I Ching Hexagram 56 - Lu / The Wanderer

hexagram 56
  • Above Li the Clinging, Fire
  • Below Ken Keeping Still, Mountain


The mountain, Ken, stands still; above it fire, Li, flames up and does not tarry. Therefore the two trigrams do not stay together. Strange lands and separation are the wanderer's lot.

See the James Legge translation of this hexagram.

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The Wanderer. Success through smallness. Perseverance brings good fortune to the Wanderer.

Judgement Commentary

When a man is a wanderer and stranger, he should not be gruff nor overbearing. He has no large circle of acquaintances, therefore he should not give himself airs. He must be cautious and reserved; in this way he protects himself from evil. If he is obliging toward others, he wins success. A wanderer has no fixed abode; his home is the road. Therefore he must take care to remain upright and steadfast, so that he sojourns only in the proper places, associating only with good people. Then he has good fortune and can go his way unmolested.

The Image

Fire on the mountain: The image of The Wanderer. Thus the superior man is clear-minded, cautious in imposing penalties and protracts no lawsuits.

Image Commentary

When grass on a mountain takes fire, there is bright light. However, the fire does not linger in one place, but travels on to new fuel. It is a phenomenon of short duration. This is what penalties and lawsuits should be like. They should be a quickly passing matter, and must not be dragged out indefinitely. Prisons ought to be places where people are lodged only temporarily, as guests are. They must not become dwelling places.

The Lines

Six at the beginning means: If the wanderer busies himself with trivial things he draws down misfortune upon himself.

A wanderer should not demean himself or busy himself with inferior things he meets with along the way. The humbler and more defenseless his outward position, the more should he preserve his inner dignity. For a stranger is mistaken if he hopes to find a friendly reception through lending himself to jokes and buffoonery. The result will be only contempt and insulting treatment.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 30 - Li / The Clinging, Fire. This lines lowly position requires polite and respectful behaviour or he will pay a painful price. Legge sees a "...stranger mean and meanly occupied. It is thus that he brings on himself further calamity." Remember your place. The resultant hexagram 30, The Clinging, shows that this line will only be successful by "...cultivating in himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world."

Six in the second place means: The wanderer comes to an inn. He has his property with him. He wins the steadfastness of a young servant.

The wanderer her described is modest and reserved. He does not lose touch with his inner being, hence he finds a resting place. In the outside world he does not lose the liking of other people, hence all persons further him, so that he can acquire property. Moreover, he wins the allegiance of a faithful and trustworthy servant-a thing of inestimable value to a wanderer.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 50 - Ting / The Caldron. This line has the wisdom and god sense the previous line lacked and as a consequence has more success. He is still a stranger but not completely poverty stricken nor isolated. Legge sees this stranger as some who is traveling with a purpose "...might here very well be a travelling merchant" not someone aimlessly wandering thereby explaining the better outlook. The resultant hexagram 50, The Caldron, says this line will go on to supreme good fortune and success, possibly in some area to do with nourishing either the body or the spirit..

Nine in the third place means: The wanderer's inn burns down. He loses the steadfastness of his young servant. Danger.

A truculent stranger does not know how to behave properly. He meddles in affairs and controversies that do not concern him; thus he loses his resting place. He treats his servant with aloofness and arrogance, thus he loses the man's loyalty. When a stranger in a strange land has no one left on whom he can rely, the situation becomes very dangerous.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 35 - Chin / Progress. This line has forgotten its place and sabotaged itself. Legge implies that this line actually burns down his lodging house in an act of violence! Hardly the way to make friends and influence people. See here "...shows the stranger, burning his lodging-house, and having lost his servants. However firm and correct he try to be, he will be in peril." The resultant hexagram 35, Progress shows an almost miraculous recovery is to be expected. A return to sanity seems on the cards.

Nine in the fourth place means: The wanderer rests in a shelter. He obtains his property and an ax. My heart is not glad.

This describes a wanderer who knows how to limit his desires outwardly, though he is inwardly strong and aspiring. Therefore he finds at least a place of shelter in which he can stay. He also succeeds in acquiring property, but even with this he is not secure. He must be always on guard, ready to defend himself with arms. Hence he is not at ease. He is persistently conscious of being a stranger in a strange land.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 52 - Ken / Keeping Still, Mountain. Even when one has acquired property home is always home and when you are not there you are uneasy, on guard. This line is not settled and so still a wanderer at heart. Legge's version presents the same view "...the traveller in a resting-place, having also the means of livelihood and the axe, but still saying, I am not at ease in my mind." The resultant hexagram is 52, Keeping Still. The best outcome to be expected here is for this line is to withdraw, calm himself and find true peace of mind from the inside.

Six in the fifth place means: He shoots a pheasant, it drops with the first arrow. In the end this brings both praise and office.

Traveling statesman were in the habit of introducing themselves to local princes with the gift of a pheasant, killing it at the first shot. Thus he finds friends who praise and recommend him, and in the end the prince accepts him and confers an office upon him. Circumstances often cause a man to seek a home in foreign parts. If he knows how to meet the situation and how to introduce himself in the right way, he may find a circle of friends and a sphere of activity even in a strange country.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 33 - Tun / Retreat. If we know how to approach the task we can find a place even in a foreign land. This line follows the rules and is able to achieve a useful and rewarding place in the foreign land. Legge's version is "The traveller...is praised by his attached friends, and exalted to a place of dignity by the ruler to whom he is acceptable" The resultant hexagram 33, Retreat, seems to suggest that this comfortable existence may end up needing to be relinquished. Outsiders are prone to attracting vicious envy of their success.

Nine at the top means: The bird's nest burns up. The wanderer laughs at first, then must needs lament and weep. Through carelessness he loses his cow. Misfortune.

The picture of a bird whose nest burns up indicates loss of one's resting place. This misfortune may overtake the bird if it is heedless and imprudent when building its nest. It is the same with a wanderer. If he lets himself go, laughing and jesting, and forgets that he is a wanderer, he will later have cause to weep and lament. For if through carelessness a man loses his cow ie., his modesty and adaptability, evil will result.

Changing only this line creates Hexagram 62 - Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small. Forgetting ones place can be very painful. Carelessness in maintaining ones status likewise. Legge puts it "Its subject will be arrogant and violent the opposite of what a traveller should be; and the issue will be evil." The resultant hexagram 62, Preponderance of the Small, suggests that this line may, if he is lucky, find some small success if he regains a sense of proportion and propriety.

See the James Legge - I Ching Hexagram 56 - Lu / The Wanderer translation of this hexagram.