A few days ago I entered a small and ancient library in China Town, and while I was looking for some interesting book to borrow, a torn slip of paper fell from a shelf.

On it, a strange message… some kind of poem I could not give a sense to…

On a side, someone wrote a series of number with a pencil, no idea what could they mean…

Here you can see what I'm talking about:

enter image description here

I'm pretty confident that a secret message is hidden behind these lines… could you help me to find it?

(Here is the plain text version of the message, if you need it)

Fellowship with men following the receptive earth
The family had some difficulty at the beginning
But the abysmal army made it progress
Receptive earth, oppression of inner truth: revolution!
The taming power of the small, 
The taming power of the great!
Grace of the clinging fire, 
Approach and break through the clan!

Hint 1:

You'll need some knowledge (or some googling...) to solve the first level of the puzzle

Hint 2:

Take a closer look to the picture to get a hint on how to solve the puzzle

Hint 3:

The message ends with an exclamation point (!) and contains a comma (,)...

  • $\begingroup$ Are the numbers relevant? $\endgroup$
    – boboquack
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure they are: they must have been written by someone who tried to decipher the message before us... $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 8:45

4 Answers 4


A Very Partial Not as Partial as before answer to get somebody else started, since nobody has attempted this, and I won't have the time in the next couple of days: The poem is composed of

names for I Ching hexagrams, which have a numerical value.

Continuing several days later..

With the hint in place, it seems likely that the values I mentioned above are irrelevant, as already deduced by M Oehm. So it's down to finding the correct way to interpret the symbols themselves.

Collecting everything on one line we get the following (in unicode. if you have display issues, M Oehm's answer has ascii art)

䷌䷐䷁ / ䷤䷂/ ䷜䷃䷢ / ䷁䷅䷻䷰ / ䷈ / ䷙ / ䷕䷝ / ䷒䷪䷤

Then using the scribbled number sequence 4,3,3,3,2,1 as a guide,

taking the numbers to mean the length of the morse symbol, and reading the hexagrams from bottom to the top, (broken line is short, whole line is long), we get
-.-- --- ..- -.. .. . .. / -. -. --- ...- . / .-..-. .-...- ...-.- / ...... .-.--- --..-. -.---./ ---.-- / ---..- / -.-..- -.--.- / --.... -----. -.-.--
Y O U D I E (I N N O V E etc)

Since it's surprisingly tricky to decode without additional numbers, I'll just leave it at interpreting the handwritten number sequence as being the whole message, which would then read, ominously enough,


I'll try decoding the rest of the poem later.

Looks like the previous person trying to solve this got the message wrong, it doesn't read "YOU DIE", instead the beginning is very likely "YOU DISCOVERED"

After that, though, I'm getting nowhere, and writing a small piece of code to try every word in a dictionary to see if it fits would take a bit of time, (which I don't really have), so please feel free to continue from here.

The third hint seems to make it painfully obvious that there is at least one typo in the problem. M Oehm discovered a very plausible solution that assumes there are actually two.

As it stands, the message is

You discover a fin in the fog. TY you can go home.

OP EDIT: I'm really sorry for the many mistakes this puzzle did contain, and which I hope I've finally fixed. The puzzle has now been modified to give the intended solution, that is:

"You discovered the I Ching, now you can go home!"

Something has gone wrong in the creation of this puzzle, that I think has a good idea behind it, but a dramatically problematic execution (just after a long revision I found that the table I used to convert symbols into code was uncorrect).

I'll take all the blame for this, hoping it will help me in the future to create better and less faulty puzzles; and I take the occasion to apologize with all the guys who tried (and managed, despite the errors!) to solve the puzzle, and who lost a lot of precious time just because of my superficiality.

  • $\begingroup$ You're on the right track $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ O.P. EDIT: I've modified the originally posted picture to help solving the second part of the puzzle $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 16:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I like the idea that the original solver misdecoded as "You die" -- and died. The Morse I Ching self-fulfilling prophecy. The problem with writing a small program is that it comes up with a huge amount of possibilities. It might be more promising to run a dictionary of longish morse-encoded words on the message for candidates. "Discovered" is apparently the longest possible word. None of the others stick out as typical of a quotation or answer. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 13:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Code promptly up-whipped, but manual runs only give red herrings for the next couple of words. Or to be more accurate, "nine alive otter"s and "dreariest woe"s. The problem is that for any combination of dits and dahs, many different words will always match, and there will be several possible continuations, so ruling out even a single possibility requires an exponential amount of effort. Searching for likely words like "secret", "message", "hidden" or "the" also yielded nothing very useful. $\endgroup$
    – Bass
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 19:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does someone already pointed out that there are leters in gray in the text, soMe - prOgress - eaRth - Small - gracE, forming the word MORSE ? $\endgroup$
    – Skyvask
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 10:43

Building on Bass's answer

I looked up the numeric values of the hexagrams in the text.

 13 - Fellowship with men 
 17 - following 
 2  - the Receptive Earth
37 - The family had 3 - some difficulty at the beginning
But 29 - the abysmal 4 - youthful folly made it 35 - progress
2 - Receptive Earth, 6 - conflict your 60 - limitation: 49 - revolution! 9 - The Taming Power of the Small, 26 - The Taming Power of the Great! 22 - Grace of 30 - the clinging fire, 19 - approach and 43 - break through 37 - the Clan!
or just the numbers: 13-17-2, 37-3, 29-4-35, 2-6-60-49, 9, 26, 22-30, 19-43-37 I tried converting this from decimal to ASCII, but it came back a gibberish.

@Xenocacia pointed out

There are faded letters in the note which spells out "morse".

Hopefully someone else will have some ideas of what to try next, or at the least I will have saved someone a little effort looking things up.

  • $\begingroup$ Some of the hexagrams (namely Receptive Earth and Taming Power) are capitalized differently, perhaps that means something? $\endgroup$
    – votbear
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ Also, if we were to take the two lines separated by comma as one sentence, we end up with 6 sentences - one for each of the scribbled numbers. I haven't been able to figure out what they mean though.. $\endgroup$
    – votbear
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Barker: you solved the first level of the puzzle, now you have to understand how to use the information you found. $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ @VotBear: capitalization and structure of the sentences are irrelevant to solve the puzzle $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 8:01
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ On closer inspection, there are a few letters in the image which appear slightly faded. They spell something, but I have no idea how to use that either. This is such a tiny discovery that I'll leave it as a comment for your elaboration. $\endgroup$
    – Xenocacia
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 9:36

Another partial answer that builds on previous answers by Bass and Barker and on Xenocacia's observarion. I might well be heading into the wrong direction here.

It has already been found that ...

... the poem consists of the names of some of the 64 hexagrams in I Ching. Xenocacia has found that some of the letters in the image are slightly lighter. These letters spell Morse.

Now, ...

... the hexagrams have numbers, but the also consist of six horizontal bars. These bars are either broken (Yin) or unbroken (Yang). The hexagrams in the poem are:

  ||||¦|   13   Fellowship with men
  ¦||¦¦|   17   Following
  ¦¦¦¦¦¦    2   Receptive Earth
  ||¦|¦|   37   Family / Clan
  ¦|¦¦¦|    3   Difficulty at the beginning
  ¦|¦¦|¦   29   Abysmal water
  |¦¦¦|¦    4   Youthful folly
  |¦|¦¦¦   35   Progress
  ¦¦¦¦¦¦    2   Receptive Earth
  |||¦|¦    6   Conflict
  ¦|¦¦||   60   Limitation
  ¦|||¦|   49   Revolution
  ||¦|||    9   The Taming Power of the Small
  |¦¦|||   26   The Taming Power of the Great
  |¦¦|¦|   22   Grace
  |¦||¦|   30   Clinging fire
  ¦¦¦¦||   19   Approach
  ¦|||||   43   Breakthrough
  ||¦|¦|   37   Family / Clan

(The hexagrams are shown sideways here, tilted by 90° to the left.)

Unfortunately, ...

... I haven't found a way to get a sensible Morse message from these hexagrams. An obvious way would be to read them top-down (or left to right in the table above), where an unbroken bar is a dash and a broken bar is two dots*.

Other possible readings are to substitute an unbroken bar by just one dot or to place all hexagrams next to each other and then read line-wise. None of that has given me any useful readings, but that may be owed to the difficulty of reverse-engineering a stream of unseparated Morse signals.

I think that the numbers scribbled in the margin — 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 1, ... — might refer to the length of either the first words or the first Morse-encoded letters.
*) When I do a web search for "hexagrams morse", one of the first results is a preview of The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens, which suggests just that and shows that the clinging Fire reads tuna and the Family decodes to mix.

  • $\begingroup$ You're really close to solve the puzzle... You may consider the possibility of "turning" hexagrams in another way... let's say clockwise... does it help you? $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ It probably does. :) (But I've gotten a rather grisly message so far.) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 8:45

So, first of all, thanks for that super interesting puzzle! I've spent the all evening trying to solve that (but didn't solve it yet).

1st step

First of all, found ‘Morse’.

2nd step

Tried to google text, found I-Ching, because the phrases of the strange message look similar to I-Ching names. And, the I-Ching hexagrams look similar to Morse code. For example, ䷌ looks like -.----.

3rd step

But there is nothing similar in International Morse Code sheet because the length of each my code is bigger. Ok, then maybe 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 3… means that I should join codes and then split them using given numbers as length? Anyway, the result of that doesn't make any sense for me. Then I had started to interpret ䷌ not as -.---- but as -..---- because there are actually two short lines between big lines. Also joined given result and tried to split it. But still nothing. Sometime later I found this image and realized that maybe I read hexagrams in wrong way. Previously I had seen Hunter’s comment about turning hexagrams clockwise and read ䷌ as -.----. But after I saw the image I have an idea to read hexagrams from top to bottom as we read Excel sheets. And looks like now I have to understand how to apply given numbers, maybe it will help to convert hexagrams to Morse codes correctly.

  • $\begingroup$ Hey @Huner, I've little bit updated my answer. Can you take a look and just say I am on the right or wrong way. $\endgroup$
    – artiek
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 10:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Looking good so far. Clockwise is definitely the way to go. (It won't be too easy even after that hint.) $\endgroup$
    – Bass
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 10:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @artiek: as Bass suggestes, you should read them clockwise. After the resolution of the puzzle I'll post a link in which is explained the different "direction" you can use to read an hexagram (search for "dual hexagram" on google and you'll understand what I'm talking about). As already said, the last part of the puzzle is the most difficult (and the most boring, i'm afraid...) $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 13:23

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