I Ching Hexagram 46 - Sheng / Pushing Upward

hexagram 46
  • Above K'un the Receptive, Earth
  • Below Sun the Gentle, Wind, Wood.


The lower trigram, Sun, represents wood, and the upper, K'un, means the earth. Linked with this is the idea that wood in the earth grows upward. In contrast to the meaning of Chin, Progress (35), this pushing upward is associated with effort, just as a plant needs energy for pushing upward through the earth. That is why this hexagram, although it is connected with success, is associated with effort of the will. In Progress the emphasis is on expansion; Pushing Upward indicates rather a vertical ascent-direct rise from obscurity and lowliness to power and influence.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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Pushing Upward has supreme success. One must see the great man, fear not. Departure toward the south brings good fortune.

Judgement Commentary

The pushing upward of the good elements encounters no obstruction and is therefore accompanied by great success. The pushing upward is made possible not by violence but by modesty and adaptability. Since the individual is borne along by the propitiousness of the time, he advances. He must go to see authoritative people. He need not be afraid to do this, because success is assured. But he must set to work, for activity (this is the meaning of 'the south') brings good fortune.

The Image

Within the earth, wood grows: The image of Pushing Upward. Thus the superior man of devoted character heaps up small things in order to achieve something high and great.

Image Commentary

Adapting itself to obstacles and bending around them, wood in the earth grows upward without haste and without rest. Thus too the superior man is devoted in character and never pauses in his progress.

The Lines

Six at the beginning means: Pushing upward that meets with confidence brings great good fortune.

This situation at the beginning of ascent. Just as wood draws strength for its upward push from the root, which in itself is in the lowest place, so the power to rise comes from this low and obscure station. But there is a spiritual affinity with the rulers above, and this solidarity creates the confidence needed to accomplish something.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 11 - T'ai / Peace. Deserved advance is always appropriate and meets with approval. This line may be just starting out but everything will go well for it. Legge puts it in similar fashion "...its subject advancing upwards with the welcome of those above him". The resultant hexagram 11, Peace, predicts a very good outcome for this advance so proceed with confidence.

Nine in the second place means: If one is sincere it furthers one to bring even a small offering. No blame.

Here a strong man is presupposed. It is true that he does not fit in with his environment, inasmuch as he is too brusque and pays too little attention to form. But as he is upright in character, he meets with response, and his lack of outward form does no harm. Here uprightness is the outcome of sound qualities of character, whereas in the corresponding line of the preceding hexagram it is the result of innate humility.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 15 - Ch'ien / Modesty. Strong abilities are not always accompanied by good manners or self-control, however this lines attributes compensate for this. If this line shows even the slightest compunction to improve his manners he will be successful. Legge concentrates on the need for this lines subject to show "...sincerity which will make even the small offerings of the vernal sacrifice acceptable." The outcome hexagram 15, Modesty, demonstrates the key attribute that moderates strength so that it becomes less threatening and more acceptable. "It is the law of heaven to make fullness empty and to make full what is modest."

Nine in the third place means: One pushes upward into an empty city.

All obstructions that generally block progress fall away here. Things proceed with remarkable ease. Unhesitatingly one follows this road, in order to profit by one's success. Seen from without, everything seems to be in the best of order. However, no promise of good fortune is added. It is a question how long such unobstructed success can last. But it is wise not to yield to such misgivings, because they only inhibit one's power. Instead, the point is to profit by the propitiousness of time.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 7 - Shih / The Army. Progress has been easy for this line. No hindrances can be seen. Legge says this line is "...ascending upwards as into an empty city." He feels that this line may be too bold. Wilhelm, in contrast, wants this line to make hay while the sun shines. The outcome hexagram is 7, The Army, which does suggest that a degree of caution may be indeed needed as time goes by. Armies fight wars and wars result from conflict. Is conflict at out advance just around the corner?

Six in the fourth place means: The king offers him Mount Ch'i. Good fortune. No blame.

Mount Ch'i is in the western China, the homeland of King Wen, whose son, the Duke of Chou, added the words to the individual lines. The pronouncement takes us back to a time when the Chou dynasty was coming into power. At that time King Wen introduced his illustrious helpers to the god of his native mountain, and they received their places in the halls of the ancestors by the side of the ruler. This indicates a stage in which pushing upward attains its goal. One acquires fame in the sight of gods and men, is received into the circle of those who foster the spiritual life of the nation, and thereby attains a significance that endures beyond time.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 32 - Heng / Duration. A very propitious time is indicated by this line. Authority commissions this line to perform important acts. Fame, fortune result. Legge's interpretation is the same, he sees this lines "...subject employed by the king to present his offerings on mount Khi." The resultant hexagram 32, Duration, indicates that we can expect that this state of affairs to endure and continue, "Duration is a state whose movement is not worn down by hindrances"

Six in the fifth place means: Perseverance brings good fortune. One pushes upward by steps.

When a man is advancing farther and farther, it is important for him not to become intoxicated by success. Precisely when he experiences great success it is necessary to remain sober and not to try to skip any stages; he must go on slowly, step by step, as though hesitant. Only such calm, steady progress, overleaping nothing, leads to the goal.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 48 Ching / The Well. Successful advance has reached its goal and all is achieved. Legge sees it likewise "...shows its subject firmly correct, and therefore enjoying good fortune. He ascends the stairs with all due ceremony." The only concern to have is self-control. We must not go overboard in our pleasure at such an outcome. The resultant hexagram is 48, The Well. "If one gets down almost to the water and the rope does not go all the way, or the jug breaks, it brings misfortune." This is a clear warning that if we can not control ourselves the successes we have gained will start to fail.

Six at the top means: Pushing upward in darkness. It furthers one to be unremittingly persevering.

He who pushes upward blindly deludes himself. He knows only advance, not retreat. But this means exhaustion. In such a case it is important to be constantly mindful that one must be conscientious and consistent and must remain so. Only thus does one become free of blind impulse, which is always harmful.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 18 - Ku / Work on what has been spoiled (Decay). Seeking to ascend to heaven gets one burned. Just ask Icarus! Legge puts it in modern terms "He has gained all his wishes, and still he is for going onwards. His advance is blind and foolish." How true! The resultant hexagram is 18, Decay, we are in danger of becoming overripe fruit, stinky and unattractive. However this hexagram also says "What has been spoiled through man's fault can be made good again through man's work." The meaning is clear.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 46 - Sheng / Pushing Upward translation of this hexagram.