The Lessons from Confucius and Past Emperors Ring True


PureInsight | June 2, 2003

[] The Analects of Confucius is widely considered to be the most influential text in the history of China and East Asia. The Prime Minister during the Northern Song Dynasty, Zhao Pu, claimed that half of the book, The Analects of Confucius, was written as a guide for governance. Zhao's statement is valid. From the beginning of the Han Dynasty, all the Chinese dynasties for the next two thousand years have basically tried to govern the country according to the teachings of Confucius.

Then what is the purpose of the other half of The Analects of Confucius? In the book, Li Ji – Daxue, a disciple of Confucius named Zeng Cen expounded on the topic of cultivating one's character (xinxing), relations with one's family, governing state affairs and developing peace throughout the country. According to Zeng Cen, cultivating one's moral character is the underlying foundation that determines success in these matters. Throughout Chinese history, from royal families to the common folk, people have considered cultivating their character to be fundamental. According to Zeng Cen, to cultivate one's character is to "Examine oneself three times." In plain words, it is to look inside ourselves when we encounter problems in life.

How did the ancient emperors cultivate their character? The Book of Changes says, "The Yellow Emperors, Yao, and Shun, 'dropped their clothes,' and thus the earth under the sun was governed, and all of the states between heaven and earth came under their control." This implies that these emperors cultivated their moral character five thousand years ago during the time of the Three Huang Five Di (Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors), which was two thousand years before Confucius. How do we decipher the meaning of "dropping clothes?" It takes the form of sitting meditation and self-reflection, which implies that when emperors came across important events, they would look inside themselves to see whether they had done something wrong. It is recorded in The Analects that upon passing his power to Shun, Yao said, "The rise and decline of the country now rests with you." Then, upon conveying his power to Yu, Shun had said, "If there were a person in our country who committed a crime, you would ask for punishment from heaven, and frankly admit that it is your error that caused the crime." Thus, from these lessons in history, natural and man-made disasters were considered to have been caused by problems with the emperor's own moral character. Thus, emperors should look inside themselves, ponder over their mistakes, recognize their errors, ask for punishment from Heaven and then clearly proclaim to the country, "The crime has been acknowledged."
Present-day China, recently ruled by Jiang Zemin, has experienced an increasing number of natural and man-made disasters. Rather than following the lessons left by Confucius and previous emperors, Jiang has never admitted his mistakes and wrongdoings, nor asked for punishment from his people. Rather, he has celebrated himself, camouflaged his wrongdoings, deceived the country and placed no value on human life. Take SARS for example. SARS was first identified in Guangdong Province in November of last year. The government officials at the time chose not to publicize the whole story and tell the public how to defend themselves against the disease. Rather, government officials misled the public into believing that the SARS problem had been solved even when SARS was wreaking havoc in Hong Kong and Singapore. At that time, schools in Singapore were being closed because of the rapid transmission of the virus and the U.S. State Department had even allowed its diplomatic envoys stationed in China to return to the United States and warned its citizens not to travel to China. Despite this, the Chinese government still lied to the world and claimed that SARS was completely under control in China.

Though people were celebrating the departure of Death, Death had not really left, but was instead approaching step by step. The lies are just like an invisible knife pressed against the necks of the deceived Chinese people. Though people are afflicted and may even be dying all around them, many Chinese people, to their own detriment, still put their faith in the Chinese Government.

In recent times, the wisdom of traditional Chinese culture has been replaced by atheism, and human life is no longer cherished. The government reasons that stability takes precedence over all matters, and thus the forfeiture of thousands of lives is viewed as acceptable. That SARS came from China and is epidemic elsewhere tells us from another viewpoint that the Chinese Government does not have the well being of others in mind. Rather than the fate of the world's people, their priorities are power, position and fame. If they ignore the warnings signs and continue to place saving face before saving lives, they will accelerate their path towards destruction. They will place in danger not only the citizens of China, but also those of the whole world.

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