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Education as the First Priority

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On The Subject Of Administration

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

Teach and Transform

Confucius said: “People by nature were born good and pure, but bad habits cause them to lose touch with their natural goodness.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

Ancient rulers knew that although people prefer decency and honor virtue, people are equally prone to greediness and profiteering. Therefore, they drew up policies that not only encouraged people to uphold virtues, but also discouraged them from acting out of greed. When virtue is honored, propriety and courtesy will flourish. When greediness is discouraged, integrity will be preserved.

Scroll 49: Fu Zi

The best way to govern people is to pay undivided attention to education.

Scroll 42: Yan Tie Lun

Education is “Whatever people in higher positions do will set an example for those beneath to follow.”

Scroll 45: Cui Shi Zheng Lun

Benevolent people of the past exemplified virtues to educate the populace and rarely would the populace not be moved by their deeds and learned to esteem the same virtues. They also let the populace know about the behaviors that they detested and so rarely would the populace be ignorant of what shamefulness is about.

Scroll 49: Fu Zi

Confucius said: “A good student is dutiful to the parents at home, and respects elders and superiors while away from home. He is cautious in doing things, trustworthy, loving all equally, and close to wise and virtuous people. In addition, he needs to further study the literatures passed down from the ancient sages and learned scholars.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

The ancient sage-kings on seeing how education could transform the people, would lead by example to implement universal love. When a king’s conduct made an impact on the public, no one would abandon their relatives. Furthermore, the kings promoted benevolent, righteous and moral values. When the people were inspired by these principles, they began carrying them out and turning them into common practice. When the kings led the way in showing respect and courtesy, the public would learn not to fight with one another. When propriety and music were designed to guide and educate the lay people, people would learn to live together harmoniously. These kings made it known to the public what they revered and detested, and so the masses would not defy their prohibitions.

Scroll 9: Xiao Jing

Confucius said: “For teaching the people to be affectionate and loving, there is nothing better than filial piety. For teaching them propriety and obedience to their elders, there is nothing better than fraternal duty. For changing their manners and altering their customs, there is nothing better than music. For securing the repose of superiors and the good order of the people, there is nothing better than the rules of propriety. The rules of propriety are simply the principle of reverence. Therefore the reverence paid to a father makes all sons pleased. The reverence paid to an elder brother makes all younger brothers pleased. The reverence paid to a ruler makes all subjects pleased. The reverence paid to one man makes thousands of men pleased. The reverence is paid to a few but the benefit extends to many. This is what is meant by an ‘All-embracing Rule of Conduct.’”

Scroll 9: Xiao Jing

Confucius said: “Guide the people with policies and align them with punishment, and people will evade capture and gain no personal sense of shame. Guide them with virtues and align them with propriety, and they will gain their own sense of shame and thus correct themselves.” Laozi said: “As law and orders are increasingly written, loopholes and thievery will become increasingly common.”

Scroll 12: Shi Ji, Vol. 2

When Zichan governed the state of Zheng, the populace was not able to deceive him. When Zijian governed the county of Shan Fu, the populace did not have the heart to deceive him. When Xi Menbao governed the county of Ye, the populace did not dare to deceive him. Who among these three governors had the highest ability and wisdom? A wise and perceptive leader should be able to tell the difference and come up with the answer.

Scroll 12: Shi Ji, Vol. 2

If people do not understand propriety and righteousness, the law will not be effective. For the law can sentence an unfilial son to death but it cannot make people behave like Confucius or Zengzi (the exemplar filial son). The law can also sentence thieves and robbers to prison but it cannot make people behave honestly like Boyi. Confucius had 3,000 disciples who could fulfill filial duties at home, and respect elders and seniors when away from home. Their words became guidelines for people to follow, and their deeds were sufficient to make them into role models. All these are due to transformation through education.

Scroll 41: Huai Nan Zi

Wenzi asked about morality, benevolence, righteousness and propriety. Laozi said: “Virtue is what people treasure. Benevolence is what people admire. Righteousness is what people venerate, and Propriety is what people respect. These are the four implements used by sages to lead and command the world.”

Scroll 35: Wen Zi

Honoring the virtuous and able as well as giving recognition to moral excellence is something to which a sage-king would attach great importance. Promoting benevolence and transformation through education is what Confucius would speak of most approvingly.

Scroll 26: Wei Zhi, Vol. 2

If you are planning for one year, grow the five cereals. If you are planning for ten years, grow trees. If you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.

Scroll 32: Guan Zi

Confucius said: “There are three things that a superior person venerates. He venerates the law of cause and effect. He venerates virtuous people or people with superior status. He venerates the teachings given by saints and sages. A petty person on the other hand, is ignorant of the law of cause and effect and therefore does not venerate it. He also treats his superior frivolously and ridicules the teachings of saints and sages.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

The Confucian school of thought most probably originated from Si Tu, the government minister in charge of education. Their career goals are to assist the sovereign, follow the law of Yin and Yang, and promote the idea of transformation through education. They are dedicated students of the Six Classics focused on practicing benevolence and righteousness. They trace and reiterate the governing principles of Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun, adopt and explain the decrees and regulations issued by King Wen and King Wu, and regard Confucius as their master teacher. They venerate wisdom passed down from ancient sage-kings and consider Dao (laws of nature) as the highest form of knowledge.

Scroll 14: Han Shu, Vol. 2

The Daoist school of thought most probably originated from the official historians. Daoist writings recorded the reasons that contributed to the success, failure, survival, demise, fortune and disasters of different dynasties. Their works were succinct and cut straight to the core. They advocate “tranquil nothingness” to maintain their integrity, and humility to achieve self-control. These were the implements used by ancient rulers to govern a country in accord with the self-controlling and thoughtful way of Emperor Yao, in addition to the principles of Humility stated in the book of Yi Jing. Humility alone will enable a person to receive blessings from heaven, earth, spirits and human beings. Such is what the Daoists most venerate.

Scroll 14: Han Shu, Vol. 2