“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 8

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | May 16, 2011


Unit 8


曰(yuē) 春(chūn) 夏(xià),曰(yuē) 秋(qiū) 冬(dōng),
此(cǐ) 四(sì) 時(shí),運(yùn) 不(bù) 窮(qióng)。
曰(yuē) 南(nán) 北(běi),曰(yuē) 西(xī) 東(dōng),
此(cǐ) 四(sì) 方(fāng),應(yìng) 乎(hū) 中(zhōng)。

(1)曰(yuē):is called
(6)此(cǐ):this, these
(8)運(yùn):advancing and rotating on a certain path
(9)窮(qióng):ultimate, terminus, stop
(16)乎(hū):in, used as a function word to indicate location, or position within limits

Text Translation
In a year, there are four seasons called spring, summer, fall, and winter. They move forward and rotate on a regular and constant path. East, west, south, and north are called the four directions. Corresponding to the center point, each direction can be determined and distinguished.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why are there different weather changes in the four seasons? Which season do you like? Why?
  2. If you were lost in the mountains or at sea, what would you do?


The Yellow Emperor and the South-Pointing Chariot

Before the compass was invented, the sun and stars in the sky helped people distinguish and identify directions on land. In the evening, the North Star was observed and during the daytime, the shadows of the sun were examined to determine direction.

The compass, papermaking, the printing method, and gunpowder were four important inventions of the Chinese in ancient times. Among them, the compass was invented the earliest. More than 2000 years ago, people already understood how to use the magnet to determine the directions of north and south. Therefore, it is said that the ancient Chinese south-pointing device was the predecessor of the compass. However, much earlier than this, the south-pointing chariot served a similar function.

Over 4000 years ago, around the valleys of the Yellow River and the Yangtze lived many tribal groups. The Yellow Emperor was one of the most famous of all tribal leaders. In the east there was a small but fierce tribal leader named Chi You. Holding a grudge against the Yellow Emperor, he was unwilling to obey the Yellow Emperor's commands. He launched a war against the Yellow Emperor with his 81 brothers. To fight against his tenacious rival who had all kinds of copper weapons, the Yellow Emperor racked his brains working out battle strategies, finally inventing a sharp weapon—the arrow. Also, at that time, the north often had huge sandstorms. To help his soldiers find their way in a sandstorm, he invented the “south-pointing chariot.”

Both armies came to battle in Zhuolu. Although Chi You's soldiers were brutal, they could not withstand the Yellow Emperor’s army. No sandstorm blew, but instead the battlefield was blanketed in a thick fog. The two armies could not clearly distinguish directions. In the Yellow Emperor’s “south-pointing chariot” stood an iron man whose hand always pointed south. With the help of the south-pointing chariot, the Yellow Emperor's army could clearly determine their way through the dense fog. They defeated Chi You and claimed victory. This is known as the “War at Zhuolu.”

Writing Reflection

1. How can we use the sun and stars to tell directions?
2. How does a compass determine directions?

Traditional Chinese: http://big5.zhengjian.org/articles/2007/2/8/42168.html
Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/2/8/42168.html


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