bronze.
It is dangerous to continue.
No harm.

top line
He wears a cangue
      that covers his ears.


Luo (Shining Light) above
    Zhen (Thunderbolt) below

He rushes forward (Zhen)
and bites through
to something shining (Luo).


By harsh and determined action, one bites through to a shining prize. The line texts speak of biting into apiece of dried meat and fining a shining bronze arrowhead buried inside, broken off there when the animal whose meat it is was shot. The arrowhead symbolizes brilliant achievement. Punishments are favorable perhaps because they can bite through a criminal's hard exterior to the good that lies within..

lowest line. Fetters on his feet prevent him from rushing forward. The solid line, at the beginning of the lower trigram Zhen "Thunderbolt", implies a tendency to rush ahead. In this first line, it is too early to rush ahead.

second line. He uses more force than necessary to accomplish an easy task. This weak (i.e. broken) line and the weak line above it present no obstacle to the advance of the strong first line.

third line. Strong action encounters minor difficulties. The poison left by a poisoned hunting arrow is not enough to do a human being any great harm. Line three almost always contains an element of misfortune.

fourth line. This is the hexagram's most auspicious line, and the line whose meaning is closest to that of the hexagram as a whole. This solid line is the entrance to the upper trigram, Luo (Shining Light). He breaks through to a shining prize.

fifth line. He achieves some success, but will crack his teeth on it if he tries to achieve more. Line five is the place of the ruler. In this and few other hexagrams,  line four, the place of the officer, is more auspicious than line five, the place of the ruler.

top line. He is punished for going too far. This top line often has to do with going too far, and with running afoul of someone more powerful. A cangue is a heavy wooden yoke, a sort of portable version of the old European/American stocks and pillory. He didn't listen when he could have, and now the cangue covers his ears so he can't hear.