“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 20

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | July 19, 2011


Unit 20

曰(yuē) 國(guó) 風(fēng),曰(yuē) 雅(yǎ) 頌(sòng),
號(hào) 四(sì) 詩(shī), 當(dāng) 諷(fèng) 詠(yǒng)。
詩(shī) 既(jì) 亡(wáng), 春(chūn) 秋(qiū) 作(zuò),
寓(yù) 褒(bāo) 貶(biǎn), 別(bié) 善(shàn) 惡(è)。

(1)國風(guó fēng):a genre of The Classic of Poetry, including 160 folk songs of 15 countries in the Zhou Dynasty
(2)雅(yǎ):a genre of The Classic of Poetry, divided into “big” (Da Ya, 31 major festal songs sung at more solemn court ceremonies) and “small” (Xiao Ya, 74 minor festal songs sung at court festivities)
(3)頌(sòng):a genre of The Classic of Poetry, including 40 hymns and eulogies sung at sacrifices to gods and ancestral spirits of the royal house
(4)號(hào):is called
(5)四詩(sì shī):four genres of The Classic of Poetry
(6)諷詠(fèng yǒng):recite, sing
(7)既(jì):already, since, as
(9)春秋(chūn qiū):The Spring and Autumn Annals, written and compiled by Confucius, chronicles over 242 years, having implications of praise and criticism in short and concise writing
(10)作(zuò):produce, make
(11)寓(yù):imply, contain
(14)別(bié):differentiate, discern

Text Explanation
Guo Feng, Da Ya, Xiao Ya, and Song are four genres of The Classic of Poetry, and should be recited and sung. As the Zhou Dynasty declined, The Classic of Poetry was gradually forgotten. Confucius thus wrote and compiled The Spring and Autumn Annals, which contains praise and criticism, and differentiates good from evil.

Discussion Question
1. Confucius once said, “Not studying poems, you won’t have words to use.” Have you ever recited poems? Please share your experience.

2. During troubled times, Confucius wrote The Spring and Autumn Annals to imply praise and criticism, pointing out right and wrong. Do you think it is good to step out and correct the wrong during troubled times? What will you do if those in power have made mistakes?


Ask One and Get Three

When Confucius's son was born, the monarch of the country Lu sent him a carp. Therefore, Confucius named his son Li (a carp) and Bo Yu, meaning the fish given by the monarch of Lu.

Once, Confucius's disciple Chen Kang asked Bo Yu, “Is there any special instruction that your father gave you?” Bo Yu said, “No. Once he stood alone in the garden, and I passed by with quick steps. He asked me, ‘have you studied The Classic of Poetry?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘If you don’t study poems, you cannot grasp the skill of speaking.’ And then I went back to study The Classic of Poetry. Once again he stood in the garden, and I passed by with quick steps. He asked me, ‘Have you studied The Classic of Rites?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ He said, ‘If you don’t study the rites, you cannot base yourself on the society.’ And then I went back to study The Classic of Rites. These two are all I heard from him.” Chen Kang went back and said happily: “Today I asked one thing, but I obtained gains from three aspects: I know the use of poems and the use of the rites, and I know that a gentleman is not partial to his own son.

“Ask One and Get Three” indicates gaining more with fewer questions, i.e. ask few but obtain many.

Writing Reflection
1. Why did Cheng Kang ask Po Yu questions? What feedback did he get?
2. Do you think teachers treat their children and students differently? Please share your experience.
3. After reading the above story, how will you treat prior knowledge?

Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/4/5/43092.html

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