Hexagram 21 Biting Through, SHI HO

I am very familiar with this hexagram 21 Shi HO. It comes when there is something to be divined that it not clear from the outset. Appearances are not what they seem. There is cause to look deeper into the details of this inquiry. Court cases often come to mind. Biting through the meat of the issue to get to the bone, is a common metaphor for this reading.

The I Ching counsel for this reading is the mouth is open with an obstruction between the teeth, preventing the lips from meeting. One must bite through the obstacle to get to the truth or to allow the lips to meet. Recourse to law and penalties overcomes the disturbances of harmonious social life caused by criminals and slanderers.

My two friends who received this reading from their consult with me had different pursuits in mind. One, nigh on purchasing an existing business, the other deciding on the appropriate course of his amorous options. Their respective reading came within 3 days of each other. This was a first for me so I thought others might be intrigued by additional inquiry.

James Dekorne’s Gnostic reading on Hexagram 21 offers an interesting title for this reading, “discernment”

When you receive this reading one should very carefully review the object or subject of the inquiry. I have included the commentary below to provide additional insight into the reading.


Confucius/Legge: The existence of something between the jaws gives rise to the name Discernment– union by means of biting through the intervening article. The dynamic and magnetic lines are equally divided in the figure. Movement is denoted by the lower trigram, and Clarity by the upper — thunder and lightning uniting in them, and having brilliant manifestation. The magnetic fifth line is in the center, and acts in her high position. Although she is not in her proper place, this is advantageous for the use of legal constraints.

Legge: Discernment means literally “union by gnawing.” The figure consists of undivided lines in the top, bottom and fourth places — giving the image of open jaws with something in them “being gnawed.” When the object has been bitten through, the upper and lower jaws come together in union — hence: ” Union by gnawing.” Remove the obstacles to union and high and low will meet together in understanding. The force exerted by gnawing suggests the idea of legal constraints.

The equal division of the dynamic and magnetic lines is seen by taking them in pairs, though the order of the first pair is different from the other two. The magnetic fifth line is the ruler of the hexagram, indicating that judgment is tempered by leniency.

Ch’eng-tzu says that thunder and lightning are always found together, and hence their trigrams go together to give the idea of union intended in Discernment: one trigram symbolizing majesty and the other intelligence.

Cleary (1): Practice of the Tao is like administering justice: Discerning true and false, right and wrong, is like the judge deciding good and bad; getting rid of falsehood and keeping truth, so as to preserve essence and life, is like the [just] administration rewarding the good and punishing the bad, so as to alleviate the burden of injustice.