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I ching

K’uei (Opposition)

I Ching Hexagram 38
K’uei (Opposition)

Action: Accommodate

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 63 After Completion: Renew

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 39 Obstruction: Innovate

Life’s natural friction is the force
that shapes your individuality.

He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerve,
and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. – Edmund Burke

Reading at a Glance: When Clarity is rising over the Joyous Lake we see fire and water which can extinguish each other through interaction, thus they remain apart in the image of Opposition. To make matters worse, Fire burns upward while Water flows downward so any flowing connection has been lost. Opposition shows a situation where people are not seeing events from the same perspective. This mutual alienation reveals how an impasse can stop union. Nothing major can be accomplished because the situation is one in which all must acknowledge their unique natures while arriving at accommodation. Unlike Obstruction as the underlying cause where the innovation of change and merging of unique qualities leads to growth, in K’uei the incompatibilities are actually given greater definition so that Clarity and Joy can be mutually strengthened in all. People are drawn together who might be incompatible in every way and yet, nature uses polarities to deepen individual definition. We join groups because of the way we are similar but discover who we really are in the ways that we are different. Union should not come at the expense of giving up your individuality. Because stagnation never endures in nature, there will be a meeting of the minds but it must come without concession. A good example can be found during courtship where we struggle to change some opposing or strange quality in another only to discover this characteristic is exactly what we find most endearing. Opposition is a fertile breeding ground for creative transformation because we stop attempting to make our way the only way. When we can accept that there are many expressions of the right way, polarity gives way to a condition where Clarity can illuminate Joy.

bear cubs playing in forest

Therefore, honor

the evolutionary tension

that keeps

all of life


“In family gatherings, we find that misunderstandings arise from habitual behavior, thus we see the principle of opposition.” Habitual behavior can lead to stagnation, while nature appears to work against this tendency. Your conditioning can best be observed in family dynamics where you can see a snapshot of the defensive tendencies that you carry forward in life. Regardless of the opposition, life gives definition by bringing opposites together.

K’uei is the movement in stillness that allows you to observe what happens when opposites meet. It is not the pleasant exchanges that you remember, but the unpleasant ones that can stay with you for days, months and years. While you may cherish the times of harmony, it is through difficulty that real growth occurs. Even when someone seems to be challenging you, they are also helping you to further define your individuality. Opposition further defines your strength.

When you can move beyond the idea that the world is a place of polarities, you will begin to see opposition as life’s movement toward a higher unity. The Clinging Flame burns above the Joyous Lake as an image of clarity being reflected upon the vicissitudes of experience. Nature explores variety and change through contrast; at the same time, it achieves harmony by releasing accumulating energy in the bound up things that crash together.

In the natural world, opposition is the universal face of changing phenomena. When you open to its creative and regenerative pull, you discover life’s pursuit of novelty, not its polarities. At all levels of life, friction always releases and disperses energy.

The master said: "opposition is a prerequisite for union." Two people who would prefer to sweep issues under the carpet will never discover authentic union. Confucius taught that opposites are merely two different aspects of a higher unity.

While we clash, we identify our differences that give form to our unique qualities. As we bridge our differences, we honor our separate wills and move toward a common purpose. Through this blending of wills, a higher unity takes form. Yet, this transformation could not take form without the diverging energy that is released through friction. Any type of union requires that we not sacrifice our individuality.

In the species, when the masculine and feminine meet, there is reproduction. Opposite elements that retain their unique nature in coming together, eventually sharpen and define each other’s individuality. In life’s movement toward contrast, whatever is dormant is excited to the surface to be applied for productive use.


Show your real face = judging others makes one feel judged. K’uei unchanging can be a message about holding to your vision or unique nature in the face of strong opposition. Circumstances can make you wonder if you are crazy or missing something but your unique perspective and authentic nature should not be sacrificed for union. We often feel more severely judged when we are judging others. If we can celebrate the joyful quirkiness in others, we are more fearless in expressing our eccentricities. The situation can only thrive if everyone is allowed to be themselves. Perhaps the opposition you feel has roots in your own judgment of others. A change in mindset can work miracles in transforming a tapestry of conflict or opposition. Acceptance and a lack of prejudice give way to tolerance. Eventually tolerance opens us in a way that we learn something new and therefore open to joyous discovery. If you are meeting with unchanging Opposition you need only become accepting of other’s points of view.

Line 1:

A lost horse returns of its own accord, contention in another is best examined within = remorse disappears. Changes to (64) Before Completion. Since Opposition is a lesson of honoring differences, don’t attempt to chase or change another. Accepting those for who they are can attract their return. In meeting contention one always does well to examine one’s prejudices and judgments. To cross to the other side of Opposition requires that you honor differences while staying true to oneself. You need only go half way, so don’t sacrifice your uniqueness.

Line 2:

One meets the master in the street = no blame. Changes to (21) Biting Through. Life brings us together propitiously to meet those who can teach us something about our own hidden nature. Those who push our buttons the most are often our teachers. Our meetings with these types of teachers are never accidental. This line carries the essence of Kung fu tzu’s comment: “when meeting contention in another, we would do well to examine the self.” The attraction leads one to discover deeper knowledge about the self. In a relationship there can be a deep affinity but not an easy way for it to achieve expression. Allow the situation to teach you what it is attempting to become.

Line 3:

Wagon and oxen halted while one’s hair and nose are cut off = not a good beginning but a good end. Changes to (14) Great Possessing. Sometimes the truth can be humiliating and the way forward is blocked until we learn the valuable lesson about ‘what is’. In dreams cutting the hair is releasing ideas while cutting the nose removes our intuitive ability to sniff things out. The challenge in the situation is to recognize how past ideas or misconceptions need to be released without abandoning one’s individual integrity or intuition. Great Possessing can only be achieved through openness and honoring different perspectives and needs. Although the situation has an uncomfortable start, enlightenment is assured even though the union and forward movement is difficult.

Line 4:

Isolated and alone one meets an associate = high risk but no blame. Changes to (41) Decrease. While the situation creates isolation, you find someone in which you share an intimate connection and affinity. The isolation or opposition was necessary to open you to this new connection which can lead to great accomplishment.

Line 5:

A companion discovered behind the wrappings of an enemy = to join them is not a mistake. Changes to (10) Treading. We meet someone who initially appears like an enemy or completely opposed to our expectations. Like all Shadow work or stepping on the tiger’s tail of Treading, if we stop projecting the past and look deeper at the reason we meet those we do, we discover that often our enemies become our best friends. The quality that attracts and binds is holding integrity and individuality above all else. Your similarities are hidden but once the defensive wrappings come off, there is great shared affinity.

Line 6:

Isolated, one sees companions as pigs and devils, drawing the bow and then laying it aside = there are no enemies only love. After the rain all rejoice. Changes to (54) Propriety. Disagreements may cause you to look unfavorably upon others but misunderstandings are resolved. The steps to union can only be achieved by allowing uniqueness, opposition and then acceptance to flow in its natural cycle, like rain. Authenticity is not sacrificed so that deeper affection can grow. Opposition revealed differences that are now appreciated for what they are, and thus good fortune.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 38 unchanging Hexagram 38.1 Hexagram 38.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 38.2 Hexagram 38.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 38.3 Hexagram 38.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 38.4 Hexagram 38.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 38.5 Hexagram 38.5.6 Hexagram 38.6