(Zhiching Chen/Epoch Times)(Zhiching Chen/Epoch Times)

It seems like every week there’s another news story about a small dispute erupting into extreme violence, or even murder.

We’ve all seen the shocking headlines, such as “Man charged with trying to kill co-worker with wrench” and “Neighbor feud escalates to weed whacker attack.”

“How could anyone be so insane and irrational?” we may think smugly to ourselves. Na sicher, these are extreme examples. Yet we can all relate to losing control at some point, whether it’s a harsh word to a spouse or a verbal tirade against a driver who cut us off.

(Pixabay.com)

(Pixabay.com)

It’s easy to blame the other person or vent your anger, but the ancient Chinese had a different way to resolve inevitable social tension: tolerance.

Letting other people mess with your inner peace is giving them too much power, the thinking went. Better to forgive others’ mistakes and be understanding of their human flaws. By showing mercy, it could also have the effect of changing the other person by touching their heart, or even uplifting society. inzwischen, if you can manage to keep calm in the face of injustice, you remain the master of your own domain and keep your inner peace intact.

Here are some legendary stories of great tolerance from traditional Chinese culture. They may just give you inspiration the next time your coworker steals your lunch from the office fridge.

What to Do If Your Neighbor Destroys Your Garden … the Ancient Chinese Way

(Lionel Rich/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-2.0)

(Lionel Rich/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Song Jiu was a governor in the state of Liang during the Warring States Period (722 b.c. nach 481 V.Chr.) in ancient China. Adjacent to Liang was the state of Chu, and the border between the two states was marked by a post. Melon farmers from each state worked the land on their own side of the post.
The Liang people were industrious and frequently irrigated their land, so their melons grew big and flourished. But the Chu people were lazy. They hardly ever watered their land, so their melons were small and shriveled.
Out of jealousy, one night the Chu people crossed over to the other side and stomped on the Liang people’s melon vines, breaking many of them. Am nächsten Tag, when the Liang people discovered the damage, they were enraged and reported it to Governor Song, seeking revenge.
Song shook his head and said, “We should not do that. Making an enemy is a path to calamity. It is narrow-minded to give tit for tat.”

Stattdessen, Song devised a plan: A team of the Liang people would be sent to secretly water the Chu’s melon patch every night. But it had to be a secret, he insisted; no one must tell the Chus.

The next morning, when the Chu people went out to check their crop, they saw that it had already been watered. With the covert help from the Liang people, the Chu state’s melon vines grew better and better every day. The Chu people thought it strange and started to investigate. When they discovered that the Liang people had been helping them, they were very moved and reported it to their government.

The Chu king subsequently apologized to the Liang people with generous gifts, vowing friendship between the two states. The Liang and Chu then developed a great and long-lasting alliance.

For centuries, Song Jiu’s wisdom and broadmindedness have been remembered, and the story of how he repaid an act of harm with an act of kindness has been passed down through the ages.

Resolving a Property Dispute Like an Ancient Chinese Prime Minister

(Annie Theby/Unsplash.com)

(Annie Theby/Unsplash.com)

In Tongcheng County, Aihui Province, in China, there is a famous lane about 100 meters long and two meters wide. It is called “Six Feet Lane” and has a beautiful story behind it.

Zhang Ying, a well-known officer who lived during the Qing Dynasty, was born in Tongcheng County. Beside his house was a piece of vacant land, and his neighbor built a wall on it to claim ownership. Zhang’s family argued with the neighbor about the wall, but without resolution.

Damals, Zhang was the prime minister of the state and living in the capital city. His family members sent him a letter asking him to intervene on the land dispute. When Zhang read the letter, he wrote a short poem in reply:

Over thousands of miles the letter travelled, only for a wall;

What of letting him have three feet more?

The Great Wall is still firm and strong,

But where are the whereabouts of Emperor Qin?

Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. (NTD Television)

Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. (NTD Television)

The Great Wall was built under the order of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty some 2,000 years before the Qing Dynasty. By mentioning this history, Zhang meant to explain to his family that life is too valuable and short to fight for insignificant material things.

Upon seeing this poem, his relatives felt ashamed. They immediately followed Zhang’s instruction and yielded three feet of land to the neighbor, who in turn was so moved by Zhang’s humility and demeanor that he gave up three feet of his own property, thus creating a six-foot lane. This story of tolerance has been passed down from generation to generation in China.

How to Handle Threats and Gossip Like an Ancient Chinese Diplomat

(Ben White/Unsplash.com)

(Ben White/Unsplash.com)

Lin Xiangru was a diplomat of the Zhao state during the Warring States Period who eventually worked his way up to prime minister. His fast success drew the ire of General Lian Po, who was forced to take orders from Lin.

Lian Po was resentful and said publicly: “I am a general and I earned my status by conquering many cities. Lin Xiangru got a higher position just by talking. I shall embarrass him when I see him.”

Hearing of Lian’s threats, Lin remained unmoved and made it a point to avoid a confrontation, including steering clear of Lian’s entourage when he saw it coming.

Lin’s squires mistakenly thought that Lin was afraid of the general. They told him, “Although your position is higher than that of General Lian Po, you are afraid of him and try to avoid him. Even an ordinary person would be ashamed to do that. Please grant us our leave.”

Lin firmly invited them to stay and laid out the reason for his reaction to Lian’s threats.

He first asked, “Who do you think is more powerful: General Lian Po or the king of Qin?"

The squires agreed that it was the king of Qin, Na sicher, as the Qin state was very powerful at the time.

Lin then said, “I dared to argue with the king of Qin and scold him. Why would I be afraid of General Lian?"

Lin further explained: “General Lian and I are the reason the state of Qin has not dared to invade our state. Two tigers cannot coexist if they fight. I tolerate his behavior because I place the welfare of the nation over my own personal pride.”

After he learned of Lin’s words, Lian Po was ashamed and quickly came to apologize. “I am humbled by your generosity. I did not expect you to be so tolerant of me!” he told Lin.

All resentment between the two dissolved and they became close friends.

Being able to correct one’s mistakes has been considered a virtue since ancient times. People praised General Lian Po for having the strength of character to sincerely repent and mend his ways. Lin Xiangru was also admired for taking a tolerant attitude during conflict, placing the nation’s interests above personal pride.

The Ocean of Tolerance

(Davdeka/Shutterstock)

(Davdeka/Shutterstock)

Tolerance is one of the most important virtues in traditional Chinese culture. Reflecting selflessness, wisdom, and a broad mind, it comes from self-discipline and is the natural manifestation of kindness, Barmherzigkeit, and benevolence. It brings people closer together by improving their relationships.

Back in ancient times, sages and men of virtue held others’ perspectives in high regard. They thought of others first when they encountered difficulty, and were respected role models who set lofty examples for others.

 Laozi (Zona Yeh/Epoch Times)

Laozi (Zona Yeh/Epoch Times)

Laozi, a venerable sage from ancient China, taught that a person with great virtue is able to behave in an all-encompassing manner in harmony with the “Tao,” or the “Great Way.” He said: “The reason great rivers and oceans are broad and deep is that they seek the lowest level so as to take in all the water from the streams and creeks.”

This has the meaning that in order to fully embrace and be inclusive of all things, one must have a compassionate heart. The more broadminded one is, the greater the world one encompasses.

People with great virtue are totally unselfish and hold themselves to a high moral standard. They are more kind, tolerant, and willing to help and care for others, and would never be influenced by self-interest and self-profit.

So the next time conflicts occur, picture that ocean with unlimited capacity that takes in all water from the rivers and creeks. We can be that ocean.

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The Five Elements of Chinese philosophy and their interactions. (Parnassus/CC BY-SA 3.0)The Five Elements of Chinese philosophy and their interactions. (Parnassus/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Three Character Classic, or San Zi Jing, is the best known classic Chinese text for children. Written by Wang Yinlian (1223–1296) during the Song Dynasty, it has been memorized by generations of Chinese, both young and old. Until the 1800s, the Three Character Classic was the very first text that every child would study.

The text’s rhythmic, short, and simple three-character verses allowed for easy reading and memorization. This enabled children to learn common characters, grammar structures, lessons from Chinese history, and above all how to conduct oneself.

The Five Elements, a central concept in the traditional Chinese understanding of natural characteristics and changes, features in the San Zi Jing:

We speak of spring and summer, we speak of autumn and winter.
These four seasons revolve without ceasing.

We speak of north and south, we speak of east and west.
These four directions correspond with the center position.

We speak of water, Feuer, wood, metal and earth.
These five elements have their origin in numerology.

We speak of benevolence and of righteousness, of propriety, of wisdom, and of integrity.
These five virtues must never be compromised.

History’s greatest physicists, like Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, spent their lives seeking a unified “theory of everything.” This is the Holy Grail that explains everything in the universe—from the workings of the human brain, to the formation of mountains and seas and the birth and death of planets and stars.

Interessant, thousands of years ago, the ancient Chinese already had their own “theory of everything”—the Five Elements, an abstract theory based on the Chinese numerology rules of the I-Ching, das Buch der Wandlungen.

The theory expounds that five elements—metal, wood, water, Feuer, earth – constitute all things in our universe. Embedded in the theory is the concept of mutual growth and mutual inhibition – each element promotes one of its brothers and inhibits another.

Beispielsweise, water helps wood grow, and wood fuels fire. But fire melts metal, and water quenches fire. Together, the elements keep each other in check, maintaining a harmonious balance of forces.

Deceptively simple on the surface, the five element theory contains multiple layers of complexity and abstractness, making it so versatile that it can apply to nearly every aspect of life. From traditional Chinese medicine, Musik-, cuisine, geomancy, architecture, to philosophy, this all-encompassing theory harmonized Chinese culture.

Tablet, in Chinese and Manchu, for the gods of the five elements in the Temple of Heaven.  (Vmenkov/CC-BY SA 3.0)

Tablet, in Chinese and Manchu, for the gods of the five elements in the Temple of Heaven. (Vmenkov/CC-BY SA 3.0)

Arts and Architecture

Like a Dan Brown novel, the symbolism of the five elements is omnipresent throughout Chinese arts and architecture, but invisible to the unknowing eye. This is all made clearer when we understand the symbols associated with each element.

The Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace, is built in rich hues of green, yellow, and red. But these colors were not simply chosen for aesthetic pleasure – they represent the elements Wood, Earth, and Fire respectively, and their associated auspicious tidings.

The Forbidden City’s red walls herald the Fire element’s prosperity and festiveness. The yellow roofs symbolize the Earth element, and the Earth is thought to represent the center of the universe. Earth’s yellow color thus symbolizes the emperor’s central position of power. In similar fashion, the emperor’s traditional robe is also in the imperial shade of yellow.

But not all the roofs in the City are yellow – the princes’ palaces are roofed with green tiles, which represent the Wood element. As Wood symbolizes growth and vitality, it is an apt symbol for growing teenagers.

The Imperial Library is in an unusual shade of black, a color that some would consider inauspicious. But black is associated with the element Water, and water – which also represents winter and storage – symbolically protects the library’s highly flammable treasury of books.

Cuisine and Medicine

The five elements theory forms the core of both Chinese cuisine and traditional medicine, as it aims to achieve a “harmony or balance” of tastes and body energies. Each element is associated with a flavor, a vital body organ, and an energy property.

Beispielsweise, metal is associated with pungent or spicy flavors, the lungs, and the property of dryness. Why does spicy hot pot taste so comforting during the cold and wet monsoon season? According to theory, spicy foods are strong in the Metal element, and counteract the climate with their drying and cold-dispersing properties. Herbs like ginger, garlic, onion, and mustard reduce congestion in the lungs, stimulate circulation and enhance appetite – perfect for cold and wet weather.

But when the hot and dry season comes around, we crave sweet and cooling foods like mung bean soup, barley water, herbal chin chow and tau huay. That’s because these foods have the damp, sweet properties of Earth and the cooling properties of Water, to counteract the hot and drying climate.

Truly good Chinese cuisine strives to achieve the perfect harmony of foods and flavors that promote vitality and longevity. Beispielsweise, fluffy steamed fresh scallops, which contain the salty and cooling properties of the Water element, are perfectly complemented by the spicy and warming taste of garlic, ginger and scallions from the Metal element.

In the same vein, traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes that disease symptoms and signs reflect an imbalance in the body’s organs and their energies, each of which can be mapped to various parts of the five elements system.

That being said, the above is merely a gross simplification of Chinese cuisine and medicine. Developed over thousands of years, these systems are far more complex and sophisticated, and are all based on a conceptually fundamental “theory of everything”.

The Five Constants of Confucianism

We speak of benevolence and of righteousness, of propriety, of wisdom, and of integrity.
These five virtues must never be compromised.

The principle behind the five elements has also been applied to Chinese philosophy, in particular to the Five Constants of Confucianism.

Two hundred years after the original Confucianism in the pre-Qin dynasty era, Confucianism was elevated to official ideology during the Han Dynasty. Represented by the iconic philosopher Dong Zhongshu, this system of thought integrated the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements.

Dong Zhongshu believed that universe was governed by the laws of Yin-Yang and the five elements, and man should also conform to these laws. He pioneered the concept that the five constants or virtues corresponded to the five element theory, as follows:

Benevolence – Wood, for its growing and giving nature
Righteousness – Metal, for its strength and unyielding power
Propriety – Water, for its yielding and deferential nature
Wisdom –Fire, for its brightness
Integrity – Earth, for its solid and grounded nature

Like the harmonious balance of the five elements, man should possess all five virtues on a fundamental level. But at the societal level, Dong believed that each strata of society should have a specific coordination of values in order for society to function at its best.

Beispielsweise, persons of high rank should place emphasis on benevolence, propriety, and integrity. Being in a position of power over countless others, rulers should have benevolence to ensure that the populace was cared for.

Those of lower rank, like the common people or children in the family, should emphasise righteousness, wisdom, and integrity. Wisdom is the knowledge of morality, without which one cannot become a person of virtue. Receiving moral education should be a priority among the young.

All ranks, aber, should emphasise integrity. Like the Earth element, Dong felt that integrity is the foundation for the other four virtues, and that without honesty and integrity the others virtues would weaken and crumble.

Dong’s philosophical ideas on cosmology and governance are immortalised in his work, Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals, which was written by himself and with other authors. His ideas were widely accepted and made the orthodox philosophy of China’s governance for several hundred years.

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Yang Zhen was a fair and honest official who lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty. (The Epoch Times)Yang Zhen was a fair and honest official who lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty. (The Epoch Times)

Die „Standards für Sein ein guter Student and Child“ (Di Zi Gui) Kinder Moral und die richtige Etikette ist ein traditionelles chinesisches Lehrbuch für Kinder, die lehren. Es wurde von Li Yuxiu in der Qing-Dynastie geschrieben, während der Herrschaft des Kaisers Kang Xi (1661-1722). In dieser Serie, we present some ancient Chinese stories that exemplify the valuable lessons taught in the third chapter of Di Zi Gui—”Caution in Daily Life.”

The Di Zi Gui shows the importance of minding details when in movement or taking action:

Unravel curtains slowly
Without causing noise
Make turns widely
Without hitting corners

When holding an empty vessel
Hold it as as though it were full
When entering an empty room
Enter as though it were occupied.

As cryptic as this sounds, this actually teaches an important principle – that we should still conduct ourselves properly, even when no one is around to see it or when we are not being watched by others.

This virtue is embodied by the ancient Chinese scholar Yang Zhen, who refused to accept a gift of gold even though no one else was around.

Refusing a Gift of Gold at Midnight

Yang Zhen was a celebrated scholar of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Yang Zhen lost his father at a young age, and grew up in poverty. But he had a passion for studying and was very diligent, accumulating a wealth of knowledge and becoming a learned scholar. Eigentlich, there was a popular saying among the scholars at the time that “Yang Zhen is the Confucius of the Guanxi area”

Yang Zhen taught for over 20 years before he eventually became a government official. Because he was over fifty years old at the time, many people, including Yang Zhen himself, did not expect him to be accepted for an official position. But Yang Zhen’s good reputation became known to General Deng Zhi, who invited him to become an official. Später, Yang Zhen became the prefect of Jinzhou County and Donglai County.

Yang Zhen was very fair and honest, and did not seek personal gain. He held himself strictly to the principle of being an “official with clean hands,” or one who was uncorrupted.

What are you saying? Heaven knows, Earth knows, you know, and I know. How can you say that no one else knows?Though no one else is here, isn’t our conscience here?

— Yang Zhen, upon refusing a bribe

While serving as prefect of Jinzhou, Yang met a man Wang Mi whom he found was very talented. So under his recommendation, Wang Mi was promoted to the position of magistrate of Changyi County.

Später, Yang Zhen was promoted to the position of prefect of Donglai County. On his way to Donglai, he passed by Changyi, where he was warmly welcomed by Wang Mi.

In the evening, Wang Mi paid a visit to Yang Zhen. The two men were absorbed in pleasant conversation for many hours, until they realized how late it was. As Wang Mi was about to leave, he took out some gold and said, “It is a rare opportunity to see you, my great mentor. I have prepared a little gift to express my gratitude for your guidance.”

Yang Zhen replied, “Because I knew of your talents, I recommended you for an official position, hoping that you could be fair and incorrupt. What you did just now was against my expectations of you. The best way you can repay me is by serving the country well, instead of giving me anything.”

aber, Wang Mi insisted, “It’s the middle of night, no one else will know about this except you and me. Please accept it.”

Yang Zhen immediately became very stern and said, “What are you saying? Heaven knows, Earth knows, you know, and I know. How can you say that no one else knows?Though no one else is here, isn’t our conscience here?"

Upon hearing this, Wang Mi reddened with embarrassment and left hastily with his gold.

Später, Yang Zhen was transferred to Zhuo County. He was very fair and just, and his whole family lived a simple life.
His friends tried to persuade him to leave some property to his offspring, but he replied with a smile, “I am leaving my reputation of being an uncorrupted official as inheritance to my children, isn’t that riches enough?"

It is easy to obey one’s ethical principles in front of others but hard to behave consistently when one is alone. Yang Zhen’s refusal of the gift of gold demonstrates his exemplary spirit of staying upright and honest, even when he is not watched by others—a value that is worth learning from.

Guan Ning Throws Away Gold in the Paddy Field

Conscientiousness and focus are important when doing tasks. The Di Zi Gui goes:

Do not rush any matter
Haste means many mistakes

Fear not the difficult thing
Nor to ask advice or clarify doubts

A good example is the historic figure Guan Ning, who was known for being very focused in his work and spiritual cultivation.

Guan Ning was a scholar during the Three Kingdoms period. From a young age, he developed the habit of doing things with great carefulness and concentration.

Guan Ning had a classmate called Hua Xin, and the two used to study and farm together. One day while Guan Ning was hoeing the rice paddy, he hit upon a rock that turned out to be a gold nugget. He threw the gold out of the rice paddy and continued hoeing.

Hua Xin saw Guan Ning throw away the gold nugget and picked it up. He examined it from all angles and then looked at his classmate for a long time before he too decided to throw it away.

Why did Guan Ning throw away the gold nugget? This was because he was a man of virtue. He treated farming as part of his cultivation practice and welcomed the hardship of farming as joy. He viewed the gold nugget, which would provide him a comfortable life, as a test and distraction from his farming work, and thus from his cultivation practice.

Guan Ning Cuts the Mat

Guan Ning cuts his mat to signal the end of a friendship.

Guan Ning cuts his mat to signal the end of a friendship.

On another occasion, the two friends were studying together when they heard the sound of drums and gongs outside their window. The noise was from a grand procession of high-ranking officials and their guards-of-honour passing by.

Guan Ning continued to focus on his book, but Hua Xin could hardly sit still. Endlich, he could not resist but go outside to watch the procession, until the procession had walked far away.

When Hua Xin returned, Guan Ning took out a knife and cut the mat they had sat on together in half, Sprichwort, “We should no longer be friends.”

Confucius once said, “Do not work with people who have different values from yours.” Mo Zi also once said, “One who stays near ink gets stained black”, meaning that one will inevitably be influenced by the behavior of one’s company.

After observing Hua Xin’s behavior in various situations, Guan Ning realized that they differed too much in personality. Hua Xin was easily distracted by money and power, and was careless in his attitude to studying, which would have made it more difficult for Guan Ning to maintain his own focus in his work.

Deswegen, Guan Ning cut the mat in half, and made the decision to stay away from Hua Xin. Von da an, “breaking up with a friend by severing the mat” became an idiom referring to the end of a friendship.

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The Three Character Classic, or San Zi Jing, is the best known classic Chinese text for children. Written by Wang Yinlian (1223–1296) during the Song Dynasty, it has been memorized by generations of Chinese, both young and old. Until the 1800s, the Three Character Classic was the very first text that every child would study.

The text’s rhythmic, short, and simple three-character verses allowed for easy reading and memorization. This enabled children to learn common characters, grammar structures, lessons from Chinese history, and above all how to conduct oneself.

aber, after the Cultural Revolution in China, the Three Character Classic was banned and eventually fell into disuse. In dieser Serie, we revive and review this great Chinese classic, drawing ancient lessons of wisdom for our modern-day lives.

The Three Character Classic Says:

Begin with filial piety and fraternal love,
and then see and hear.
Learn to count,
and learn to read.

Units and tens,
tens and hundreds,
hundreds and thousands,
thousands and tens of thousands.

The Three Forces
are Heaven, Earth and Man.
The Three Luminaries
are the sun, the moon and the stars.

The Three Bonds
are the obligation between sovereign and subject,
the love between father and child,
the harmony between husband and wife.

Begin with filial piety and fraternal love, and then see and hear.

— Three Character Classic

After teaching young readers the fundamentals of being a good child and sibling, the Three Character Classic devotes a good amount of text to the basics of mathematics and numbers.

But it does more than teach kids how to solve “one plus one”. While teaching counting, the Three Character Classic associates each number with a fundamental piece of knowledge about nature, geography, society, and culture.

According to the ancient divination text I-Ching, there are three forces or “talents” in our environment – Heaven, Earth, and Man. The person who knows all three well is an all-rounded individual.

There are three sources of light that illuminate our skies – the sun, the moon and the stars. There are four seasons, and four directions – North, Süd, East and West.

The numbers serve as a useful memory aid, helping kids collate and remember lists like the five elements and the seven emotions in Chinese culture.

Numbers are such fundamental things that even young children know them by heart. But when did the Chinese develop numerals, and how much did they achieve in their numeration system and mathematics?

The Origin of Chinese Numerals

According to Chinese legend, the number one () was invented by Fu Xi, the first mythical emperor of China, zu Ende 5,000 Jahre zuvor. The remaining numbers were created about 500 years later by Cangjie, the inventor of Chinese characters.

Shortly after, Li Shou, a historian for the Yellow Emperor, developed the decimal numeration system where ten tens are one hundred; ten hundreds are one thousand; und so weiter.

Legends aside, the earliest physical evidence of Chinese numerals dates back to the Shang Dynasty (14th century BC), zu Ende 3,000 Jahre zuvor. Chinese numerals were found carved on tortoise shells and flat cattle bones – also known as oracle bones.

During that time, the Chinese were already using individual symbols for the numbers one through nine, indicating that the Chinese were among the first civilizations to use a decimal numeration system.

The decimal numeration system is the system most widely used by modern civilizations. This includes the numeration system we use today – the Hindu-Arabic system.

Chinese mathematicians were able to compute square and cube roots of numbers to several decimal places.

— Three Character Classic

Around 4th century BC, the Chinese also developed the world’s first decimal positional numeration system – counting rods – to make calculations easier.

This system proved extremely efficient, and Chinese mathematicians were able to compute square and cube roots of numbers to several decimal places. Durch 500 AD they had obtained the value for pi to 3.14159267, one thousand years ahead of their European counterparts. They were also the first to discover and prove “Pascal’s Triangle” – 300 years before Pascal was born!

Balancing the ‘Three Relationships’

The Three Bonds are the obligation between sovereign and subject, the love between father and child, the harmony between husband and wife.

— Three Character Classic

Among the “sets of three” that the Three Character Classic teaches are the Three Bonds or Three Relationships – the relationships between ruler and subject, between parent and child, and between couples.

These three relationships are the most important relationships among men and women, according to Confucian ideology. If these three relationships are handled well, one will enjoy peace and harmony. But if these relationships are handled poorly, one’s life will be in chaos.

One historic person who handled the three relationships well was Xu Yun, military general for the State of Wei during the Three Kingdoms Period. aber, Xu Yun very nearly failed to achieve this, if not for his intelligent wife.

When he was a young man, Xu Yun was match-made to Lady Ruan, the daughter of Ruan Gong. But after the wedding ceremony, Xu Yun was shocked to see how plain and unattractive his new wife was under her wedding veil. He refused to enter the bridal chamber, and to the chagrin of his family, asked for a marriage annulment.

It took a fair amount of convincing by Xu’s family before Xu entered the bridal chamber. But upon seeing his bride, Xu could bear it no longer and turned to leave. Knowing that he would not return, his wife stopped him by pulling on his robes.

To embarrass his wife, Xu Yun said derisively, “Out of the four feminine virtues – feminine character, Fähigkeiten, Rede, and appearance – how many do you possess?"

His wife replied, “What I lack is simply beauty. A scholar should have one hundred virtues. How many do you possess, my husband?"

Xu Yun said proudly, “All of them.”

His intelligent wife continued, “Character is the most important for all walks of life. My lord, you desire good looks, not good character. How can you claim that you have all the virtues of a scholar?"

Xu Yun was deeply ashamed after hearing his wife’s words. He changed his attitude and henceforth showed the greatest respect toward his wife. He eventually rose through the ranks to become a loyal military general, and raised two sons who also became government officials.

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“Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses,” by Zhou Fang. Silk hand scroll, 18 inches by 71 Zoll, Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang Province, China. (Public Domain)“Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses,” by Zhou Fang. Silk hand scroll, 18 inches by 71 Zoll, Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang Province, China. (Public Domain)

Whether worn by or the First Lady, celebrities at the Oscars, or society women at a Met Gala, high fashion appeals to us. Some believe that high fashion originated in the 15th century French Burgundian court, but looking back as early as the eighth century in China, the fashionable female had already been a favorite subject in art.

During the Tang Dynasty (618–907), a period in Chinese civilization that had a stable economy and a flourishing culture, the genre of “beautiful women painting” reached considerable heights. And ranking above all Tang masters for utmost stylization in portraying the female figure was Zhou Fang. His exquisite silk hand scroll “Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses” (at the Liaoning Provincial Museum in China’s Shenyang province) is a rare jewel that allows us to glimpse the remarkable achievement of not only Tang female portraiture but of fashion at the time.

In this piece Zhou Fang portrays five court ladies with one maidservant. We see the ladies stand next to each other casting their eyes on dogs, a red flower, a crane, a butterfly, and a blooming magnolia tree.

To the right, two ladies play with a dog and one lady teases it with a duster. In the middle, we see another court lady admiring a red flower in her hands while a crane strolls past. A maidservant holds a fan and appears smaller, (not because of trying to show physical depth but rather due to an intentional hierarchical scale that signifies her lower status).

To the left, a court lady with clasped hands adds a sense of depth to the composition. Another lady stands beside a blooming magnolia tree and just as she catches a butterfly, she shifts her attention to a dog running towards her.

There is great intimacy between the court ladies and the nonhuman entities as they keep each other company. Their relationship can be interpreted to represent the pleasant past times of the carefree life of noble women in the imperial palace. Ironically, a mood of languor and a sense of poignancy permeate the ladies’ countenances, as perhaps they share each other’s loneliness.

Feminine fashion and beauty of the Tang dynasty can also be perceived through this piece. The rounded faces and slightly plump figures (by today’s standards) represent the idealized sense of Tang feminine beauty. Their fair complexions are a result of the powdered white pigment applied to their faces. Their eyebrows are depicted like butterfly wings while their mouths are painted as cherry-like lips. High coiffures were also characteristic of aristocratic Tang women and were often embellished with peony or lotus flowers and with gold ornamentation (jinbuyao).

Under their delicate silk gauzes can be seen long, elegant gowns embroidered with floral patterns and geometric motifs. Zhou Fang uses rich colors of scarlet, crimson, and ocher for the underlying dress while his color palate presents a more subdued tones to depict the translucency of the gauze. The relatively low neckline, nearly floor-length sleeves, and wide scarves worn as stoles or draped across the arms are all characteristic of the high court fashion of the Tang Dynasty.

The flowers that adorn the ladies’ hair speak to the title of this piece. Whether it’s wearing flowers in their hair or holding one in their hands, the court ladies seem to admire the beauty of the blossoms. Feminine beauty and the flower became one as they both evoked the ephemeral nature of youth. Just as a flower wilts, youth and beauty fade.

Famous Tang poets like Li Bai, frequently juxtaposed these two ideas in their poems. Literary accounts have also revealed that the Tang emperor Xuanzong would release a butterfly during his springtime banquets and choose a partner based on whose flower it landed on.

Mike Cai is a 2012 graduate from the New York Fei Tian Academy of the Arts in 2012 and currently attends University of California–Berkeley.

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Su Shi, also known as Su Dongpo, was a famous poet and gastronome of the Song dynasty, who practiced the philosophy of “eating with moderation”.Su Shi, also known as Su Dongpo, was a famous poet and gastronome of the Song dynasty, who practiced the philosophy of “eating with moderation”.

Die „Standards für Sein ein guter Student and Child“ (Di Zi Gui) Kinder Moral und die richtige Etikette ist ein traditionelles chinesisches Lehrbuch für Kinder, die lehren. Es wurde von Li Yuxiu in der Qing-Dynastie geschrieben, während der Herrschaft des Kaisers Kang Xi (1661-1722). In dieser Serie, we present some ancient Chinese stories that exemplify the valuable lessons taught in the third chapter of Di Zi Gui—”Caution in Daily Life.”

The Di Zi Gui teaches us not just to be careful in how we dress and carry ourselves, but how we should behave when dining and appearance.

As regards food and drink,
Do not be picky and choosy
Eat as needed, and not to excess

When still of young age
Do not take alcohol
Getting drunk from drink
Is a most ugly of sights

Eating and drinking in moderation is a good habit to develop from young, as maintaining a simple diet provides the long-term benefits of a healthy life. This is best exemplified by the two ancient Chinese wise men, Su Shi and Ji Kang, who followed simple and healthy dietary habits to positive effect.

Su Shi: Content With a Lifestyle of Moderation

The great poet Su Shi (蘇軾), also known as Su Dongpo, was also one of the greatest gastronomes in the history of Chinese food culture. He made many contributions to the development of Chinese cuisine, wine and tea.

Besides his profound understanding of cuisine, Su Shi’s philosophy of eating in moderation is also a good practice for us to learn from.

One time, Su Shi was demoted and sent away from his hometown. As he was leaving his hometown, he met his brother Su Zhe. The two brothers bought some simple soup and rice at a food stall by the roadside, to share a final meal.

But the food tasted terrible. Further saddened by the fact that he would soon have to bid goodbye to his brother, Su Zhe stared gloomily at his food and put down his chopsticks with a huge sigh.

inzwischen, Su Shi had already finished all of his portion of the food. Su Shi said lightly to Su Zhe, “Brother, we are already in times of misfortune. Just make do with the food. It isn’t so terrible after all.” Su Zhe was very ashamed after hearing this.

Su Shi believed that people should be moderate in their appetites. Er sagte, “Even ambrosia tastes like grass when one is not hungry. One should only eat when hungry, so that ordinary food can be very tasty.”

His self-restrained, simple lifestyle and philosophical attitude enabled him to always smile through all his ups and downs in life.

Ji Kang’s Theory of Preserving Health

Ji Kang (嵇康, 224–263 AD) was a famous Chinese author and philosopher. He advocated the Taoist teachings of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, and believed in the ‘Tao’ of diet and preserving health. One of his best-known works is his “Essay on Nourishing Life” or Yang Sheng Lun (養生論), which primarily explains the way to preserve one’s health.

In his work, Ji Kang provides complete theories and methods for health preservation, including methods for preserving the mind. He discusses how mental health affects physical health. He postulated that one’s body is akin to a kingdom, while one’s spirit is akin to the kingdom’s ruler. So wie, preserving health requires both nourishing the body and the spirit, of which nourishing the spirit is more important.

He said that one should ‘shape character to maintain the state of mind, and keep a peaceful mind to preserve the whole body’, affirming the significance of preserving mental health.

Ji Kang’s suggested health preservation method involves overcoming one’s desire for wealth, fame, and rich, decadent food. This enabled one’s mind to be calm and at peace; to be full of vigor and far from sadness and worry.

Ji Kang also emphasized that one must be self-disciplined in developing good habits and staying away from evil temptations, in order to achieve good health. He pointed out that those who are good at preserving health understand one thing: that pursuing fame and wealth eventually harms the heart and body. Deswegen, they learn to take fame and wealth lightly, and neither desire nor pursue it.

A person who takes fame and wealth lightly has inner peace, whereas a person who withholds himself from fame and wealth reluctantly only feels worry and pain. It is obvious that the former is better for health than the latter.

As for rich-tasting foods, Ji Kang proposed that people should make healthy eating a habit and a way of life, and should keep away from rich food so that they are not tempted by it. This, er sagte, is better than facing rich food and struggling to control their urge to eat.

The Right Posture and Body Language to Show (and Earn) Respect

One of the important lessons mentioned in Di Zi Gui is how we should carry ourselves in our day-to-day activities. It is said in the text:

With a relaxed gait
And posture upright
Bow deep and round
Pay your respects reverently

Maintaining a good posture is important, as sitting or standing up straight communicates respect to others.

Step not on thresholds
Don’t lean on one leg
Don’t sit with legs atop each other
Don’t wave your bottom

Our actions and body language should also be appropriate, so that we earn the respect of others as well.

A good example of a person who inspired respect with his demeanor is Zhang Jiuling, a Tang minister of great charisma.

The Respectable and Charismatic Zhang Jiuling

Zhang Jiuling (張九齡) was a prominent minister, noted poet and scholar of the Tang Dynasty, serving as chancellor
(the highest-ranking official in imperial China) during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong.

Zhang was born in Qujiang in the Linnan region. As a virtuous chancellor of the Kaiyuan Era (the golden age of the Tang Dynasty), Zhang had the gift of foresight and wisdom. He was also greatly respected for his loyal and forthright character—an ideal that was thereafter known as “the Qujiang Charisma.”

A statue of Zhang Jiuling, the famous, charismatic chancellor of the Tang Dynasty.

A statue of Zhang Jiuling, the famous, charismatic chancellor of the Tang Dynasty.

According to ancient Chinese historical texts, Zhang was “upright and gentle, with a well-groomed appearance”. No matter whether he was working in the office or relaxing at home, he was always neatly dressed. He always had an energetic and
sprightly stride, as well as an alert and sharp gaze.

To maintain a tidy appearance, Zhang invented a contraption that became a fashion trend. Ministers at the time carried a long, flat tablet called an wuban, which was used to transcribe notes and orders during meetings with the Emperor. The wuban was typically hung around the minister’s belt, but this made it look like the tobacco pouches often carried by villagers.

Zhang thought that this didn’t look very respectable, so he had a neater pouch made to hold his wuban. Whenever he went to meet the Emperor, Zhang would have his servant carry the pouch with the wuban behind him, so that Zhang could walk respectably without worrying about extraneous things around his waist. These protective pouches eventually became very popular, sparking a fashion trend during that time.

Zhang’s Charisma Impresses Emperor Xuanzong

Zhang was particularly favored by Emperor Xuanzong, who liked Zhang for his respectable demeanor, as well as for his energy and charisma. He would say to those around him, “Whenever I see Chancellor Zhang, my mind and spirit feel rejuvenated and energized.

Später, when his ministers recommended candidates for the position of court official, Emperor Xuanzong would ask, “Is this candidate’s demeanor like Zhang Jiuling’s?” Clearly, Emperor Xuanzong considered Zhang the model standard for his choice of court officials.

But what truly impressed Emperor Xuanzong the most was Zhang’s shrewd foresight and his honest, forthright character.

Early in the Kaiyuan Era, a military general An Lushan was sent to the Emperor for failing to obey orders. Zhang advised Emperor Xuanzong to execute An as Tang military law, as he also suspected that An had the temperament to commit treason. But Emperor Xuanzong decided to spare the general’s life and keep him in the army.

True to Zhang’s prediction, An Lushan later betrayed Emperor Xuanzong by initiating the An Lushan Rebellion, a series of catastrophic events that marked the beginning of the Tang Dynasty’s decline.

The emperor wept bitter tears for having disregarded Zhang’s advice, and sent his men to Qujiang to commemorate Zhang. Von da an, Zhang has been referred to as “Qujiang Gong”, meaning the most respectable person in Qujiang.

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Ein Anbieter Koteletts Hundefleisch auf dem Markt Nanqiao in Yulin, in der südchinesischen Region Guangxi im Juni 21, 2017.
China berüchtigtsten Hundefleisch Festival eröffnet in Yulin Juni 21 mit Metzger Platten von Hunden und Köche braten das Fleisch hacken folgende Gerüchte, dass Behörden ein Verbot dieses Jahr verhängen würde.(Becky Davis / AFP / Getty Images)Ein Anbieter Koteletts Hundefleisch auf dem Markt Nanqiao in Yulin, in der südchinesischen Region Guangxi im Juni 21, 2017.
China berüchtigtsten Hundefleisch Festival eröffnet in Yulin Juni 21 mit Metzger Platten von Hunden und Köche braten das Fleisch hacken folgende Gerüchte, dass Behörden ein Verbot dieses Jahr verhängen würde.(Becky Davis / AFP / Getty Images)

Yulins jährliches Hundefleisch Fest begann am Dienstag, (Juni 21) mit Tierrechte äußern Aktivisten ihre Opposition und Einheimische und Besucher feiern sagen sind unaufdringlich in diesem Jahr.

Aber in einem beliebten Morgenmarkt, es war wie gewohnt als Anbieter auf dem Display Hundefleisch hatte für die Kunden zu wählen, um.

„Sie sind viel, eine Menge Leute, die gerne (essen Hundefleisch). Es ist Ihre Gewohnheit, es ist meine Gewohnheit,“Sagte Zhou, ein Hundefleisch-Anbieter.

Viele Restaurants haben das chinesische Wort nicht für „Hundefleisch“ auf dem Display.

Vendors vorbereitet Hundefleisch auf dem Markt Nanqiao in Yulin, in der südchinesischen Region Guangxi im Juni 21, 2017. (Becky Davis / AFP / Getty Images)

Vendors vorbereitet Hundefleisch auf dem Markt Nanqiao in Yulin, in der südchinesischen Region Guangxi im Juni 21, 2017. (Becky Davis / AFP / Getty Images)

„Warum werden sie nicht (Lassen Sie uns feiern offen das Fest)? Die Stadtverwaltung kam heraus und sagte (die Verkäufer) nicht Restaurantbesitzer lassen verkaufen (Hundefleisch). Die Stadtverwaltung ist immer (Umgang mit diesem Problem) diesen Weg. Wenn es keine Stadtregierung mit ihnen zu Chaos war dann könnten sie natürlich lassen das Fleisch aus,", Sagte Frau. mir, ein Yulin resident.

Tieraktivisten- taten ihre besten Hunde aus dem Topf zu retten.

„Hunde sind des Menschen bester, der treueste Freund. Wie könnten wir essen unsere Freunde? Du sagst es mir,„, Sagte Yang Yuhua, eine Tierschützerin, die aus dem südwestlichen Chongqing flog auf dem diesjährigen Festival verkauften Hunde zu kaufen.

Hundefleisch wird in einem Restaurant in Yulin serviert, in der südchinesischen Region Guangxi im Juni 21, 2017.(Becky Davis / AFP / Getty Images)

Hundefleisch wird in einem Restaurant in Yulin serviert, in der südchinesischen Region Guangxi im Juni 21, 2017.(Becky Davis / AFP / Getty Images)

Wer verbrachte über 1,000 Yuan ($151.5) zwei eingesperrte Hunde auf dem Markt vom Hersteller zu kaufen.

Tierschutz NGO Humane Society International sagt, dass es eine Petition gegen das Festival organisiert, die bereits sammelte über 11 Millionen Unterschriften.

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Zhang Liang, one of the Three Heroes of the Early Han Dynasty, was known for his tolerance and respect for the elderly. (Catherine Chang/Epoch Times)Zhang Liang, one of the Three Heroes of the Early Han Dynasty, was known for his tolerance and respect for the elderly. (Catherine Chang/Epoch Times)

The Three Character Classic, or San Zi Jing, is the best known classic Chinese text for children. Written by Wang Yinlian (1223–1296) during the Song Dynasty, it has been memorized by generations of Chinese, both young and old. Until the 1800s, the Three Character Classic was the very first text that every child would study.

The text’s rhythmic, short, and simple three-character verses allowed for easy reading and memorization. This enabled children to learn common characters, grammar structures, lessons from Chinese history, and above all how to conduct oneself.

It is said in the Three Character Classic:

He who is the son of a man
when he is young
should attach himself to his teachers and friends,
to learn propriety and decorum.

Xiang, at nine years of age,
could warm (his parents’) bed.
Filial piety towards parents,
is that to which we should hold fast.

Rong, at four years of age,
could yield the (größer) pears.
To behave as a younger brother towards elders,
is one of the first things to know.

In the last two articles of this series, we learned about the challenging yet important role of parents in raising children.

But it takes two hands to clap, and children too must learn the challenging yet important duty of respecting one’s elders.

Respecting elders is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. It takes many forms, including filial piety toward our parents, obedience toward our teachers, and deference toward senior citizens.

But why should we make the effort to respect to our elders? The following well-known folktale provides a compelling reason.

‘Come Back in Five Days!

Zhang Liang (3rd century BC – 186 BC) was a brilliant military strategist from the Western Han Dynasty. His contributions enabled Liu Bang to unify China under the Han Dynasty, and he was known as one of the “Three Heroes of the early Han Dynasty.”

Der Legende nach, Zhang Liang’s historic achievements would not have been possible if not for his great tolerance and respect toward one elderly man.

Respecting elders requires the virtues of tolerance, patience, sacrifice, and maturity.

One wintry day, the young Zhang Liang was walking over a bridge when he saw an old man standing at the head of the bridge. The old man intentionally threw one of his shoes off the bridge, and said to Zhang, “Boy, fetch my shoe for me.”

As odd as this was, Zhang did not hesitate as he walked down the river bank and retrieved the shoe. But when he tried to pass him the shoe, the old man offered his foot to Zhang instead. “Now help me put on the shoe,” he ordered.

Despite the old man’s inconsiderate demands, Zhang meekly and respectfully obliged. The old man laughed and said, “My boy, you are certainly worth teaching! In five days, wait for me here at daybreak.”

Five days later, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon, Zhang returned to the bridge. But he found the old man already waiting. “How can you keep your elders waiting?” the old man scolded. “I’ll give you another chance. Come back in five days, and don’t be late!"

Five days later, Zhang arrived at the bridge again before the sun was up. Yet he found the old man waiting for him again. “Why are you late again?” the old man fumed. “Come back in five days!"

Five more days passed, and Zhang took no chances—he was already waiting by the bridge at midnight. A few minutes later, the old man arrived. Smiling, he handed Zhang a book. “This is a rare and valuable manual. I have not been able to find a suitable young owner for it until now. Use it wisely!"

The old man turned out to be Huang Shigong, one of the four legendary wisemen on Mount Shang, and the book Zhang received was a precious military strategy manual—The Art of War by Taigong. Zhang studied the book assiduously and mastered its content, eventually establishing his place in history as a gifted military strategist.

“He who is the son of a man, when he is young / should attach himself to his teachers and friends, to learn propriety and decorum.”

Our elders have the benefit of years of experience and wisdom that we should respect and learn from. Some of their experience arises from mistakes they have personally made, and their knowledge can protect us from making the same mistakes.

Außerdem, with their depth of experience and knowledge, our seniors are often able to identify the wheat from the chaff. The wise old man, who was testing Zhang’s tolerance and determination, saw that Zhang was far above the ordinary, hot-headed, lazy youth. Zhang’s admirable character made him confident that Zhang was the right person to impart his valuable knowledge to.

Respecting elders requires the virtues of tolerance, patience, sacrifice, and maturity. Like Zhang Liang, those who possess these virtues in abundance are equipped to go far in their lives.

Respecting Parents With Filial Piety

Xiang, at nine years of age, could warm (his parents’) bed. Filial piety towards parents, is that to which we should hold fast.

— Three Character Classic

All elders should be respected, but when it comes to one’s own parents, one is expected to go beyond fundamental obedience and show filial piety.

The Confucian philosopher Zeng Zi once said, “The body is given by the parents. How can we not be respectful with things given by our parents?” Our parents gave us life, and returning that gift with filial piety is our moral obligation.

Filial piety is such an essential virtue in Chinese culture that there is an entire Confucian text dedicated to it. People are expected to be filial to their parents, and those who do well are upheld as role models.

The Three Character Classic cites the example of Huang Xiang, who lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty. The young Xiang was known for caring dearly for his parents. After his mother passed away when he was nine, he was even more filial to his father, doing everything possible to make his father’s life easier.

According to Confucian belief, the virtue of filial piety goes beyond simply providing for one’s parents.

During the hot summer, Xiang knew his father had trouble sleeping due to the heat. Damit, every night before his father went to bed, he would fan his father’s pillow and mat to cool them. In winter, he would lie in his father’s chilly bed to warm it up for his father.

Xiang’s story is one of twenty-four in the classic Confucian text, The Twenty-Four Filial Exemplars. The text also contains other role models of filial piety, such as Wang Pou, whose mother was afraid of the sound of thunder when she was still living. After she died, whenever Wang heard thunder, he would rush to her grave to comfort her.

Another example is Wu Meng, whose family was too poor to afford mosquito nets. So wie, during summer nights, Wu would strip and sit near his parents’ beds to allow the mosquitoes to feed on him, in the hope that they would not disturb his parents’ sleep.

According to Confucian belief, the virtue of filial piety goes beyond simply providing for one’s parents. It includes bringing honour to their names through one’s own accomplishments; showing love, respect and support; advising them kindly, including dissuading them from moral transgression; and honoring them after their deaths.

“It may be easy to provide food and money for the parents, but difficult to do so with respect. Even if it can be done with respect, it is difficult to do it naturally. Even if it can be done naturally, it is difficult to do it throughout one’s life. True lifelong filial piety is conducting oneself carefully even after one’s parents pass away, so that their names would not be tarnished,” said Zeng Zi, in the Classic of Rites.

Respecting Older Siblings

Rong, at four years of age, could yield the (größer) pears. To behave as a younger brother towards elders, is one of the first things to know.

— Three Character Classic

Within the family unit, besides being filial to our parents, we should also maintain kinship among siblings.

Like most people, my childhood was not without fights with my siblings – over toys, snacks, insults, and scuffles, unter anderem. But how many of us behaved as well as Kong Rong did when he was four years old?

Kong Rong was a politician and descendant of Confucius, who lived during the late Eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 25-220). Growing up, Kong Rong had several older brothers and sisters. When Kong Rong was four, his family received a gift of a basket full of delicious pears, and his father kindly asked him to come and be the first to choose a pear from the basket.

Kong Rong promptly selected the smallest pear.

His father asked, “My son, why did you pick such a small pear and not a bigger one?"

Kong Rong replied, “I am the youngest, so I should have the smallest pear. My brothers and sisters are older than I am, so they should have the larger pears.”

Despite his tender age, Kong Rong knew that he should yield to his elders, including his older siblings. His kind and respectful nature made him greatly endeared by his family.

We often expect older siblings to care for younger ones, but younger siblings should also be taught to respect their older brothers and sisters. By having mutual care and consideration for each other, siblings can foster a peaceful and accommodating culture within the home.

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The Prime Minister of Lu State, Ji Wenzi, was known for his thriftiness and strict conduct, and was deeply respected by his people.The Prime Minister of Lu State, Ji Wenzi, was known for his thriftiness and strict conduct, and was deeply respected by his people.

Die „Standards für Sein ein guter Student and Child“ (Di Zi Gui) Kinder Moral und die richtige Etikette ist ein traditionelles chinesisches Lehrbuch für Kinder, die lehren. Es wurde von Li Yuxiu in der Qing-Dynastie geschrieben, während der Herrschaft des Kaisers Kang Xi (1661-1722). In dieser Serie, we present some ancient Chinese stories that exemplify the valuable lessons taught in the third chapter of Di Zi Gui—”Caution in Daily Life.”

It is said in the Di Zi Gui:

Rise early in the morning,
And sleep late at night.
Age comes quickly,
So treasure this hour.

When we realize that time is passing us by and cannot be turned back, we should especially treasure the present moment.

A good example of treasuring time in your youth is Che Yin (車胤), who served as a military general and later the Minister of Personnel (one of the nine ministries under the emperor in ancient China) during the Jin Dynasty.

Che Yin Studies Under the Light of Fireflies

Che Yin was one of the best-known scholars of the Eastern Jin dynasty, being remarkably wellread in various fields. He also had great character and strong language abilities, often making sharp observations and witty comments. So wie, he was well-respected in the academic field, and also extremely popular. Che was often the life of the party, and people would lament his absence in any gathering.

Che’s knowledge and language abilities weren’t acquired overnight; as a young boy, he studied with complete dedication from day to night. Here is the story of how he studied under the light of fireflies, to extend his study time well into the night.

Che was born in Nanping, Fujian Province to a family of noble background. His grandfather had been the Prefect of Huiji, and his father served as secretary to one of the princesses.

From the young age of three, Che already showed himself to be thoughtful and polite, earning the praise of relatives who visited the family.

When Che turned five, his father taught him to read and write. Che was not only smart but extremely hardworking. He would be so absorbed in his studies that he would forget to eat or sleep, and not a day passed where he was not buried in a book. He would even stay up till midnight to study.

Che, Na sicher, needed a light to study at night, but after his father resigned from his job, the family lapsed into poverty and could no longer afford to buy oil for their lamps. Although his father worked as secretary for the princess, he was a very honest man and did not earn very much.

So when night fell, Che would feel sad that he couldn’t continue studying. But despite his young age, Che was also quite wise. He realized that he could maximize his learning by reading more books in the day, and reciting the books from memory at night.

One night, Che was sitting in the backyard feeling sorry that he could not study, when he noticed many fireflies around him. As the fireflies twinkled and glowed in the darkness, Che’s heavy heart immediately brightened as he struck upon an idea.

He constructed a makeshift net from a piece of old cloth and a bamboo pole, and began catching fireflies. But there were only a few fireflies in the backyard, which was hardly enough to create enough light. He caught a few more in the front yard, but there still weren’t enough.

Although it was already pitch dark, Che walked to a grass field outside his village, which was dotted with fireflies. Che had no difficulty catching a lot of them in a short time. When he got home, Che placed all his fireflies into a makeshift bag of silk netting, and hung it from the ceiling. The light from the fireflies penetrated the holes in the bag, illuminating the entire room. It was even brighter than an oil lamp! Che happily continued with his studying.

As his family was too poor to afford lamp oil, Che Yin caught fireflies to make a makeshift lamp, so that he could study at night.

As his family was too poor to afford lamp oil, Che Yin caught fireflies to make a makeshift lamp, so that he could study at night.

Auf diese Weise, Che studied well into the night every day, and became an extremely learned scholar. Seit damals, Che’s story of using fireflies to study at night has become a well-known Chinese tale, and gave rise to the Chinese idiom 囊萤夜读, which describe someone who studies very hard.

Cleanliness Over Luxury

When referring to how one should behave in everyday life, Di Zi Gui emphasizes that tidiness and simplicity in one’s dressing is far more important than how “branded” one’s clothes look.

It is stated in the Di Zi Gui:

Clothes are valued for neatness
Not for extravagance
First follow your station
Second suit your family’s finances

The ancients always regarded frugality as one of the most noble virtues in daily life. Tidiness was meanwhile considered a reflection of one’s character, and a mark of respect for others. Such exemplars liked Zi Lu, a student of Confucius, and Prime Minister Ji Wenzi would explain why cleanliness and thrift were so important in their lives.

Zi Lu Reattaches his Hat Tassel Before Facing Death

Zi Lu (子路) was a student of Confucius and an official of the State of Wei. Despite his hot temper, he was a very upright person and was very careful about his appearance.

One year, internal chaos erupted in Wei State as rebels gained power and began conducting raids against those in the state administration. Upon hearing the news, many officials packed and fled overnight.

Despite being out of the country during the rebellion, Zi Lu chose to rush back to aid his country.

His peers tried to dissuade him from going back, saying that the situation was very dangerous and he would likely be killed if he did.

But Zi Lu replied “I receive a salary for serving my country. I cannot bring myself to run away at such a time.”

Zi Lu fought against the rebels with all his might, but was far outnumbered. He was eventually injured by the rebels and his hat tassel was cut off. Knowing that death was imminent, Zi Lu roared loudly, “Stop!” Stunned by the loudness of his shout, his attackers stopped.

Zi Lu then said, “If I am going to die, I should at least die in a dignified manner!” Calmly, he retied his hat tassel to his hat, and faced his death heroically and with honor.

The story of Zi Lu’s inspiring courage in the face of death has been passed down to this day in Chinese history.

The Thrifty Prime Minister

Prime Minister Ji Wenzi (季文子) was born to a family of three generations of ministers. He was a nobleman and famous diplomat of the State of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period, serving his country for more than 30 Jahre.

Ji Wenzi led a very simple and frugal life. He considered thrift to be the fundamental guiding rule for his conduct, and required his family to be as frugal as him. He dressed very simply but neatly, and besides the formal robes he wore in court, he did not have any other fancy clothes. Whenever he traveled for work, he would use a very plain-looking horse carriage.

Ji Wenzi dressed very simply but neatly.

One of his ministers, Zhongsun Ta, tried to persuade Ji: “You are the highest-ranking official, and command great respect. But I heard that you don’t allow your family to wear silk clothes at home, and you don’t feed your horses with good grain. You also don’t pay attention to the quality of your clothes. Wouldn’t this make you look shabby, and be a source of ridicule by our neighboring countries?

The Prime Minister of Lu State, Ji Wenzi, was known for his thriftiness and strict conduct, and was deeply respected by his people.

The Prime Minister of Lu State, Ji Wenzi, was known for his thriftiness and strict conduct, and was deeply respected by his people.

“This would also be detrimental to our country’s image, and people will gossip about how the Prime Minister of the Lu State lives in such a manner. Why doesn’t Your Honor change this way of life? Wouldn’t that be better for you and the country?"

Ji responded in a serious tone: “I, auch, want my home to be decorated luxuriously and elegantly. But look at the people in our country. Many of them are still eating food that is too coarse to swallow, and are wearing clothes that are torn and shabby. There are also others who are cold and starving.

“When I think about these people, how can I still bear to indulge in material wealth? If I dress up my family and feed my horse on good grain—while my people can only afford to drink coarse tea and wear shabby clothes—how can I still have the conscience to serve my country?! Außerdem, I have heard that a country’s strength and glory is defined by the moral character of its civilians and officials, and not by how glamorous their wives look or how fine their horses are. How can I accept your suggestion?"

After hearing Ji’s words, Zhongsun was ashamed of his previous comments, but also had even more respect for Ji. Von da an, Zhongsun also followed Ji’s example in leading a simple life. He asked his family to wear clothes of ordinary cloth, and fed his horses with rough chaff and weeds.

When Ji Wenzi learned of Zhongsun’s change, he praised Zhongsun for being a moral person who could amend his mistakes immediately.

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‘’The Eighteen Scholars’’ by an anonymous Ming Dynasty artist. The painting depicts the eighteen erudite Confucian scholars gathered by Emperor Taizong of Tang, when he established the Institute of Literary Studies. (Public Domain)‘’The Eighteen Scholars’’ by an anonymous Ming Dynasty artist. The painting depicts the eighteen erudite Confucian scholars gathered by Emperor Taizong of Tang, when he established the Institute of Literary Studies. (Public Domain)

The Three Character Classic, or San Zi Jing, is the best known classic Chinese text for children. Written by Wang Yinlian (1223–1296) during the Song Dynasty, it has been memorized by generations of Chinese, both young and old. Until the 1800s, the Three Character Classic was the very first text that every child would study.

The text’s rhythmic, short, and simple three-character verses allowed for easy reading and memorization. This enabled children to learn common characters, grammar structures, lessons from Chinese history, and above all how to conduct oneself.

It is said in the Three Character Classic:

To raise without teaching
is the father’s fault.
To teach without strictness
is the teacher’s laziness.

If the child does not learn,
this is not as it should be.
If he does not learn while young,
what will he be like when old?

If jade is not polished,
it cannot become a thing of use.
If a man does not learn,
he will not know the virtues of honesty and righteousness.

The ancient Chinese always had a thing about education—kids were expected to go to school (if it was within the family’s means) and to invest a good amount of time and effort in studying.

The Three Character Classic alludes to how important education was in ancient Chinese culture. “If the child does not learn, this is not as it should be. If he does not learn while young, what will he be like when old?” Education was not just an asset, but a mandatory part of a child’s development.

In particular, education and schooling were considered essential for grooming a child’s values and character. “If jade is not polished, it cannot become a thing of use. If a man does not learn, he will not know the virtues of honesty and righteousness.”

Why did the ancient Chinese think this way? To understand why, one must realize that ancient Chinese education was rather different from our education system today.

Confucianism: the Core of Ancient Chinese Education

Our modern education system predominantly emphasizes the teaching of technical knowledge, including mathematics and science, language skills, and social studies.

Im Gegensatz, education in ancient China was largely based on Confucian classics. From a young age, children spent their schooling time learning and memorising Confucian texts like the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects of Confucius , the Book of Odes, and of course, the Three Character Classic.

At the core of Confucianism are five cardinal virtues — benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, faithfulness. Many values, such as loyalty, Pietät, courage, transparency, diligence, and so on are derived from it.

The teachings of Confucianism defined the moral standards for being a good person. They covered and effectively regulated the various strata of society, from the individual and the family unit, to society and the principles of governance.

Through the education system, Confucian values were imbued in children from a young age, and remained the backbone of education even at advanced, scholarly levels. Gleichzeitig, students developed their language skills and knowledge in social studies by studying these ancient texts.

This was the education standard for thousands of years, as dynasties rose and fell. With such wholesome and edifying core material, we now know why the ancient Chinese believed education was integral to a child’s moral development.

Enforcing Discipline in Education

To raise without teaching / is the father’s fault. To teach without strictness / is the teacher’s laziness.

— Three Character Classic

Na sicher, it wasn’t enough to have good values and education material at hand. The people who delivered the material—the parents and teachers—were equally important.

There is an ancient Chinese fable about a child who was spoiled by his mother. Having lost his father at a young age, this child became the apple of his mother’s eye.

She indulged him so much that when he bullied other kids, she would never reproach him. When he stole from the neighbors, she would not return the things he stole.

As the child grew up, his petty misdemeanors escalated into serious crimes. He robbed and looted from others, and committed arson by burning people’s homes. Yet his mother still refused discipline him, and instead praised him for his felonious abilities.

Endlich, the son was captured by the authorities, and sentenced to death.

Before being executed, the son requested to see his mother one last time. When his mother arrived, the son shed tears as he said to his mother, “I hate you, mother. This is entirely your fault. When I was young, you never taught or disciplined me for my wrongdoings. Jetzt, I don’t even have a second chance to turn over a new leaf…”

The son’s words broke his mother’s heart, as she realized it was true.

Teachers in ancient China were extremely strict, and even the youngest students were expected to sit properly and memories the assigned material without a single mistake.

As mind-numbingly dreary as this sounds, this method of teaching was actually quite effective. Erstens, it tempered students to have excellent focus and endurance in studying. Zweitens, it ensured that the wisdom of the sages was deeply imprinted in their minds, such that they could easily draw upon it from memory for the rest of their lives.

By enforcing classroom discipline from a young age, the teachers ensured that the students had a solid foundation for learning, which would serve them well for many years to come.

Education: The Great Equalizer

Besides building moral character and training discipline, education was also the greatest equalizing force in ancient China. It enabled those born to the humblest backgrounds to rise to the highest levels in society – to become government officials, strategic advisers, physicians, artists, and poets.

The imperial examinations, which were established during the Sui and Tang Dynasty, were the main drivers for meritocracy and social mobility. Before that, important government roles were assigned purely by recommendation, and this went to those from rich and influential families.

But the imperial examinations were open to everyone and anyone, and they gave the general public an equal chance to enter a governing role. Eigentlich, während der Ming-Dynastie, etwa 47 percent of candidates who passed the highest level of the examinations were from families with no official connections.

Because education was such an important ticket to a brighter future, those who did not have the opportunity to go to school greatly lamented their loss. One such person was a beggar named Wu Xun from the Qing Dynasty, who made his dream a reality for other underprivileged children.

Wu Xun’s father died when Wu was only five years old, and he and his mother begged to survive. But two years later Wu’s mother passed away as well, leaving Wu to fend for himself.

Wu supported himself by begging and doing odd jobs. While he didn’t mind the hardship, his greatest regret was that he didn’t have the opportunity to receive an education, like any other child. So wie, he found it impossible to further himself and rise above his current status.

So Wu decided to set up a school for children of humble backgrounds, so that they would not suffer the same fate. Für 30 years Wu raised funds by begged in the day and made rope to sell at night, and eventually managed to set up his school for underprivileged students.

The school proved extremely successful. Wu took an active interest in his students’ progress and was very respectful to the teachers. But whenever he saw teachers being lax or students being lazy, he would get on his knees and plead them to do their part. His sincerity inevitably moved the teachers and students to be more diligent, and no one dared to slacken.

Since ancient times, people have known the importance of education for one’s future. Even in our modern meritocratic society, people with good academic performance are given opportunities for social mobility. No matter how well one ultimately does, the chance to receive an education is something that should be treasured and never wasted.

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Mo Niang worked selflessly to protect her fellow villagers on the high seasMo Niang worked selflessly to protect her fellow villagers on the high seas

Die „Standards für Sein ein guter Student and Child“ (Di Zi Gui) Kinder Moral und die richtige Etikette ist ein traditionelles chinesisches Lehrbuch für Kinder, die lehren. Es wurde von Li Yuxiu in der Qing-Dynastie geschrieben, während der Herrschaft des Kaisers Kang Xi (1661-1722). In dieser Serie, präsentieren wir einige alte chinesische Geschichten, die die wertvollen Lektionen gelehrt in dem Di Zi Gui exemplifizieren.

Treating Elders With Respect

It is written in the Di Zi Gui:

Encountering an elder on the road,
Approach and bow quickly.
If the elder is silent
Retreat and stand respectfully.

Dizi Gui describes in great detail the ways to show respect to one’s elders. In eating and drinking, and in walking and sitting down, we should let the elder person go first. When an elder is calling someone, we should immediately call that person for the elder.

We should not sit when our elders are standing. After our elders have sat down, we can sit only if we are told to do so. When speaking to a respected elder, we should speak in a low voice, but it is also inappropriate if it is too low to be heard. We should serve our many elders like serving our own father.

The Courtesy and Graciousness of Lord Xinling

Lord Xinling (信陵君) was a prince of the State of Wei during the Warring States Period. The prince was very kind, generous and courteous to the elderly and to scholars. He was never remiss in his treatment of any of them, in spite of his wealth and rank, and always spoke with them courteously, regardless of their ability or achievements.

Als Ergebnis, many scholars from thousands of miles around sought his company and pledged their allegiance to him. During that time, no other states dared to invade Wei due to Lord Xinling’s large pool of talented scholars.

There was a very talented seventy-year-old man called Hou Ying (侯嬴). He was very poor and—despite his age—worked as a guard at the city’s Eastern Gate. When Lord Xinling heard of him, he sent his subordinates to meet him with lavish gifts. But Hou rejected the gifts courteously, Sprichwort, “I have been improving my character for years and practice integrity. I can’t accept such gifts just because of my poor status.”

Lord Xinling. (Epoch Times)

Lord Xinling. (Epoch Times)

Upon hearing this, Lord Xinling organised a huge banquet at his home, and invited many important guests. When all the guests were seated, Lord Xinling set off with his horse carriage (with the left seat empty and reserved for Hou Ying) and his entourage to the Eastern Gate, to invite Hou personally.

Hou tidied his old and shabby coat, and got into the carriage silently. He sat right next to Lord Xinling and showed no signs of meekness or humility, observing Lord Xinling’s response. But Lord Xinling was even more respectful to Hou.

Hou Ying then asked Lord Xinling if he could take him to visit his friend at the slaughterhouse. Lord Xinling agreed with pleasure and drove him there immediately.

Hou Ying alighted from the carriage and greeted his friend Zhu Hai. He deliberately took his time with Zhu Hai while keeping an eye on the prince. But Lord Xinling’s expresssion appeared even more amiable.

By now, the prince’s entourage were seething with anger. Während dieser Zeit, all the generals, ministers, and high-ranking officials had been waiting in the banquet hall for the opening of the feast. Außerdem, the people in the streets had seen Lord Xinling personally driving his carriage for Hou Ying. But when Hou noticed that Lord Xinling’s attitude had not changed one bit, he finally bid goodbye to his friend.

When they arrived at the banquet, Lord Xinling led Hou Ying to his seat at the main table, and introduced and praised him in front of the guests. The guests were greatly surprised at Lord Xinling’s act. When everyone was drinking and making merry, the prince stood up and proposed a birthday toast to Hou.

Hou then took the opportunity to say: “Today I have been too hard on His Highness. I am just a gateman, yet His Highness personally drove his carriage to fetch me, and welcomed me in front of so many officials. I shouldn’t have visited my friend, yet he graciously acceded to my request.

“As a result, I wanted to heighten His Highness’ reputation, so that’s why I deliberately kept him waiting for a long time. The visit was an excuse to observe how he would respond, but he was even more humble and respectful. Everyone on the streets regarded me as an impolite person, while recognising the Prince as a noble man who is courteous to the people!"

Danach, Hou Ying became an important subordinate of Lord Xinling. Hou Ying also introduced Lord Xinling to Zhu Hai, who was a sage with great abilities. With the assistance of these two wise men, Lord Xinling became immortalized in Chinese history for defeating the Qin Army and temporarily saving the State of Wei and the neighboring State of Zhao. [[Hou Ying, who was too old to join his patron, instead pledged his loyalty and support by committing suicide on the day of the attack.]]

Regard Everyone as Family

It is written in the Di Zi Gui:

We are protected by the same heaven
And supported by the same earth

Dizi Gui teaches us to treat everyone like our own family. We should serve our elders as if we are serving our parents, and we should treat our peers as if they are our own siblings.

Here are a few touching stories from ancient China, about people who treated strangers like their own family.:

Du Huan Looks After Mrs. Chang

Du Huan was an official of the Ming dynasty. Du’s father had a good friend, Chang Yungong, who was a subordinate military official. But one day Chang died suddenly, and his family’s business investment failed soon thereafter. His surviving 60-year-old mother, Mrs Chang, was left penniless and homeless.

Through sheer chance, Du bumped into this poor lady. Mrs Chang had lost contact with her younger son for years, and despite seeking out her relatives for assistance, none of them would take her in. So Du decided to support her for the time being, while helping her trace her younger son’s whereabouts.

Später, although Du managed to locate and contact Mrs Chang’s son, the son refused to take Mrs Chang under his care. So Du Huan continued to look after the old woman with great filial piety, treating her like his own mother. When she passed away, Du Huan bought a coffin and held a burial funeral for her. Subsequently, he even visited and cleaned her grave every year.

Ma Zu, Goddess of the Sea

There was a woman called Lin Mo, who lived in Fujian Province during the Northern Song Dynasty. Der Legende nach, she never cried from birth till she was one month old. Als Ergebnis, she was also called Mo Niang (默娘), or Silent Maiden.

Mo Niang’s father and brother were fishermen. Eines Tages, their ship was wrecked in a terrible disaster. With Mo Niang and everyone else’s effort, her father was saved, but her brother was lost at sea.

To prevent this tragedy from happening to others, Mo Niang often risked her life to rescue ships in distress.

Einmal, her fellow villagers were getting ready to go out to sea. Because Mo Niang was able to read signs of impending weather change, she could tell that a huge storm was coming, and she begged the villagers not to go.

To Mo Niang’s despair, the villagers persisted in going out to sea, as they had to feed their families. trotz dessen, she asked them to steer their ship in the direction of light, if they met with a storm.

True to her prediction, a huge, raging storm sprang up, which rendered all the light beacons and navigation markers ineffective. In diesem Augenblick, Mo Niang bravely lit her house on fire. The huge blaze lit up the sea with brightness, and guided the villagers to land. Due to her great love and compassion, the villagers escaped from being drowned.

Mo Niang worked herself to exhaustion to protect those at sea. Sadly, her dedication took its toll, and she died prematurely at 28.

In remembrance of Mo Niang, the Chinese people have built temples honoring her along the coastline, and refer to her as Ma Zu, the Goddess of Sea.

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Image depicting the current-day Chinese saying which describes a united young couple who live happily even in poverty with the term “riding together in a carriage driven by deer”. (Internet Foto)Image depicting the current-day Chinese saying which describes a united young couple who live happily even in poverty with the term “riding together in a carriage driven by deer”. (Internet Foto)

Bao Xuan came from an impoverished family during the Western Han Dynasty, 2000 Jahre zuvor. His mentor appreciated his high morals and let his daughter Shaojun marry Bao, endowing them with a gorgeous dowry.

An Excellent Wife

Bao said to his bride: “You were born into a wealthy family and are used to luxurious ornaments. But I am poor, I could not accept such rich gifts.”

His bride answered: “My father saw that you paid attention to cultivating good conduct and virtue, leading a simple, thrifty life, thus he let me marry you so that I could serve you. As I’m your wife now, I will obey you.”

Bao Xuan laughed happily: “If you could think this way that is my wish.”

Shaojun put away all her luxurious dresses and ornaments and switched to simple attire, riding back to the village with Bao in a carriage drawn by deer.

After greeting her mother-in-law, Shaojun immediately started household chores, carrying out the duty of a daughter-in-law. As an excellent wife, together with her husband, Shaojun’s name was also recorded in the history book of the Han Dynasty.

People nowadays in China describe a united young couple who live happily even in poverty with the term “riding together in a carriage driven by deer”.

A Magical Encounter

Bao Xuan was later recommended to become a government officer.

Once on his way to the capital, Bao met a scholar who was hurrying alone on the road. The scholar suddenly had a heart attack. Bao tried to help him but could not save the man who died quickly.

Bao did not know the name of the scholar but saw that he carried a book of scrolls made of white silk together with ten pieces of silver. Bao used one piece of silver to arrange the burial of the scholar, placed the rest of the silver underneath his head, and the book of silk scrolls on his belly.

After saying prayers, Bao Xuan spoke into the scholar’s tomb: “If your soul can still work, you should let your family know that you are buried here. I now have other duties to attend to, I cannot stay here longer.” He bade farewell and carried on with his journey.

Upon arriving at the capital, Bao Xuan noticed a white horse following him. The horse would not allow anybody but Bao get close to it. It would not let anyone else feed it. So Bao adopted the horse.

After Bao completed his mission in the capital, he rode this white horse home but got lost on the way. He saw the residence of a marquis. As it was getting dark, he went forward to ask for lodging. He presented his name card to the master of the family.

The servant who saw the horse with Bao at the door reported to the Marquis: “This guest stole our horse”.

The Marquis said: “Bao Xuan is a man of good reputation. There must be reason for this. Do not say unfounded things.”

The Marquis asked Bao: “How did you get this horse? He used to be ours and we do not know why he disappeared.”

Bao told in detail his experience with the scholar and his heart attack. The Marquis was shocked: “That scholar, it was my son!"

The Marquis retrieved the coffin of his son. When he opened it, he saw the silver and the white silk scroll, all laying there as Bao described.

Quelle: “Biographies of Exemplary Women” in “Book of the Later Han” or “History of the Later Han” a Chinese court document covering the years from 6 nach 189 A.D..

“Lie Yi Zhuan”, a novel written by Cao Pi, the Emperor of Cao Wei.

Herausgegeben von Damian Robin.

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Cangjie wurde China vom Himmel herabgesandt, um chinesische Schrift zu erstellen, er war mit vier Augen geboren. Dieses Porträt von Cangjie ist ein aus dem 18. Jahrhundert Malerei in der Nationalbibliothek von Frankreich statt. (Public Domain, Kombinationsbild von Epoch Times zusammengestellt)Cangjie wurde China vom Himmel herabgesandt, um chinesische Schrift zu erstellen, er war mit vier Augen geboren. Dieses Porträt von Cangjie ist ein aus dem 18. Jahrhundert Malerei in der Nationalbibliothek von Frankreich statt. (Public Domain, Kombinationsbild von Epoch Times zusammengestellt)

The Chinese character 滅 (mie) means eliminate, extinguish, or destroy. Within this character, the ancient Chinese philosophy of the elements of the universe are at play.

The character 滅 is formed with three parts: 火 fire, 戌 a weapon, and the radical on the left-hand side 氵 that represents water.

(xu) is a full character by itself, meaning a kind of long handle weapon, but it is also used in the traditional Chinese calendar, representing the eleventh of the twelve Earthly Branches, corresponding to the element earth.

In “Shuowen Jiezi”, the early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty, fire is described as the strongest Yang Qi (in Chinese culture it is believed that Qi is a form of energy), yet it can be engulfed by 戌 – earth.

In the interaction between the radical 氵 and the characters 火 and 戌, water extinguishes fire, fire gives (re-)birth to earth, while earth can engulf fire.

In Bone Oracle Script, die früheste alte chinesische Schrift, 戌 was written as shown below:

axe

Doesn’t it look like a fire axe used by fire fighters today? So the whole character 滅 is like a well-equipped fire engine.

In the simplified character “灭” used in Mainland China, the water and the fire axe have gone, there is only a horizontal stroke on the top of fire. Let’s hope that the fire-fighting facilities at fire stations on the Mainland have not also been simplified!

As one of the five elements, the radical氵, with three drops of water, is in common usage. When you see it as part of a character, you can guess that it is related to water-like or flowing concepts such as: 洪流 torrent, 溶 to melt, 活 alive, 海洋 ocean, 沙灘 beach, 游泳 swimming, 洗澡 bathing, 污染 pollution, 清潔 cleaning, 河 river, 湖 lake, 淚 tears, 汗 sweat, 深 deep, 淺 shallow, 油 oil …

aber, when water becomes ice, , instead of three drops, , the left-hand side radical has been reduced to two drops, , as water is less able to flow.

Other characters with two drops of water include: 冬 winter, 寒冷 cold, 凍 frozen, 凋 withered, 凄 a desolate chilling feeling …

It is said that Cangjie, the person who created Chinese writing 5,000 Jahre zuvor, was born with four eyes. This led to his deeper observation of the natural world, its creatures, and processes, and to his discerning the truth by piercing through to the depths of even the greatest mysteries.

Herausgegeben von Damian Robin.

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Kou Zhun lived a frugal life despite being a prime minister. When he once fell into indulgence, he was moved to tears and quickly changed his ways after reading a poem left by his mother before she died. (SM Yang/Epoch Times)Kou Zhun lived a frugal life despite being a prime minister. When he once fell into indulgence, he was moved to tears and quickly changed his ways after reading a poem left by his mother before she died. (SM Yang/Epoch Times)

The Three Character Classic, or San Zi Jing, is the best known classic Chinese text for children. Written by Wang Yinlian (1223–1296) during the Song Dynasty, it has been memorized by generations of Chinese, both young and old. Until the 1800s, the Three Character Classic was the very first text that every child would study.

The text’s rhythmic, short, and simple three-character verses allowed for easy reading and memorization. This enabled children to learn common characters, grammar structures, lessons from Chinese history, and above all how to conduct oneself.

aber, after the Cultural Revolution in China, the Three Character Classic was banned and eventually fell into disuse. In dieser Serie, we revive and review this great Chinese classic, drawing ancient lessons of wisdom for our modern-day lives.

The Three Character Classic’s very first lesson arises from a philosophical belief of the Confucian scholar Mencius, and which was echoed by other philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant:

People at birth
Are good by nature.
Their natures are much the same,
But their habits become widely different.

Mit anderen Worten, people are born innately good. Als Ergebnis, their natures are very similar at the beginning. Young infants and toddlers may vary in their personality, but by and large they share similar natures of innocence and purity that we adults do not share as a whole.

aber, as we grow up in differing living environments and are influenced by various people and experiences, we develop priorities and habits that push us further and further apart.

Some of us learn to value family and filial piety with utmost importance; others learn to value work and finances above all other things. Some find gratification in life through fulfilling material wants; others find meaning in spiritual pursuit.

The following real anecdote illustrates how two old friends grew up and developed very different personalities and values in life:

Same Background, Different Values

A Chinese writer relates how her father, Jing, was a respectful, kind, and honest man, who worked as a carpenter in a village in China. His good character made him well-liked by everyone.

Jing had an old classmate named Wang, whom he was good friends with. Eines Tages, Wang invited Jing over to his house for dinner and drinks.

As they were drinking and chatting, Jing noticed an elderly man, who looked like a servant, bringing them tea and wine and cooking food for them.

So he asked Wang, “Who is this elderly man?” Wang replied, ‘That’s my father.’

Jing was thunderstruck. He jumped up immediately and said to the elderly man, “Uncle, please sit down.” He helped the man into his seat, then poured him a glass of wine and said, “Uncle, please forgive my rudeness.”

Jing then turned to Wang and said, “I am no longer your friend. You don’t know how to respect your elders.” He picked up his tools and walked out. Wang tried to say something, but Jing was already gone.

Jing had learned from a young age that one must always be respectful to one’s elders and teachers. Wang, andererseits, had not learnt to take this principle to heart. Despite being old friends and growing up in the same village, both Jing and Wang had developed widely different characters – one of which was better than the other.

Kou Zhun Receives a Lesson Beyond the Grave

So what makes a person become like Jing instead of Wang? The answer lies in the next stanza of the Three Character Classic:

If foolishly there is no teaching,
T
he nature will deteriorate.
The right way in teaching
Is to attach the utmost importance in thoroughness.

A person’s innately good nature is maintained through teaching and guidance throughout one’s life. Without guidance, aber, this good nature can become corrupted.

A great example is the story of Kou Zhun, a prime minister who lived during China’s Northern Song Dynasty.

Kou was born into a family of intellectuals. aber, Kou’s father died when Kou was young, and he was raised singlehandedly by his mother, who wove fabric to help them get by.

Despite their poverty and hardship, Kou Zhun’s mother taught him and urged him to work hard, so that he could one day make great contributions to society.

Kou proved to be extremely intelligent, and he did not disappoint his mother. Beim 18, he passed the National Examinations with outstanding results. He was thus among the lucky few to be selected by the emperor to become a government official.

The good news spread to Kou’s mother, who was seriously ill at the time. As she lay dying, Kou’s mother gave a faithful servant a painting she had made.

“Kou Zhun will one day become a government official,” she whispered. “If his character starts to go astray, give this painting to him.”

Tempering Extravagance

Kou Zhun eventually rose through the ranks to become prime minister, but fame and luxury began to get to his head. To show off his wealth and status, he decided to host an extravagant birthday celebration, replete with a banquet and opera performances.

Feeling that the time had come, the servant presented Kou with his mother’s painting. When Kou opened it, he saw a painting of himself reading a book under an oil lamp, with his mother weaving cloth by his side.

Written next to the painting were the words:

Watching you endure the hardship of studying under a dim light,
I hope that you become a better person and benefit many others in future.
Your doting mother has taught you the virtue of thrift;
In times of future wealth, never forget those who are poor, like we once were.

Kou Zhun read his mother’s words again and again, and then burst into tears. It was clear beyond doubt that he had not lived up to his mother’s expectations. He asked his guests to leave and called off the banquet.

Thanks to the timely reminder from Kou’s mother beyond the grave, Kou was saved from a downward spiral towards greed and corruption. Von da an, Kou lived frugally, treated others generously, and carried out his official duties with high morals and integrity. He eventually became one of the most famous and beloved prime ministers of the Song Dynasty.

This heartwarming tale not only illustrates that guidance and teaching are necessary to groom one’s character, but the tale also carries a deeper message – because people are innately good, even those whose characters have gone astray can rediscover their good nature, and return to their original, truly good selves.

One famous example is the story of Zhou Chu, a ruffian who terrorized his village for decades. Upon realizing the error in his ways, he turned himself around and helped his village slay two monsters – a tiger and a dragon – that had plagued the village for years.

As long as we realize our mistakes and are determined to change, it is never too late to become an even better person.

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Cangjie wurde China vom Himmel herabgesandt, um chinesische Schrift zu erstellen, er war mit vier Augen geboren. Dieses Porträt von Cangjie ist ein aus dem 18. Jahrhundert Malerei in der Nationalbibliothek von Frankreich statt. (Public Domain, Kombinationsbild von Epoch Times zusammengestellt)Cangjie wurde China vom Himmel herabgesandt, um chinesische Schrift zu erstellen, er war mit vier Augen geboren. Dieses Porträt von Cangjie ist ein aus dem 18. Jahrhundert Malerei in der Nationalbibliothek von Frankreich statt. (Public Domain, Kombinationsbild von Epoch Times zusammengestellt)

A 38-year-old Chinese from Chong Qing city met Cangjie in his dream. Cangjie taught him the art of literomancy, or deciphering Chinese characters. Literomancy, a form of fortune-telling, has been used for clairvoyance since ancient times.

According to Sound of Hope Broadcasting, the Chinese man, called San Mu, said that he dreamt of a huge elderly figure with white hair and a long beard.

The elderly person held San in the palm of his hand and asked: “Do you know me?” San shook his head: “No”. The elderly person said: “I am Cangjie who created the characters. Let me teach you how to decipher one”.

The character Cangjie taught San was 爆 (bao), meaning explode.

Both the left and right sides of 爆 are full characters. On the left is 火, meaning fire, and on the right is 暴 that carries the pronunciation of bao and means violent or brutal.

The main part of the character is on the right, , and itself contains three full characters in the upper, middle, and lower parts. Sie sind: , which refers to the sun, , means common, and 水, water.

The one in the middle, , is an abbreviation of 中共 that refers to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

San recalls how Cangjie explained the full character of 爆:

Cangjie drew the character in the air first and then said: “People must not be associated with the CCP. You walk forward with it, you will get burnt by fire; you go upward with it, you will be burnt to death by the sun; you jump downward with it, you will be drowned.”

He continued: “Only when you disassociate yourself from it will you have a chance of survival, understand?” Afterwards Cangjie disappeared.

In China, most people have to join the CCP, either as Young Pioneers as soon as they reach school age—children are requested to wear a red scarf and routinely pledge their loyalty to the Party under the red flag each day—and/or in the Communist Youth League when they reach their teens.

Universities are active grounds for recruiting CCP Members, often under the camouflage of receiving an honor. Being a Party member is the only channel for gaining government posts.

What is strange is that though communists are atheists, everybody who joins CCP organizations must declare an oath of faith, devoting his life to the Party.

This literomancy reading of 爆 matches the interpretation of the Tuidang movement in China.

Tuidang literally means retreating from the Party. Through formally renouncing their association with CCP organizations, people cancel their past pledges or their deals with the CCP (whether they made their pledges unwittingly or were seduced into them).

The number of Chinese people who have disassociated from the Party is immense.

As one of the five elements, , the character for fire, is also a commonly used radical. When you see it, you would guess that the word is related to fire. Such as 煉 refine, 爐 furnace, 燈 light, 炒 fry, 煤 coal, 灰 ash, 煙 smoke, 燃燒 burning, 燦爛 bright, 火災 fire disaster, and 滅 eliminate …

Can you find where the fire is in the last character, ? This is also an interesting character. We shall write about it next time.

Herausgegeben von Damian Robin

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  • Autor: <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/joyce-lo/" rel="author">Joyce</ein>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</ein> und <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/zhu-li/" rel="author">Zhu Li</ein>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</ein>
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