“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 2

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | March 29, 2011

Unit 2


昔(xí) 孟(mèng) 母(mǔ),擇(zé) 鄰(lín) 處(chǔ),
子(zǐ) 不(bù) 學(xué),斷(duàn) 機(jī) 杼(zhù)。
竇(dòu) 燕(yān) 山(shān),有(yǒu) 義(yì) 方(fāng),
教(jiào) 五(wǔ) 子(zǐ),名(míng) 俱(jù) 揚(yáng)。


(2)孟母(mèng mǔ):The mother of Meng Zi. She was very particular about the neighborhood where Meng Zi was to be raised, for she believed in the effect of the environment on a child’s development. Later, Meng Zi became a learned scholar because of his good upbringing.
(3)擇(zé):select, choose
(6)子(zǐ):referring to children in ancient times; here indicating the son of Mèng Mǔ
(7)不學(bù xué):skipping school or not studying attentively
(8)斷(duàn):cut open, cut off
(9)機杼(jī zhù):loom;機(jī):wooden frame for weaving;杼(zhù):a weaver’s shuttle
(10)竇燕山(dòu yān shān):another name of Dou Yu-Jun, who was also called Dou Yan-Shan because he lived in Yan Shan. He was known for the method he used to raise and teach his five sons, all of whom passed the imperial civil service examination.
(11)義方(yì fāng):good method, also referring to the righteous principles taught by saints and sages
(12)五子(wǔ zǐ):five sons


Text Translation

Long ago, Meng Zi’s mother moved her family three times while trying to find an appropriate living environment that would motivate Meng Zi in his studies. One time, Meng Zi skipped school and returned home. His mother was so mad that she cut the cloth that was half woven at the loom and scolded him saying, “Learning is like weaving. A fine piece of cloth is made thread by thread, inch by inch. Now that half the cloth has been cut off, I need to start it all over again.” During the age of the Five Dynasties, there was a father named Dou Yan-Shan, who educated his sons using the righteous principles taught by saints and sages. All of his five sons were highly esteemed and earned good reputations.

Discussion Questions

1. What matters most in learning is long-term commitment. Please share with others how you allocate and manage your study time.
2. Please describe a success you have had in learning or life that resulted from perseverance or a long-term commitment.


Dou Yan-Shan Educated His Sons

During the age of the Five Dynasties, in Youzhou, there lived a man known as Dou Yu-Jun. People also called him Dou Yan-Shan because the place where he dwelt was at that time called the country of Yan. Dou’s family was very rich and he often picked on poor people. One night, he dreamed that his father, who had passed away, came to him and told him, “Because of your misconduct and bad deeds, not only will you be without sons, but you will also live a short life. You must change your ways, do good and help others, and then there may still be hope in changing your destiny.” After waking up, Dou Yan-Shan kept his father’s words in his heart at all times. He no longer did bad things and even helped local people establish a school with great teachers for the poor. Once he picked up a bag of silver in a shop by accident and then waited a whole day in order to return it. When the owner of the silver came back, he gave it to him untouched.

Then one night Dou Yan-Shan again dreamed of his father. This time his father said, “You have done many good deeds, so God will give you five sons and your life shall be extended. When Dou woke up, he took it as a dream, but he still did even more good deeds. Later, his wife really did give birth to five sons. Dou put great emphasis on their education, teaching them the righteous principles taught by saints and sages. Under his tutelage, his five sons passed the imperial civil service examination all in the same year. News of their achievements spread among the villagers, and Dou and his sons became well known throughout the country.

Writing Reflection

1. Please talk about how you think Dou Yan-Shan changed his destiny.
2. What is it about Dou Yan-Shan and his five sons that people throughout the country admired?

Traditional Chinese: http://big5.zhengjian.org/articles/2007/1/22/41902.html
Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/1/22/41902.html


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