I Ching #29 – Abyss


This is the Chinese word for Water (K’an). I drew this with my Buddha board, then modified it in Photoshop. K’an also means danger.



This post is #29 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

I’m not sure if I told you this, but I am memorizing the 64 hexagrams – at least the names of all of them – so that if I see a hexagram, I know what it is called. This one is a special one because it is one of 8 hexagrams that is doubled – water over water. I like to think of the Grand Canyon when I think of this hexagram, which aptly explains both the power of water and the potential for danger. You wouldn’t want to get caught in the bottom of the Grand Canyon during a flash flood!

I love the beautiful subtlety of the I Ching. This image of water, being one of the eight trigram images as well, is significant because it reminds us to stay true to the highest virtues. Water flows gently over everything in its path – it takes the low road and yet it is extremely powerful for this reason. Water stays true to itself because it holds no pretenses.

I especially loved what Deng Ming-Dao had to say about the potential of this hexagram:

It is indulgent when people claim that they cannot find the meaning of life. They can. They just do not want to risk danger to find it. And so they sit at the edge, never going into the darkness to seek the answers that will slake their thirst. 

The “Abyss”, as this hexagram is also known, is about seeking that depth of our souls. Are we afraid to go deep or can we be like water and be fearless enough to reach our lowest places?


  1. Hi Amy.
    I so love that you painted this hexagram. Indeed the meaning of life is within us. If you want instant answers in life, here it is! If you want to go fast, go deep. Flow like water, with whatever is happening in the present moment. You will be happy and contented and then in that way, will help all you meet.

  2. I love that you’re talking about the hexagrams. I haven’t seen any other blogger do that. I’m not afraid to go deep, I journey.
    Linda Ursin recently posted…Creative Explorer Podcast – Episode 2 – 5 creativity lessons we can learn from childrenMy Profile

  3. I love the words by Deng Ming-Dao … So true. It is only in our vulnerability that we can see through the illusions, therefore to see life for what it truly is, we must take some risks.
    Kama recently posted…So Easy a 4 Year Old Did ItMy Profile

  4. Hi Amy! I love your K’an drawing. The colors evoke a sense of peace and yes, water, for me. It’s a timely post as we are currently under strict water restrictions here. My neighbors are probably thinking I am seriously ignoring them. However, I have a water permit from the city that allows me to water my lawn for 2 weeks. I applied nematodes (healthy, natural little creatures that will devour the grubs that raccoons and skunks and birds tear up my lawn to get at) after 7 days of one hour watering. Am allowed to water for seven more days, one hour per day. Even though I have that permit slapped on my window I feel SO guilty turning on the tap at 05:45 each morning. Thankfully tomorrow is the last day.

    Good to have you back up and posting. Have a wonderful weekend.
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…I Wish I KnewMy Profile

  5. Beautiful post, friend. I am learning how to Dress My Truth via Carol Tuttle’s program, and I am a Type 2, which is connected to the flow of water. It relates to how I move, how I think, my emotions, how I best support others, and so much more. I find it so synchronous that you posted about water today!
    Naomi recently posted…Do you trust your experiences?My Profile

  6. Such beautiful artwork you created there! It kind of scared me when you said that it means both water and danger. For some reason I was thinking drowning but once you shared the quote about going to the depth of our souls, it all made sense. Brilliant!
    Elda recently posted…There Is Nothing To Fix. You Are Not Broken.My Profile

  7. Amy, like others who have commented, I am very impressed with your art work. I also like the way you find a positive spin to this hexagram. You are quite correct in what you say; but every time I have had this hexagram come up in answer to a question, it pointed to disastrous results.

    Having said that (and acknowledging that my knowledge of Chinese is very limited), I don’t think that k’an actually means “water.” The IMAGE of the hexagram is water repeated, and it is easy to see how the trigram broken/solid/broken looks like water moving through a ravine or something. However, most of the trigrams and hexagrams seem to have names that were given in antiquity and are not used in the modern Chinese language.

    I think that in the official Mandarin dialect, the word for water is normally “shui,” as in “feng-shui,” which is usually translated as “wind-water” (and when you get to Hexagram 57, which is wind repeated, it is going to be “sun” rather than “feng”); and the word for danger is normally “wei.”

    I don’t mean to be nit-picking. Your drawing is an excellent one of the character for k’an, which is the word for the name of this hexagram.

    Also, I appreciate the way that you look at the whole of each hexagram and place it into the context of everyday life. It seems that most people these days look at the I Ching only as an ancient oracle. It is so much more, and you are doing an excellent job of showing us that.
    Louis Weltzer recently posted…SONG OF THE WEEK – ANNA SUNMy Profile

    • OK, Louis, in your wonderful way of correcting me (which I never want you to stop, by the way), you made me curse under my breath as I got up out of my comfy chair to go and look this up. You are indeed correct. I misspoke. The HEXAGRAM K’an is represented by the water trigram over the water trigram but the word itself does NOT mean water. It means Abyss or Pit. I like to think of the Grand Canyon. When you have big problems, and I mean BIG – not the first world type we so often complain about – you draw this energy. Like most things, I like to frame it in the positive. Learning experiences all. Thank you so much for calling me out and for being real and awesome, as always Louis. Your comment about my way of doing the I Ching was deeply felt. I am doing my best to live this work in any way that I can.
      amy recently posted…Book Study DelayedMy Profile

  8. What an interesting topic for a blog! I definitely learned something new today. Thank you!
    ADVICE FROM A COP recently posted…How To Be a Good Crime WitnessMy Profile

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