ARTICLES in Strategy


Dr. Ong Hean-Tatt. 31st December 1998
Adapted from "I Ching's View of Lung", Chapter 8 in "Legend of the Lung" (Ong 1996)

King Wen Yi Jing
as the strategy manual par excellence


Search for the "Great Leader"

The King Wen Yi Jing particularly lays down the qualifications of the "Great Leader". The basic qualities of a leader would include strength, intelligence and charisma with people. But what extra qualities provide the winning edges for a person to become a truly "Great Leader"?

A strong man with good fighting skills would make a natural leader if he could use his strength and skills for his people. Otherwise, this man may bully and rob the people. The man needs not be a fighter. He could have good hunting skills, or even the ability to advice his people on what to do, be it in war or peace. The leader has resources to use in guiding people into realising various benefits, and help the people out of problems and dangers. The greater the needs and problems of the people the greater caliber the leadership must be. Leadership always relate to people.

It is when the needs, problems and dangers are the greatest, that the King Wen Yi Jing becomes the strategy manual where one could find the required appropriate answers and solutions. The King Wen Yi Jing addresses the two major aspects of the caliber of the "great leader" appropriate for circumstances of the greatest gravity.

Lung as "Arousing Thunder" in the East

In King Wen Later Heaven's arrangement of the eight trigrams of the Pakua, the power of the "Arousing Thunder" is Lung (Wilhelm 1951 p .273). The association of the Lung with the East and Spring is reflected in these comments of the Yi Jing:

  • The Arousing is thunder the Lung. It is dark yellow, it is a spreading out, a great road, the eldest son. It is decisive and vehement; it is bamboo that is green and young, it is reed and rush. Among horses it signifies those which can neigh well, those with white hind legs those which gallop, those with a star on the forehead. Among useful plants it is the pod-bearing ones. Finally, it is the strong, that which grows luxuriously (Wilhelm 1951 p.276).

The passage portrays the symbolic powers of Lung as the influence of Spring ("spreading out" = blossoming and "grows luxuriously" are the characteristic features of Spring). Thus, the King Wen Yi Jing associates the vibrant dynamic moving image of the great leader with large-scale production, which, in ancient times, depended on agriculture and the Spring rains. All the great abilities and resources of the great leader must be directed to affect the large-scale production, without which the people cannot survive, and a nation cannot exist.

The great leader must always be thinking of the needs of the people and how to swiftly fulfill them. Hence, the saying that government is government by the people for the people, in which the great leader is only the chief custodian of the people's wish. Lung has to be a person of great ability and powerful resources, but his ability and resources are associated with a great concern for the people. A person with great ability and resources but not having any loving care for the people does not qualify to be Lung. Concern for the people is one of the two major qualities of the Lung.

Mystery of Shift in Position of Lung

The East was the original location of the trigram Li, the Fire in the Fu Hsi Earlier Heaven's arrangement of the trigrams. "Arousing Thunder"'s previous position in the Fu Hsi's arrangement is in the North-East, while Li the Fire's position in King Wen's arrangement is now in the South. It may seems difficult to account for the reasons why King Wen changed the arrays from those of the earlier Fu Hsi's arrangement. Some speculations would be:

  • The change in the position in "Li" the Fire is not too difficult to guess. Originally the Chinese was in a place where the sun (as represented by "Li" the Fire) usually shine in from the East. But by King Wen's time, the Chinese people had moved, to a new region further into the north, where the sun's rays now shine in from the south. The change in "Li" the Fire's position is thus a memory of the Chinese migration from Mesopotamia to China!
  • Lung the "Arousing Thunder"'s power at the North-East in the Earlier Heaven array is interesting as this North-East is where the Taoist Master, in the important ritual of the Star Dance of the Eight Constellations, would led his summoned forces against the great evil. The Six Taoist Masters would destroy the Six Demons at the North-East. That is, Lung's power was used at the North-East to destroy evil. It must be some ancient event of a very important scale.

There is a more rational reason why Lung "Arousing Thunder"'s position was shifted to the East. The change denotes some ancient change to the significance of Lung. Ong (1996) shows that the etymological word for "Lung" originally, as reflected in 1700 B.C. oracle bones and 1100 B.C. bronze scripts, did not contain the strokes for "water". It was in the later small seal scripts (circa 300 B.C.) that three strokes (symbol of water) were added to represent the "water" function of the Lung. "Water", especially "rain water", is associated with Spring and the East.

There was once a time when water was not a problem. But at some time in ancient history, water became a crucial problem, without which there would be no production and the people would suffer great calamities. Hence, it appears that, in the time of King Wen Later Heaven Array of the Pakua, the chief "additional" function of the Lung was to regulate the water for the production in order to provide and ensure food for the people. This is still the true function of the Lung in modern times, to show concern for the people and address the production needs of the people. The original tradition was that the Shang people did not pray to the Lung for rains. The eventual traditional praying to Lung was a later evolution reflecting the growing roles of the great leader as one who addresses the ever-growing needs of the people.

Lung, Sacred Guardian of Creative Knowledge

The ancient Chinese Yi Jing commentators also throw further light on the qualities of the great leader:

  • it is straight, it is the Lung, the upper garment, the word (Wilhelm 1951 p.275).
  • ..Lung and snakes hibernate in order to preserve life. Thus, the penetration of a germinal thought into the mind promotes the working of the mind. When this working furthers and brings peace to life, it elevates a man's nature. Whatever goes beyond this indeed transcend all knowledge. When a man comprehends the divine and understand the transformations, he lifts his nature to the level of the miraculous (Wilhelm 1951 p.338).

The essence of knowledge is thus symbolised by the Lung. However, this knowledge is not stagnant but ever growing and changing. It is particularly associated with the ability to recognise the needs for "transformations", i.e. changes. This is why the Yi Jing is the "Canon of Change", indicating and reflecting that the heights of its wisdom have to do with change. To be able to grasp and handle the changes or transformations, the leader must take time to think and meditate to see the "changes". Then only would his knowledge grows and eventually he would surpass the very knowledge to enter into a mysterious divine realm. No one stubborn and too lazy to think can be Lung. There is certainly no easy path to greatness!

Adaptive knowledge, based on changing needs of the people, is the second of the two major qualities of the Lung.


The two major qualifications of the "Great Leader" are thus:

  • Concern for the people is one of the two major qualities of the Lung.
  • Adaptive knowledge, based on changing needs of the people, is the second of the two major qualities of the Lung.

Ong, H.T. 1996. Legend of the Chinese Lung. Eastern Dragon Press. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Wilhelm, Richard. 1951. The I Ching. Routledge & Kegan Paul. London and Henley.