54 Gui1 Mei4 歸妹
The lower: Dui (joy, the marsh). The upper: Zhen (to move, the thunder).
Gui Mei: to arrange for the younger sister to wed; the younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law as a concubine; the willingness to act as a subordinate rather than a leader.
Progress (Jian4) requires a destination; therefore Gui Mei is granted. Gui (歸) signifies to return to where one is destined to belong. With respect to marriage, it means a woman marrying a man and belonging to him forever. Mei (妹) is the younger sister. Therefore the literal meaning of Gui Mei is to arrange for the younger sister to wed. However hexagram Gui Mei refers to polygamous marriage and Gui Mei is additionally annotated as the younger sister accompanying her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law. Gui Mei is the reverse and changing hexagram of Jian4 which signifies a woman waiting for a man to marry (in accordance with correct procedure) thereby becoming a wife. Gui Mei is the (desired) goal of a woman, i.e. where she will eventually belong, with the younger sister becoming a concubine. Additionally Jian4 is regarded as accomplishing a task in the prescribed order, while Gui Mei is achieved in one step.
Polygamous marriage was common during the Shang dynasty, especially in communities of nobles. Older and younger sisters (including female first cousins on the father’s side) often married one man in order to keep the two families firmly connected over a long period.
The lower trigram Dui denotes the youngest daughter, while the upper trigram Zhen is the eldest son. A young woman follows an old man (i.e. her brother-in-law) and regards him as her desired goal; this is what Gui Mei means.
The inner hexagram of Gui Mei is Ji Ji (63),
wherein all the lines attain their right positions at the beginning
with disorder occurring at the end. This suggests that relations
between the wife and concubine must be handled delicately.
Text: Gui Mei (the younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law as a concubine); it is ominous to undertake a venture, (and) nothing is favourable.
Text explanation: Gui Mei (to arrange for the younger sister to wed); it is a good sign for both heaven and earth (i.e. the world). If heaven and earth don't associate, no life will result. Gui Mei represents the end and beginning of human beings. Joy (of the lower trigram Dui) results in a move (of the upper trigram Zhen), (which reflects the image of) Gui Mei (the younger sister accompanying her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law as a concubine). It is ominous to undertake a venture, (as) the positions (of lines 3 and 4) are inappropriate. Nothing is favourable; (the one of) tenderness rides on (the one of) rigidity.
The bottom line of trigram Kun (submissiveness, earth) enters trigram Qian (perseverance, heaven) and occupies its top position creating trigram Dui, the youngest daughter. Simultaneously the top line of trigram Qian enters trigram Kun and occupies its bottom position creating trigram Zhen, the eldest son. This is the association between heaven and earth, and forms hexagram Gui Mei.
The continuity of human life comes from men and women procreating, like all creatures which are created through the interplay of heaven and earth. Therefore Gui Mei (i.e. to arrange for the younger sister to wed) is not only the desired goal of a woman, i.e. marriage, but also the origin of human life, i.e. to give birth to children.
Trigram Dui approaches trigram Zhen like a young woman approaching and pleasing an old man who responds with a move. Their representative lines, lines 3 and 4, are not at their right positions, i.e. they won't act according to righteousness; therefore, undertaking a venture is ominous. Additionally feminine line 3, the representative line of trigram Dui, rides on masculine line 2 (i.e. the core line of the lower trigram), while feminine line 5 (the core line of the upper trigram) rides on masculine line 4, the representative line of Zhen; these represent femininity dominating masculinity. Therefore there no outcome is favourable regardless of what is done.
The desired goal (of the woman) and the origin (of human life) which hexagram Gui Mei offers are significant; however the practice (i.e. the younger sister accompanying her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law as a concubine) doesn’t conform to social norms. Therefore, it is ominous to take aggressive action, and nothing is favourable.
Commentary on the image: Above the marsh, there is thunder; Gui Mei. A gentleman in accordance with this discovers faults which jeopardize the future of the goal.
The thunder roars above the marsh; the water of the marsh responds to the thunder with trembling waves. In accordance with this, a gentleman realizes that every occurrence has its cause; he therefore acts to prevent discord (between his wife and concubine) in order to maintain a lasting relationship.
It is ominous to take aggressive action, and there will be nothing favourable, since both the young woman and the old man in Gui Mei do not act righteously, and the hexagram displays an unfavourable phenomenon of the feminine riding on, and dominating, the masculine. Additionally, the concubine has no position in a family; therefore she must act as her status, prudently and conservatively.
The younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law, which doesn’t conform to the correct procedure of a woman getting married as outlined in hexagram Jian (53). However, it is the desired goal of the younger sister and a means of continuing human life, i.e. her children. It is a necessary evil, i.e. the motivation and goal might be good, but the approach is incorrect; therefore it should not be done in a forcible way.
Hexagram Gui Mei possesses none of the four virtues: origination and smooth progress (i.e. great and smooth progress), as well as advantage and persistence (persistence bringing forth benefit). Therefore undertaking an adventure is ominous.
Its changing hexagram is Jian4 (53), to progress gradually and sequentially, where a woman marries following the correct procedures and becomes a wife. This suggests that gradual progress can lead to merit, while hasty undertakings like Gui Mei will lead to failure, as the younger sister becomes a concubine.
All occurrences have their cause. The image of Gui Mei advises that faults can be prevented from observing what stands in the way of reaching the goal.
The younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law; after then several women will live with one husband. This will lead to complicated and discordant relationships between the husband, wife and concubines.
From the viewpoint of the placement of the upper and lower trigrams, the lower, Dui, represents the concubine, while the upper, Zhen, represents the husband. From the viewpoint of Gui Mei's account of the younger sister marrying as a concubine, every line discussed denotes the younger sister as well as the concubine. As to how the concubine performs her role, it depends on the relationship with the husband, wife and other concubines, i.e. the neighbouring line and the line at the correlative position. To be married as a concubine can be also paraphrased as having the willingness to act as a subordinate rather than the leader, a model for those in competitive domains.
The bottom position is a place suited to the concubine's status. Her desire is increasing along the timeline, from finding her husband's favour through to the wife’s position. When the line arrives at the upper trigram, the younger sister has the chance to marry as a wife if she's willing to wait. If she doesn't seize the opportunity, she must accept her status as concubine and perform accordingly, since even if she reaches the highest position (of the hexagram), she will still be treated as the concubine.
line 6 of hexagram Zhen (51) failed to act at the right time to
become legitimate, it practiced self-cultivation in hexagram Gen
(52). Then it started the gradual advance in hexagram Jian4
(53). In hexagram Gui Mei it will learn how to
behave as an assistant. Then, when it goes to hexagram Feng (55), it
can achieve a grand and abundant state without confronting
obstruction from those above.
The 1st line
Text: Gui Mei (the younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law) acting as a concubine (娣); one is crippled but still able to walk; it is auspicious to undertake a venture.
The younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law. Given her status, her behaviour is restrained but she performs her designated role, supporting her older sister and maintaining a long-lasting relationship between the two families. Therefore it is auspicious to take aggressive action with respect to her assignment. In ancient polygamy, the elder wife was called 姒si4, while the younger wife was 娣di4 which is here is signified as concubine.
The upper trigram Zhen (to move) is the husband and denotes the foot. Line 1 has no correlation with its representative line, line 4, signifying that it is crippled. This can be paraphrased by saying it lives without the husband’s care and support. Although line 1 can't go far or act as it wishes, it stays at its right position without being oppressed, i.e. with no feminine line riding on it. Therefore it is auspicious for it to act with determination (like the masculine which tends to move) albeit within the limits of what is permitted.
Commentary on the image: Gui Mei (the younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law) acting as a concubine, which is for the sake of an enduring (relationship). It is auspicious to be crippled but still able to walk; (the older and the younger sister) sustaining each other.
The younger sister is in place as the concubine so that she can take the role of wife should her older sister die; Gui Mei can keep two families firmly engaged. Although she is restrained, she is still able to act freely within her territory, as the wife is her older sister, i.e. they can live in mutual harmony and support.
Enlightenment through nine one: to act according to the assigned task and within the allowed framework. One is cast in the supporting role; one's performance is limited but one can still achieve within the assigned domain; it is auspicious to take aggressive action with respect to mutual goals. Even if this line changes to feminine, correlating with line 5 and not acting righteously, the hexagram will appears as Xie (40), alleviation (of transgression crisis), as it will be subdued by masculine line 2.
The 2nd line
Text: One eye is blind but one can still see; it is advantageous (or appropriate) to be persistent like a hermit (i.e. an un-ambitious person).
The hermit is one who does not scramble for power and wealth, unlike concubines who usually fight one another for the husband’s favour. Line 2 should have one eye closed (i.e. she is still able to see but not that clearly) and behave like a hermit.
Line 2 correlates with line 5, signifying that the lower trigram Dui, the concubine, is approaching the upper trigram Zhen, the husband. But it is ridden by feminine line 3 which sits in the eyes of the inner lower trigram Li (clinging, fire) and between lines 2 and 5.
If line 2 can change to feminine and remain still like a hermit, there will be no more correlation with line 5. This will result in the eyes of trigram Li vanishing, signifying that it won’t be bothered by the husband’s favour and jealousy among the concubines.
Commentary on the image: it is appropriate (or advantageous) to be persistent like a hermit (i.e. an un-ambitious person), (whose) normality won't change.
The hermit won’t be affected by jealousy, and won't change his normal attitude in the face of power and wealth.
Enlightenment through nine two: not to fight for power and wealth. To see with one eye closed means not to haggle over every last bit; it is advantageous or appropriate to persist in behaving like an un-ambitious person. After this line changes to feminine, the hexagram appears as Zhen (51), the thunder, where it remains undisturbed albeit challenges come one after another like the thunder booming.
The 3rd line
Text: Gui Mei (the younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law) acting as if she were the older sister (須) (and the wife); contrarily she will be wed as a concubine.
The younger sister intends to replace her older sister and marry as wife; however in the end, she will still be a concubine. 須xu1 means beard and is the substitute of 嬃xu1: 須 and 女lu3 (the female); it here is signified as the older sister.
Line 3 represents the lower trigram Dui (joy), the youngest daughter and the concubine. It sustains and pleases masculine line 4, the representative line of the upper trigram Zhen, the husband. Although it is at the position for marching upward, the feminine is designated to remain still. Therefore, even if it takes over the husband forcibly by exchanging positions with line 4, the inner lower trigram will remain Dui, the concubine, signifying that she will still be a concubine.
Commentary on the image: Gui Mei (the younger sister accompanies her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law but) acts as if she were the older sister (and the wife); this is inappropriate.
Line 3 isn't at its right position, signifying that what it intends is inappropriate.
Enlightenment through six three: to act according to one's status and ability. One should conform to one's status, play one's role and perform one's duty accordingly. Improper desire or ambition will be in vain. Although the hexagram that appears while this line is activated and changes to masculine is Da Zhuang (34), largeness and strength, there is always someone stronger as advised by its commentary on the hexagram image.
The 4th line
Text: Gui Mei (the younger sister accompanying her older sister in marriage to her brother-in-law as a concubine) is postponed, a late Gui (i.e. a woman marrying a man and belonging to him forever) will come in due course.
To postpone the wedding of a concubine in favour of marrying as a wife; the opportunity will come at the right time.
The interplay between the feminine line of trigram Kun and the masculine line of trigram Qian as signified below is taken for the wedding of the concubine. In hexagram Gui Mei, line 4 has left the lower trigram Dui, the concubine, and arrives at the position where the interplay has just finished; this signifies that it has missed the opportunity (i.e. the wedding) to become a concubine. Line 4 is at the position for resting, and where the husband is located; therefore it should wait.
After the hexagram returns to the unmarried state, the next possible interplay between trigrams Kun and Qian at position 4 will be that of lines 4 and 1 exchanging positions. When this occurs, the hexagram will become Heng (32), where the eldest daughter marries the eldest son, which is a perfect match for the marriage of husband and wife.
Commentary on the image: The will of postponing the date, (signifying) to wait (for the right time) and then to act.
Enlightenment through nine four: to remain still and wait for the right time. A person who doesn’t want to descend to a lower post should wait for a better time. The hexagram that forms after this line is activated, changing to feminine and acting righteously, is Lin (19), to approach, where masculinity at the low position approaches a high position.
The 5th line
Text: Di Yi Gui Mei (i.e. King Di Yi arranged for his younger sister to wed); the sleeve of the husband is no better than that of his concubine. The moon is nearly full; (this is of) auspiciousness.
Line 5, a feminine axle centre at the king’s position and in correlation with line 2, is the younger sister of King Di Yi (帝乙) who was the father of King Zhou (紂王). She wed as concubine Duke Ji Chang (姬昌) who is commonly known as King Wen of Zhou, the posthumous title given to him by his descendents after his death. Although she was dressed better than Ji Chang (because of her honored status), she didn’t overtake her husband. She behaved like a nearly full moon, i.e. very accomplished but not brimming over. Also see line 5 of hexagram 11 for more background.
Line 3 comes originally from trigram Kun which denotes cloth, and forms trigram Dui which denotes the mouth (opening); therefore line 3 is taken for the sleeve, and a brilliant sleeve because the inner lower trigram Li (clinging, fire) represented by line 3 is signified as brilliance. Line 4 occupies line 3, the brilliant sleeve, while line 5 rides on line 4; therefore line 5 is better dressed than line 2, as line 2 is ridden by line 3.
The inner upper trigram Kan (the abyss, water) denotes the moon; line 5 is next to the centre of the moon, signifying it is nearly full. If lines 4 and 5 exchange positions, the hexagram will become Jie (60), restriction.
Commentary on the image: Di Yi Gui Mei (i.e. King Di Yi arranged for his younger sister to wed); (the husband’s sleeve is) not better than the sleeve of the concubine. It stays at the core position (of the upper trigram where the principle of moderation is available), (but) it acts nobly.
It is nearly full but doesn’t brim over because it possesses a moderate character and behaves nobly.
Enlightenment through six five: to disregard what one was and behave according to what is now assigned. No matter how great one is, one must act according to one's assigned role; this is auspicious. Should this line change to masculine and lose correlation with line 2, the hexagram would become Dui (58), where talks are held between those above and below as truce is gone with marriage.
The 6th line
Text: The female holds a basket (but) there is no solidity (i.e. nothing inside); the male slaughters a goat (but) there is no blood; nothing is favourable.
According to ancient custom, the wife was required to worship her husband’s ancestors after the wedding. Only the wife, along with her husband, was entitled to offer sacrifices to the ancestors. When preparing the ceremony, the husband was responsible for slaughtering the livestock and the wife was in charge of cooking grains.
The upper trigram Zhen is bamboo and the ritual utensil, which here is taken for a basket. However, both lines 5 and 6 are not the solid masculine but the void feminine, signifying that there is nothing inside the basket. The lower trigram Dui denotes the goat, and the inner lower trigram Li (clinging, fire) is weaponry. However there is no correlation between lines 6 and 3, signifying that line 6 is independent from the slaughtered goat.
In the time of Gui Mei, even though feminine line 6 reaches the highest position she still is a concubine; this signifies that she is not qualified to hold the basket to perform the wife’s job. And if she does, there is nothing inside the basket and the husband won't slaughter the goat for her.
Commentary on the image: Line 6 possesses no solidity, (like) holding an empty basket.
Enlightenment through six six: That which is attained beyond one's status won't be recognised. A concubine holds a basket to worship her husband’s ancestors but there is nothing inside, suggesting that no matter how she pretends, she isn’t qualified for the job. She should not occupy the position, as no goat will be slaughtered, i.e. she won’t be recognized. Therefore no matter what is done, there is nothing favourable. Holding an empty basket and slaughtering a goat that does not bleed, also suggest an act of false affection. Even if this line changes to solid masculine and the basket is filled with grains, the hexagram will become Kui (38), alienation. This is the possible outcome after the concubine fights for legitimacy and wins the position.