The Book of Changes

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Kuei Mei / The Marrying Maiden

Above we have Chên, the eldest son, and below, Tui, the
youngest daughter. The man leads and the girl follows him in
gladness. The picture is that of the entrance of the girl into
her husband's house.

In all, there are four hexagrams
depicting the relationship between husband and wife. Hsien,
INFLUENCE, (31), describes the attraction that a young
couple have for each other; Hêng, DURATION (32), portrays
the permanent relationships of marriage; Chien,
DEVELOPMENT (53), reflects the protracted, ceremonious
procedures attending the marriage. Kuei Mei, THE
MARRYING MAIDEN, shows a young girl under the
guidance of an older man who marries her.(1)


Undertakings bring misfortune.
Nothing that would further.

A girl who is taken into the family, but not as the chief wife, must behave
with special caution and reserve. She must not take it upon herself to
supplant the mistress of the house, for that would mean disorder and lead
to untenable relationships.

The same is true of all voluntary relationships between human beings.
While legally regulated relationships based on personal inclination
depend in the long run entirely on tactful reserve.

Affection as the essential principle of relatedness is of the greatest
importance in all relationships in the world. For the union of heaven and
earth is the origin of the whole of nature. Among human beings likewise,
spontaneous affection is the all-inclusive principle of union.

The marrying maiden means to become part of a structure, in a
subordinate or informal place. This is a fundamental change of state
and the start of a state of dependency.

Undertakings mean misfortune because although one is placed in a
secondary role, one has a direct access to the decision plane --the
husband--. In such circumstances to be tempted to take action for
improving one's position is wrong. One ought not to fight in advance;
instead one should adapt oneself to its established role.


Thunder over the lake:
Thus the superior man
Understands the transitory
In the light of the eternity of the end.

Thunder stirs the water of the lake, which follows it in shimmering
waves. This symbolizes the girl who follows the man of her choice. But
every relationship between individuals bears within it the danger that
wrong turns may be taken, leading to endless misunderstandings and
disagreements. Therefore it is necessary constantly to remain mindful of
the end. If we permit ourselves to drift along, we come together and are
parted again as the day may determine. If on the other hand a man fixes
his mind on an end that endures, he will succeed in avoiding the reefs
that confront the closer relationships of people.

The thunder shaking the waters of the lake refers to what is about to
begin. Hence the superior man thinks in the future being aware of the
mistakes that can be made in the beginning. One can appreciate the
tendency of the events with the sense of the first signs. To think in the
future means to be projected with preventive sense. To be aware of the
mistakes means to know that an initial mistake can have incidence and
consequences later on.

This sentence also gives the idea of a transitory union that can't last
forever because there are initial flaws that are the seed of the final
destruction of the union.


Nine at the beginning means:

The marrying maiden as a concubine.
A lame man who is able to tread.
Undertakings bring good fortune.

The princess of ancient China maintained a fixed order of rank among
the court ladies, who were subordinated to the queen as are younger
sisters to the eldest. Frequently they came from the family of the queen,
who herself led them to her husband.

The meaning is that a girl entering a family with the consent of the wife
will not rank outwardly as the equal of the latter but will withdraw
modestly into the background. However, if she understands how to fit
herself into the pattern of things, her position will be entirely
satisfactory, and she will feel sheltered in the love of the husband to
whom she bears children.

The same meaning is brought out in the relationships between officials.
A man may enjoy the personal friendship of a prince and be taken into
his confidence. Outwardly this man must keep tactfully in the
background behind the official ministers of state, but, although he is
hampered by this status, as if he were lame, he can nevertheless
accomplish something through the kindliness of his nature.

Here reference is made to the fact of accepting to be part of something
but occupying a subordinate place, that is to say, to be in a second
plane. A maiden who marries as second wife or a lame person who can
tread symbolizes an assumed situation and an agreed condition.

This is a good way to start something; for that reason, the undertakings
bring good fortune.

Nine in the second place means:

A one-eyed man who is able to see.
The perseverance of a solitary man furthers.

Here the situation is that of a girl married to a man who has disappointed
her. Man and wife ought to work together like a pair of eyes. Here the
girl is left behind in loneliness; the man of her choice either has become
unfaithful or has died. But she does not lose the inner light of loyalty.
Though the other eye is gone, she maintains her loyalty even in

The one-eyed man implies an important loss that has taken place but
which does not subtract clarity nor balance to who has been harmed. To
keep a solitary man's perseverance means to look for the answer alone.

Six in the third place means:

The marrying maiden as a slave.
She marries as a concubine.

A girl who is in a lowly position and finds no husband may, in some
circumstances, still win shelter as a concubine.

This pictures the situation of a person who longs too much for joys that
cannot be obtained in the usual way. He enters upon a situation not
altogether compatible with self-esteem. Neither judgment nor warning is
added to this line; it merely lays bare the actual situation, so that
everyone may draw a lesson from it.

A maiden who has married unfavorably symbolizes the fact of having
faced a project and failed. To marry unfavorably means to have been
embarked in something that did not prosper, consequently she married
as a slave.

This means that a secondary role is accepted as comfort, after having
been lost the main aspiration. To marry as a slave implies to get down
category, but, in this case, it is better than anything is.

Nine in the fourth place means:

The marrying maiden draws out the allotted time.
A late marriage comes in due course.

The girl is virtuous. She does not wish to throw herself away, and allows
the customary time for marriage to slip by. However, there is no harm in
this; she is rewarded for her purity and, even though belatedly, finds the
husband intended for her.

A maiden who dilates her wedding means lack of security, and it is
necessary a time of maturation. This means also to carefully consider
different possibilities before to take action, to postpone a union or

Six in the fifth place means:

The sovereign I gave his daughter in marriage.
The embroidered garments of the princess
Were not as gorgeous
As those of the serving maid.
The moon that is nearly full
Brings good fortune.

The sovereign I is T'ang the Completer. This ruler decreed that the
imperial princesses should be subordinated to their husbands in the same
manner as other women (cf. Hexagram 11, six in the fifth place). The
emperor does not wait for a suitor to woo his daughter but gives her in
marriage when he sees fit. Therefore it is in accord with custom for the
girl's family to take the initiative here.

We see here a girl of aristocratic birth who marries a man of modest
circumstances and understands how to adapt herself with grace to the
new situation. She is free of all vanity of outer adornment, and forgetting
her rank in her marriage, takes a place below that of her husband, just as
the moon, before it is quite full, does not directly face the sun.

A king who marries to his daughter represents what is contributed for an
association. This means what has to be delivered, what one has to give.

The modest garments of the princess means that the main matter is not
the appearances but to carry out things, that is to say, not to wander in
the superficiality but to go to the bottom of the question, with a sincere
will of service.

The nearly full moon implies that with this union a cycle must be
completed and another will begin. It also means that clarity will be

Six at the top means:

The woman holds the basket, but there are no fruits in it.
The man stabs the sheep, but no blood flows.
Nothing that acts to further.

At the sacrifice to the ancestors, the woman had to present harvest
offerings in a basket, while the man slaughtered the sacrificial animal
with his own hand. Here the ritual is only superficially fulfilled; the
woman takes an empty basket and the man stabs a sheep slaughtered
beforehand --solely to preserve the forms. This impious, irreverent
attitude bodes no good for a marriage.

The woman with an empty basket and the man stabbing a dead sheep
represent purely formal acts without sincere feelings, that is to say
hypocritical behaviors.

The empty basket denotes what it contains and what it does not contain,
therefore, a woman who has the empty basket implies a meanness idea,
lack of generosity. To sacrifice a dead sheep represents that what is
being made does not make any sense. The sheep doesn't bleed; that is
to say, it is not a productive act. This way, an association will not be
successful and nothing will be prosperous.

In another interpretation level, the line mentions a sterile marriage; the
empty basket would symbolize the uterus without conception.

(1) In China, monogamy is formally the rule, and every man has but one
official wife. This marriage, which is less the concern of the two
participants than of their families, is contracted with strict observance of
forms. But the husband retains the right also to indulge his more
personal inclinations. Indeed, it is the most gracious duty of a good wife
to be helpful to him in this respect. In this way the relationship that
develops becomes a beautiful and open one, and the girl who enters the
family at the husband's wish subordinates herself modestly to the wife as
a younger sister. Of course it is a most difficult and delicate matter,
requiring tact on the part of all concerned. But under favorable
circumstances this represents the solution of a problem for which
European culture has failed to find an answer. Needless to say, the ideal
set for woman in China is achieved no oftener than is the European ideal.