䷜ Kan
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Kan-Water
Kan-Water

Kan I Ching Gua Meaning

習坎 Kan ䷜ hexagram meanings:

Darkness, Numerous Pitfalls, Abysmal, Abyss, Falling

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The twenty-ninth gua, named Kan, translates to pit, abyss, falling, or darkness. This gua stands for the moon, just as Qian stands for Heaven, Kun stands for Earth, and Li stands for the sun. After Heaven and Earth, the sun and the moon are the most important symbols for the ancient Chinese. They are in eternal motion in the Heavens and are the most blatant displays of the yin and yang relationship displayed in all of nature. Kan is associated with the Winter Solstice (the coldest and darkest day of the year) and symbolizes one of the four cardinal directions—west (Qian is south, Kun is north, and Li is west). Kan is falling, but not drowning—danger arrives, but one is not lost. This gua represents an abysmal situation but indicates that hope remains. The situation can be dealt with as long as one maintains hope, trust, and caution. Kan asks us to remain confident in times of trouble, a calm mind is vital to any crisis.

The ideograph representing Kan has three parts. On the left side is a symbol depicting Earth. The right side of the ideograph consists of two parts, the first symbolizing a person falling. Underneath this person is a line to suggest a downward movement and a pit. Together, the right side of the ideograph shows someone falling into a pit. Kan symbolizes a time of falling or the state of being in a pit. The pit representing this gua seems grim and foreboding, and it certainly indicates that this feeling is present. However, a pit is not bottomless and the situation is not hopeless. Kan is not a perpetual freefall, there is a path out of this darkness.

Kan is Water above Water, indicating danger or difficulty. Before modern infrastructure and technology, crossing large rivers and seafaring were fraught with danger. There is always the possibility of falling into the water and being swept away into darkness. Water is cold and dark just as the moon is, making it the total inverse of Li which symbolizes the sun, brightness, and warmth.

The theme of this gua is to teach one how to deal with difficult or dangerous situations. Its first lesson is to maintain a calm and positive attitude, by staying cautious and hopeful one can prevent the situation from getting worse. This also aids in solving the problem at hand. Coming up with solutions from a negative viewpoint is likely to make the problem that much more difficult to handle. The I Ching reminds us again and again that bad situations are transformable, positive outcomes are always possible.

Once the Tyrant of Shang was out of the way, King Wu’s next step involved conquering the remaining kingdoms and lords in his way. This was a time of great danger and difficulty, kingdoms are not easy to conquer and lords do not give their loyalty away freely. But King Wu remained confident and kept calm in the face of darkness. By doing so, he was able to return victorious and establish the capital of the Zhou dynasty in Gao-jing. Kan teaches us that with the proper approach, bad situations can yield prosperous results.

䷜ Kan hexagram

Kan ䷜ Kan hexagram Illustration

䷜ Kan hexagram meaning

To give the people hope takes action
Even when the effort brings danger.
See how capturing your enemies
Brings the people together?
Act and receive your reward.

Bottom Line

Kan Bottom Line Illustration

Bottom Line meaning


Take care in perilous times.
Sunk in your thoughts
Of black times and hardship,
You blundered into a mantrap,
Creating the black times you feared.

Line Two

Kan Line Two Illustration

Line Two meaning


A hundred small steps reach the goal
As well as ten that are huge.
Be nimble and content with small triumphs.

Line Three

Kan Line Three Illustration

Line Three meaning


You tumbled into a dangerous trap,
And now, ill fortune clutches you.
You cannot move,
So do not waste your strength.

Line Four

Kan Line Four Illustration

Line Four meaning


The entire feast was carried
From window to banquet table
Without the smallest mishap:
A cup of wine, two bowls of rice 
And all the pottery.
All was well until the end of the ritual – then not.

Line Five

Kan Line Five Illustration

Line Five meaning


The small hill is nearly leveled
With trying to fill the pits.
Though not every dip is gone, it is better.

Top Line

Kan Top Line Illustration

Top Line meaning


The man bound by ropes,
Who sits in jail but cannot regret,
Cannot expect amnesty
Even after three years.
This bodes ill for his soul.

Comments: I Ching Illustrated Book of Changes

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