Stories from Ancient China: A Man of Insight Must be Morally Upright and Determined

February 25, 2009 1:42 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 10:09 pm
It does not matter if poor or rich, everyone can fulfill their obligation.  (AFP/Frederic J. Brown)
It does not matter if poor or rich, everyone can fulfill their obligation. (AFP/Frederic J. Brown)

Schools nowadays teach more technical knowledge and scant few moral values. Ancient wisdom, though, believes that a person lacking a strong will and high morals, no matter how intelligent, cannot aspire to higher ideals. People who show tolerance and self-discipline bear heavy responsibilities that benefit all of society.

Zeng Zi in ancient China was a wise man that once proclaimed that an insightful man must possess high ethical values. He must have lofty goals, must be decisive and incorruptible, able to carry out the serious responsibilities that are of benefit to society. It would be impossible to fulfill one's responsibilities in the face of adversity unless such a person has ascended to a higher level of moral thought. His best-remembered comment, “Each one has a responsibility toward the nation,” has gone down in the history books. (John Kennedy said something similar: “Ask not what your country can do for you; but ask what you can do for your country.”)

Zeng Zi's saying has been interpreted to mean that it’s people's own responsibility to cultivate virtue and keep the well-being of society in the forefront while poor; and to contribute to society and be generous toward it when financially well-off and belonging to the elite. His idiom eventually became a moral principle that influenced Chinese people throughout history (though not since the Chinese Communist Party’s seizure of power in 1949). Many insightful people in ancient China adhered to this principle, whether they were rich, poor, uneducated or highly educated; they always placed their nation ahead of their personal concerns. It enabled the people to endure hardships, and only last to revel in comfort.

Chinese history abounds with stories of the people's concern for the nation's well-being, even though many individuals lived in dire circumstances.  Insightful people contributed tremendously to the nation's sound health, enabling her development to avoid catastrophes.

Read the original article in German.