FU  復 the return

The Yi Jing (I Ching) hexagram 24, The Return (fu 復), is associated with the winter solstice. It illustrates the beginning of the return of the light, the return of the yang after its total withdrawal. The image of the hexagram ䷗ shows one yang line emerging at the base. The upper trigram has three yin lines and is called kun (坤), the earth ☷, the lower trigram is thunder ☳, the arousing, zhen (震), and represents the stirring of the yang in the depths. 

At the winter solstice there is a break, heaven and earth no longer communicate, life goes into hibernation. But at the moment of complete darkness, ultimate yin, there is the inevitable return of the yang. The movement continues and can do nothing other than move towards the light.

In classical dictionaries, the character fu is to retrace one’s steps, to go back over the same ground, to renew or restore something to its original state. In the Daoist context, fu suggests a return to the origin – as in Laozi chapter 16:

‘To reach utmost emptiness, observe deep tranquility.

The ten thousand things arise together, I simply contemplate their return (fu 復).’

    極,守    篤, 萬      作,吾        復。

The return (fu 復) comes after jue (厥) – which is a recession, the low point, the jue of jue yin (厥 陰)… the stage before the reversal. It is used to describe the tide when it is at its lowest point, and the dark moon, which is hidden, but about to begin its return to fullness. The character for the new moon (朔 shuo) shares the same element on the left and has the moon on the right (月).

In medicine, we often find jue (厥) used in a phrase with ni (逆) which shares part of its phonetic – described etymologically as a small plant pushing up through the earth and meeting resistance. Ni suggests some kind of blockage, and the character for ni has the radical for movement on the right . Blockage causes the qi to flow erratically. The phrase jue ni (厥 逆) is often used to describe blockage caused by an inner deficiency, a withdrawal. Jue yin is the point of exhaustion, the end of the cycle; in Shan Han Lun pathology, at the jue yin stage one either dies or begins again…

Fu (復) is the return to the light after the darkness of the winter solstice, the return to life after the danger of a reversal of qi, a return to fullness after the low ebb of the tide, the beginning of a new phase of the moon.

At this time of the year fu reminds us that there is always a return to the light, that the yang is beginning to move again in the depths of the earth, making preparation for another spring. 

(First published in ACU winter edition, 2018)

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