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I ching

Kui Mei (Propriety)

I Ching Hexagram 54
Kui Mei (Propriety)

Action: Subordinate

Hu Gua (hidden influence) 63 After Completion: Renew

Zong Gua (underlying cause) 53 Development: Flower

Instinct is the bubbling of Te
excited by the prospect of your coming-to-be-real.

Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck,
leads the flock to fly and follow. – Chinese Proverb

Reading at a Glance: Kuei Mei or the Marrying Maiden is about subordinating the will or the need to accept what cannot be changed. You may find yourself in a suspended situation because of changes another is going through or events beyond your control. At the same time a sudden turn of events can place you in a very unfamiliar environment where you have no experience to draw upon. You can’t do much about the situation other than wait to see how events unfold. It is not uncommon to receive this hexagram when you are seeking partnership with someone who is currently unavailable. As the ‘second wife’ or concubine, you may be the other woman or other man. The hidden influence of After Completion underscores a time of waiting for some type of change or completion to sort itself out. There is no reason to think that you cannot achieve the object of your desire. However the act of subordination is necessary and that is not an easy thing for most people. The underlying cause of Development showed the slow, practical steps necessary to achieve a desire. In Kuei Mei the situation can appear or change suddenly and you are forced to adapt to uncertainty as best you can. The lines in this hexagram refer to the changes a woman faces when she marries and goes into a new home and adopts a new family. It is not her ancestral home and she will not be immediately accepted. Propriety shows adapting to conventionally accepted standards of behavior. This means that although the situation may not be what you had hoped for, you will learn a lot about your patterns of thought, your defenses and even the wisdom that comes from allowing life to lead you into the unfamiliar. Since it is called The Marrying Maiden, success comes after a period of testing. Often the ‘second wife’ or concubine gives birth to the heir and rises to become the ‘first wife.’ Just because you are wandering on a road you have never traveled before, don’t be dismayed. Rather than push forward willfully with demands, acquiesce and allow the situation to unfold.

branch driftwood on beach

Give your carved block

to the Woodcarver.

Let the cutting


your gift.

“Through progress, one is sure to reach the place, where one belongs. Hence follows the idea of the subordinate.” The Arousing Thunder moves over the Joyous Lake, while the nuclear trigrams reveal something profound stirring within. Before moving forward, Kuei Mei asks you to "understand the transitory in the light of the eternity at the end." Some things will change, while other aspects remain enduring. To know the difference is something you will only discover by opening and learning from the challenges you face.

Perhaps you feel powerless to change a current situation. You may have been impetuous in actions and are now paying for it. Even while this can be a difficult time for relationships outwardly, there is much you can learn about yourself going forward.

Oftentimes we pursue what we believe we need without giving consideration to whether it is right for us. We can fail to listen or see the signs that might help us shape our desire into something lasting. This is the core of what it means to follow. We need to marry the will to the way and to the needs of others. The message of Subordinate is that you are either facing the consequences of being impetuous or are warned against acting impetuously in the future.

Like the marriage of man and wife, they are usually brought together by something other than logic: they follow their heart. However, sometimes the heart is just the bubbling of desire and need without respecting that this coming together must serve each individual. This is the difference between love and lust. In following the way, we recognize that desire must subordinate to how life guides us.

"Once there was a wood carver. When he first began to carve, he gazed at the wood in front of him. After three years, he no longer saw it as a piece of wood, but as something of shape that merely required the movement necessary to give it form. In time, he no longer saw it with the eyes, but apprehended it with a different type of vision. Decision and action were simultaneously joined, and as he worked, his sense organs were always in abeyance. By conforming to the structure that led him, he carved deftly and without effort."

Like the woodcarver, something within requires only that you allow life to carve away what keeps it hidden. When you subordinate yourself to life, you will discover that "the greatest cutting does not sever." Life merely carves away what keeps you from being authentic and fulfilled.

The migrating bird does not follow because of the cry of the other birds. Each bird follows its own instinctual call for flight. Although you follow the shape of what you believe will become your future, your destiny is given definition in the mirror of what unfolds right now. The master said: "To understand the transitory in the eternity at the end, release the experience and hold only to the thread." This will allow you to open to the instinctual pull of your evolutionary journey.

“Go on to the limit of emptiness: hold fast to the stability of stillness. For, all things were made by one process and they all turn back. They may flourish abundantly, but each turns and goes home to the root from which it came. Therefore, to turn back is to reclaim your destiny.” When you make peace with life, you will discover its enormous power to guide you. As if it already knows your shape, it carves away only the layers that keep you from coming-to-be-real.

“If your true nature has the creative force of Nature itself, wherever you may go, you will see fishes leaping and geese flying.” When you make yourself subordinate to the path, “the greatest cutting does not sever.” Experience always leads you back to yourself. When you follow life and return to your roots, decision and action are simultaneously joined. What is joined cannot be separated. This is the essence of a commitment to the Way. Instinct is the bubbling of Te, which connects you with the germinating power of life.


Forced into an inferior position = be true to who you are. The subordinating energy of this hexagram when it is unchanging can be a message that another’s unavailability is not going to change. There can be power games and manipulation at play rather than healthy subordination. In work you may be feeling like you are not getting the recognition you deserve. The politics may be such that this will not change. You may be asking about a potential partner and there can be a prior entanglement or another person who is really in charge. You would remain in an inferior position. Propriety needs to be examined because you may be interfering in something that is none of your business. The message can be that you are barking up the wrong tree. However, by carefully examining your principles, you may be able to succeed by ensuring you are taking appropriate and ethical actions. The unchanging nature of this hexagram can show that you are in a holding pattern of your own making because you do have the power to either accept your subordinate position and make the best of it or move on. Being true to yourself is the important lesson you are learning.

Line 1:

The marrying maiden as a concubine, a lame man who is able to tread = undertakings bring good fortune. Changes to (40) Liberation. There is not a lot you can do in this situation but it does provide some possibilities. Perhaps you walk away from a debilitating situation and achieve Liberation of some type. There can be fear associated with throwing down the crutches and hobbling down the road but it is Liberating.

Line 2:

A one-eyed man is able to see = the perseverance of a solitary man furthers. Changes to (51) Shocking. Perhaps if you had all of the details of this situation it might shock you. The good thing is that you are only seeing half of it and this allows you to persevere. Sometimes less is more and if you are trying to uncover a reason to leave you will find it. We are either committed to staying or looking for reasons to go. You may be in a period of hibernation or soul searching and events can change quickly to bring you back out into the open. To be one-eyed is to concentrate on your own happiness and fulfillment without giving much thought to what others are doing.

Line 3:

The marrying maiden as a slave = forced subservience. Changes to (34) Great Power. In this situation powerlessness may be an issue. Either you need to take an inferior position with dignity or return to your power and reject the situation so you can achieve something better. A more fulfilling situation may be around the corner because you do not sacrifice your dignity.

Line 4:

The marrying maiden draws out the allotted time = a late marriage comes in due course. Changes to (19) Approach. You may need to wait for a more fortunate situation to show itself. Because you hold to your principles, you are rewarded as others Approach you. Rather than selling out for something less desirable, waiting out the situation leads to success.

Line 5:

Daughter given in marriage who’s gown was not as gorgeous as the serving maid = when the moon is nearly full good fortune. Changes to (58) Joy. One accepts a lesser position to recognize fulfillment later. Appearances are not everything as the grace of one’s inner dignity makes for real beauty.

Line 6:

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. Changes to (38) Opposition. This is a difficult line showing what happens when you remain in an unhealthy situation. You may have sacrificed too much of your own needs to acquiesce and are now feeling unfulfilled. While conflict may have been guiding you toward making changes, the opportunities went unnoticed. Too much of the will has been sacrificed and the unfortunate nature of this hexagram reaches its peak in this line. If you are not feeling fulfilled changes are in order.

*This page provides insight on the following combinations: Hexagram 54 unchanging Hexagram 54.1 Hexagram 54.1.2 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 54.2 Hexagram 54.2.3 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 54.3 Hexagram 54.3.4 Hexagram Hexagram Hexagram 54.4 Hexagram 54.4.5 Hexagram Hexagram 54.5 Hexagram 54.5.6 Hexagram 54.6