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I ching

Sheng (Pushing Upward)

I Ching Hexagram 46
Sheng (Pushing Upward)

Action: Ascend

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 54 Propriety: Subordinate

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 25 Innocence: Open

When you pay respect to the great,
you pave the way for your own greatness.

It is always better to fail in doing something
than to excel in doing nothing. – Chinese Proverb

Reading at a Glance: Sheng describes a situation requiring an extended amount of sustained effort and results that may not be readily visible. It is like a small tree taking years before it ever provides shade. At the same time it is focused on growth so unless the situation is one of growth, it cannot move upward. It can also be a message about patience and authentic interaction. Generally events happen so fast that we lose touch with the flow of what we are doing. We can become a part of routines that have nothing to do with fulfillment. Situations unfold that are the result of past actions that are forgotten. Like the patience that would be required to observe the growth of a tree, you need to get back to the moment in conscious awareness of what you are doing and why. Therefore, Pushing Upward can be a message to slow down and become mindful. The hidden influence of Propriety or subordination aligns the will to the way. If we nourish an authentic approach to each day, keeping in mind our intention while opening to the nurturing events that unfold to hone us, we can create a sense of fulfilling opportunities that lead to success. If we are neglectful or caught up in routines, nothing can flourish. The underlying cause of Innocence sought a perspective without intention but now you are asked to give form to intention and provide it with the conscious care over time that will allow you to realize your ambition. Sheng focuses on purposeful action and asks that you examine the situation to see if real growth is occurring. Pushing Upward can also be a message about the need to leave a deteriorating situation if it is no longer serving growing. The emphasis should be on healthy growth and not ignoring deterioration. A promotion or other opportunity to expand outwardly is also indicated.

water droplets on green mint leaves

The rain comes

and what bends

will rise.

It is a purposeful


“Massing toward the top is called pushing upward. That which pushes upward does not come back.” We sometimes believe that successful people get ‘a lucky break,’ but more often than not, it was the heaping up of small efforts that led to their success.

You can be successful, but if it came at the expense of your authenticity, success will leave you feeling empty. When you model nature, you will see the progression of how big things have their beginnings in the small. In the atom, molecule, cells, tissues, organs, people or nations, big things emerge from the heaping up of small things. To create a type of success that generates fulfillment, you must build your foundation from the inside - out.

The Gentle Wind becomes the Wood that pushes upward through the Earth, and Sheng is the image of something growing with an emphasis on expansion. “One generation plants trees; another gets the shade. What grows upward does not come back” because the flowering usually occurs much later than the actual effort.

The master said: “In time, you carry on your back, the Yin; In time, you embrace in your arms, the Yang.” This captures the idea of how you carry on with your efforts, even while the results may not be apparent. Ascending vertically suggests the rise from obscurity to a position of power because of your sincerity. “One who pays respect to the great paves the way for one’s own greatness.” You tend to the small with the knowledge that everything is a part of the great whole.

When work displays immediate results, you are gratified, but because you cannot see the result, you may question what you are doing. To “shine and not dazzle” is the sense of holding to your sense of inner purpose, without the need for recognition. Only you know the importance of what you are doing. If it is real, it will endure. All effort is consequential because even small contributions are important. Like the principle of waiting, there is no immediate response. Sincerity is strengthened when you do the small things that make you qualified to do even greater things.

Through convergence, you stand in the collective to find your core. Pushing upward alone, you achieve success through perseverance. Thus, you can transform the devotion of following your inner drummer into greatness.

There are many cases where executive leadership in major corporations rises from the mailroom. To achieve great things, do not measure your efforts in terms of big and small; all effort is meaningful. Like the Gentle and penetrating Wind, if you consistently do even the smallest of things, you will ascend. Without obvious results, you can understand a deeper meaning of gratification: it is your devotion to the work that makes you great.


Devotion is one part patience = and an equal measure of sincerity. While you may think that a quick fix or short term effort will lead to long term success, you are mistaken. Shun unchanging is a message about the sustained dedication and effort that is required in this situation. Responsiveness and receptivity need to be blended with small steady efforts. There is no easy way to success in this situation so unless you are in it for the long haul, you may want to change direction. A stable foundation and daily nurturing is required in the same way you plant corn in the spring but do not eat it until autumn. Are you committed to the long term picture? Is it possible that you have outgrown the situation or that things have changed in a way that will make it different? Those grappling with a curriculum of patience may pull this hexagram unchanging because patience is not their strongest quality. If you want to enjoy the harvest, you have to be willing to nurture the garden. Know that nothing will change any faster than the seasons. Slow, steady progress is the only way to success in this situation.

Line 1:

Pushing upward meets with confidence = brings great good fortune. Changes to (11) Peace. As you advance toward the object of your inquiry you are well received. There is nothing blocking your way and others appreciate your approach. Peace shows a time of harmony in advancing. At the same time, the first step toward advance can be measured carefully in terms of whether it disturbs Peace or leads to it. The door may have opened, but careful consideration may be taking place.

Line 2:

If one is sincere it furthers one to bring even a small offering = no blame. Changes to (15) Authenticity. Because of your sincere and humble approach you are well received in your advance. The mention of no blame is because that while you may not be suited for the position or lacking in experience your ethics and sincerity make up for it. Being authentic in advancing a sacrifice of some sort may need to be made to show your sincerity.

Line 3:

One pushes upward = into an empty city. Changes to (7) Army. Whether you have advanced too soon or into the wrong situation, there is nothing there to receive you. You have set your sights on something and are eager to obtain it but the timing isn’t right. Discipline and rules may need to be established prior to moving forward. The empty city can be literal, as in moving into a new house that is unfurnished or making a move that will not happen until later. Have patience because you are moving too fast and putting the cart before the horse.

Line 4:

The king offers a sacrifice on Mount Ch'i = good fortune without blame. Changes to (32) Duration. The sacrifice on Mount Ch'i suggests the idea of a pilgrimage taken to achieve a higher awareness. It may be important to consider what you are attempting and whether it will serve you. This can require a testing or sacrifice to prove your commitment. Because the end result will be enduring, you may need to re-evaluate if this is the proper course for you. Whatever your objective, the advance forward will be based on a commitment and will be long lasting.

Line 5:

Perseverance brings good fortune = one pushes upward by steps. Changes to (48) The Well. Because you have taken the preparatory steps to advance, nothing blocks your way. The Well shows that others benefit by your objectives. This can be a message about receiving a promotion. In relationships, the message of the Well is that the situation doesn’t really change even while it looks like progress is occurring.

Line 6:

Pushing upward in darkness = it furthers one to be unremittingly persevering. Changes to (18) Decay. Both the darkness and the image of Decay show proceeding even while the way forward is uncertain or fraught with difficulty. In times such as these it is solely your vision and unquestionable ethics that allow you to advance. It won’t be easy but if you are sincere and dedicated you will succeed. You may not have all of the facts so don’t blindly rush forward.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 46 unchanging Hexagram 46.1 Hexagram 46.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 46.2 Hexagram 46.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 46.3 Hexagram 46.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 46.4 Hexagram 46.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 46.5 Hexagram 46.5.6 Hexagram 46.6