“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 16

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | July 19, 2011


Unit 16

作(zuò) 中(zhōng) 庸(yōng),子(zǐ) 思(sī) 筆(bǐ),
中(zhōng) 不(bù) 偏(piān),庸(yōng) 不(bú) 易(yì)。
作(zuò) 大(dà) 學(xué),乃(nǎi) 曾(zēng) 子(zǐ),
自(zì) 修(xiū) 齊(qí),至(zhì) 平(píng) 治(zhì)。

(2)中庸(zhōng yōng):The Doctrine of the Mean, written by Confucius’s grandson, Zi Si, titled as a chapter of The Ritual Records
(3)子思(zǐ sī):Confucius’s grandson, a disciple of Zeng Zi
(4)筆(bǐ):pen, here used as a verb, referring to writing with a pen
(5)偏(piān):slanting or deviating from the center;不偏(bù piān):not deviating from the center, taking the correct path
(7)大學(dà xué):The Great Learning, titled as a chapter of The Ritual Records, written by Confucius’s disciple, Zeng Zi
(8)曾子(zēng zǐ):Confucius’s disciple, Zeng Zi, also named as Zeng Seng, known for his filial piety
(10)修齊(xiū qí):a short term for 修身(xiū shen, practice self-examination) and 齊家 (qí jia, organize the family)
(11)平治(ping zhì):a short term for 治國(zhì gúo, manage the nation) and 平天下(ping tian xìa, govern the world), should be 治平, but stated as 平治 to rhyme with other lines

Text Explanation
The Doctrine of the Mean was written by Zeng Zi. It states the importance of not deviating from the correct path and keeping to the central position. The Great Learning was written by Zeng Zi. It discusses principles and truth from practicing self-examination, organizing the family, managing the nation and governing the world.

Discussion Questions
1. Why do you think the correct path is not taken by some people?
2. It states “自修齊,至平治” (practice self-examination) in the text. Why is practice of self-examination the most fundamental?


Appearance Plus Integrity Makes a Gentleman

One day, while Confucius was resting at home, he said to his son Kong Li with a sigh, “A gentleman must learn. He must titivate himself before meeting others, or he would look sordid. If he looks sordid, he would seem disrespectful to others. If he seems disrespectful to others, he would not be able to live in this world. Those who look radiant at a distance are the ones who have titivated themselves. Those who approach and enlighten others are the ones with great wisdom.”

“Father, what you meant here is that gentlemen must be good at titivating themselves. Yet you also teach me often that gentlemen should maintain themselves as what they truly are. They don’t need to be garish, do they?” Long Li asked.

“Li, you haven’t understood what I meant,” said Confucius. “Elegant appearance is as important as one’s intrinsic qualities. Appearance plus integrity makes a gentleman. If a person is too rustic, he would seem vulgar and barbaric. But one should not put too much emphasis on appearances, either. If one’s appearance speaks louder than his true self, he would become hypocritical and unreal. Those who speak only sweet words or pretend to be nice seldom have any morality. Only when intrinsic qualities match elegant appearance can a person become a gentleman.”

A gentleman is an idol and model to all mortals in Confucianism. But to become one is not an easy task. It requires the balance of appearance and personal qualities, just like the Confucian saying, “With appearance and integrity, one can pass for a gentleman.” There is another saying, “Too much is the same as not enough,” which means that a person cannot be a gentleman if he is too garish or too rustic. The only way to be a gentleman is to strike a balance in between.

Writing Reflection
1. Based on the above-mentioned story, summarize how Confucius told Kong Li about how to be a gentleman?
2. What is the doctrine of the mean? What can we do, so as not to deviate from the correct path?

Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/3/20/42829.html



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