Hexagram #48 — The Well

The Well: Changing the village, not changing the well; no loss, no gain. Those who come and go use the well as a well. If the rope does not reach all the way into the well, or if the bucket breaks, that is unfortunate.

EXPLANATION: A well is water with a source, which nourishes people inexhaustibly; it has the meaning of nurturance, development. As for the qualities of the hexagram, above is Water, ☵ dangerous, and below is Wind ☴, penetrating: gradually progressing so as to get through danger, though there is danger one can get out of it, as wood plunged in water emerges from the water. Therefore, this hexagram is called the well.This hexagram represents accumulation of effort to cultivate virtue; it follows on the previous hexagram Rising. Rising means harmonious progress in practice, a way to increase spiritual virtue. When spiritual virtue increases, and one has accordingly advanced to the state where there is no difficulty or danger, the basis is firm and stable; free from danger oneself, one can then resolve others' problems. With this one accumulates achievement and cultivates virtue, using what one has developed oneself to nurture others' development. Genuine within, this genuineness reaches out, so there is benefit to others and no harm to self. This is like a well: Changing the village doesn't change the well; no loss, no gain, passersby use the well as a well.

When the self-development of practitioners of Tao is sufficient, this is like a well having water in it. To develop others after having developed oneself is like changing the village. To develop others by one's own development is like not changing the well. Development of others must be based on self-development: As is self-development, so is development of others; this is like a well having no loss, no gain. Developing others by self-development, others and self are both nurtured; this is like those who come and go using the well as a well.

If one insists on trying to teach people before one has attained the Tao oneself, this is called lacking the basis. Development without the basis means that one lacks the inner ruler; arbitrarily used, it creates confusion, and without having helped anyone else one first loses one`s self. This is like trying to get water from a well, but the rope does not reach all the way, or the well water breaks the bucket; one brings misfortune on oneself. This is because the business of guiding others comes after the completion of the great path. When the path is completed, mind and body are autonomous; based on previous realization to enlighten others, one can thus benefit others and not harm oneself. Therefore the main theme in each of the six lines is self-development. -- Liu Yiming, Hexagram #48, The Well, The Taoist Ching

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Hexagram #48 The Well

Left: The ancient shape for the character for Well. Right: The present day shape.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Truth coming out of the Well to Shame Mankind (1896, Musee Anne-de-Beaujeu, Moulins)

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Truth coming out of the Well to Shame Mankind (1896, Musee Anne-de-Beaujeu, Moulins)