Hexagram 54 — The Marrying Maiden


I’m going to veer off the usual track today and talk about Hexagram 54 — Kuei Mei, in a cultural fashion, as opposed to what the significance of this hexagram would be on a particular situation or question.  This is due to the fact that I am attempting to answer a question from a reader, and since I do not know the circumstances behind the question, I am going to attempt to be has general as I can.

Usually, I talk about a specific hexagram when I’m doing a divination, because I am seeking answers and advice about a situation.  If I know the question, then the various shades of meanings behind the I Ching’s answer can be deduced and then applied to the various facets of the question.

girlglassesblueNow, I’m as progressive as the next girl about women’s rights (which really should be called human rights) so at first glance, this hexagram was rather unsettling.  However, I will have to clarify certain things about the I Ching and its initial purpose.

The modern I Ching was compiled at the time when patriarchal forces ruled the lands (it still does, but it’s crumbling away gradually), and as such, any advice given had to be relevant to those who lived at that time, or the advice would not make sense.

That’s sorta like telling teenagers today that they really should think about getting a college education before having babies and going to work full-time.

If this advice had been given three-thousand years ago, it would make absolutely no sense to the inhabitants of that time because college is a fairly modern construct, and people normally got married in their teens at that time.

So I did a little bit of meditation and I posed a serious question.  And before you ask, I will admit to the fact that quite a few of my questions throughout my misspent youth haven’t been all that serious.  Some of my earlier questions were even downright trivial (ie. does this boy like me?  Does he think I’m cute?  You know…stupid stuff like that.), but this is due to the fact that I treat the I Ching as an ancient and benevolent guardian who answers all my questions, even childish ones, because to the Universe, I’m still just a kid.

Anyway, my question was:  How does hexagram 54 apply to modern society?  Here’s what I got after some time in meditation.

Kuei Mei (54)


Hexagram 54 shows the image of the oldest son leading the youngest daughter into the house.  This is one of four hexagrams that have to do with marriages (Influence, Duration, Development, and Relationship).  Before I tell you what Kuei Mei is, I need to tell you what it’s not.

It’s not Influence-31, which is that period of time when a couple has just met and are falling in love.  It’s not Duration-32, which is when two people have been together for a very long time and have soul-bonded.  It’s also not Development-53, which is the ceremonial aspects of marriage, abiding by the laws of the land and the laws of the social constructs.  This one has to do with the social construct of the heart, and it is the only one that allows for free will to be initiated.

Free will is important because it allows us the opportunity to make choices.  After all, falling in love (Influence-31) is not really a conscious choice or decision.  Nobody rationally decides to fall in love with another human being.  Most, in fact, tend to fight against this overwhelming rush of emotions caused by the brain’s chemical output, because falling in love is losing control of oneself, and this often leads to much pain and suffering.

In the case of Duration-32, the situation has changed.  Whether or not a person has been given the choice to be with another human being in the past, is all water under the bridge.  In this situation, the people involved have been coexisting for quite some time and have either grown to love each other and accept their fates, or they are just cohabiting with each other in a kind of long-term camaraderie whereby they tolerate each other and learn to live with each others’ idiosyncrasies.  In this situation, inertia and human propriety have a big hand in the decision of whether to stay or leave.  If there are others involved, such as children, then the need to provide a stable environment for the offspring to mature is another consideration.  Personal choice, in this case, is secondary to the more primal concerns of family and social duties.

Development-53 is the most restrictive of the four, being the one that concerns itself with pomp and circumstance.  The legality of marriage and the social propriety of the construct is the only consideration in this situation.  Here is where people marry due to conventionality and expectations, and even under duress.  In the best case scenario, both are in agreement and are willing to accept societal ties.

fightingIn worst case scenarios, girls are handed off to another family, as promised at the time of their births, and men are forced to become a husband due to the happenstance of their sudden induction into parenthood.

In either case, situations get locked into place and the only way to extricate oneself from the situation requires huge effort and causes much external and internal damage.

This is not so in the case of Relationship-54, where free choice is the key component.  Here, the person is given a choice to either join or not join.  There will be consequences either way.

The Judgement:
The Marrying Maiden
Undertakings bring misfortune.
Nothing that would bring further.

In this situation, the legalities and protections prescribed by society for marriages do not apply.  Those who move forward irregardless, without the societal restrictions and protections bring about freedom but it also comes with drawbacks.  It is a voluntary relationship, and as such, is only regulated by the interactions between the partners.  A lack of tact or an insistence on anything more than what the relationship will permit (undertakings) will bring misfortune.

This relationship is what it is:  A union of pure affection.  Nothing (can be done to) bring it further because it has satisfactorily resolved its requirements for coming into existence, and that is human will.  When applied to a couple in a romantic manner, the writing is clearly on the wall in black sharpie.  You either take the person and the situation as-is, or you leave and move on with your life.


It does not have any of the trappings of a marriage so you are not trapped, but that also means you can’t place restrictions or demands on the other person.  Both parties must take each other into consideration, and it is this very human state of affection that allows for an all-inclusive state of union.

The Image:
Thunder over the lake;
The image of the Marrying Maiden
Thus the superior man
Understands the transitory
In the light of the eternity of the end.

What does ‘thunder over lake’ mean?  To delve deeper, we need to scrutinize what thunder actually is.

Thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of the air surrounding the path of a lightning bolt…The heated air is compressed, raising the air from 10 to 100 times the normal atmospheric pressure. The compressed air explodes outward from the channel, forming a shock wave of compressed particles in every direction.  [2]

Normally, water and air are two of the least resistive elementals.  You can pass your hand through either, at their most relaxed states, and there would be no resistance to your movements.  However, thunder is compressed air in motion, exploding from a lighting bolt and creating a shock wave.  When it comes in contact with the lake, it has the ability to make ripples on the surface of the lake (which is water that is not in motion) but it cannot be a part of the lake.

A maiden can follow the man of her choice, and at the time of their interaction, the effect can be beautiful, as the shimmering ripples on the lake’s surface, but the interaction is transitory.  The superior man (or in this case, the superior maiden) understands the transitory state of sound waves creating ripples on the still and silent water.  Since the two elementals are at different amplitudes of wavelengths, they are able to interact, but the interaction is not permanent.


But what is permanence anyway, the Taobabe asks.  In the light of the eternity of the end, nothing is permanent.  All is illusion; an illusion of holographic proportions.  The only thing we can hold onto is the affection and love we share with those around us.  It is the only thing that’s real, and the only thing that matters.

[1]  I Ching

[2]  Library of Congress

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