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The Way Of A Leader

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

Be Respectful of Relatives

Confucius said: “A leader who loves his parents will not despise the parents of other people, and as he respects his parents he will not be contemptuous of the parents of other people. A leader who is wholeheartedly dedicated, with love and respect, to taking care of his parents will impart the same highest degree of virtuous conducts to teach and reform his people, setting an exemplary standard for the whole world to follow. This is the filial piety of the Son of Heaven(tian zi)!* The book of Lu-Xing said: ‘When a leader respects and loves his parents, all his people will trust and rely on him, and so the nation will enjoy long and lasting stability.’ ”

Scroll 9: Xiao Jing

*Since King Wu founded the Zhou dynasty (1134BC to 256BC), he proclaimed that he was the Tian Zi (Son of Heaven) and from that time on all the future kings and emperors called themselves the “Son of Heaven”.

There were reasons why the sage kings of Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties loved and respected their wives and children. For the wife, she was the key lady attending to matters related not only to the rites of remembrance of the ancestors, but also to the king’s parents, as well as to the education of his heirs. As for the children, they were the heirs to the king’s legacy. So how could the king not be respectful of his wife and children? A king therefore will not be disrespectful toward anybody. With regard to the virtue of respect, a person will first respect his own self, for his life is an extension of his parents. How can he not be respectful of himself? Not respectful of one’s self is tantamount to hurting one’s parents. Hurting one’s parents is amounting to hurting one’s root, and when the root is damaged the branches will die off subsequently. Since the commoners and the king both have these three things in common—own self, wife and children, they will naturally follow the king’s example. As the king respects his own self he extends this respect to other people. As he loves his children he extends this love to the children of other people. And as he respects his wife he extends this respect to the wives of other people. When a king can manage these three matters well, this profound and far-reaching education will then be able to spread to the whole world.

Scroll 10: Kong Zi Jia Yu

Although a leader may love his relatives deeply, he should maintain his authority over them or they will become arrogant and disrespectful. The status of the relatives may be privileged but they must be held accountable by law in order to restrain them from behaving wildly and uncontrollably.

Scroll 24: Hou Han Shu, Vol. 4

Good deeds and good people are revered because they embody propriety and justice. Bad deeds and villains are despised because they embody wickedness. Now that we use what is revered to teach and demand the common people to behave well on the one hand, but use what is despised to teach and allow members of the royal family to behave repulsively on the other hand, is this not going against moral and virtue?

Scroll 45: Chang Yan