Hexagram Twelve—The Strong Trying to Obstruct the Weak

When the strong demonstrate their lack of benevolence, trying to obstruct the weak, it creates an unbalanced situation. The inhumanity of the strong will ultimately lead to their defeat.

The first line, yin, shows one who pulls up a clump of grass, bringing with it other stalks that are connected by the roots. This signifies a good outcome if the person remains honest and sincere, while exploitation and greed will lead to ruin.

The second line, yin, shows a docile and obedient worker accepting service in a humble mood. If the leader exploits the workers it leads to negative consequences for the leader. He would be better off to improve the workers' situation.

The third line, yin, shows its subject feeling ashamed for taking advantage of the weak. This person can redeem the situation through sincere understanding and apology.

The fourth line, yang, shows that affairs have been rectified and brought into harmony. Friends will share in the happiness of one who has mended all transgressions.

The fifth line, yang, shows the leader situated in the proper position, though the temptation to exploit and mistreat others is still present.

The sixth line, yang, shows the leader setting things right once and for all. Such action brings happiness.

Hexagram Twelve Commentary

In comedy, they say a joke is only funny if it "punches up." That means a good joke can make fun of the strong, but it's not funny when the strong make fun of the weak. This hexagram says it's the same with social interactions. It's not acceptable for the strong to obstruct the weak. It mirrors the Bible verse that says, "Blessed are the weak for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5.5). Hexagram Twelve points out the inhumanity of the strong oppressing the weak and says the obstructors will encounter defeat.

The first line, yin, begins with the same metaphor from Hexagram Eleven, a person who pulls up a clump of grass and receives the blessings of the connected stalks and roots. However, it warns against using that power for exploitation and greed.

The second line, yin, offers the metaphor of a humble worker. It says the leader should try to improve a worker's situation. If the leader exploits the worker instead, it will bring consequences for the leader.

The third line, yin, shows a leader who listens to their conscience, who regrets taking advantage of the weak. This is fortunate because through apologies and amends, the leader can correct past mistakes.

The fourth line, yang, shows how mending past transgressions can restore harmony.

The fifth line, yang, warns the leader to make basic attitude changes, as well as offering apologies. While apologies and amends can fix a mistake, without a fundamental change in attitude, the tendency to exploit others may still be present inside. Apologizing then making the same mistakes again just makes things worse.

The sixth line, yang, shows a leader who goes through a personal transformation. Once someone changes their heart, it also changes their behavior. This is the theme of the famous Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843, that has inspired upward of sixteen movies since 1908. In the story, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future visit the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge and enlighten him. He wakes up Christmas morning a more generous and kind man.

To the reader: Most of the hexagrams have at least one line that predicts bad results, but that does NOT mean you are fated to that result. The hexagrams illustrate different attitudes, so study the actions and reactions to learn the attitudes that will lead to better outcomes.

The I Ching teaches you to flow with changes and create positive change from the inside through conscious living. Your future is in your hands. Consult the I Ching for ideas that lead to clear thinking and positive mental attitude. Reading the I Ching helps you take the time to reflect on your attitudes and ideas. Continue asking until you feel positive about your course.

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A note about this interpretation of the I Ching: Nori Muster wrote this version of the I Ching in 1994 and put it online at in 2000. It is also available at Amazon: