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Home Qunshu Zhiyao 360 Righting Oneself

Esteeming Virtues

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

Righting Oneself

Zengzi said: “May I ask what the Seven Lessons are about?” Confucius said: “If a leader respects old people, his subjects will show more filial obedience toward their parents. If a leader respects the elderly, his subjects will show more respect toward their elder siblings. If a leader is kind and giving, his subjects will become more tolerant and generous. If a leader favors the virtuous, his subjects will attach more importance to choosing their friends wisely. If a leader places great importance on ethical conducts, his subjects will not commit acts that cannot be revealed to the public. If a leader is not greedy, his subjects will be ashamed of fighting with each other for profits. If a leader is honorable and humble, his subjects will uphold integrity firmly. These are the Seven Lessons, the foundation of governing. Once the principles of governing are established, the government will become stable and strong. Since people look up to all the senior ministers and bureaucrats as examples to follow, and as long as they are upright, what else cannot be upright?”

Scroll 10: Kong Zi Jia Yu

Confucius said: “When a leader’s personal conduct is upright, his government is effective without the issuing of orders. If his personal conduct is not upright, he may issue orders but they will not be followed.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

A superior person must first and foremost be an exemplar of integrity in his official duties. Giving instructions and punishment are secondary measures.

Scroll 47: Zheng Yao Lun

Confucius said: “In serving a superior, the subordinates will not only follow by obeying the commands of his superior but also follow by observing the superior’s conduct. Whatever preferences shown by a superior will be exceeded by the preferences of his subordinates. Therefore, a leader must be careful with what he likes or dislikes for he is the role model for the people.”

Scroll 7: Li Ji

If a superior is impartial, his subjects will not dare to profiteer. If he is honest and fair, his subjects will not dare to engage in dishonest enterprises, thinking they can get away without punishment. If he is frugal, his subjects will not dare to spend lavishly. These are the effects of a leadership that practices what he preaches.

Scroll 45: Chang Yan

Tai Gong said: “There are three protocols for generals and commanders of an army: Do not wear fur coats in the winter; do not use fans in the summer; do not open umbrellas on rainy days.”*

Scroll 31: Liu Tao

*The purpose of this protocol is to remind the generals and commanders to place themselves in the same situations as their soldiers, be it hot or cold, damp or dry. A commander who can empathize with the circumstances in which he places his soldiers will not only gain the loyalty of his soldiers, but also come up with good strategies that will find victory with the least sacrifice of human lives.

Confucius said: “A superior person shows his consideration for others in three ways: Not serving his leader wholeheartedly while ordering his own subordinates around is inconsiderate. Not fulfilling his filial duties to his parents but demanding that his own children to be filial to him is inconsiderate. Not respecting his elder siblings but demanding his own younger siblings to respect him is inconsiderate. If he can understand that consideration for others stems from loyalty to his own leader, filial obedience to his own parents, and reverence to his elder siblings, he is truly a person who has an upright character.”

Scroll 10: Kong Zi Jia Yu

A virtuous leader will lead the way to do good deeds before he asks others to do the same. He will expect himself to be devoid of wrongdoing before he can stop others from wrongdoing.

Scroll 7: Li Ji

A superior person can work on earning respect, but he cannot expect others to respect him. He can work on being trustworthy but he cannot expect others to trust him. He can be worthy of appointment to a post but he cannot expect the post to be given to him. Therefore, a superior person is ashamed of not being a man of character but he is not ashamed of being insulted. He is ashamed of breaking his promise but he is not ashamed of being distrusted. He is ashamed of being unskillful but he is not ashamed of missing the chance to get appointed. In short, he is not tempted by superficial reputation, or intimidated by slanders. He is honorable and upright, unwavering in his convictions.

Scroll 38: Sun Qing Zi

The responsibility for honor and disgrace rests with nobody but oneself.

Scroll 40: Han Zi

The book of Xiang Zhuan interprets the oracle of Jia Ren (family members) as: “…A superior person speaks meaningful words and his conduct is uniformly consistent.”

Scroll 1: Zhou Yi

When a leader dresses in a manner that befits his status, no eccentric attire will be worn by his officials. When a leader’s words are just, no fabricated reports will be produced by his subordinates. When a leader is honorable and fair, no servile official or factionalism will arise in the civil service. These three points should serve as a guideline for the leader.

Scroll 33: Yan Zi

No matter how slight a sound may be, it will still be heard. No matter how carefully a good deed is concealed, it will still be known. When jade is embedded deep in the mountain, the mountain grass and wood will be moistened. When a deep pool produces pearls, the edge around the deep pool will not dry up. If one persists in doing good, how can people not know his good deeds?

Scroll 38: Sun Qing Zi