Stories from Ancient China: The Pursuit of Comfort was Forbidden

November 25, 2008 7:45 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 10:38 pm

In ancient China there was the phrase: 'Moving water does not spoil, and locks and door hinges stay intact from use.' (Peashooter / www.pixelio.de)
In ancient China there was the phrase: 'Moving water does not spoil, and locks and door hinges stay intact from use.' (Peashooter / www.pixelio.de)
Ancient Chinese society considered pursuit of comfort to be as detrimental to man as poisoned wine. Taking too much delight in and pursuit of comfort was looked down on by the people, and regarded as violation of taboo.

A Chinese idiom says, "People live with sorrow and danger, but die from comfort." Though comfort itself does not lead to death, it could very well increase laziness and entice man to weaken his will. Confucius said: "To do nothing after a heavy meal is not good. Could one not at least play a game of chess? Even playing chess is better than being lazy."

And Mencius also had something to say on the topic: "When people enjoy good food and warm clothes and live a comfortable life, but have no education or culture, they resemble animals. This is of great concern to a saint who is sent to instruct people in the ways of etiquette and morals."

People in old China actually believed comfort to be detrimental. To live a comfortable life without education, knowledge and cultural pursuits can lead people down the wrong path, and make them commit acts that are indistinguishable from those of animals.

Liu Bei, one of the rulers during the Three Kingdom era, once sighed with tears in his eyes, "During the past I had always sat on the back of a horse and had no flesh on my legs. Now that I no longer ride, the flesh has returned. Time flows like water. I am old, but have achieved nothing. I cannot do anything else but feel grieved."

Tao Kang, an official during the Jin Dynasty, moved 100 ceramic containers outside in the morning and carried them back in at night. Others were curious and asked why he did it. His reply: "I am trying to do my best for the nation. If I feel too comfortable, I fear I may not have carried out my responsibilities well enough; that is the reason for me being occupied like this." He eventually became governor of eight states and was well-known.

People in ancient China used to say: "Moving water does not spoil, and locks and door hinges stay intact from use."

Ancient Chinese knew that man has only few years to live. If he languishes in comfort, becomes lazy, lacks goals, and becomes passive, then he fears difficulties and his determination ebbs to weakness. When adversity hits, he is unable to make sacrifices, and therefore gains nothing. Engaging too much in pursuit of comfort might bring difficulties; those who are successful are usually strong, diligent and determined.