Stories from History: Self-Respect and Striving to Improve

Hong Yi

PureInsight | November 12, 2006

[] When Fan
Zhongyan was little, his father passed away and his mother married
again. His last name was changed to his stepfather's last name, Zhu. At
that time, Fan Zhongyan was very young and did not know much about it.
Besides, his stepfather was very nice to him. Therefore, he did not
know that he was a stepson.

Fan Zhongyan was a diligent, assiduous and frugal person. But his
stepbrothers were not. They did not study hard and also wasted a lot of
money. Fan Zhongyan tried to persuade them not to do that. In the
beginning, they did not listen to him. Later, they got angry because
Fan Zhongyan kept trying to persuade them to change their ways. They
told Fan Zhonyan, "This is the private matter of the Zhu family. This
has nothing to do with you."

That was how Fan Zhingyan found out that he was not Zhu's descendant.
Even though his stepfather was very nice to him, he still wanted to be
independent. He gathered his belongings and went to study at Ying Tian
Fu in the city of Nanjing where a lot of scholars lived.

Once he arrived in Nanjing, he studied even more diligently. He studied
assiduously day and night. During a period of five years, he slept
without taking off his clothing. He used cold water to wash his face
when he was sleepy. Because he refused to accept his stepfather's
money, he had a very difficult life. He had simple food every day. He
boiled two liters of rice gruel every day. After the gruel cooled down
and became coagulated, he divided it into four blocks. He only ate
twice each day. Once in the morning and once at night. Each time, he
ate two blocks of gruel. He ate a little vegetable. He cut the
vegetables into small pieces, added a little salt and vinegar, and
boiled it.

One of his best friends saw Fan Yanzhong's situation and sympathized
with him. He brought Fan delicious food from home. Fan YanZhong
accepted it very gratefully.

But several days later, his friends found out that Fan YanZhong hadn't
eaten the food he gave him and got very angry. Fan explained to him, "I
very much appreciated your help. The only thing is that I have gotten
used to this simple and hard life. I am afraid that I could not eat the
thick rice gruel anymore after I eat your delicious food. When that day
comes, who will come and help me? "

Self-respect and striving to improve oneself are indispensable
traditional values. The traditional Chinese culture continuously
advocates respecting others. It even more advocates respecting oneself.
Only by achieving self-respect and striving to improve, can one
maintain independence and not be controlled by others under any
difficult circumstances.

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