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The original Richard Wilhelm translation for the hexagram...


Hexagram 48
Ching - The Well

yang above: K'an / The Abysmal, Water
yang below: Sun / The Gentle, Wind, Wood

The Well

Wood is below, water above. The wood goes down into the earth to bring up water. The image derives from the pole-and-bucket well of ancient China. The wood represents not the buckets, which in ancient times were made of clay, but rather the wooden poles by which the water is hauled up from the well. The image also refers to the world of plants, which lift water out of the earth by means of their fibres.
The well from which water is drawn conveys the further idea of an inexhaustible dispensing of nourishment.

Raga Kumbha

Raga Kumbha meets a young woman at a well, and asks for water.1


THE WELL. The town may be changed,
But the well cannot be changed.
It neither decreases nor increases.
They come and go and draw from 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.

In ancient China the capital cities were sometimes moved, partly for the sake of more favorable location, partly because of a change in dynasties. The style of architecture changed in the course of centuries, but the shape of the well has remained the same from ancient times to this day. Thus the well is the symbol of that social structure which, evolved by mankind in meeting its most primitive needs, is independent of all political forms. Political structures change, as do nations, but the life of man with its needs remains eternally the same-this cannot be changed. Life is also inexhaustible. It grows neither less nor more; it exists for one and for all. The generations come and go, and all enjoy life in its inexhaustible abundance.

However, there are two prerequisites for a satisfactory political or social organisation of mankind. We must go down to the very foundations of life. For any merely superficial ordering of life that leaves its deepest needs unsatisfied is as ineffectual as if no attempt at order had ever been made. Carelessness-by which the jug is broken-is also disastrous. If for instance the military defense of a state is carried to such excess that it provokes wars by which the power of the state is annihilated, this is a breaking of the jug.

This hexagram applies also to the individual. However men may differ in disposition and in education, the foundations of human nature are the same in everyone. And every human being can draw in the course of his education from the inexhaustible wellspring of the divine in man's nature. But here likewise two dangers threaten: a man may fail in his education to penetrate to the real roots of humanity and remain fixed in convention-a partial education of this sort is as bad as none- or he may suddenly collapse and neglect his self-development.


Water over wood: the image of THE WELL.
Thus the superior man encourages the people at their work,
And exhorts them to help one another.

The trigram Sun, wood, is below, and the trigram K'an, water, is above it. Wood sucks water upward. Just as wood as an organism imitates the action of the well, which benefits all parts of the plant, the superior man organises human society, so that, as in a plant organism, its parts co-operate for the benefit of the whole.

1. The painting personifies Raga Kumbha, one of the eight sons of Sri Raga.
Kumbha refers to a pitcher filled with water, which symbolizes an auspicious omen.
A young woman is pulling a pitcher out of the well, while a young thirsty soldier, clad in a yellow choga (garment) and a white apron tied around his head draws her attention.
The painting is based on one of the folk songs of Kangra valley that essays the accidental meeting of a husband and a wife.

The soldier after his marriage to a young girl goes away on service for several long years.
On his return he visits his father in law to fetch his wife.
He meets a young woman at a well and asks for water.
He also pays compliment to her beauty.
At this she rebukes him sternly and rushes home.
On her arrival at home, her mother asks her to put on her best clothes and ornaments as her husband had come.
She attires in best of her finery, and when goes to meet him finds that he is the same person who met her at the well.
Guilty of harsh words she had spoken to him at the well she attempts reconciliation and soon all misunderstandings are dissolved and they live happily afterwards as a loving couple.

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