1. The Changes is a book whose hexagrams begin with the first line and are summed up in the last. The lines are the essential material. The six lines are interspersed according to the meaning belonging to them at the time.
This section discusses the relation of the lines to the hexagram as a whole. With the individual lines as the material, the hexagram is built from the bottom upward. The individual lines have within this sequence the meaning imparted to them by force of the particular situation.
2. The beginning line is difficult to understand. The top line is easy to understand. For they stand in the relationship of cause and effect. The judgment on the first line is tentative, but at the last line everything has attained completion.
Here in the first instance the reciprocal relationship between the first and the top line is stated. Both stand, as it were, outside the essential hexagram and the nuclear trigrams. At the first line the action is only just beginning to develop, and at the last it is concluded.
3. But if one wishes to explore things in their manifold gradation, and their qualities as well, and to discriminate between right and wrong, it cannot be done completely without the middle lines.
The "things in their manifold gradation" result from the manifold gradation of the places. Their qualities inhere in their firm or their yielding character. Right and wrong are distinguishable according to whether or not the lines occupy the places appropriate to them in view of the meaning of the time.
4. Yes, even that which is most important in regard to surviving or perishing, in regard to good fortune or misfortune, can be known in the course of time. The man of knowledge contemplates the judgment on the decision, and thus he can think out for himself the greater part.
In the Commentary on the Decision the rulers of the hexagrams are always indicated. By pondering the relationships of the other lines to these rulers, one can gain an approximate idea of their position and meaning in the hexagram as a whole.
5. The second and fourth place correspond in their work but are differentiated by their positions. They do not correspond as regards the degree to which they are good. The second is usually praised, the fourth is usually warned, because it stands near the ruler. The meaning of the yielding is that it is not favorable for it to be far away. The important thing, however, is to remain without blame; its expression consists in being yielding and central.
The fifth place is that of the ruler. The second and the fourth place are those of officials. The second, which stands in the relationship of correspondence to the fifth (each being centrally placed, the former in the inner, the latter in the outer trigram), is the official who, far from the court, is attending to his work in the country. The fourth place is that of the minister. Therefore the two places, both dark--that is, dependent--are not equally good, despite their correspondence with respect to their work. The second usually carries a favorable judgment, the fourth a warning one: because it is too close to the prince, it must be doubly cautious. Now it is not in the nature of the yielding to prosper when it is far from the firm, hence one would expect the second place to be less favorable than the fourth. However, an important factor is that it is centrally placed and so remains without blame.
6. The third and the fifth place correspond in their work but are differentiated by their positions. The third usually has misfortune, the fifth usually has merit, because they are graded according to rank. The weaker is endangered, the stronger has victory.
The fifth place is that of the ruler. The third, as the top place of the inner [lower] trigram, has at least a limited power. But it is not central; it is in an insecure position on the boundary between two trigrams. Therein, as well as in its lower rank, lie elements of weakness that in most situations show the place to be endangered. The fifth place is central and strong, the ruler of the hexagram; these are all elements of strength, promising victory.