元亨利贞 – Chinese philosophy and culture

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yuán hēng lì zhēn 元亨利贞

Yuanheng Lizhen

《周易·乾卦》的卦辞。主要有两种理解:其一,从占筮的角度来看,“元亨,利贞”是依据所得之卦来预测吉凶的断语。“元亨”意为大通,或举行大享的祭礼。“利贞”指利于占问,即筮得此卦为吉。其二,从义理的角度来看,“元亨利贞”被认为是乾卦的四种品德。有人将四者对应为仁、礼、义、正,又有人将其作为万物从始生到成熟的四个阶段,或指天道、圣人生养万物的四种德行。

This is a term used in The Book of Changes to explain the meaning of diagrams. It may be understood in two ways. First, when used in divination, it is a judgment predicting good fortune. Yuanheng (元亨) means a wide, smooth path or a grand sacrificial rite. Lizhen (利贞) refers to a favorable reading by a diviner and an auspicious prospect. Second, from the point of view of morality, it is believed to stand for four virtues associated with the qian (乾) hexagram. One view is that the four virtues are benevolence, rites, righteousness, and integrity; other views are that they represent four stages of life from birth to maturity, or four forms of moral conduct dictated by the way of heaven and adhered to by the sage in caring for all creatures.

引例 Citations:

◎君子体仁,足以长人;嘉会,足以合礼;利物,足以和义;贞固,足以干事。君子行此四德者,故曰“乾,元亨利贞。”(《周易·文言》)

(君子体会仁德,足以成为人们的尊长;将美好之物汇聚,足以合于礼;使万物得利,足以符合义;端正持守,足以成事。君子奉行这四种德行,因此称“乾,元亨利贞”。)

A man of virtue, embodying benevolence, is able to preside over others. Bringing together everything good, he is able to conform with the rites. Bringing benefits to all, he is able to conform with righteousness. Being steadfast and firm, he is able to manage affairs. A man of virtue acts in accordance with these four virtues, and hence it is said: Qian is yuan (primal) and heng (prosperous), li (beneficial) and zhen (steadfast). (The Book of Changes)

◎元者万物之始,亨者万物之长,利者万物之遂,贞者万物之成。(程颐《程氏易传》卷一)

(“元”是万物的起始,“亨”是万物的生长,“利”是万物的发展,“贞”是万物的最终形成。)

Yuan symbolizes the beginning of all things, heng their growth, li their further development, and zhen their maturity. (Cheng Yi: Cheng Yi’s Commentary on The Book of Changes)

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