Kun, the Earth

What does Kun stand for?

Kun, the Earth

The following image is often chosen to describe Kun: soil in which a seedling is growing. Soil is unstructured matter: in soil a seedling finds everything it needs to grow; dead plants decay to soil. Kun‘s meaning, however, goes beyond unstructured matter (such as soil): Kun is unstructured potential, including tangible and non-tangible matter.

When interpreting a hexagramKun points at the place which we are at, here and now. Kun invites us to calm down and to use this place / moment as a source of strength. Like a wave rolling back into the sea, its origin, focusing and drawing new energies.

Here are some descriptions of the functional circuits stomach and spleen (see King Wen’s Later Heaven: stomach and spleen are associated with Kun) from the classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The quotes relate to human-physical processes and their analogy to the concept of Kun as unstructured potential may not be clear immediately. In fact, our digestive processes follow the same principle as the transformative processes within the soil.

The spleen as an instance of assimilation and integration of external influences has to process a variety of influences… Only to the extent of their integration they will nourish us. To the extent of their rejection they relieve us.

The spleen dominates transformation and transport. The spleen is responsible for metabolism, ie the conversion of exogenous energy into the body’s own substrate…

On the mental-emotional level, in this stage of assimilation, the first mingling between own and extrinsic energies happens here [in the stomach]. This is the first contact and it determines whether we “like” something or not, even whether we want to deal with someone / something so closely that we want to take it into our inside, or, in other words, to swallow it. Phase Element Earth

What does Kun emerge from?

kun_entwicklungRegarding the changes within a hexagram Kun is an exception insofar as it can only emerge from one trigram: Zhen. When a (broken) yin line is added to Zhen, Kun emerges. (dark arrow; yin represents receptiveness).

Kun emerges from  Zhen, the Thunder

Zhen symbolizes the primordial seed of a new action, the first step into a new direction. With Kun as the subsequent trigram, this pulse strikes unstructured potential: fertile grounds from which anything can grow.

Examples for hexagrams where Kun emerges from Zhen → here.

What does Kun develop into?

kun_entwicklungAgain Kun is an exception: Kun can only develop into one trigram. Gen emerges when a (solid) Yang line is added on top (red arrow; Yang symbolizes energy, activity).

Kun develops into Gen, the Mountain

During the phase of growth (Kun), while something concrete emerged from unstructured potential, we may have noticed things that are unnecessary ballast and block our energies. When Gen evolves from Kun, we can confidingly let go of ballast and entrust ourselves to earth’s  gravity. This way we not only release muscles and tendons, but our entire being.

Examples for hexagrams where Kun develops into Gen → here.


Phase Element: Earth
Functional Circuit: Spleen (SP)

Modern Interpretation

Compassion; peace, stability, resting in oneself, feeling supported and maintained; to make good use of things; relationship and commitment; self-esteem; accepting that what is

Traditional Interpretation

Receptive, devoted, open, ductile, dark, nurturing, soft, flexible, adaptive, accepting the given, fertile
Direction: downwards
Interpretation: The highest principle of matter; an unstructured, wide field for action

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