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The story about the four wives

The priest stood up and told us a story about the man and his 4 wives.


We Chinese have a lot of stories to tell.  Handy metaphors.  Stories that make you think.

This one starts with a man who married his childhood sweetheart.  He loved her dearly, unfortunately she was very fragile and was always sick.  He decided to marry his second wife ,who was very shrewd, to help take care of him and his business.  This wife managed the day-to-day of this man and his family brilliantly.

He also learnt that a very beautiful woman in her village was in need of financial support.  He thought, ‘Might as well!’ and married this beautiful woman.  Unfortunately, they didn’t really have much to say to one another.  He felt good having helped her family out, but that was it.  So when he actually met the soulmate of his life, he was so happy that he married this woman as his forth wife.  Someone he could connect to, someone he could confide in.

One day he was asked to embark on a long journey, a journey that he knew he was not going to come back to, and that he’d be gone forever.  He could only pick one wife to go with him.

His first wife said to him, ‘I love you very much my dear, but I am so weak I will only be your liability.  Please go without me and I wish you very well.’

What about his beautiful wife?  At least he could enjoy her lovely presence?  ‘No, thank you.  As you know we don’t have much to say to one another.  I just don’t think it would be nice for us to travel such a long trip together.’

She had a point.

He then asked his soulmate.  ‘Yes, I would absolutely love to come with you, but I can only walk with you so far in the journey as I will need to turn back.  Is that okay with you?’

He thought, no, that’s not okay.  He needed someone who would be there for him for the whole journey.

He asked his last wife.  The wife that managed his day-to-day life.

‘The moment I met you I am destined to be with you.  There is nothing that can set us apart.  We will go onto this journey together and I will be there to hold your hands when you need me.’


The first wife, is actually our body.  We are born with a very fragile and delicate body.  It can only go so far with us, and there are many things that can bring it down.

The beautiful wife is a metaphore for fame and fortune.  Beautiful at first, glamourous to the others.  We can’t, however, speak to them, or feel loved or connected with all that externalities.

The soulmate wife is our friends and families.  People we love, people we care about.

The journey is our life.  We are all going to cease.  Despite the love and care in the world, our families and friends can only travel with us so far.  They have yet to turn back or embark on their journey themselves.

The competent wife?  She is our heart.  Our heart and soul are the only constant, the only permanent fixture that will travel far with us no matter what.  It is much more worthwhile to cultivate our heart, our soul, than the pursue of things.  Life starts, and hopefully ends, with compassion.

Aren’t we all spiritual beings having a human experience?



To my father, Simon Ma (1953-2011)


  1. Jamie CHU Jamie CHU

    Cathy, thank you for sharing the wonderful story. And I am very sorry for your loss. May your father rest in peace.

  2. Sandy Sandy

    Cathy, thanks for your sharing. Love to see all those four wivies in our daily life. However, those are the main problems that always happening in our lives. The only way to help ourselves to picking the right one – “Watch” and “Pray” – so that we may not undergo the test; for our mind is willing , but the flesh is weak.

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