“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 10

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | May 16, 2011


Unit 10


稻(dào) 粱(liáng) 菽(shú),麥(mài) 黍(shǔ) 稷(jì),
此(cǐ) 六(liù) 穀(gǔ),人(rén) 所(suǒ) 食(shí)。
馬(mǎ) 牛(niú) 羊(yáng),雞(jī) 犬(quǎn) 豕(shǐ),
此(cǐ) 六(liù) 畜(chù),人(rén) 所(suǒ) 飼(sì)。


(3)菽(shú): the general name for legumes
(4)麥(mài):wheat, including rye, oats, wheat, and barley
(6)稷(jì):common cereal plant in ancient books, now called sorghum
(7)榖(gǔ): the general name for grains
(8)所(suǒ):a function word used as an auxiliary verb in the passive voice
(12)畜(chù):animal raised by people (livestock)
(13)飼(sì):feed, raise

Text Translation

The Six Grains include rice, millet, legumes, wheat, corn and sorghum. They are eaten as the staple food to help sustain human lives. The Six Animals refer to the horse, the cow, the sheep, the chicken, the dog, and the pig. They are domesticated close to peoples’ homes. It is said that the deities brought Six Animals and Six Grains from heaven down to the earth and taught human beings to raise livestock and cultivate crops after they had survived a great flood. Because of Gods’ mercy, human beings henceforth could become self-reliant. Thus, Six Grains and Six Animals became an essential part of humans’ daily lives.

Discussion Questions

China is big and bountiful. The climate, the environment, and the customs vary in different regions. Therefore, the staple food in each area is also different. What is the staple food in each different region? How are each of the Six Animals useful to human beings?


The Origin of Rice
In very ancient times, there were no rice paddies or houses but only huge wild forests. People at that time lived by hunting wild game and eating wild fruit. One day, the sky seemed to open and torrential rains fell upon the earth for many days. Thus began a flood, which was unprecedented on the earth at that time.

Eventually, the rained stop. Many animals had drowned and the wild fruit had become rotten. Some people were eaten by large animals. Not having food, many starved to death. They could not figure out any way to survive.

However, close by, on an eastern island, there lived many deities. Seeing that the humans were short of food, the deities felt sympathy for them and so held a meeting to figure out ways they could help the humans get through this difficult time.

The meeting resolved that Fu Xi would be sent to teach humans how to raise livestock, and Shen Nong would be sent to teach them how to cultivate crops. The oxen and horse would help till the fields and pull the carts; the sheep would provide milk; and the chickens would provide eggs and help to wake the humans for work every morning. The pig, through eating and sleeping, supplied meat for food. As for the dog, it would loyally look after the home.

The paddy rice in the Gods’ world was originally dense with numerous grains from the root to the rear part on the stalk. Moreover, the mature rice came off the stalk very easily. But here came the question: the rice must be delivered to the human world across the sea. How would such “frail” rice be shipped? And in whose charge?

To prevent the paddy rice in the ship from falling off, the deities decided that the rice must be attached to the deliverer during shipment. They asked if the cow, the horse, the sheep, the chicken, the dog, or the pig was willing to complete this challenging task.

The cow spoke first, “Moo! Moo! I have such a thick bulky body. What I have is simply strength. I am not suitable for the task. I recommend the dexterous Mr. Horse.”

The horse replied, “My body hair is too slick to hold any rice. Let’s ask the chicken to help!”

The chicken shook his head fiercely saying, “Cluck! Cluck! This will not work! I am too small to carry enough rice.”

Then the sheep and the pig also explained their difficulties and refused to take on the task. It was only then that the dog remembered that the humans were almost at the point of starving to death. Tender-hearted, he said, “Woof! Woof! The humans are really pitiable. Let me carry the paddy rice!”

Deities patted him happily and urged him, “Be careful on the way! The amount carried on your body determines how much will grow on the rice stalk in the human world.”

The dog wetted its whole body, rolled back and forth in the grain pile at the barn, and got up with its whole body covered in golden yellow rice. Then this unusual crew set out. On the boundless sea, huge waves washed away the rice on the dog’s body grain by gain. In order to protect the precious rice, the dog hunched its body, set its tail upright, and jumped cautiously over the waves one after another.

After a long and weary journey, the crew finally arrived in the human world. But it was a pity that most of the rice on the dog’s body had been washed away by tall waves. What was left was only the little bit attached to the end of his tail, which he had held up high above the waves throughout the entire journey.

Henceforth, the paddy rice was planted widely in the human world, and so people had fragrant rice to eat. Because the rice that the dog brought was only on the tip of his tail, rice likewise only grew on the tip of the stalks.

Afterwards, humans rewarded the dog by giving him rice to eat as well. But as for the cow, the horse, and the sheep, they could only eat straw. The chicken and the pig could also eat rice.
The dog has been the most loyal friend to humans. Its tail looks like a rice stalk covered with many grains. From this story, we can see that the process of shipping the paddy rice was difficult, just like how a farmer plants the paddy rice. He must expend a lot of wisdom and effort. Therefore, we should treasure each grain of rice and food!

Writing Reflection

1. In addition to being a staple food, what else can rice be used for?
2. Please describe how a farmer grows rice.

Traditional Chinese: http://big5.zhengjian.org/articles/2007/3/2/42496.html
Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/3/2/42496.html


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