I Ching

LIV. 歸妹 The Kwei Mei Hexagram

Kwei Mei indicates that (under the conditions which it denotes) action will be evil, and in no wise advantageous.

1. The first NINE, undivided, shows the younger sister married off in a position ancillary to the real wife. (It suggests the idea of) a person lame on one leg who yet manages to tramp along. Going forward will be fortunate.

2. The second NINE, undivided, shows her blind of one eye, and yet able to see. There will be advantage in her maintaining the firm correctness of a solitary widow.

3. The third SIX, divided, shows the younger sister who was to be married off in a mean position. She returns and accepts an ancillary position.

4. The fourth NINE, undivided, shows the younger sister who is to be married off protracting the time. She may be late in being married, but the time will come.

5. The fifth SIX, divided, reminds us of the marrying of the younger sister of (king) Tî-yî, when the sleeves of her the princess were not equal to those of the (still) younger sister who accompanied her in an inferior capacity. (The case suggests the thought of) the moon almost full. There will be good fortune.

6. The sixth SIX, divided, shows the young lady bearing the basket, but without anything in it, and the gentleman slaughtering the sheep, but without blood flowing from it. There will be no advantage in any way.

归妹 – Gui Mei
















刲 = 圭 + 刂

Appendix 1

1. By Kwei Mei (the marrying away of a younger sister) the great and righteous relation between heaven and earth (is suggested to us). If heaven and earth were to have no intercommunication, things would not grow and flourish as they do. The marriage of a younger sister is the end (of her maidenhood) and the beginning (of her motherhood).

2. We have (in the hexagram the desire of) pleasure and, on the ground of that, movement following. The marrying away is of a younger sister.

3. 'Any action will be evil:'—the places (of the lines) are not those appropriate to them.

'It will be in no wise advantageous:'—the weak (third and fifth lines) are mounted on strong lines.

Appendix 2

(The trigram representing the waters of) a marsh and over it that for thunder form Kwei Mei. The superior man, in accordance with this, having regard to the far-distant end, knows the mischief (that may be done at the beginning).

1. 'The younger sister is married off in a position ancillary to that of the real wife:'—it is the constant practice (for such a case).

'Lame on one leg, she is able to tramp along:'—she can render helpful service.

2. 'There will be advantage in maintaining the firm correctness of a solitary widow:'—(the subject of the line) has not changed from the constancy (proper to a wife).

3. 'The younger sister who was to be married off is in a mean position:'—this is shown by the improprieties (indicated in the line).

4. (The purpose in) 'protracting the time' is that, after waiting, the thing may be done (all the better).

5. 'The sleeves of the younger sister of (king) Tî-yî, when she was married away, were not equal to those of her (half-)sister, who accompanied her:'—such was her noble character, indicated by the central position of the line.

6. '(What is said in) the sixth SIX, (divided),about there being nothing in the basket' shows that the subject of it is carrying an empty basket.


LIV Mei Kwei is a common way of saying that a young lady is married, or, literally, 'is going home.' If the order of the characters be reversed, the verb kwei will be transitive, and the phrase will signify 'the marrying away of a daughter,' or 'the giving the young lady in marriage.' In the name of this hexagram, Kwei is used with this transitive force. But Mei means 'a younger sister,' and not merely a young lady or a daughter. Kwei Mei might be equivalent to our 'giving in marriage;' but we shall find that the special term has a special appropriateness. The Thwan makes the hexagram give a bad auspice concerning its subject; and for this the following reasons are given:—According to Win's symbolism of the trigrams, Tui, the lower trigram here, denotes the youngest daughter, and Kăn, the upper trigram, the oldest son. And as the action of the hexagram begins with that of the lower trigram, we have in the figure two violations of propriety. First, the marriage represented is initiated by the lady and her friends. She goes to her future home instead of the bridegroom coming to fetch her. Second, the parties are unequally matched. There ought not to be such disparity of age between them. Another reason assigned for the bad auspice is that lines 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all in places not suited to them, quite different from the corresponding lines in the preceding hexagram.

Is then such a marriage as the above, or marriage in general, the theme of the hexagram? I think not. The marriage comes in, as in the preceding essay, by way of illustration. With all the abuses belonging to it as an institution of his country, as will immediately appear, the writer acknowledged it without saying a word in deprecation or correction of those abuses; but from the case he selected he wanted to set forth some principles which should obtain in the relation between a ruler and his ministers. This view is insisted on in Wan King's 'New Collection of Comments on the Yî (A. D. 1686).'

A feudal prince was said to marry nine ladies at once. The principal of them was the bride who was to be the proper wife, and she was attended by two others, virgins from her father's harem; a cousin, and a half-sister, a daughter of her father by another mother of inferior rank. Under line 1 the younger sister of the hexagram appears in the inferior position of this half-sister. But the line is strong, indicative in a female of firm virtue. The mean condition and its duties are to be deplored, and give the auspice of lameness; but notwithstanding, the secondary wife will in a measure discharge her service. There will be good fortune. Notwithstanding apparent disadvantages, an able officer may do his ruler good service.

Line 2 is strong, and in the centre. The proper correlate is 5, which, however, is weak, and in the place of a strong line. With such a correlate, the able lady in 2 cannot do much in the discharge of her proper work. But if she think only of her husband, like the widow who will die rather than marry again, such devotion will have its effect and its reward. Though blind of one eye, she yet manages to see. And so devoted loyalty in an officer will compensate for many disadvantages.

Line 3 is weak, where it should be strong; and the attribute of pleased satisfaction belonging to Tui culminates in its subject. She turns out to be of so mean a character and such a slave of passion that no one will marry her. She returns and accepts the position of a concubine.

Line 4 is strong, where it should be weak; but in the case of a female the indication is not bad. The subject of the line, however, is in no haste. She waits, and the good time will come.

King Tî-yî has been already mentioned under the fifth line of hexagram 11, and in connexion with some regulation which he made about the marriage of daughters of the royal house. His sister here is honourably mentioned, so as to suggest that the adorning which she preferred was 'the ornament of the hidden man of the heart.' The comparison of her to 'the moon almost full' I am ready to hail as an instance where the duke of Kâu is for once poetical. Khăng-žze, however, did not see poetry, but a symbol in it. 'The moon is not full,' he says, 'but only nearly full. A wife ought not to eclipse her husband!' However, the sister of Tî-yî gets happily married, as she deserved to do, being represented by the line in the place of honour, having its proper correlate in 2.

Line 6 is weak, at the top of the hexagram, and without a proper correlate. Hence its auspice is evil. The marriage-contract is broken, according to Kû Hsî, and does not take effect. The parties mentioned in the paragraph appear engaged in the temple, offering or sacrificing to the spirits of their ancestors. But the woman's basket which should contain her offerings (The Shih, I, ii, ode 4) is empty, and the man attempts to perform his part in slaying the victim (The Shih, II, vi, ode 6. 5) without effect.

App-1-2:LIV 1. Kwei Mei in this Appendix has the meaning simply of marriage, and for Mei we might substitute Nü ,'daughter' or 'young lady.' This appears from the writer's going on to point out, as elsewhere, the analogy between the growth of things in nature from the interaction of heaven and earth and the increase of mankind through marriage. He does this with a delicate touch. There is no grossness in the original any more than there is in the translation.

But how are we to reconcile this reference to the action of heaven and earth with the bad auspice of the Thwan? The Khang-hsî editors felt the pressure of this difficulty, and they adduce a similar inconsistency in the account of hexagram 44 in this treatise, adding, 'From this we may say that the interaction of the yin and yang cannot be dispensed with, but that we ought to be careful about it in the beginning in order to prevent mischief in the end. This is the doctrine of the Yî.' This is very well, but it is no solution of the difficulty. The editors could not admit that the author of the Appendix did not understand or did not deal fairly with the Text; for that author, they thought, was Confucius.

2. The same editors say that paragraph 2 implies both that the desire for the marriage originated with the lady, and that she was aware that the gentleman was older than herself.

3. The position of a divided line above an undivided is always represented as an evil omen; it is difficult to understand why. There is less of an appearance of reason about it than in some other things which are said about the lines. The lines are where they cannot but be from the way in which the figures were formed.

App-2-2:LIV Thunder rolling above is supposed to produce movement in the waters of the marsh below. The combination of this symbolism in Kwei Mei is recognised as an evil omen in the case which the name denotes. The application of it is not inappropriate.

Paragraph 1. 'It is the constant practice (for such a case)' seems to mean that an ancillary wife has no right to the disposition of herself, but must do what she is told. Thus it is that the mean position of the younger sister does not interfere with the service she can render.

The addition to the Text of 1 the purpose' in paragraph 4 is to show that the putting marriage off is on the part of the lady and not on the other side.