I Ching Hexagram 34 - Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great

hexagram 34
  • Above Chen the Arousing, Thunder
  • Below Ch'ien the Creative, Heaven


The great lines, that is, the light, strong lines, are powerful. Four light lines have entered the hexagram from below and are about to ascend higher. The upper trigram is Chen, the Arousing; the lower is ch'ien, the Creative. Ch'ien is strong, Chen produces movement. The union of movement and strength gives the meaning of The Power of the Great. The hexagram is linked with the second month (March-April).

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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The Power of the Great. Perseverance furthers.

Judgement Commentary

The hexagram points to a time when inner worth mounts with great force and comes to power. But its strength has already passed beyond the median line, hence there is danger that one may rely entirely on one's own power and forget to ask what is right. There is danger too that, being intent on movement, we may not wait for the right time. Therefore the added statement that perseverance furthers. For that is truly great power which does not degenerate into mere force but remains inwardly united with the fundamental principles of right and of justice. When we understand this point--namely, that greatness and justice must be indissolubly united--we understand the true meaning of all that happens in heaven and on earth

The Image

Thunder in heaven above: The image of The Power of the Great. Thus the superior man does not tread upon paths that do not accord with established order.

Image Commentary

Thunder--electrical energy--mounts upward in the spring. The direction of this movement is in harmony with that of the movement of heaven. It is therefore a movement in accord with heaven, producing great power. However, true greatness depends on being in harmony with what is right. Therefore in times of great power the superior man avoids doing anything that is not in harmony with the established order.

The Lines

Nine at the beginning means: Power in the toes. Continuing brings misfortune. This is certainly true.

The toes are in the lowest place and are ready to advance. So likewise great power in lowly station is inclined to effect advance by force. This, if carried further, would certainly lead to misfortune, and therefore by way of advice a warning is added.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 32 - Heng / Duration. In this line we have a lowly position seeking to advance its position inappropriately. This should not be done. Legge says this line seeks to enforce "...a measure is too bold to be undertaken by one in the lowest place." The outcome of this is hexagram 32, Duration, indicates that change needs to be achieved in the right way or it fails to last.

Nine in the second place means: Perseverance brings good fortune.

The premise here is that the gates to success are beginning to open. Resistance gives way and we forge ahead. This is the point at which, only too easily, we become the prey of exuberant self-confidence. This is why the oracle says that perseverance (ie., perseverance in inner equilibrium, without excessive use of power) brings good fortune.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 55 - Feng / Abundance (Fullness). Here our power is starting to have an affect. We need to keep our ego under control to avoid turning success into failure. Legge is clear on what this lines subject must do, his "...strength is tempered...instead of being excited by it, as might be feared." The result , as indicated by hexagram 55, Abundance, is we are indeed successful and gain our hearts desires (if we control ourselves to the end).

Nine in the third place means: The inferior man works through power. The superior man does not act thus. To continue is dangerous. A goat butts against a hedge and gets its horns entangled.

Making a boast of power leads to entanglements, just as a goat entangles its horns when it butts against a hedge. Whereas an inferior man revels in power when he comes into possession of it, the superior man never makes this mistake. He is conscious at all times of the danger of pushing ahead regardless of circumstances, and therefore renounces in good time the empty display of force.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 54 - Kuei Mei / The Marrying Maiden. There is a warning here. Do not think that brute force will always work out for the best. This is what Legge says "A small man so symbolled will use his strength to the utmost, but not so the superior man." Be the superior man and do not get entangled. The resultant hexagram 54, The Marrying Maiden predicts "Undertakings bring misfortune. Nothing that would further." The outcome seems to be that the warning given above is ignored and one gets entangled.

Nine in the fourth place means: Perseverance brings good fortune. Remorse disappears. The hedge opens; there is no entanglement. Power depends upon the axle of a big cart.

If a man goes on quietly and perseveringly working at the removal of resistances, success comes in the end. The obstructions give way and all occasion for remorse arising from excessive use of power disappears. Such a man's power does not show externally, yet it can move heavy loads, like a big cart whose real strength lies in its axle. The less that power is applied outwardly, the greater its effect.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 11 - T'ai / Peace. This line is similar to the previous one except that he does not get entangled in his own ego nor the difficulties of the time. Instead he succeeds in his aims. Legge's symbolism is the same as Wilhelm's "We see the fence opened without the horns being entangled." The outcome hexagram 11, Peace, predicts good fortune and success for who ever draws this line.

Six in the fifth place means: Loses the goat with ease. No remorse.

The goat is noted for hardness outwardly and weakness within. Now the situation is such that everything is easy; there is no more resistance. One can give up a belligerent, stubborn way of acting and will not have to regret it.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 43 Kuai / Break-through (Resoluteness). Outward display of strength is no necessary for the subject of this line. His position and achievements speak for themselves. Legge's interpretation is the same, the lines "...subject will cease therefore to exert his strength, but this hexagram does not forbid the employment of strength, but would only control and direct it." The resultant hexagram 43, Break-through, represents a positive outcome for this line, as one has overcome the sources of tension and discord.

Six at the top means: A goat butts against a hedge. It cannot go backward, it cannot go forward. Nothing serves to further. If one notes the difficulty, this brings good fortune.

If we venture too far we come to a deadlock, unable either to advance or to retreat and whatever we do merely serves to complicate thing further. Such obstinacy leads to insuperable difficulties. But if, realizing the situation, we compose ourselves and decide not to continue, everything will right itself in time.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 14 - Ta Yu / Possession in Great Measure. Stubbornness is not much of a virtue and this line has gotten itself in self created difficulties. Stop struggling to assert yourself and then difficulties will melt away. Legge shows how this bad situation can be improved "...he becomes conscious of his weakness, reflects and rests, and good fortune results, as he desists from the prosecution of his unwise efforts." This is exactly the outcome that the resultant hexagram 14, Possession in Great Measure, suggests, supreme success.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 34 - Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great translation of this hexagram.