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I ching

Ku (Decay)

I Ching Hexagram 18
Ku (Decay)

Action: Remedy

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 54 Propriety: Subordinate

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 17 Following: Show by Example

All things are supple when alive,
but become hard when dead.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust

Reading at a Glance: Success in business is often measured in an 's' like curve. Initially costs are no longer an issue, the line rises as profits grow. Later, competition flattens the line as market saturation offsets profits and the line recedes. If the business recognizes that innovation and responsiveness has to occur at every turn, perhaps the line would progress upward unimpeded. That is not usually the case. People wait until sales fall or something is broken before they take action. We do this in our personal lives too and that is the message of Decay. Mountain over Wind suggests how the Wind must change course as a remedy for forward advance because the Mountain of ideas has blocked progress and Decay grows unchecked in this situation. The hidden influence of Subordinate suggests recognizing how you are interdependent on others. All relationships thrive on win/win solutions. A business explores demand prior to manufacturing the product. You may need to put your personal goals aside and make a sacrifice based on the needs of another. Where Following as underlying cause suggests how one thing follows another naturally, in this situation, the old way needs to be overhauled if you are to be successful. Ego games and self serving approaches to others will not work. Following old routines can lead to shoddy work and design. Whatever the situation, it is time to clear out the old and prepare for the new. Ku has a lot to teach you however. If you know that Decay can set in, you can prepare in advance to avoid it. The necessary ingredients are the ability to offset deterioration by ensuring innovation and that constant change is sustained.

sedona red rocks in distance

Wind over the Mountain.

One chisels away,

the other



“Work on what has spoiled; afterwards there is order.” Routine can take on a life of its own and over time, all things require renewal. You must work on what has been spoiled by decay to foster a rebirth. Bringing vitality to what is old and outworn, Ku portrays how being placed in a yielding position to nourish others can sometimes turn the Wind into the image of drifting.

The master said: “you are supple when alive and hard when dead.” Even a business environment, being comprised of individuals, must be established on a foundation of individual growth to keep the enterprise alive. Observing what has led the situation to become hard and dead, prune away what has stymied forward progress.

Failing to recognize the necessary cycles of completion and renewal, a situation has been allowed to move steadily toward a state of stagnation.

Perhaps you have defined your worth by solving the problems of others, and those that follow look to you as a problem solver. You may have lost your vision of the larger picture by tending to its many parts. Regardless of the reason, the situation has lost its suppleness.

“it is associated with autumn when the height of creation ends and begins anew. In the image of seeds falling to the ground, harvest the seeds of the future by removing the outer husk or protective covering of the past. To work on what has been spoiled, separate what is dead from what will bring new life.

Crossing the Great Water to observe the situation with a fresh perspective, success is assured through systematic renewal. There is a need to overcome complacency so you can lift something to a higher and more functioning level. Stagnation only exists while you avoid the inevitable death of the old way. To tap the future potential of something, you must come to terms with what must pass.

“Before the starting point, three days. After the starting point, three days.” Three months of spring follow three months of winter to bring about growth, but only because three months of summer was followed by autumn to usher in decline. If you are inspired by the laws of nature, you will be undaunted by the changing climate, and merely set upon the task of reinvigorating renewal.


During autumn = leaves fall to nourish spring. You may not immediately see Decay or its cause, although you can observe the lack of vitality or hardness surrounding your situation. You may be asking about making a move of some sort, but the unchanging nature of Decay seems to feel that it is not the environment that needs to be changed but something about how you are interacting with it. Something requires reworking and it could be your attitude or approach. Everywhere you go - there you are. A situation may be beyond repair because of your refusal to acknowledge that there was anything wrong in the first place. Stop pushing and reacting - step back and give the situation time. From fall to spring are many months of unseen activity gestating beneath the earth. Your spring will come when you allow autumn and winter its gestating time. This hexagram focuses on 'work' and requires a reworking of some sort. Sweeping a problem under the rug won’t do – address the issue. Running for greener pastures won't fulfill you - examine your motives. What are you running from? What are you running to? How are they the same? Have you experienced disappointment in your impulsive actions? Settle down and do the inner work. Since propriety or Subordination is the hidden influence you may need to be more patient, more of a subordinate and stop pushing or fighting your way into inappropriate situations. Nature promises that spring comes after winter without fail - we don't have to go looking for it. Be in time and let go of the past and future. Step back and let others approach you in their own season. Rather than move or react - what can you do about your judgments and lack of patience?

Line 1:

Neglect of the father brings investigation = consequences and blame released. Changes to (26) Taming Power of Great. This line can describe karma or past actions rooted in tradition and their consequences. Investigate whether actions have been too impulsive spoiling an otherwise good situation. Perhaps a more modern approach to the matter will correct what is wrong. An investigation of inherent weakness is in order where a new idea can invigorate it. To allow for the Taming of the Great, respect of another is in order.

Line 2:

Neglect of mother = sensitivity needed. Changes to (52) Keeping Still. Emotional responses have gotten out of control and sensitivity is needed. A relationship is delicate and applying remedy drastically might wound. Through weakness an imbalance has occurred. Someone is choosing not to act for the time being. Give the situation gentle consideration by Keeping Still and allow for the space needed for reflection.

Line 3:

Minor neglect of father = hasty correction of humiliation. Changes to (4) Youthful Folly. A mistake is easily rectified, although you may have been a bit hasty and judged as inconsiderate. No real blame because it is better to do something rather than nothing. In fact, you may have to bend over backwards a little to make amends. State your case and then back off to allow another to assimilate your change in attitude. Approaching correction too hastily can lead to regret or you might be viewed as acting Foolish. Since intentions are toward correction there is no blame.

Line 4:

Setting right what was spoiled by father = seeing what is wrong leads to praise. Changes to (50) Cauldron. Ignoring decay leads to problems because you’d rather not rock the boat. Perhaps your respect for another has left you unable to speak up. The Cauldron can show co-dependency or giving your power away. Eventually this will lead to humiliation. Better to rectify the situation and speak up. The weakness is obvious but to discuss what is wrong without remedying it is futile. You will be respected for speaking your mind.

Line 5:

Setting right the father’s corruption = one meets with praise. Changes to (57) Penetration. It will take some time and probing to remedy the situation but it is necessary and will lead to respect. A long needed reform is in order and you are in a position to make it happen.

Line 6:

Transcending the entire situation = turning away to attend to higher goals. Changes to (46) Pushing Upward. Something important to one isn’t important to another, so one minds their own business. While the decision to go one’s own way may not bring popularity, it is the right thing for the time. An ability to rise above right and wrong allows you to see the ‘just so’ flow of events where not embroiling leads to acceptance. After letting go one is able to achieve loftier goals.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 18 unchanging Hexagram 18.1 Hexagram 18.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 18.2 Hexagram 18.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 18.3 Hexagram 18.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 18.4 Hexagram 18.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 18.5 Hexagram 18.5.6 Hexagram 18.6