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Qunshu Zhiyao (A Compendium of the Essentials of Governance)    (Lecture 2)    by Professor Yuli Liu  File No.: 56-167-0002

群書治要  (第二集)  劉余莉教授  香港    檔名:56-167-0002

Respected classmates, greetings!



Today we formally begin with the study of Qunshu Zhiyao 360.  Let’s open the first volume of Qunshu Zhiyao 360 and look at the first heading in the outline.  The first section is “The Tao (Way) of the Ruler,” which discusses how to be an excellent leader.



The first heading under this section is titled “Personal Cultivation.”  In the Book of Rites, the chapter on “The Great Learning” stated: “From the Son of Heaven down to the citizenry, all consider the cultivation of the person as the root of everything[1].”  To be an excellent leader, s/he must begin with personal cultivation which is the foundation of family order, state governance, and world peace.



The subheading under Personal Cultivation is the Prohibition of Covetousness.  This subheading gives us the starting point of personal cultivation, which is in accordance with the stages of personal cultivation delineated in The Great Learning: “extinction of avarice, awareness of the phenomena[A1] , sincerity in thoughts, and rectification of the mind.”  People can talk about their personal cultivation only after these stages.  In other words, cultivation of the person begins with abstinence--to eradicate our desires for material goods.  When faced with the temptations of luxury lifestyle, sexual desires, rich, and fame, we should not be disturbed; hold onto our tranquil mind; and not fanned by the passions of gain, loss; defamation, eulogy; praise, ridicule; sorrow, joy.[2]  This is just the basics of personal cultivation which begins with the extinction of greed.






Since the era of King Cheng and King Kang, almost a millennium had passed.  Rulers wishing for good governance were many.  But why peaceful times can no long be revived? It is because rulers abandoned disciplines and standards, indulged in selfish desires, enjoyed luxurious lifestyles, thus their benevolence and righteousness collapsed[A2] .

【自成康以來。幾且千歲。欲為治者甚眾。然而太平不復興者。何也?以其舍法度。而任私意。奢侈行而仁義廢也[A3] 。】


This passage comes from Qunshu Zhiyao, vol. 19, “The Book of Han[3], Fascicule 7.” 



Qunshu Zhiyao selected materials from the Divisions of Scriptures, Histories, and Philosophers.  In the Division of Histories, it excerpted from the “Four History Books”: Shiji (Records by the Grand Historian), History of Han Dynasty, History of the Latter Han Dynasty, and Records of the Three Kingdoms. In addition, it also included History of Jin Dynasty.  History books used myriads of historical facts to testify the doctrines in the Divisions of Scriptures and Philosophers.  To combine the materials from History and Scriptures for contemplation is a prominent feature in Qunshu Zhiyao.



The commonly known “Twenty-Five Histories,” from Shiji (Records by the Grand Historian) to the Draft of History of Chin Dynasty, include a total of 24 official historical books covering a period from 3000 BC to Ming dynasty, also known as the “Twenty-Four Histories[A4] ,” and a draft of the history of the last dynasty, the Chin dynasty.  The core of the Twenty-Five Histories is the rules of the rise and fall of the states and societies.  These rules can be put in one phrase and that is “causality and responses.”  The Book of Changes stated: “The family that accumulates goodness is sure to have superabundant happiness; and the family that accumulates evil is sure to have superabundant misery[4].”  It is also said in Shang Shu (Book of Documents):  “All blessings fall on the good-doer, and all miseries on the evil-doer.”   Furthermore, in the opening prologue of the Treatise on Response and Retribution[5], Laozi stated: “Fortune and misery are neither predestined nor random; they are instead caused by the karmic actions of each individual.  The rewards and retributions for virtue and vice follow each person like a shadow.”  The Twenty-Four Histories provided historical factual evidences to prove these truisms.  A book is especially noteworthy called A Collection of Historical Facts of Responses and Retributions.  The compilation of this book is based on the formal documentations from the Twenty-Four Histories to prove to us the law of cause and effect and the rendering of rewards and retributions according to each individual’s virtue and vice.  This book edifies that ‘causality and responses’ are not superstitions but universal laws proven and testified by historical facts.  It is like the truisms that we can stop hunger by eating food, end our thirst by drinking water; and if we plant melons, we will harvest melons, if we plant beans, we will harvest beans.  All these are obvious, easily observable cause and effect.  However, the not so obvious, latent cause and effect could only be observed studiously by the saints to be recorded in scriptures.  Therefore, when we study the scriptures, we are studying the “Tao” and learning the facts of causality.



We can conclude that the core of history lessons is the law of cause and effect and the truism of responses and retributions.  The first passage is excerpted from the Book of Han, scroll 7.  The Chancellor of Internal Affairs (Court Admonisher)[6], Gong Yu (cir. 127-44 BC), of Western Han dynasty, wrote these sentences to criticize and advise Emperor Yuan of Han (75-33 BC).  Gong Yu, seeing the corruption of the government, the extravagance and decadence in the imperial palace, the ineffectiveness in the education of the saints, and the decline in social norms, recommended the implementation of Confucianism to transform social morés.



Before the excerpted First Passage, Gong Yu wrote: “Confucius was but an ordinary person.  Nevertheless, his love for the study of the proper course, his personification of dignity and never slacking self-discipline resulted in all the rulers in the kingdom would adhere to his words and doctrines as standards for the judgment of right and wrong, good and bad.  Especially, in view of your majesty’s eminent virtues, your exalted position and power as the Son of Heaven, and the expansive territories of Han dynasty, with the blessings from Heaven, if your majesty wishes to change social morés, to regulate the Yin and Yang, to mold and cultivate all things, and through education to rectify everything in the empire, it will be easy like opening the floodgate to let water flow or (close the floodgate to) stop things from falling.”  Why[A5]  is it so easy?  How can we achieve this effect?



After these sentences, Gong Yu told us the reason why flourishing times can no longer exist and how to restore them.



Since the era of King Cheng and King Kang, almost a millennium had passed. King Cheng and King Kang ruled during the Western Zhou dynasty (cir. 1046-771 BC).  During their reign the society was stable and harmonious and people lived in peace and prosperity.  The prison was empty. Punishments were no longer in use. Because no one committed crimes, there were no prisoners in prisons and tools of punishment were collecting dust.  King Cheng and King Kang followed the governance by moral education paradigm set by King Wen, King Wu, and Duke of Zhou.  More important, during the reign of King Cheng (cir. 1042-1041 BC), his uncle Duke of Zhou composed spiritual music[7] and established the etiquettes, rites, and rituals (Li)[8] (that regulated peoples social conducts).  As a result of emphasizing ethical relations and moral education, punishments were no longer of use and society was stable and harmonious.  By the time of Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), when Gong Yu wrote this to Emperor Yuan (ruled from 48-33 BC[A6] ), almost a millennium had passed. 



Rulers wishing for good governance were many.  But why peaceful times can no long be revived? Many rulers wished for peace in their kingdoms.  All monarchs aspire to have their monarchy in prosperity and their subjects live in peace, and they are respected everywhere they go.  Contrary to their wishes, peaceful and flourishing times no longer arise.  The next sentence pointed out the cause as to why peaceful times can no longer be revived. It is because rulers abandoned disciplines and standards, indulged in selfish desires, enjoyed luxurious lifestyles, thus their benevolence and righteousness collapsed. Disciplines and standards do not mean laws, codified laws, executive orders, rules, regulations, etc.  Here, disciplines and standards meant moral standards, codes of conducts, ethical rules.  For example, in Guanzi (Writings of Master Guan)[9], in the chapter of Chong Kuang, it stated: Todays discourses on benevolence and righteousness should follow the disciplines and standards set by the three sagacious kings[10].A priori, disciplines and standards meant moral standards, codes of conduct, etc.



What is the universal law of governance?  In Mencius, there was a story about the fifth legendary Emperor Shun (2294-2184 BCE).  He appointed Chi as the chief minister[11], responsible for education, especially the implementation of the five ethical relations.  The five ethical relations are the cardinal rules that illustrate the loving affinity between father and son, righteousness between monarch and subjects, different duties between the husband and wife, order between the older and the younger. We call them the great Way of ethical relations, or the five cardinal relations.  It means that it is not a moral standard set by the saints but a natural law that existed primordially.  The Chinese often say Tao-De, Tao-De, loosely translated as the proper course.  Actually, Tao means the ultimate principle of the universe[12] and De means conducts according to this principle.



There is a natural loving affinity between father and son:  parents love their children and children love their parents.  This natural affinity was not a mandate by the saint but a natural manifest of our humanity. This loving affinity between father and son can be observed from infants especially.  A Chinese proverb says : A new-born baby will manifest its true nature after 100 days. Toddlers will express their inner joy naturally upon seeing their parents. We can tell their love for their parents from such joy. The question is how to maintain such natural loving affinity throughout their lives, following this loving affinity without changing course.  According to the observation by the saints, only when parents rear and guide their children lovingly, their children will show filial piety towards them; consequently, the natural loving affinity can be maintained.  Therefore, to abide by the Tao of humanity, the saints commanded the virtues of loving father and pious son. In other words, parents should nurture and discipline their children with loving-kindness; children should show filial piety towards their parents.



The Chinese character for “loving-kindness” is (cí), meaning merciful, loving.  We can feel the loving-kindness from parents to their children in the composition of this word.  The ideogram (cí) is composed with ( here or this) at the top and (xīn heart) at the bottom.  The combination of these two words expressed the meaning of loving-kindness.  Parents’ love for their children is in their “constantly mindful of this” child.  It is expressed in parents’ constant thought about their children no matter the time or pace.  Especially those parents raising young children will understand this.  Infants cannot speak to express their needs; but when they cry, parents immediately understand whether they cry because they are hungry or have wet their diapers.  Why parents can understand babies’ needs from their crying?  It is because parents’ mind is constantly on their child.  The Great Learning stated: “no female will learn how to rear children before they are married.”  Women will not learn how to raise a child before they get married.  However, once they are married and have children, they know how to take care of them.  How do mothers do this?  Mothers learn from their sincere heart.  With a sincere loving heart, mothers care for their children no matter the time and place.  Therefore, it seems naturally that they understand infants’ needs and the best way to care for them.  A priori, from this word (cí) children should perceive the beneficence of parents.



An ancient Chinese proverb says: The mother can live to be a hundred and still worries about her eighty-year old son.  The hundred-year old mother still thinks constantly about her son and cannot stop worrying about the welfare of her eighty-year old son.  When she calls him on the phone, she will still ask whether her eighty-year old son dressed properly when the weather changed and all the other minor details of his life.  In contrast, children are careless and insensitive to their parents loving care.  They often complain when parents called and say: Dont you know I am very busy right now?  And you call me and nag about trivial matters. They have no empathy for their parents love expressed in their nagging.  This word (cí) should invoke our gratitude towards the beneficence of our parents.  When we have empathy for our parents loving-kindness, we will understand that no matter what we do, we cannot repay their deep loving-kindness in rearing, nurturing, and fostering us.  Therefore, what should we do as children?  We as children must show filial piety towards our parents.



The word (xiào filial piety) in Chinese is composed half with the ideogram (lǎo old) and half with the ideogram (zǐ child).  This word gives us a picture of children carrying parents and the young carrying the old. In other words, when we were young, parent raised us.  Especially in the first three years of our lives, we cannot live without them as we have no ability to take care of ourselves.  We need the fosterage of our parents--to feed us, to carry us, and to support us even when we learn to walk.   When our parents are old, they also need our care.  Therefore, the word (xiào filial piety) expresses the oneness between the older generation and the younger generation.  They are one unity and not separated into two.  Most youngsters nowadays would complain about the generation gap and that they cannot communicate with their parents.  If there is a generation gap, then filial piety no longer exits.  The reason we cant communicate with our parents is due to our lack of utmost sincerity, our lack of patience, and our lack of gratitude.  All these blocked our communications with our parents.  We as children should especially put ourselves in their shoes; be empathetic and think from their perspectives.  Utmost sincerity will invoke a response.  We are One with our parents.



Historically, the person who was most pious was the fifth legendary emperor of ancient China mentioned above, Emperor Shun or Da Shun (the Great Shun).  No one can compare to him when it comes to filial piety.  There is a deep meaning in putting him at the top of the list of the Twenty-Four Most Pious Children. The reason he was the first in the list was because his father, his step-mother, and his half-brother all attempted to kill him several times.  But Great Shun never held any grudges against them.  Even when he became the emperor, he was still pondering his insufficiencies in the Tao of filial piety and would cry his heart out in the wilderness.  Eventually, his sincerity touched and transformed his step-mother and his half-brother.  Thus, putting Great Shun at the top of the Twenty-Four Most Pious Children list is telling us that a truly pious child can invoke a response with sincerity.



The story of the Great Shun also tells us that in resolving conflicts there is a difference in Western culture and the core value of traditional Chinese culture.  Mencius said: “The benevolent ruler has no enemies.”  The ideogram “ (rén, benevolence) combines the pictographs of (rén, a person) and (èr, two).  The word explicitly means two persons, implicitly means empathy.  In other words, when we think of ourselves, we should think of others as well.  If there are the thoughts of they and we, there are two unities.  The true state of benevolence is Oneness.  We and others are one in the noumenon[A7] .  Since we are all of Oneness, we will not solve problems by taking opposite stands.  We will use sincerity to reconcile conflicts.  This is the Oneness concept in Chinese culture.  When it is applied to the management of personal relationships, the relationship between humans and nature, and the relationship between mankind and everything else, it can manage them all perfectly without any residual problems and without any passive (negative) repercussions.  “The benevolent ruler has no enemies” means that the mind of a truly loving and benevolent person is never against anyone.  If s/he has any opposing thoughts of someone, or always finds something wrong in others and is never satisfied with people, s/he lacks benevolence and empathy.  Therefore, Confucianists advocate benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, and forgiveness; Mahayana Buddhists emphasize sincerity, compassion, and mercifulness.  The compassion and mercifulness in Mahayana Buddhism connote the great compassion and the great mercifulness.



What is the meaning of great compassion and great mercifulness?  People generally are willing to help those they like; for example, their children, their spouse, their friends and relatives, and with those they have good karmic relations.  They can be compassionate and merciful towards them.  But those they dislike, have no affinity or connection with, or who are strangers, they cannot help them altruistically.  The great compassion and great mercifulness in Buddhism is totally different.  It is the “great compassion of altruism and the great mercifulness of Oneness.”  In other words, we should help those who are not related to us and treat strangers the same way as we treat ourselves.  “The great mercifulness of Oneness” means to care for others as if caring for ourselves.  Ordinarily, people would help others after they become rich and donate the residues.  But the compassion and mercifulness of bodhisattvas are different.  They would care for others as if caring for themselves and even put others’ welfare before themselves.  The reason bodhisattvas can do this is because they realized the truism that we and all sentient beings are of Oneness.  Since we are all One, then helping others is the same as helping ourselves; therefore, we can help others altruistically.  As enlightened beings, they have a benevolent, loving heart and this type of compassion and mercifulness.  Once we understand “the benevolence of Oneness,” we can also help all sentient beings selflessly and unconditionally.  This benevolent loving heart is a wondrous thing.  The Western Christianity and other major world religions all have this core value of benevolence and unconditional love for all.



Whats the root cause of a benevolent loving heart?  The Chinese has found the roots of the benevolent loving heart and they are: the filial piety of children towards their parents and the friendliness and respect between siblings.  Vertically, the filial piety of children towards their parents is centered in the children of the current generation, but there are also children of the preceding generations to the beginningless of time and children of the future generations to the endless of time.  Thus, the past, present, and future, from beginningless to the endless of time, all three times are of Oneness from the vertical angle.  Horizontally, we also expand the friendliness and respect between siblings to friends and to all human beings.  All are brothers in the four directions of the world, as stated in the Chinese proverb.  In other words, embrace all mankind in the ten directions of space horizontally.  The person who shows filial piety to perfection is a saint, a Buddha in actuality.  S/he is edified in the Oneness of the self and all sentient beings, which is infinite light and infinite time.  This noumenon of infinite light and infinite time is the true-nature or self-nature of all sentient beings.  To conclude, begin with filial piety, we can find and return to our self-nature.



The Analects has many passages on filial piety.  For example, one of Confucius students inquired about filial duty.  Confucius said: The filial piety nowadays means the support of one's parents. But dogs and horses can be likewise supported. Without reverence, what is there to distinguish one support from the other[13]?"  The so-called pious children of present times think that providing sustenance to their parents has satisfied their duties as a pious child.  However, people also provide sustenance to their dogs and horses[A8] .  If we simply support our parents without reverence, then what’s the difference between our providing sustenance to our parent and to our pets?  This instruction reminds us that the support of our parents is not only in the assurance of their food and clothing in abundance or their financial independence, but also the support of their good spirits.  This is why Confucius said “the difficulty lies in the demeanor” of the so-called pious child.  The most difficult and praiseworthy part of filial piety is in maintaining our cordial countenance when interacting with our parents.  Confucius also catechized: “If, when their elders have any troublesome affairs, the young take the toil of them, and if, when the young have wine and food, they set them before their elders, is THIS to be considered filial piety[14]?"  When there is good food, we serve our parents first; when they have problems, we take care of them; are these deeds sufficient to fulfill our filial duties?  Apparently, they are far from enough.



The Book of Rites also said: A filial son, cherishing a deep love (for his parents), is sure to have a cordial air; having a cordial air, he will have a look of pleasure; having a look of pleasure, his demeanor will be serene and compliant[15].”  The truly pious children will have a pleasant countenance when speaking with their parents.  Their looks will be gentle; their attitudes gracious.  They will not raise their voices, speak in harsh tones, look mean, or with a hostile attitude.  Even when their parents are in the wrong, they will advise them patiently, cordially, and gently.  Di Zi Gui also said: “when parents are wrong, advise them to change; with pleasant countenance, with gentle voice.”  Filial piety does not mean that we should be complacent about our parents’ mistakes.  When they are in the wrong, we need to rectify their mistakes; however, our attitude must be gentle and our countenance must be cordial and pleasant.  This is the proper Way to be someone’s child.  Lots of us have not learned the traditional culture and do not understand the proper way to be a child.  Consequently, they would criticize their parents harshly, with a mean look on their face, and made their parents angry, upset and heart-broken.



The Duke of Zhou had a son called Bo Qin.  One day Bo Qin went to see Duke of Zhou with his uncle and was kicked out with a rod by his father three times.  Bo Qin was very puzzled and asked the erudite Master Shang (Shang-Zi):  Why my father hit me when I went to see him?  Master Shang replied:  There is a tree called Qiao that grows on the sunny side of the South Mountain.  There is a tree called Zi that grows on the shady side of the North Mountain.  You will understand once you see them. Bo Qin went to the sunny side of the South Mountain and saw the Qiao tree standing tall and big, with its canopy of foliage looking upward.  He went to the shady side of the North Mountain and saw the Zi tree, which was short and small and its foliage looking downward.  He reported back to Master Shang of what he had seen.  Master Shang told him that the Qiao tree is the proper way of the fatherly figure and the Zi tree is the proper attitude of a child.  Bo Qin was edified.  The next time he went to see his father, upon entering the door, he walked quickly to show respect, and once he entered his fathers room, he immediately genuflected to greet his father.  Duke of Zhou was very pleased and said: You have been instructed by an erudite scholar of great virtues.



From this story we can see that as children we should treat our parents with utmost respect, full of courtesy, and an attitude of deference and humility.  But today we have adopted so many of the so-called Western advanced concepts, which are really not so advanced.  For example, we apply the Western concept of equality to the relationship between parents and children so that they are equals and there is no need to stress the courtesy between them.  However, if we act courteously, the order between the young and old naturally occurs and children will naturally treat parents politely and respectfully.  When children are polite and respectful to their parents, would they berate them, hit them, neglect their livelihood, or abandon them?  Therefore, the most important support is to support parents spirits.



To support parents spirits, besides being respectful, the most important part is to make them rest easy with our actions.  Dont let them worry about our actions.  Thus, the Analects stated: Parents are anxious lest their children should be sick." [16][A9] .”  Truly pious children will not let their parents worry about them except their occasional illness (but never their afflictions caused by bad habits).  For example, when elementary school children do not do their homework causing their parents to worry, they are not being pious.  When middle school children start to surf the internet, play video games, and their idleness caused them to digress in their studies, causing their parents to worry, they are not being pious.  When high school kids hang out with the wrong crowd, derelict in their duties, causing their parents to worry, they are not being pious.  When college students, without parents’ supervision, spend the night drinking in bars, singing in karaoke bars, dancing in nightclubs, wasting their time in useless pursuits, causing their parents to worry, they are not being pious.  When adult children have a job but are irresponsible, especially children nowadays will fire their boss whenever they are dissatisfied with the work environment, they are not being pious.  Furthermore, when they become government officials, they abuse their power for personal gain, exchange power for money, take bribes and become corrupt, eventually put behind bars causing shame to their parents, they are not being pious.



From these phenomena, we can conclude that a truly pious child is in fact a perfect human being.  This is why the ancients said seek loyal subjects from the household with pious children, because a pious child is almost perfect, almost a saint or sage.



Besides supporting parents spirits and let them be worry free, we should also foster parents inspirations. Parents raised us not just for us to serve them with food and drinks.  If we serve the people, contribute our efforts to benefit our country, do our utmost in our duties, we meet our parents expectations.  Therefore, when we do our best to be loyal to our country and serve the people, we are inspiring our parents.  This is a higher level of filial piety.  There are multi-facets of filial piety. Once we understand it comprehensively, we will know how to be pious without being blind or foolish in our piety and loyalty (devotion).



The next ethical relation is the righteousness between ruler and subjects.



Ruler can be a monarch or just anyone in the leader role.  Subjects are those being led.  The relationship between the leader and those being led is evident in many social levels; for example, the relationship between employer and employee, teacher and students, parents and children in a family, and leader and followers in a team.  The question is how can their relationships be harmonious or how can they act as a unity?  The Oneness concept also applies in the management of the relationship between the superior and the inferior.



Why does the Chinese do not have the Western concept of human rights?  The reason is very simple.  In the West, the relation between the employer and the employees is polarized.  Thus, it is imperative that the employer implements all kinds of systems and myriads of policies/measures to guard against employees and to prohibit their violations of rules and regulations.  The Chinese are just the opposite.  Their perception is that the employer and the employees are of Oneness.  There should be reciprocal gratitude, mutual assistance, and cooperation.  Thus, their relationship should be founded on the virtue of righteousness.  The word righteousness means proper (or right actions at the right time and right place). In Chinese, the ideograms righteousness and proper are interchangeable.  In other words, the leader should act like a leader and the follower should act like a follower.  Both should act according to their roles and adhere to their individual duties.  Consequently, their relationship will be managed properly.



Whats the characteristic of a proper leader?  The ancient Chinese expressed it in one word and that is benevolence.  Leaders should think of others whenever they think of themselves, apply reverse thinking, think from others perspectives, and be considerate and caring of their subordinates.  Good leaders should also play three roles: leader, mentor, and parent.  A ruler not just leads, but should also act as their subordinates parent--to care for them as their blood relatives would do.  In addition to these two roles, they should also teach and guide them.  Otherwise, subordinates may still cheat them with falsified accounting records.  Leaders should teach them the fundamentals of being a good person, to set a paradigm, and act out the standards of a moral person.  People must be taught. Without learning people will not understand the Tao. When a leader has fulfilled the duty of these three roles, s/he is qualified as a proper leader.



Mencius said: “When the rulers regard their subjects as their hands and feet, the subjects will regard the ruler as their heart and belly.”  (‘Hands and feet’ had been extended to mean siblings and ‘heart and belly’ to a confidant.)  When leaders treat and care for their subordinates as their siblings, they will discover that their subordinates will reciprocate and treat them as their confidant.  They will repay in double the leaders’ attention, kindness, and caring.



In contrast, when “the rulers regard the subjects as their riding horses and hunting dogs, the subjects will regard the ruler as an acquaintance (as another citizen).”  If the leaders’ rationale is that “I have already paid you and you just do what I say,” they will order their employees about as cows and horses or paid coolies.    As a result, employees will ignore them after work and treat them as strangers or common folks.  There is no closeness in their relationship.  If employees see them in the supermarket, they will lower their head, pretend not to see them, and walk away. 



The worst case is when “the rulers regard subjects as dirt and weeds, the subjects will regard them as robbers and enemies.”  When the leaders treat followers as worthless dirt and lowly weeds, to be trampled upon ruthlessly, followers will think of them as vampires.  Or worse than that, they will talk about their leader as someone despicable.



What causes this attitude?  The reason is very simple.  It is caused by leaders attitudes toward their followers.  The righteousness between ruler and subjects will create the Oneness in the relationship between leaders and followers and not a relationship of polarization, conflict, and antagonism.



The next ethical relationship is the different duties between spouses.  It tells us that the husband and wife each have different duties within a family.  The difference does not lie in the difference of gender or social status, but in the difference of responsibilities.



The ancients said: Males should be outside the household, females inside the household. Husbands have the financial responsibility of supporting their families and let household members without worries about food and clothing.  The most important duty of the wife is to raise her children properly in order to be saints and sages.  A Chinese proverb says: Three matters make a child remiss in filial piety, the worst is without descendants. Without descendants does not mean without a son.  If we have several children and all of them are worthless, without abilities to carry on the familys good traditions or the family business, or have done things that ruin the people and wreck the nation, we are better off without them.  This is the true meaning of the worst is without descendants. Consequently, the ancient Chinese regarded the rearing of children as the most important duty that cannot be delegated to any one except the mother.   A priori, the husband is required to be grateful, dutiful, and affectionate.  It would be wrong of him to think that because he is the bread-earner, he can be a debauchee, or have extra-marital affairs. 



Since the wife is responsible for educating the children, she should be virtuous and a good role model.  Educate by example prevails over educating by words.  Thusly, she can bring up the children properly; let the husband concentrate on his career without worries (about the family); and let family business, family tradition, and the family Tao continue into the future generations.  A females most important contribution to her society, race, and country is to rear her children to be saints and sages.  Lets ponder this for a moment, if a female can raise her children to be the next Confucius, Mencius, George Washington, or Winston Churchill[A10] , think how great her contribution to her race and her nation is.   However, if both the husband and wife work outside the family, both are capable and have great careers but without successors to carry on their legacy, arent everything they have done in vain?



As a result, Chinese are visionaries with a long-term view on sustainable development, especially the development of successors.  Therefore, the ancient Chinese did not put females in an inferior position.  In contrast, they venerated females because their actions would greatly influence the future succession of family business.



The next ethical relationship is the order between the older and younger. It depicts the natural order of the birth of siblings from older to younger ones.  Their birth order cannot be reversed and should be respected.  Di Zi Gui has a verse on how siblings should treat each other: Older siblings should befriend the younger ones, younger siblings should respect and love the older ones. Siblings who keep harmonious relationships among themselves are being dutiful to their parents[17].”  The older siblings should be friendly and loving towards their younger siblings; to care for them and help them in their difficulties.  The ideogram (yǒu friend) was written as two hands holding together in the ancient way.  It represents the law of nature that the older siblings should unconditionally help their younger siblings when they have problems.  Younger siblings should be grateful to the care given by the elder siblings and treat them with respect.  When elder siblings can be friendly toward their younger siblings and the younger siblings respectful towards their elder siblings, there will be a harmonious relationship among them.



Additionally, Di Zi Gui instructed: When siblings value their ties more than property and belongings, no resentment will grow among them. When siblings are careful with words and hold back hurtful comments, feelings of anger naturally die out.[18]”  If siblings value their affinity and their blood relationship more, and value property and belongings less, how could there be lawsuits among them?  In their interactions, if they tolerant each other and hold back their angry comments, there will be no grievances/grudges naturally.  These two verses are effective ways to handle the relationship among siblings.



The next ethical relation is the trust between friends.  Friends and we are equals.  When we interact with our friends, we must be honest and trustworthy.  The ideogram (xìn, trust) combines the Chinese characters ( rén, person), and(yán, words).  This ideogram explicitly tells us the meaning of trust lies in a persons words.  We must keep our words.  Otherwise, they are not words worthy to be spoken by a human being.  The ancients put great significance into the word (xìn, trust).  In the Analects, Confucius said: I dont know how a man not worthy of trust can get on? Using a modern analogy, it means that if a persons words are without credibility, it is like a car without an engine and cannot move,; a priori, such a person will lose social mobility (cannot move anywhere in the world). 



In China, since the time of the legendary Emperor Shun (the Great Shun), people were taught the five ethical relations.  Once the five cardinal relations are managed well, the society will be stable and harmonious.



Besides the five ethical relations, there are also the five universal rules: benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and trustworthiness.



In addition, there are the four tenets: propriety, righteousness, integrity[A11] , and shamefulness, proposed by Master Guan.  Master Guan cautioned that if the four tenets were not supported, a nation will collapse.  His doctrine was recapitulated into the famous verse[19]: Propriety, righteousness, integrity, and shamefulness are the four tenants of a nation, if the four tenets are not supported, the nation will collapse. Thus, propriety, righteousness, integrity, and shamefulness are like the four pillars that support the building of a nation.  If the four pillars disappear, the nation is also extinct.



Finally, there are the two categories of the Eight Virtues. The first was categorized by Chuzi (Master Chu) and they are: filial piety, sibling harmony, loyalty, trust, propriety, righteousness, integrity, and shamefulness.  The other is categorized by Dr. Sun Yet-Sen, which are: loyalty, piety, benevolence, love, trust, righteousness, harmony, and peace.



If we delete the repeated virtues in the two categories, we get twelve virtues: filial piety, sibling harmony, loyalty, trust, propriety, righteousness, integrity, shamefulness, benevolence, love, harmony, and peace.  These are the characteristics of the Chinese value system.  Since ancient times, China has been using the five ethical relations and the twelve virtues to educate her people.  When all the citizens understand and follow these precepts, the society will naturally be stable, harmonious, and peaceful.



If we let go of the great Tao of the five ethical relations, the five cardinal rules, and the eight virtues, or no longer teaches such, what would happen?  When people abandon universal laws, evil will arise, as said by Master Zuo Chiuming[20] (556-451 BC).  If people no longer abide by the five ethical relations, the five cardinal rules, the four tenets, and the eight virtues, myriads of anti-social, devious phenomena will appear.  Evil means abnormal phenomena, such as the son kills his father, father and son become archenemies; brothers fight over a small piece of property and sue each other in court; husband and wife do not trust each other, dream of different things in the same bed and without fidelity.  These abnormal phenomena illustrate that evil will arise.



The first passage, putting at the top of Qunshu Zhiyao 360, tells us why a nation will rise or fall, why a society can no longer be peaceful and prosperous.  It is all due to the abandonment of the universal law and principles that govern a nation and the rise of selfish desires in the rulers.  The last phrase in the first passage is that rulers “enjoyed luxurious lifestyles, thus benevolence and righteousness collapsed.



Currently, the whole nation is anti-extravagance.  Why the leader of our nation is totally against the four forms of decadence (formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance)? What is the harm in a luxurious lifestyle?



In Qunshu Zhiyao (A Compendium of the Essentials of Governance), “Mohism,” Master Mo (Mozi) said: “The rich and high in rank are wasteful and extravagant, while the poor and homeless are hungry and cold. It is impossible to keep such a state out of disorder.[21]”  When the upper and lower classes are polarized, the rich and high in rank are wasteful and indulge in excess, while the poor and homeless are hungry and cold, it will be impossible for the ruler to keep his kingdom without upheaval.  Thus, Master Mo advised: “If the rulers sincerely desire the empire to have order and hate to see it in disorder, they must not indulge in excessive eating and drinking.”  Monarchs, wishing to have their kingdoms in peace and truly despise their kingdoms in chaos, must refrain from excess in food and drinks.



The serious harm caused by extravagance was also discussed in Guanzi[A12] Master Guan opined that the sagacious kings created carts and boats to facilitate transportation and benefited peoples livelihood.  However, the present rulers, besides making their carriages and yachts durable, light, and full of conveniences, demanded colorful embroideries for their carriages and beautiful carvings for their yachts through heavy taxation and corvée.  As a result, people were cold from lack of clothing because females had to forsake weaving to embroider for the carriage; people were hungry from lack of food because males had to forsake agriculture to make carvings[A13]  for the yacht.

在《管子[A14] 》上也論述到,奢靡之害確實非常地嚴重。他說以前聖君開始製造車船,是為了方便百姓辦事。而今天的君主製造車船就不同了,車船的完備、堅固、輕巧、便利都具備了,卻仍向百姓橫徵暴斂,用彩色刺繡裝飾車輛,用精雕細刻裝飾舟船。於是女子放棄了紡織而去學習刺繡施彩,所以百姓受凍,沒有人再去紡織了;男子放棄耕種而去學習雕刻,所以百姓挨餓。


Since rulers made their carriage and yachts so fancy, their courtiers followed suit (and exacerbated the dire situation of poor folks).  The common folks, perishing from hunger and cold, were forced into robbery and committing crimes.  The higher the crime rate, the heavier the punishments, eventually, such harsh punishments caused insurgencies in the nation.  Rulers truly wishing their state to be peaceful and hating it to be in disorder must beware and make their carts and boats simple.  The extravagance of carriages and yachts in ancient times depicted in Guazi (Mozi) is very similar to the harm caused by modern automobiles if we think carefully. Today we manufacture cars that are also getting more and more extravagant.  The waste of fuels and the air pollution created by oil companies cannot stop people from their pursuit of luxurious items (such as fancy sports cars, extravagant limousines, luxurious yachts or private jets).



In Guanzi, Eight Observations, Master Guan[A15]  analyzed:When national spending on luxury items are high, people will be poor. When a nation has formed the social morés of wastefulness and extravagance, the money spent on such items will be excessive.  We have observed this phenomena especially in todays developed countries. In such countries, to maintain the luxurious lifestyle of this generation, the national debt has reached into the pockets of the second and third generations.  This abnormal phenomenon is deeply rooted in such peoples selfishness and their self-interests.  To satisfy their personal covetousness, they will not even consider the welfare of their children, grandchildren, or their descendants.  When people are poor, cunning arises. Such people used to luxurious lifestyle cannot go back to a simple and frugal lifestyle, therefore, when they have no money to spend on luxurious items, they will have wicked thoughts.  Once cunning arises, devious plots are made. Craftiness in deception and evil maneuvers will come out of these people.  A priori, cunning and schemes come out of a feeling of being deprived; feeling of deprivation comes out of extravagance. Their wicked behavior is caused by their dissatisfaction; and their dissatisfaction is caused by their feeling of being deprived of their wasteful and extravagant lifestyle.  Therefore, to prohibit cunning and treachery from the roots, frugality must be advocated, extravagance must be purged; these are the pressing matters of every nation and every family (in todays world).



Guanzi scrutinized and analyzed very well the harm of an extravagant lifestyle that leads to cunning and deception.  In the Sayings of Confucius in His Household[A16] , it mentioned a dialogue between Confucius and Duke Ai of Lu regarding the reason why rulers cannot cultivate their illuminating virtues and govern by rites, rituals, and etiquettes (Li).  From this conversation we can observe that the most important reason rulers during the Spring and Autumn Era could not propagate the education of Li is because they could not live frugally like the ancient saints and sagacious kings.  Just the opposite, they lived wastefully, extravagantly, and decadently.  Due Ai of Lu inquired: What is the Great Li?  Why do you venerate Li whenever you speak of it?



Confucius replied[A17] To let common people live an orderly life, Li is the most important facet.  Without Li, there will be no proper rituals to make offerings to celestial beings and earthly spirits.  Without Li, there is no way to distinguish the monarch from the subjects; the higher ranks from the lower ranks; and the elder from the younger.  Without Li, there will be no differentiation between males and females; father and son; older sibling and younger sibling; relatives by marriage and relatives within the clan; and those of intimate or distant relationships.  Therefore, the sagacious rulers venerated Li, set up a good paradigm, and then taught the common folks to act according to Li.  How did they set up a good paradigm?  They would live in a modest house and not in a grand palace.  Their apparels and accessories were simple and modest; their carriages were without ornate decorations[A18] , their utensils were without fancy inlays, and their foods were without many varieties.  Their minds are without covetousness and share their wealth with their subjects.  Such were the ways of the ancient sagacious kings who followed Li reverently!



Duke Ai of Lu asked further: Why todays rulers would not do so[A19] ?  Confucius replied: Todays rulers are self-seekers, their avarice are insatiable; their licentiousness are without principles; their extravagance are without restraint.  They are lazy, insolent, and their idle pursuit depleted peoples resources.   They used any means to satisfy their avarice leaving people without recourse but to complain about the government. They conscripted people to fight wars against honest and benevolent rulers violating peoples will.  They willfully punish people and torture them to death without following the law.  Past rulers governed the people according to Li; but todays rulers govern according to their desires.  We can conclude that todays rulers do not understand how to cultivate their illuminating virtues or how to govern by Li.



This dialogue tells us that if leaders satisfy their selfish desires and cannot abstain from luxurious lifestyle, the education of Li will not be transmitted.  They must set themselves as a model first, whatever the leader does, the subordinates follow.  It also tells us that the reason why flourishing times cannot be revived.  It is all because rulers cannot overcome their selfish desires and actualize the teachings of the saints and sages.  This is also the origin that caused the rise and fall, the success and failure of societies (nations?).



We will end todays lecture here.  I welcome everyones correction and criticism due to my insufficiencies.  Thank you all!


[1] Referred to translation by James Legge, see http://ctext.org/liji/da-xue

[3] The  Book of Han is a history of China, finished in AD 111, covering the Western, or Former Han dynasty from the first emperor in 206 BC to the fall of Wang Mang in 23 AD. It is also called the Book of Former Han.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Han

[5] Translation by Brian Chung, See, https://archive.org/details/Treatise2014Edition


[6] 中国历史的官职,三公之一,御史的首领,负责监察百官,大约相当于副丞相。类似于近代:监察院、督察处、政风廉洁处、廉政公署。防范朝廷主官于侵害人民权益、贪官污吏、贪赃枉法

See http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%BE%A1%E5%8F%B2%E5%A4%A7%E5%A4%AB


[7] Classic music performed at imperial court that can elevate people’s spirits.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yayue

[8] Duke of Zhou regulated the social conducts of ordinary people, nobles, and the royal family through etiquettes and ceremonial rites that included every aspect of human life, such as funeral, mourning, marriage, sacrifices, archery, drinking festivals in villages, etc.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Rites  

[9] It is an encyclopedic compilation of Chinese philosophical materials named after the 7th century BCE philosopher Guan Zhong, Prime Minister to Duke Huan of Qi.  Although most Guanzi chapters philosophically characterize Legalism, other sections blend doctrines from Confucianism and Taoism.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanzi_(text)


[10] The five legendary emperors were Emperor Huang and his descendants: Zhang Xu, Ku, Yao, Shun.  Their rule was called the Epoch of Great Comity.  The three sagacious kings of the three dynasties mentioned above were:  King Yu of Xia dynasty, King Tang of  Shang dynasty, and King Wen of  Zhou dynasty.   Their reign was called the Epoch of Small Prosperity.  The period from the five emperors to the three dynasties of Xia, Shang, and Zhou can be called the Golden Age of China, an equivalent of the West.  See http://big5.zhengjian.org


[11] See, http://www.gg-art.com/dictionary/dcontent_b.php 官名。《周禮》以大司徒為地官之長。漢元壽二年(前1),改丞相為大司徒。東漢建武二十七年(51),改稱司徒。北周依《周禮》置六官,為地官府之長,以卿任其職。


[13] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/analects/wei-zheng.  See also Lectures by Venerable Master Hua, translated into English by Yong Wei Kwong and Liew Yen Chong; http://www.drbachinese.org/vbs/publish/485/vbs485p019.pdf



[14] See above.

[15] Referred to translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/liji/ji-yi


[16] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/analects/wei-zheng


[17] See translation by Pure Land Learning College, Toowoomba, Australia, p. 46 http://www.amitabha-gallery.org/pdf/plc/hzdzge.pdf

[18] See above, p. 47.

[19] See, New History of the Five Dynasties by Ouyang Xiu, and Zizhi Tongjian (the Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance), vol. 291. 五代史馮道傳論, 資治通鑒》卷第二百九十一,歐陽修論.

[20] Zuo Qiuming was a court writer of the State of Lu, and contemporary of Confucius during the Spring and Autumn Period of ancient China.  He wrote the  Chronicle of Zuo or the Commentary of Zuo, is among the earliest Chinese works of narrative history, covering the period from 722 to 468 BC.  Wikipedia


[21] Translation by W. P. Mei, see,  http://ctext.org/mozi/indulgence-in-excess



 [A2] they ceased to observe benevolence and righteousness;

were laid to waste. 

I used collapse because later on the lecture talked about that without the four pillars supporting the house of nation, the nation will collape. 

 [A3]Almost a thousand years have passed since the heyday of King Cheng and King Kang, and many rulers having tried to attain the same glory. But this golden era of peace and prosperity never returned. Why has this been so? It is because rulers have forsaken the law and moral standards, and have instead pursued selfish desires, spoiling themselves with extravagance, and totally neglecting the practice of benevolence and righteousness.


Scroll 19: Han Shu, Vol. 7

This citation is different from mine.

Means pretty much the same in modern terms.  Since Qunshu Zhiyao is older than the book of Han, I used volume 19, which is more common in western citations.an

See, http://www.sageea.com/mavista/cms/ch/home/28495


 [A4]I added this explanation of  二十四史, as this paragraph later mentioned 二十四史 and never mentioned 二十五史 again.


 [A6]Since it is already very clear in the translation that “almost a millennium had passed” I skipped the explanation in the Chinese and added the approximate time Gong Yu’s wrote to Emperor Yuan.

 [A7]in actuality;

 [A8]Dogs and horses can also be trained to use their labor to support their owners. 

 [A9]Where parents are concerned, their child’s illness is a major cause for worry . See Lectures by Venerable Master Hua, translated into English by Yong Wei Kwong and Liew Yen Chong; http://www.drbachinese.org/vbs/publish/485/vbs485p019.pdf


 「孟武伯問孝」:孟武伯也是當 時魯國一個做官的人,也問怎麼樣孝 順父母。孟武伯有病,什麼病呢?不 是喝酒的酒病、就是貪財的財病,總 之,是「酒、色、財、氣」才有的毛 病,很厲害的。「子曰」:所以孔子 就答覆他說,「父母唯其疾之憂」: 父母就是怕子女有病,一有病,那就 是不孝了!

 [A10]I replaced them with famous westerners.

 [A11]Honesty, non-corruptible,

 [A12]was discussed in detail in Mozi, Book 1, “Indulge in Excess.”  Master Mo commented….

See http://ctext.org/mozi/indulgence-in-excess 墨子 辭過







 [A14]Is this from Mozi, or Guanzi, I checked the internet and found the text from Mozi.  See comment A12 above.




 [A16]Book of Sayings of Confucius and his Disciples,







 [A18]: 不圓的珠子


: inlay, engrave, carve,








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