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I ching

Shih (Army)

I Ching Hexagram 7
Shih (Army)

Action: Correct Discipline

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 24 Return: Go Back

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 13 Fellowship: Socialize

To know fulfillment,
nourish what is for the belly and not the eye.

If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything. –Chinese Proverb

Reading at a Glance: Shih is a hexagram that focuses on correct discipline and organization. It calls for delegation and structured behavior where everyone is acting according to routine. In personal readings, it can remove the emotional component where one takes a defensive or aggressive posture. The Army can relate to your inner strategy for pursuing work and even romance, but more from the standpoint of how to conquer and succeed without giving much thought to anything else. Like the Chariot in Tarot, this suggests a soldier disciplined enough to allow reason and forethought to override any emotional considerations. Even while it focuses on conformity to the group, the lines explore varying degrees of how to Return to one’s integrity in different levels of success and failure. There is an element of the development of willpower as opposed to spiritual or emotional concerns at play. The Zong Gua shows a movement away from Fellowship or easy social interchanges to organize one’s own foundational beliefs within the group to learn more about the Self. Ultimately, you must find a balance between the need to conform to others expectations against the need to express your authentic identity. When you receive Shih the message can be about a struggle that has become disjointed and requires some sort of organizational thought to turn it around in your favor. You may have met your match in some situation where control is the dominating energy.

ducks marching on beach

The wind excites

a thousand

different instruments -

Each song is played

in its own way.

“When there is conflict, individuals rise up in revolt.” The Abysmal Water stirs below the Receptive Earth, portraying how custom and duty can erode your sense of loyalty. Shih is a message about discovering value in what you do. As the image of many people gathering around a center, peer pressure and the expectations of others can sometimes lead you away from your center. At the same time, when you are cultivating 'original sincerity' circumstances also bring you together with those of like mind.

Army symbolizes the Collective Force, whether in love, business or professional goals you may need to establish a plan of action or strategy. Explore whether you are approaching your object of enquiry with a sense of battle or domination. Participating in the Collective Force requires balancing individual needs with the respect of others.

Shih can also symbolize conformity. Beyond the flowery show that bears no fruit, “it is the fruit and not the flower that sustains life.” The flower is attractive, but if you cut it for display, you will find no nourishment or fruit to sustain you later. This is the image of trading your real nature for acceptance. The master said: “nourish what is for the belly and not the eye.” You are reminded to do what nourishes and does not deplete you.

Whatever has left you feeling empty will lead you in the pursuit of instant gratification, as an endless cycle of fulfilling what is missing. When you find yourself drawn to this gratification process, you can be certain that something more fundamental remains unfulfilled within.

The nuclear hexagram of Return can bring you back to your center to ask: “Which is worth more, the person or the title?” You can find pleasure in what you do only when it taps and authenticates your full capabilities. In the great field of action, you can become an instrumental part of the collective force only when you are fulfilled and true to your own nature.

Shih is also a message about working with others in a group. Perhaps you have been isolated and it is time to return to more social interaction. The obstacles you may be encountering might be solved if you were to allow your vision to be added to and augmented by others. Stay true to yourself, but no person is an island.


In between conflict and union = a time of either peace or battles. Shih unchanging can show a stagnant situation stuck between the principle of (6) Conflict and (8) Union. Before the situation can move forward it might require more definition in terms of what it is really about and can show a self protective stance. Shih is also a message about not becoming obsessive about discipline. For example someone on a diet may place so much stress around not eating that the diet backfires from anxious overeating. It can be a message asking you to get organized or learn to delegate before you burn out. As an image of an Army, similar to the Chariot in Tarot, it can show a mindset of battle about your object of enquiry. Even in relationships, you can pursue for the thrill of the chase, rather than explore whether or not the person is right for you. The difference between discipline and control is the focus on the self vs. others. Discipline is an agreement about mutual growth where control can just lead to battles. Your tenacity is impressive, but it may not lead to any tangible results because another is immovable.

Line 1:

Army marching in order = the discipline of team. Changes to (19) Approach. When overwhelmed with the needs of a group, be sensitive to others’ skills so that each functions independently and at their best to fortify the strength of a team. In personal matters, you may need to start by organizing and planning a strategy. In emotional issues, you may need to follow the head and not the heart, or at least reign in your emotions.

Line 2:

In the midst of an army = the king bestows a triple decoration. Changes to (2) Receptive. A triple decoration is like the 3 treasures in Taoism: compassion, moderation and not needing to be recognized, but to follow and remain humble. All of these treasures accord to serving others. While working fully in a team, each individual retains their own integrity. This shows the importance of core foundational beliefs functioning at all levels to achieve success. Ensure your individual principles resonate to what you are seeking.

Line 3:

Carrying corpses = holding on to non essentials and wasting resources. Changes to (46) Pushing Upward. The imagery of this line shows an Army led by improper leadership, advancing and winning, but what is won has no value. They are carrying corpses in the sense of advancing without a goal into an empty town. This can also be a message that an old way is changing into one of greater discipline. Growth comes after a deteriorating situation is given a new sense of direction. If you are too much in the head – look to the heart and follow instinct. Balance emotion and logic but move forward with vitality, not routine. Discipline requires that you moderate thought, action and emotion with your purpose. The situation provides an optimum environment for spiritual discipline and transcendent growth.

Line 4:

The Army retreats = no success but no blame. Changes to (40) Deliverance. Too much discipline can block your ability to move spontaneously to avoid danger when retreat is necessary. Therefore, in being disciplined it is important to know when to throw in the towel. This also leads to success. Deliverance can be a message about taking time out to relax and regroup so you can march refreshed another day.

Line 5:

Birds in the field = stop speaking. Changes to (29) Abyss. You can use an army of discipline to succeed, but some things can only be learned through mistakes. Hidden soldiers must refrain from speaking when seeing birds in the field which will fly up and alert the enemy. In this case, discipline must be melded with expertise to ensure success. Seasoning and experience differentiate the great from the mediocre. Make certain you are up to the task or find someone to help you. There is more to the situation than what worked in the past. In this situation you would do well to listen and not force your agenda.

Line 6:

Develop cities and support the families = don’t give responsibilities lightly. Changes to (4) Youthful Folly. The word ‘infantry’ originates from the French word “enfant” or child. The proper approach for any leader is to develop the skills of the individual like a parent. After a period of difficulty, it may be necessary to reorganize or rebuild. Good relations with people require support and generosity. The battle is over so there is no reason to march against anyone. Youthful Folly is also a warning about making sure you are finding the right people to meet your needs.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 7 unchanging Hexagram 7.1 Hexagram 7.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 7.2 Hexagram 7.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 7.3 Hexagram 7.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 7.4 Hexagram 7.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 7.5 Hexagram 7.5.6 Hexagram 7.6