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I Ching 201.15: Khien teaches discretion

Hexagram Number Fifteen is called “Khien”. The Word sounds very similar to “Chien”, the First Hexagram, although written with a completely different character in Chinese. Most translators render this term into English as “Modesty” or “Humbleness”, but both of these have negative connotations. This writer has chosen “Humility”, although the Word “Discretion” would have been an even more neutral Idea. This hexagram is composed of the trigram Kun, the Receptive over Kên, “Stillness”, hence, a mountain hidden under the Earth. Perhaps we can imagine a mother protecting her youngest son.



HUMILITY creates success. The humble Sage carries things through to successful completion.

Lao Tze says that Humility is One of the Three Treasures.

“I have three treasures. Guard and keep them: the first is love, the second is frugality, and the third is humility.”

According to Taoist Master Alfred Huang, these Three Treasures are embodied by, in Order, Hexagrams Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen.
The Orderly Sequence of the Hexagrams

Those who have what is great should not allow in themselves the feeling of being full, and hence Ta Yu is followed by Khien.

In other Words, once you’ve “got it”, don’t let it overcome you!


Hidden within the Earth, rises a secret mountain: the Image of HUMILITY. Thus the Sage reduces that which is too much, and augments that which is too little. He weighs things and evens them out. Khien indicates progress and success. It is the Way of Heaven to send down its Blessings, where they are brilliantly displayed. It is the way of Earth, lying low, to send its influences upwards.

Lao Tze seem to be quoting this in Chapter Fifty-Six of the Tao Te Ching. There are Modern Scientists that still believe that the Earth is hollow and contains an Inner World, just like in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. It is unknown whether King Wen or the Duke of Chou knew about this.


Six at the beginning means: the True Sage is humble even about Humility. Cross the River; this is a Time of Good Fortune.

Go for it, but don’t take credit for it!

Six in the second place means: Humility itself has become self-aware. Persistence brings Good Fortune.

Here, humbleness takes on a life of its own.

Nine in the third place means: The Sage, well known for Humility and merit, carries out all things to a successful conclusion. There will be Good fortune.

This seems to be an encouragement to take charge.

Six in the fourth place means: everything advances. Humility perpetuates itself. Allow this development to take place.

This is a very positive Message. However, it also implies that it’s Time to let go!

Six in the fifth place means: You do not need wealth to ask for your neighbors’ help. Join with them; it is favorable to attack with force. Everything advances.

Ask for assistance. It will be given.

Six at the top means: Humility is now fully expressed and resonating. Set the army marching. Consolidate your Domain.

Here the Power of Humility is fully mobilized. Dominate your surroundings.

It may be noted, that every line, even the Sixth in this Gua seems to have a positive Message. If you throw this Hexagram, no matter which line or lines are changing, the Portent is good. It must be stressed, that Humility was always the highest Virtue in Ancient China.

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