Hexagram Twenty-one—Biting Through

Hexagram Twenty-one is gnawing, or persistence. Such persistence can be seen in a legal tort, where one party pursues the other with tenacity. The analogy of biting into flesh shows the violent, but necessary attitude to succeed in this heated situation.

The first line, yang, shows one with his feet inside tight socks, feeling as if the toes will never come out again. Such constraint forces one to recognize the immediacy of the situation and act accordingly.

The second line, yin, shows one who bites another's nose, and through force of purpose, bites it off. Truth and justice are the motivating force, so there is no blame.

The third line, yin, shows one who is tenacious, who bites into flesh and finds something disagreeable. There will be some regret, but they have not committed a great error.

The fourth line, yang, shows one gnawing dried meat on a bone. Realizing the difficulty, one must work with diligence. Ultimately efforts are rewarded with money and gold arrows.

The fifth line, yin, shows one gnawing on dried flesh. The position is dangerous, but with care and determination, one finds the sought after gold.

The sixth line, yang, shows one bound by a slave's yoke. There is a warning not to invest one's higher self in the conflict. Better to fight with great strength, while remaining inwardly detached.

Hexagram Twenty-one Commentary

This hexagram discusses those situations in life that exert intense, persistent pressure. These portals in life may seem unbearable while they're happening, so it takes persistence to get through. The introduction compares these life experiences to the violence of biting through flesh.

The first line, yang, shows a situation that feels constrictive and unending. The metaphor is tight socks that squeeze the toes.

The second line, yin, shows the persistence to achieve justice in this situation must be as firm as biting off an assailant's nose to escape.

The third line, yin, shows tenacity and aggression with some regret. It's compared to biting into flesh and finding it disagreeable. Some situations are simply disagreeable. Perhaps there was an easier, nicer, and less aggressive way to find justice, so there may be some regret. However, given the circumstances, aggression seemed necessary, and was one way to solve the problem.

The fourth line, yang, shows its subject gnawing dried meat on a bone. This is a metaphor for a difficult situation dragging on with little to show. Careful continued work is ultimately rewarded.

The fifth line, yin, shows one gnawing on dried flesh. Again, it may feel like a nearly endless and fruitless pursuit. But with the goal in site, the work will ultimately pay off.

The sixth line, yang, shows a person whose body is bound in a slave's yoke. While life struggles may seem endless and exhausting at times, the hexagram concludes it is "better to fight with great strength, while remaining inwardly detached." In Sidereal astrology, long painful struggles are associated with Saturn, the stern schoolmaster. Through sorrow, pressure, and constraint, saturnine trials teach a young soul life is not just for fun. Episodes of struggle teach people to take life seriously.

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: