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I ching

Hsiao Ch'u (Small Restraint)

I Ching Hexagram 9
Hsiao Ch'u (Small Restraint)

Action: Surrender

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 38 Opposition: Yield

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 16 Enthusiasm: Align

There is no real blockage that can withstand submission.

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting
for our wits to grow sharper. – Eden Phillpotts

Reading at a Glance: Because of the one weak Yin line holding the fourth place among strong Yang lines, we see the idea how something small or weak can tame the powerful. Yin is the gentle influence operating in Tao that magnetizes the powerful Yang. The feminine side of courtship shows how a strong element can be held in check through gentle submissiveness. In Small Restraint power is accumulated by gently withholding its expression. We see this in the ‘coming soon’ advertising that creates anticipation, and also in the mating dance of courtship. At the same time, weakness and insecurity within the psyche can become powerful because it is repressed. Anything locked in a vacuum can grow out of proportion to what it is. Ideas of failure can stunt even the most obvious talents. Opposition is the hidden influence or mirror of how we meet our Shadow, or repressed qualities of ourselves in another. We think someone is the enemy when they have come to set us free from self imposed restrictions. After waking from period of Enthusiasm or possible illusion, we discover how nightmares are a positive sign that power has begun to stir in the psyche. In Taoism, the idea of ‘Te’ is the inherent authenticity that you are born with. You need only peel away the layers of fear that keep you from expressing it. In either case, you will need to approach the object of your enquiry with gentle submissiveness to exercise, discover or release your power. Defensiveness ensures that the negative outcome is relentless. Submissiveness always opens new doors for success so simply surrender to the Way.

Baby elephant and adult elephant walking in savannah

When obstacles


insurmountable -

open to

the teaching.

“Holding together, restraint is certain to come about.” The Gentle Wind stirs above the Creative portraying how constant action, regardless of how small, makes creation possible. Hsiao Ch’u reveals how your power to create always comes as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the smallest effort will eventually bear fruit as the image of the fertile soil gathering in a river valley. It also suggests how the tiniest seed becomes reality in the ideas that you cultivate.

The master said: “The Gentle has its own power, like water dripping onto stone.” Hsiao Ch'u suggests the ways in which your thoughts might either hold you back or allow you to succeed. The power of intention is being examined.

Hsiao Ch'u is a picture of how small things are domesticated and suggests how habitual responses are trained and can lead to self-imposed restraint. If you chain a wild horse to a fence long enough, its spirit will not only be broken, it may also forget that it ever roamed free.

The nuclear trigrams suggest “dense clouds, no rain.” Condensation gathers energy above the Water, but the Winds cannot disperse it, and the atmosphere is left with an unproductive heaviness. Self-limiting ideas can take hold like a dam that appears to block your forward progress. Let go and believe in yourself to find success.

You may be moving in circles, while obstacles appear to be everywhere. The smallest restraint can make you feel paralyzed, although when obstacles appear insurmountable, you must only release the dam within. Either take the time to understand what is created by fear, or you may encounter it later as an obstacle. The obstacle is merely a tangible vehicle that allows you to see how you become stuck.

To engage the energy of life productively, combine your power to create with the openness that makes anything possible. The greatest power we can express is through silence. When there is nothing to defend, we are strong.


Clouds gather = the rain has not yet arrived.If things are unfolding slowly and you get Hsiao Ch’u unchanging, the message relates to the way clouds are gathering but have not developed enough to bring forth rain. In this case, the idea of surrender or abiding means to just keep doing the work until the way becomes clear again. Nature moves season to season very slowly. We, on the other hand, want something and we want it now. Small Restraint is a message calling for patience so that some type of blockage within you or another might clear. The object of your enquiry is still developing. However, the time spent waiting is productive in opening you to greater realizations.

Line 1:

Return to your path = how is this wrong? Changes to (57) Penetration. There is a sense of advancing and then retreating. Penetration or introspection allows you to examine the obstruction to recognize how it has emerged because you are on the wrong path. There is nothing wrong with retreating or going back to who you were before you started. It is more important that you return to your nature, rather than use force to obtain that which isn’t right for you.

Line 2:

Drawn to the home for return = good fortune. Changes to (37) Family. Observing what is up ahead, you are obstructed. Perhaps you have noticed a blockage where others are retreating too. Circumstances may be bringing you back, but this can be a time of sharing or providing care rather than achieving goals. Enjoy more and strive less. Personal relationships take precedence over ambition.

Line 3:

Spokes of wagon wheel burst = husband and wife turn away. Changes to (61) Inner Truth. When the wagon spokes burst, it is important to recognize how to be in sync with partners. Pushing forcefully ahead is incorrect because power lies in your submissiveness and willingness to hear each other. It does no good to cast blame because nothing is inherently wrong. All is unfolding as it should and the situation will align you with your Inner Truth. Step back and allow the space for others to work through their own issues.

Line 4:

With sincerity no need to be cautious = enriched by neighbors. Changes to (1) Creative. Being held back by fear, you may have become stuck in ideas of self doubt. There is no need to be cautious or fearful if you are sincere about what you are doing. In fact, the blockage is revealing your sincerity so you might commit and your inner reserves are awakened to discover solutions. There can be a lot of anxiety around the situation but confidence is the key to breaking through to a good outcome. The Creative shows you possess the power of creative flexibility. You may feel powerless in achieving the response you desire, but the ability to resonate your sincerity will be recognized.

Line 5:

Confidence and sincerity = truthfulness in companionship. Changes to (26) Controlled Power. This line incorporates small taming outwardly with great taming within. Small Restraint draws on Controlled Power, relating to others out of a sense of confidence and sincerity where partners are truthful with each other. The difference between scarcity and abundance shows that what you possess within is mirrored without. No need to show your cards, but be confident and you will succeed.

Line 6:

You have what you need = don’t press for more. Changes to (5) Nourished While Waiting. By acting with submissiveness, you have achieved what you need. Don’t get pompous and demanding because of your accomplishment. You may need to be patient and give the object of your enquiry further time to develop before proceeding as in “you have all you need to know at this time.” The danger comes from being pushy and impatient.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 9 unchanging Hexagram 9.1 Hexagram 9.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 9.2 Hexagram 9.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 9.3 Hexagram 9.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 9.4 Hexagram 9.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 9.5 Hexagram 9.5.6 Hexagram 9.6