“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 23

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | April 30, 2013


Unit 23

自(zì) 羲(xī) 農(nóng),至(zhì) 黃(huáng) 帝(dì),
號(hào) 三(sān) 皇(huáng),居(jū) 上(shàng) 世(shì)。
唐(táng) 有(yǒu) 虞(yú),號(hào) 二(èr) 帝(dì),
相(xiāng) 揖(yī) 遜(xùn),稱(chēng) 盛(shèng) 世(shì)。

(1)自(zì): from
(2)羲(xī): This refers to Fu Xi, one of the legendary Three Emperors. Based on the river map, Fu Xi drew the divination symbol chart and established the Fu Xi Eight Diagrams. Fu Xi taught people netting, hunting, fishing, and raising livestock, and he set up the marriage system, created the Eight Diagrams, and made the written agreement to replace the knot-tying method to govern public matters.
(3)農(nóng): This refers to Shen Nong, that is, Emperor Yan, one of the legendary Three Emperors. He has been regarded as the god of agriculture, who taught people cultivation, and the god of medicine, who tasted various grassy plants. He wrote Shen Nong Book on Chinese Herbal Medicine and established Chinese herbal medicine.
(4)至(zhì): to
(5)黃帝(huáng dì): This refers to the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di), whose birth name was Gong Sun, born in the hills of Xuan Yuan, thus also named as Xuan Yuan, setting up a country in You Xiong, thus also named as You Xiong. He defeated the feudal lord Chi You at Zhuolu and was revered as emperor by all the other lords. The Yellow Emperor’s reign was very long. During his reign, the nation was strong, politics were stable, and culture was progressive. There were many inventions and achievements during his time, such as writing, music, counting, court and palace, cart and carriage, garments and the south-pointing chariot, etc. It is said that Yao, Shun, Yu, and Tang were all his descendants, so the Yellow Emperor has been regarded as the ancestor of all Chinese people.
(6)號(hào): is called
(7)三皇(sān huáng): Three Emperors in antediluvian times in the Chinese legend, referring to Fu Xi, Sheng Nong, and the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di)
(8)居(jū): living, staying
(9)上世(shàng shì): antediluvian times
(10)唐(táng): Yao’s dynasty name
(11)有虞(yǒu yú): Shun’s dynasty name
(12)二帝(èr dì): referring to Yao and Shun
(13)揖(yī): give precedence to, give the throne to a person with talent and morality
(14)遜(xùn): give one’s seat to, make place for, resign the throne
(15)盛世(shèng shì): a time of peace throughout the country

Text Explanation
Fu Xi, Shen Nong, and the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) were called the Three Emperors. They lived during the antediluvian times. Tang Yao and Yu Shun were two other emperors. Without selfishness, they passed on the throne to virtuous and capable people, not to their children. Their making a place for those with talent and virtue created a time of peace throughout the country.

Discussion Questions
1. Do you know the story of Fu Xi, Shen Nong, and Yellow Emperor? Why are they called the Three Emperors?
2. Do you know what it is to give precedence to others? What do you think of Yao and Shun handing the throne to those who were capable and not to their bloodline.


The Yellow Emperor’s Dream

In the fifteenth year of his governing reign, the Yellow Emperor felt happy about the support he received from all around. He started to take care of his own health by listening to music, watching dance, and eating delicious food. But eventually he began to look dry and dark, and became light-headed and confused.


During the next fifteen years, for fear that the country was not governed well, the Yellow Emperor exhausted his intelligence and ability to reign. He was still looking dry and dark, was unable to think and had a confused mind. The Yellow Emperor told himself, sighing, “My mistake was too big. Caring for my own health, I got the same result governing the country.” Therefore, he laid down his everyday concerns, withdrew his aide, removed the palace’s musical instruments, reduced the number of cooks and number of meals, and left the palace. He lived in seclusion outside the palace hall. To remove all his heart’s desires, he paid no heed to politics for three months.

One day, he dreamed of patrolling in the country of Hua Xushi (the Realm of Sleep), which was thousands of miles away from China, and could not easily be reached by boat, by cart, or on foot. There were no teachers or officials there; all things ran their own course. People did not have hobbies or desires; all allowed nature to take its course. They did not know the joy of survival or the fear of death, so they did not feel sad about death. They did not know love or the pain of detachment from others, so they did not have love or hatred toward human affairs. They knew neither opposition and rebellion nor approval and obedience, so there was no conflict. They did not have anything worth being partial about, so they did not have anything to dread or abstain from. They would not sink when falling into water; they would not feel the heat when falling into fire. They did not feel pain when cut or whipped; they did not feel itchy when scratching. The air was like walking on flat ground; lying in virtual space was like sleeping in a bed. The fog could not block their vision; the thunder could not deafen their ears, beauty and ugliness did not disturb their minds; the mountain or valley could not stop their passing. All these were divine practices.

After the Yellow Emperor awoke, he felt so content that he summoned his three ministers, telling them, “I tried to live in seclusion for three months to remove desires and to ponder how to take care of my health and rule the government. But I did not obtain any key points. Not until I fell asleep and had a dream out of weariness did I realize that it could not be pursued through desire. I’ve learned it! I’ve got it now! But it’s beyond description.”

Over the next twenty-eight years, the country was in great order just like the country of Hua Xushi. But the Yellow Emperor eventually ascended to heaven. All the people cried sorrowfully at that time.


Writing Reflection
Do you like the description of life in the country of Hua Xushi (the Realm of Sleep)? Why? Please explain.

Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/node/43170


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