9 things that confucius taught us Chinese

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Confucius is one of the most influential persons in Chinese history, his philosophy encouraged lots of Chinese people doing the right thing and it defined a big part of Chinese culture.
Until today, there are still people quoting him in Chinese languages in daily life.

Since 2004, Confucius Institutes are founded all over the world.

1. 一日为师终身为父 – He who teaches me for one day is my father for life.

In China, the teachers are not paid very well, but they do have absolute authority over the students. We were taught that the teachers are always right, thus we should give full respect to teachers.

I think it is not universal in China, but in my region, until college, as soon as the class started, we students would sing a song in order to wait for the teacher to prepare the lesson, or wait for him to enter the classroom. Then the teacher says:”Class begins!” followed by all the students stand up and bow to the teacher, every single class, I am not kidding. Check below the video the differences from Chinese teaching style and the British one.

I have some friends who are teachers in Belgium, they are really facing pressures from the students and parents. Some students in Belgium could be rebellions who don’t care about the teacher and homework. My friend gave 0 to a student on one part of the exercise for one subjects, the next day she had the parent after her ass challenging her decision. She is so happy that she is no longer a teacher.

This article gives you more idea about how it is like working in China as a teacher.

2. 三人行,必有我师焉;择其善者而从之,其不善者而改之
When I walk along with others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them

Chinese people are humble people, they always believe that there are things they can learn from others, and even if there are things bothering them, use it as bad example so that you can avoid them.

It is a deep and well defined philosophy, but really difficult to follow. What I would like to get from this quote can be broader, I believe, not only can you learn from the people around you, you can also learn from the history, especially from the mistakes. There is really no need to hide anything in fear of losing authority or power, admit the mistake and avoid them in the future is the best way to deal with it.

3. 有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎? Friends coming from far, shouldn’t you be happy?

I live in Belgium, I know the principle of never drop by your friend uninvited or without notice/appointment. It is possible that if you drop by a friend during dinner time without notice, you will need to wait for him on the sofa until the family finishes the dinner. I remember years ago in Dutch lesson, my Dutch teacher explained ”A lot of people say that the Flemish people are stingy, it is not fair, if we have a guest during our eating hour, we obviously did not prepare an extra steak for the guest, that is why he needs to wait until we finish, plus sharing food is never the culture in Belgium”.

I always appreciate my friends dropping by if they are nearby, why not? We are all so busy and have no time to plan everything. If they happen to be around, why not have a cup of tea or coffee together? Eating in Chinese culture is so important, we never let our guest leave without food, actually even if we finish, we would ask if our guest had food, if not we will go to the kitchen and make at least some 5 minutes noodle soup or other Chinese fast food. If I have Chinese friends travelling in Europe, I would love to meet, even if I need to drive hours, because we all know that life’s short, next time seeing each other will be eternity.

4. 老吾老,以及人之老,幼吾幼,以及人之幼。
Respect all the elders like respect your own, love all the young ones like love your own.

This quote does not come from Confucius himself but his successor Mengzi, it is replaced by modern Chinese idiom “尊老爱幼-zun lao ai you”, it is a beautiful Chinese moral that we(should) value everyday. If you are in a bus or metro, you will hear quite often the announecement of encourage the others given seats to the “the old, the weak, the sick people, the disabled and the young ones”

5. 己所不欲,勿施於人- don’t force others to do what you don’t want to do or cannot bear to do

This quote teaches us to not being selfish and think for others, but the reality is otherwise. Parents who did not have high education would like their children to spend more time one studying, parents who failed to become a medical doctor would like their children to accomplish their dreams.

6. 父母在,不远游 – If the parents are still around, don’t travel too far

Chinese tradition emphasis on the respect and responsibility to the elders, as a matter of fact, after the parents getting older, it is the children who should take care of them. Until our generation, a young man who marries a lady will continue living with his parents, that is also where the “Boys are more valuable than girls” coming from. Nowadays with the convenience of the transportation and globalization, it is not the case any more,it is very seldom that young people live together with their parents, as a result, the idea of wanting a baby boy is fading.

Now coming back to this quote, actually Confucius is not discourage young man to travel, but to point that when travelling, you should have a good destiny so that the parents don’t worry, his original quote is: “父母在,不远游,游必有方”, translation: “If your parents are still alive, don’t travel too far, if you really want to travel, make sure you have a good direction.” It can also be interpreted as Confucius emphasis taking care of the parents but he does not discourage the young man strive on his career if he has defined aims.

7. 小不忍则乱大谋 – Lack of patience in small matters will bring destruction to overall plans
This quote is also translated as “no endurance, no achievements”, it teaches people to look further towards the greater plan rather than current situation, to compromise small matters to fulfillment long term plan.
The recent fight between Trump and Kim Jong un is just ridiculous, they are both lack of the endurance on current oral fighting and ignore the most important goal: peace in this world.

# The misinterpretations from modern Chinese

8. 以德报怨 – return good for evil ?

Chinese people believe in mercy and endurance, this quote means if someone treated us badly like evil, instead of teaching him a lesson, we should return with good deeds hopefully we can influence him so that he no longer behaves evil.

This is probably unbelievable for someone from western culture, you can also interpret it as being coward, and it is very true. It is a dangerous belief, if we act nothing or even better towards the ones who hurt us, we gain no respect from others, no motivation for us to become stronger.

Luckily Confucius is a wise man, people don’t necessary believe anything, they believe only the things that they believe. In this case, Confucius actually said: “以德报怨,何以报德,以直报怨,以德报德”, translation: “If you return evil with good, then what do you use to treat the good people? We should return the evil with justice, and return the good with mercy!”

I have to say, it is quite common in this world that people take half the sentence and ignore the context, which result in misinterpret the truth, especially in media.

9. 愚不可及 – So stupid that nobody can compare?
As mentioned, in modern Chinese, a lot of people refer to the Confucius’ quote to make a solid point, but a lot of times they only took part of the quote and misinterpret the original meaning.

愚不可及is used in modern Chinese to refer that this person is so stupid that no body can compete, actually the original full quote is: 子曰:“宁武子邦有道则知,邦无道则愚;其知可及也,其愚不可及也。”
Translation: There is a guy named Ning wuzi, he acts very reasonable and smart when the country is in peace and reasonable, he pretends to be stupid when the country is in a mess, being smart can be competed by others, (pretend) being stupid is actually so smart that nobody can compete. It is actually a idiom with positive meaning.

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