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Education as the First Priority

Esteeming Virtues

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

Be Discreet

When a sage lost sight of the truth, he became an unruly person. When an unruly person overcame his delusions, he became a sage.

Scroll 2: Shang Shu

It was said in the book of Guo Yu: “Becoming virtuous is like a struggling uphill but committing vice is like collapsing in a landslide.” [In other words, it is difficult to follow the path of virtue but easy to succumb to vice.]

Scroll 27: Wu Zhi, Vol. 1

The book of Qu Li said: “Always, and in everything, let there be reverence. Be dignified as if one is thinking deeply, and speak with composure and clarity. This way will put people at ease.”

Scroll 7: Li Ji

The higher one goes the more humble he should become. The more important one’s official role becomes the more cautious he should be. And the higher a salary he draws the more he should not be wanting for more.

Scroll 43: Shuo Yuan

It is easy for a person born to a privileged family to acquire an air of arrogance, and a person born to a rich family to acquire a taste for extravagance. If the privileged and the rich do not follow the right way to guard against arrogance and wastefulness, seldom will they not commit wrongdoings.

Scroll 35: Wen Zi

In the oracle of Qian: “A superior person works hard and remains vigilant all day, and in the evening he is still careful and apprehensive as if he is in danger. Hence there is no bad fortune.” What does this mean? Confucius said: “This is a metaphor about how a person advances in virtue and cultivates all the sphere of his duties. His devotion and trustworthiness are the means by which he advances in virtue. His attention to his words and establishing his sincerity are the means by which he excels in his duties. Therefore he occupies a high position without pride, and a low position without anxiety. Thus it is that, being diligent and vigilant, and forever careful and apprehensive, he will be safe from danger even when his position is perilous.”

Scroll 1: Zhou Yi

We cannot for one moment leave the Dao (righteous path). What can be left out is not Dao. A superior person will remain discreet even at places where nobody is around, and he will remain apprehensive at places where nobody can be heard. Beware that the most secretive place is also the easiest place to be found, and the tiniest thing is also the easiest thing to be seen, whenever one’s thoughts are most unguarded. A superior person therefore is most watchful when he is alone by himself.

Scroll 7: Li Ji

Thus, the conduct of a superior person bears four features: He follows through his plans and never forgets to be kind. He deploys his expertise and never forgets to be righteous. He works hard and never forgets to be faithful. When he speaks he never forgets to be truthful. If he can keep these features all his life, honor will follow him like a shadow to his form and an echo to his callings.

Scroll 36: Shi Zi

A superior person does not make jokes and his words are in line with propriety. He does not play pranks and his behavior is prudent. If his speech and his behavior are prudent, his wife will not act contemptuously toward him despite their intimate relation, and his friends will not slight him despite their close affiliation. Thus, a superior person’s behavior is sufficient to influence the behavior of his family members without any need for harsh reprimands, and moral social customs will be spread across the land without any need for remonstrations. Thus, in Mencius it was said: “When a sage is upright, all the things around him will follow suit.”

Scroll 46: Zhong Lun

Be warned! Do not talk too much. Much talk incurs much trouble. Do not be too inquisitive. Much prying will incur much harm. Stay alert even at a comfortable place and refrain from doing anything that will cause regrets.

Scroll 10: Kong Zi Jia Yu

Confucius said: “Chaos is created by indiscreet utterances. When a leader speaks indiscriminately he loses his ministers. If ministers speak indiscriminately they will bring troubles upon themselves. If classified information cannot be kept safe, catastrophes will happen. A superior person therefore is most discreet in keeping confidential matters unrevealed.”

Scroll 1: Zhou Yi

Laozi said: “One who makes promises lightly seldom keeps good faith. One who makes light of many things will encounter many difficulties. Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so never has any difficulties.”*

Scroll 34: Lao Zi

*A sage will always prepare for the worst and therefore no difficulties can get the better of him.

Confucius said: “There are three kinds of enjoyment which are beneficial and three kinds of enjoyment which are harmful. The enjoyment of cultivation in music and ritual, the enjoyment of speaking of the goodness of others, and the enjoyment of having many friends of good character are all beneficial. The enjoyment of taking pleasure in arrogance, the enjoyment of aimless idling, and the enjoyment of drinking and feasting are all harmful.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

A superior person remains steadfast in the virtue of humility to avoid calamity. He should not take pride in chasing after fame and fortune.

Scroll 1: Zhou Yi