“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 17

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | July 19, 2011


Unit 17

孝(xiào) 經(jīng) 通(tōng),四(sì) 書(shū) 熟(shóu),
如(rú) 六(liù) 經(jīng),始(shǐ) 可(kě) 讀(dú)。
詩(shī) 書(shū) 易(yì),禮(lǐ) 春(chūn) 秋(qiū),
號(hào) 六(liù) 經(jīng),當(dāng) 講(jiǎng) 求(qiú)。

(1) 孝經(xiàon jīng):Classic of Filial Piety; this work records sayings and discussions of Confucius and Zeng Zi about how an emperor governs the world with filial piety
(2) 通(tōng):understand thoroughly
(3) 熟(shóu):be familiar with, pore over
(4) 如(rú):(classics) such as, for example
(5) 六經(liù jīng):six classics, here referring to Classic of Poetry (詩經), Classic of History (書經), Classic of Changes (易經), Classic of Rites (禮記), Spring and Autumn Annals (春秋) and Classic of Music (樂)
(6) 始(shǐ):(not until…) then, (only when…) can
(7) 詩書易(shī shū yì):referring to Classic of Poetry (詩經), Classic of History (書經), and Classic of Changes (易經)
(8) 禮春秋(lǐ chūn qiū):referring to Classic of Rites (禮記), and Spring and Autumn Annals (春秋)
(9) 號(hào):are the so-called
(10)講求(jiǎng qiú):study intensively and carefully

Text Explanation
It is only when the Four Books (The Analects of Confucius, The Mencius, The Great Learning, and The Doctrine of the Mean) are learned and thoroughly understood and when The Classic of Filial Piety is pored over can the six classics be studied. The Classic of Poetry, Classic of History, and Classic of Changes as well as the Classic of Rites and Spring and Autumn Annals (plus Classic of Music) are the so-called six classics. They should be studied intensively and carefully.

Discussion Questions
1. What are the Four Books and the Six Classics?
2. Why are these books of Confucianism so important?
3. Why should they be studied in different orders?


Wang Xiang’s Filial Piety

This is one of the twenty-four filial piety stories in Chinese history. Chinese traditional culture emphasizes that "filial piety comes first of all good deeds." Wang Xiang, the story’s character, shows the greatest act of filial piety, which enables him to obtain happiness in his old age. His deed also reflects the truth of two old sayings—"People who accumulate good deeds must have a lot of blessings," and "Good is rewarded with good."

Wang Xiang was born in Lingyi, Lang Xie in the Jin Dynasty. His birth mother passed away when he was very young. His stepmother Zhu, selfish and mean, hated Wang Xiang repugnantly and often whipped him for no reason. Zhu also spoke ill of and brought false charges against him. Gradually his father disliked him and asked him to sweep the barn every day or do all kinds of arduous work. Nevertheless, Wang Xiang did not resent his parents but was even more scrupulous and filial.

When his parents were sick, Wang Xiang cared for them without taking much rest. He always tasted the herb medicine before serving it to his parents. He always waited on his parents respectfully to satisfy their needs. On a cold snowy day, his stepmother wanted to eat fresh fish. Although the river was frozen, Wang Xiang took off his clothes and lay down against the ice in order to let his body heat melt the ice so that the carp would appear. God helps those who help themselves. The ice river split, and out jumped a pair of carp. His filial piety had since been praised highly and became known around the nation.

In the last year of the Shuhan Dynasty, Wang Xiang’s father passed away. At that time, it was chaotic everywhere. Wang Xiang protected his stepmother and younger brother, escaped from calamity and resided in Lujiang secretly for 30 years. The government attempted to recruit him as an official, but Wang Xiang turned down the offer for the reason that his stepmother was old and his brother was young. He took care of them with all his heart until his stepmother passed away. Following ritual, he completed the funeral and remained in mourning for his parent. The governor of Xuzhou Province, Lu Qian, recognized his filial piety and wanted to recruit Wang Xiang as an adjunct of the provincial governor. But Wang Xiang refused to take the offer. Not until his brother, Wang Lan, persuaded him to accept the offer and prepared for him the vehicle and cattle did Wang Xiang promise to take his post. At that time, robbers and bandits ran amuck. Wang Xiang led soldiers to conquer them so that the people of Xuzhou could lead good and prosperous lives.

Later Wang Xiang was promoted to be Tai-bao, the third highest minister among the three ministers serving the Emperor, and he was dubbed the Duke of Sui Ling after his death. He died at the age of 85 with five children. He was wealthy, long-lived, and his whole family had auspicious fate. It was said that he was blessed for his filial piety.

Writing Reflection
1. What do parents do for their children?
2. There are many ways to fulfill filial piety. What is your way?
3. Please share with others a story about filial piety.

Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/4/1/43093.html


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