The received text of the Zhouyi comprise of 64 hexagrams together with relevant commentaries taken from the Ten Wings. Each hexagram within the Zhouyi is laid out with a Judgment, an Image, the six lines, and the commentaries.
This Image also known as the Great Image (Da Xiang), to differentiate it from the Small Images which relate to the individual lines, depicts the imagery represented by two trigrams (comprising of three lines each) that made up each hexagram (six lines). Commentaries on both the Great and Small Images form the Third and Fourth Wings and added to the text to help explain the meaning of a hexagram.
From the study of the Da Xiang, Yi aficionados can learn how to cultivate proper conduct or virtues of a Junzi (superior man), to be more creative, to have a better understanding of the eight trigrams and their attributes, and to understand heaven and earth.
In the Great Treatise (Da Zhuan) it is said:
The holy sages were able to survey all the confused diversities under heaven. They observed forms and phenomena, and made representations of things and their attributes. These were called the Images. (Da Zhuan 8.1)
Thus the Book of Changes consists of images. The images are reproductions (of conditions in the heavens and on earth). (Da Zhuan II 3.1)
The decisions refer to the images. The judgments on the lines refer to the changes. (Da Zhuan 3.1)
The Master said: Is not the Book of Changes supreme? By means of it the holy sages exalted their natures and extended their field of action. Wisdom exalts. The mores make humble. The exalted imitate heaven. The humble follow the example of earth. (Da Zhuan 7.1)
Diviners and/or scholars often chose to ignore the Image probably thinking it is Confucian (and therefore it has nothing to do with Dao, right?) or that it is a repetition of the Judgment in the hexagram. Some who can derive no meaning from the Image has gone to the extent to nonchalantly dismiss its importance deeming it designated for kings and/or the Zhuhou of the Zhou Dynasty and perhaps irrelevant to current Yi studies!
Time waits for no one. If the jug breaks or the short rope cannot reach the water in the well after decades of studies, nothing comes to fruition. Only a detailed and comprehensive study of the Book of Changes and of ancient thoughts allows a deeper understanding of the Yi and/or its messages.
Without a proper understanding of the Image, students, diviners, experts, and scholars may not really understand the oracles, their prognostications, and the wisdoms contain in the Zhouyi. We would not become wise or a Junzi, if we forego: part of the required learning, the necessary cultivation and practice, and the thorough investigation of things. (Think The Great Learning)
The following selected Images from the Zhouyi will perhaps suffice to underpin this brief introduction on the Great Image (Da Xiang):
The movement of heaven is full of power. Thus the superior man makes himself strong and untiring. (Qian)
The earth’s condition is receptive devotion. Thus the superior man who has breadth of character carries the outer world. (Kun)
A spring wells up at foot of the mountain: The image of youth. Thus the superior man fosters his character by thoroughness in all that he does. (Meng)
Heaven within the mountain: The image of the Taming Power of the Great. Thus the superior man acquaints himself with many sayings of antiquity and many deeds of the past, in order to strengthen his character thereby. (Da Zhu)