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Home Qunshu Zhiyao 360 Taking Precautions

Respectfully Cautious

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

Taking Precautions

A family that accumulates many good deeds will bring wealth and blessings to its descendants. A family that accumulates many bad deeds will bring calamities to its descendants.

Scroll 1: Zhou Yi

If acts of goodness were not accumulated, one’s name could not be established. If acts of evil were not accumulated, one’s life could not be destroyed. To a petty person, a minor good deed that cannot bring him any recognition is not worthy of his effort; a minor bad deed that cannot bring him much harm is not worthy of correction. Hence, his wickedness grows until it cannot be concealed, and his guilt grows until it cannot be pardoned.

Scroll 1: Zhou Yi

A gigantic tree that ten people can wrap their arms around started as a young shoot. When the shoot was not well formed, it could be easily snapped with one step of our foot or uprooted by a simple pull. When we sharpen a knife on a whetstone, we may not see that it is wearing away the whetstone, but after a certain period the attrition will break the stone into half. When we plant trees and raise domesticated animals, we may not notice their growth, but after a certain time we can see that they have become mature. Likewise, when we accumulate virtue and benevolence, we may not see their benefits immediately, but after a certain period the effects that they produce will become visible. If we abandon benevolence and righteousness and go against the law of nature, we may not feel anything wrong now, but there will come a time when disasters will befall us.

Scroll 17: Han Shu, Vol. 5

Do not let arrogance grow; do not let desire fly loose; do not let ambition become excessive; do not let pleasure flow unchecked.

Scroll 7: Li Ji

Insightful people can anticipate troubles ahead of time. Wise people can anticipate danger before danger takes shape. Catastrophes always lurk in hidden places and appear at the moment least expected.

Scroll 18: Han Shu, Vol. 6

Confucius said: “If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

Confucius said: “He who rests safe in his seat will bring danger upon himself. He who presumes order is secured will face ruin. A nation that presumes its political environment is stable will face chaos. Therefore, a superior person, when resting in safety, does not overlook that danger may arise; when all seems stable he does not overlook that ruin may happen; when all is in a state of order he does not overlook that chaos may erupt. In this way his person is kept safe, and his states can be preserved for a very long time. The book of Yi Jing says: ‘(Always alert yourself) The end is near! The end is near! And the security of the state will be firm as if bound to a clump of bushy mulberry trees.’”

Scroll 1: Zhou Yi

Misery—happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness—misery lurks beneath it! Who can tell what either will come to in the end?

Scroll 34: Lao Zi

“People who advised others to curve the chimney and move the firewood away were not thanked with gratitude. In contrast, those who saved fire victims and got badly burnt and injured were treated as guests of honor.” This description laments the fire victims’ mistake of inverting priorities. So it is not just a story about curving the chimney and removing firewood to avoid a disaster. …People often do not take adequate precautions. Instead, they do their best to control the damage after the fact. Rare indeed are strategists rewarded, while fighters are frequently honored.

Scroll 44: Huan Zi Xin Lun

Being disrespectful and playing pranks on others will ruin our virtues. Over-indulgence in things that give us pleasure will ruin our ambitions.

Scroll 2: Shang Shu

Jizi was the uncle of the despot King Zhou. When King Zhou began using ivory chopsticks, Jizi lamented: “Since his majesty is using ivory chopsticks, he will start drinking from a jade goblet. After drinking from a jade goblet, he will start craving for exotic things to satisfy his appetites. And so the chase after luxurious horse-drawn chariots and palace chambers will begin. By then, our country will have no hope of reversing its misfortune.”

Scroll 11: Shi Ji, Vol. 1

Anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy, and does things that would become great while they are small.All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small.Therefore the sage, while he never does what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things.*

Scroll 34: Lao Zi

*James Legge, transl.

Pang Nuan said: “My lord, haven’t you heard that Marquis Wen once asked Doctor Bian Que this question: ‘In your family of three brothers, whose medical skill is the best?’ Bian Que answered: ‘My eldest brother’s medical skill is the best, my second brother’s comes second, and mine is considered the last of the three.’
Marquis Wen asked: ‘Why do you say so? Can you explain it to me?’
Bian Que said: ‘When my eldest brother diagnoses a patient, he examines his appearance and complexion. Before the pathogen could cause a disease, he has already cured the patient. This is why he is not a well-known doctor; his
reputation only stays within the house. My second brother is able to cure his patient immediately when the symptoms of an illness begin to manifest themselves, so he is better known. But his reputation does not go beyond our neighborhood. As for me, I use acupuncture to improve blood circulation. I also prescribe medicinal soups that are potent, and I perform surgeries on my patients. That is why my good reputation is well known among the feudal lords.’”

Scroll 34: He Guan Z