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Raising children to be successful 培养孩子成材

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

How can we raise our children to be successful when they grow up?

怎样才能培养孩子成材呢?

Parents nowadays know only to ask that their children be diligent at school work and extracurricular arts and skills, thinking that if they learn well they will be successful in life. Parents don’t make any other demands on children at all, thinking that time that children could otherwise have spent on “learning” will be “wasted”. Of course, to be a responsible child, he must be diligent at school work and the extracurricular activities his parents enroll him in. The responsibility that he shoulders there, however, is only responsibility to be good to himself. That is not enough. To raise a child into a successful person, the most important thing is to let him learn how to shoulder responsibility for serving others and being good to others. If a person doesn’t know how to serve others and be good to others, no matter how outstanding he has been at his school work and extracurricular arts and skills when young, he will not be successful either in career or in family life. Of course, shouldering responsibility for serving others and being good to others should begin at home. Therefore, for a child to become a successful person, he must be required to help the family.

现在的父母们,只知道要求孩子学业和课余文艺用功,以为学习得好,便会成材了。完全不对孩子作出任何其他要求,认为那样做会“浪费了”孩子应该用来“学习”的时间。当然,孩子一定要用功于学业和父母安排的课余文艺,才能算得为一个负责的孩子,但是,他那里负起的责任,只不过是对自己好的责任,是不够的。让孩子成材,最重要就是让他学到负起为他人服务、对他人好的责任。一个人如果不懂得怎样为他人服务、对他人好,少时学业和课余文艺再好,也不能在事业上或家庭生活中成功的。孩子学习负起为他人服务、对他人好的责任,当然是从家里做起。所以,要孩子成材,一定要让他帮助家庭。

From the earliest age on a child must help with home chores and help keep the house clean. Even if there are servants in the house, he must not carelessly throw things around or set things down just anywhere. He must carefully put away his clothes and his things, and pick up after himself. If a child has younger siblings then he has lots of opportunity to shoulder responsibility for being good to others: a child must help parents look after his younger siblings. Even when there are servants looking after the physical needs of the younger siblings, he must help parents look after the mental and learning needs of the siblings. When a child grows older he must help with the family livelihood - how? Whether his parents are employees or business owners, he must help make his parents’ job and going to work easier, more convenient, even if it’s with small details, such as Huang Xiang of old who warmed his father’s bed in winter and cooled the bed in summer. Also, parents must let the child know the situation at work or in the business, so that he may think of ways, even if they concern only small details, to make the family’s livelihood even better. Therefore, whether rich or poor, parents can always make a child shoulder responsibility for being good to others.

从小孩子就要帮助家务、要帮助保持屋子清洁,尽管家里有佣人,也不能随便乱抛东西、放东西,也要小心地放置衣服和物件,收拾起自己的东西。有弟弟或妹妹的话就最容易有机会从小负起对他人好的责任,孩子一定要帮助父母照顾弟妹。尽管有佣人照顾弟妹们的起居生活,也要帮助父母照顾弟妹们精神上和学习上的需要。孩子长大了一点,就要帮助家计,怎样呢?父母是打工或做生意都好,孩子都需要帮助父母,让他们工作、上班方便,尽管是帮助细节,好像历史上的黄香为父亲冬天暖被、夏天凉席一样。同时父母也需要使孩子知道父母在外工作或生意的情况,让他尽管是在细节上可以为父母想主意,出办法,使家计更好、更完善。所以,无论家庭是富有还是贫穷,都可以让孩子负起帮助家庭的责任。

Raising a child to be a responsible and useful person by having him help the family is worth having the grades go down a point or two. Actually, I think that by shouldering responsibility to help the family, a child will inevitably learn self-discipline and the ability to independently manage time, and so school work and extracurricular arts and skills will be learnt even better, not worse. Time spent on helping the family will have no negative impact, only a positive one.

培养孩子做个负责任、有用的人,就算帮助家庭会使学业分数低一两分,也是完全值得的。何况,我认为孩子负起帮助家庭的责任,必然会学到自我纪律和独立掌握时间的能力,学业和课余文艺只会更优秀了,用于帮助家庭的时间完全不会有负面影响,只会有正面影响。

Of course, when the child helps the family, the parents must give recognition and praise. Also, when there are younger siblings, the parents must strictly demand that the younger siblings respect and obey the older siblings.

当然,孩子帮助家庭,父母应该给于认可和赞赏。同时,有弟妹时,父母就一定要严格要求弟妹们尊敬和服从哥哥、姐姐。

This way, the child will have self-respect - after all, he is a very useful person! Knowing how to shoulder responsibility, serving others and being good to others, he will possess what in traditional China is known as “xiao” or being good to parents, and what in the West is very important whether in admission to elite colleges or promotion at work and is known as “leadership skills”. In traditional China, character and conduct has always been considered more important than academics, as in the saying “after achieving right conduct, then if there’s energy left over one may use it to study books”. Nowadays in the West “emotional quotient” or “E.Q.” is considered more important than intelligence quotient or I.Q. It’s quite clear to me that to raise children to grow up to be successful people, one must not only look at school work and extracurricular arts and skills but also must require children to help the family.

这样,孩子便有自尊心,他毕竟是个很有用的人啊!他懂得怎样负起责任,他懂得怎样为他人服务,对他人好,他便拥有传统中国所谓的“孝”和西方无论高校录取或企业升职都重视的所谓“领导技能”(leardership skills)。传统中国一向都是认为品行比读书重要,所谓“行有余力则以学文”,而现在西方则认为“情商”(E.Q.)比智商(I.Q.)重要;培养孩子成材不能只看到学业和课余才艺,也要要求孩子帮助家庭这个道理,对我来说,是很明显的。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Bringing Up Good Children with Di Zi Gui
用《弟子规》养育好孩子

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

It’s so nice to see a Mom discover Di Zi Gui for herself and her children! Back in the ’80’s I discovered the same thing: I read Di Zi Gui and I went, “Wow! This is exactly what my kids need! This is what I’ve gotta teach them!” They were newborn, 5 and 7 then.

真开心,看到一位母亲为自己和孩子们发现了《弟子规》!八十年代时,我也发现了同样的东西:我看了《弟子规》后说,“哗!这正是我孩子们所需的东西!这正是我须要教他们的东西!”当时他们是:刚出生、五岁、和七岁。

Back then, to teach my North American-born kids I had to translate the work myself, write the Cantonese pronunciation in English next to the Chinese words so my kids can recite the Chinese, and with scissors and much photocopying create my own bilingual textbooks.

当年,为了教我北美洲出生的孩子们,我要自己把文章翻译, 为了让他们能够把原文诵读,要在汉字旁写上广州话的英语字母拼音,又要用剪刀和复印机来创造我自己的双语教材书。

My 4 little ones have all been good as children, they have grown up to be pretty nice people, and, I risk sounding like a cocky parent but I have to put this in: they all got into good colleges - McGill, Harvard, and 2 in Stanford.

四个孩子,小时候都是好孩子,长大了都相当善良,同时,虽然不想做个夸耀自己孩子的家长,但还是要说,他们都进了不错的大学:麦克吉尔、哈佛、两个入斯坦福。

And I credit a lot of it to Di Zi Gui. I think studying Di Zi Gui has not only given them a moral mooring, but has also given them a sense of pride and identity in their Chinese heritage, a quiet self esteem and self confidence that drives them to always do their best, and an inner strength that helps them overcome setbacks and adversity.

这一切我认为《弟子规》功劳很大。学习《弟子规》,不但给了他们道德的指南,也给了他们对自己中华血统的自豪感和认同感,使他们有自尊心和自信心,因而凡事都尽力而为,还使他们有内在的力量,来克服挫折和艰难。

Since then I’ve taught some of my Mandarin-speaking friends’ teenage kids, requiring me to also write in the Mandarin Pronunciation, and now I’ve been teaching it to teenagers. Also I’ve put my bilingual texts online so other people can take advantage of the wonderful Chinese intellectual heritage. Here’s the link: www.tsoidug.org/dizigui.php

之后,我教过几位说普通话的朋友们的十几岁儿女,就把普通话拼音符号也写上了,现在则教其他十几岁的少年。同时,我把我的双语教材放在网上,让其他人都可以享受这个优良的中华思维传统。网址是: www.tsoidug.org/dizigui.php

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Xiao is not Just Duty   孝不限于义务

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

People ask me why I translate xiao as being good to parents and not being dutiful to parents or being dutiful as a son or daughter. It’s because xiao is more than just duty; it is a whole way of living one’s life. Xiao Jing, the first and most authoritative Confucian work on xiao, says that the xiao of people occupying various positions in society, such as emperors, ministers, officers, commoners, and so forth, is to be good at their callings. Xiao Jing also says that to be xiao, one must not only serve and provide for one’s parents well, but must also engage in good conduct both inside and outside the family.

有人问我,为什么把孝翻译为“对父母好”而不是“对父母尽义务”或“执行子女的义务”呢?这是因为孝不单是义务,孝是整个生活的方式。《孝经》是孔教解说孝的最早和最具权威性的经典;它说,社会不同地位的人,例如天子、大臣、吏士、庶人等,他们的孝,都是要把自己的职责做好。《孝经》又说,要孝就不光只是供养侍奉父母好,还须要家庭内外的行为都好。

Also, being dutiful often conjures up grim-faced carrying out of some painful task or of some sort of sacrifice, but xiao also includes the normal day-to-day life, the normal day-to-day interactions with parents, some of which may be joyful, like playing and not drudgery. One example is keeping parents up-to-date on one’s activities and situation, which is one of the demands of xiao (see verse 12, p.7 Xiao Jing : often truly xiao offspring have such a good relationship with the parents that updating them means enjoyable and relaxing conversation that all parties look forward to. Another example is respectfully listening when parents teach: offspring should have a relation with parents healthy enough that offspring realize the teaching from parents are greatly beneficial and something to look forward to. Teaching by parents can be fun and enjoyable: I remember well myself looking forward to and greatly enjoying the Sunday afternoon teaching of Chinese classics by my father to my brothers and me as young children.

另外,“尽义务”令人联想起辛苦的事务或某样的牺牲,但孝也包括普通的日常生活,跟父母普通的日常相处。这些都不一定是劳工,亦有愉快、好像是玩游戏的。例如孝要求子女对父母报道活动和情况:很多时候真正孝的子女跟父母关系很好,报道就是个很开心、很轻松、双方都盼望的会话。另一个例子就是孝要求,父母教导时要恭敬会心地听。子女跟父母的健康关系应该达到这个程度:子女们知道父母教导是非常有益的、应该欢迎的,而父母的教导,是可以有乐趣的,令人愉快的。我记得小孩子时,爸爸每星期日教我和我哥哥学古文,我那时觉得这教导多么好玩、多么令人盼望。

Therefore, I feel xiao is better translated as “being good to parents”.

所以,我觉得把孝翻译为“对父母好”比较适合一些。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Earthquake victims

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

With a heavy heart we think of the victims of the earthquake in China: the dead, the missing, the homeless, the dispossessed, and their families. Likewise we mourn the victims of the cyclone in Myanmar. These are sad, sad tragedies. So many lives, wiped out or severely damaged. No one who is associated with Asia could be untouched by these calamities.

In fact, the whole world is touched, and moved. I was in Paris recently, and when I told the cab driver, who was originally from Mali in Africa, that I was Chinese he said, “Ah, yes, the great earthquake – so sad!” When I went to visit the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris as a tourist the priests at Mass were praying for the victims of the earthquake in China. Great indeed is the feeling of brotherhood among people all over the world!

Di Zi Gui tells us that “We must love all who are human: we are covered by the same sky and borne by the same earth.” In this admonition to universal love and charity traditional Chinese culture is no different from traditional Western culture, where the admonition is to love all humans because they are all children of God.

May the earthquake victims be comforted; may they know that the whole world thinks of them.

Feng Xin-ming


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Xiao 孝 Has Never Meant Blind Obedience or Blind Submission

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

There is a totally unfounded idea among a lot of people that xiao means blind obedience. Why, just the other day someone came up to me and said, we can’t just say xiao; we’ve got to say xiao for modern people, because nowadays you can’t have just blind obedience. Goodness! Does xiao mean blind submission to authority? Is that what the sages have taught?

No, definitely not. As we can see from just Di Zi Gui (“Rules for Students”) alone, even such a text, meant to be a primer for children, teaches that parents may be wrong sometimes. Moreover, Di Zui Gui teaches that when parents are being unrighteous, xiao requires offspring to remonstrate and dissuade. Di Zi Gui (see P. 9) actually spends a lot of time on how to remonstrate and dissuade, and on persisting in doing so even if one incurs wrath and punishment from one’s parents.

One of the most important Confucian works, the “Annotations to the Thirteen Classics (十三經注疏)”, says that there are three things that are very un-xiao, and one of them is to blindly obey one’s parents even when there is error and thus to entrap one’s parents in moral unrighteousness. (於禮有不孝者三,事謂阿意曲從,陷亲不義,一不孝也。)

In Xiao Jing (孝經), when Confucius is asked whether if a son is obedient to his parents, then he should be considered xiao, Confucius says, “What kind of talk is that? What kind of talk is that? (是何言歟?是何言歟?)” Then he goes on to explain that having a son who will remonstrate and dissuade keeps a father from falling into moral unrighteousness.

Thus, no, xiao has never meant blind obedience and blind submission, not in the old days, and not now.

Feng Xin-ming


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More Re: Honesty

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

(“Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20.)

Today I read in this article that Asian countries, while enamored with China’s economic power and peaceable overtures, are nonetheless repelled by China’s “opaque domestic politics and LACK OF BUSINESS ETHICS (capitals mine).” According to the article, today’s prevalent Asian view of China and Chinese conduct is this:

…it is everything goes—precisely because, yes, everything goes—no good credit checking system, no well-placed fear of violating good norms, one can get away with cheating, et cetera.

Good grief! For a country that has for millennia prided itself on being “the Land of Courtesy and Integrity,” is this not utterly shameful? What happened to the legendary Chinese businessman’s reputation for honesty? What happened to the traditional Chinese practice of trustworthiness, of xin 信?!

Well, it is the sad, sad story of a proud, upstanding culture, having sunk into degeneracy during the twentieth century. It is the sad, sad story of a brilliant thousands-year old code of ethics wrongly blamed for the backwardness of its adherents, the Chinese under the imperial dynasties, who would actually have been far more backward had it not been for exactly this code of ethics. In probably the greatest erroneous verdict in human history, this marvelous code has been rejected and wrongly condemned by its very beneficiaries, the Chinese themselves. It is time that this code of ethics, much of it expressed in succinct form by Di Zi Gui, be re-embraced by the very descendants of those who have created it in millennia past.

Yes, today’s Chinese must return to these ethics if China is to regain its stature and the high respect rightfully accorded China by other countries during centuries past.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 5

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

(“Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Of course, in traditional China, back in the old days, it was of utmost importance to educated people that they were honest and trustworthy. “Without trustworthiness a person has no standing (人無信不立).” Promises were considered things a Good Man must keep: “A promise from a Good Man is worth a thousand ounces of gold (君子一諾千金).” There were many moving stories of people in traditional China who made big sacrifices to carry out their promises.

Of course, honesty and keeping promises was legendary among traditional Chinese merchants and businessmen back in the old days. One mutual salute (they didn’t shake hands back then) and the deal was as good as gold. That trustworthiness and integrity had been one big factor why Chinese businessmen had been so successful in Southeast Asia.

Yes, when a country is rich and powerful, as China has been back in the old days, its people tend to be honest and trustworthy. Of course, that’s because the people being honest is a major factor, perhaps even the decisive factor, in enabling the country to be rich in the first place.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 4

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

One thing that has struck me living in the US versus living in Canada is that in the US people generally place more value on honesty in their everyday dealings and in their outlook. For example, during the impeachment of President Clinton, most Americans I talked to, even strong Democrats, were quite incensed that President Clinton had been dishonest during the investigation of his sex scandal. It was very instructive: people were not angry at his sex scandal but at his attempts to mislead. In contrast, during the Quebec Liberal government corruption scandal in Canada, in response to the outcry from the opposition parties, Prime Minister Chretien came right out in public and said to the media, “So we tried to cover up some bribes, so what?!” And Canadians thought that it was fine to have a little dishonesty as long as it helped fight Quebec separatism. Another example is the way people view professional hockey: there’s a lot of fighting, illegal checking from the back, and other such non-rule-abiding behavior that have been very important to winning in professional hockey. Professional hockey is immensely popular in Canada, and most Canadian hockey fans I’ve talked to say that fighting and illegal checking is part of the sport. On the other hand, professional hockey is not very popular in the US because Americans can’t stand all that fighting and rule breaking. In fact, to get hockey to become more popular in the US, back in the 1990’s professional hockey have made a lot of rule changes such that fights and illegal checking are now much rarer. Thanks to the US market, the once commonplace “bench-clearing” fights, where everyone on both teams come onto the ice to fight, have now disappeared. Moreover, in day-to-day dealings with people, with businesses, with institutions, I’ve found that people in the US are stricter about honesty, especially people who are more educated and have higher social status.

Why is that? It got me thinking. I think it’s because the US is the country with the most free-market leaning ideology in the world. Now in free markets people make a living by providing service or merchandise to their customers, not by fawning upon some politically powerful figure, getting into his good graces, and then having him give you some kind of lordship over economic resources, as happens in command economies and socialistic countries. Therefore in market economies one must be trustworthy, sell honest merchandise and charge honest prices, not taking advantage of even the very aged or the very young. Only then can there be exchange of equal values, exchange of mutual benefit, and prosperity and wealth in the society as a whole. If one uses trickery and deception to cheat others of the fruits of their sweat and toil, instead of using one’s own sweat and toil to create concrete benefits with which to exchange with others for the fruits of their sweat and toil, then how can the market continue? The market order will be destroyed, as will prosperity and the whole social order. That’s why free markets value honesty and despise dishonesty.

That’s why honesty is especially important for success and happiness for people who live in market economies.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 3

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

edited Nov. 22, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Some people ask, you keep talking about honesty leading to success and happiness, but don’t you get fleeced and stabbed in the back if you are too honest? Ah yes! Isn’t the honest person the one who is poor? Doesn’t it take some deviousness, if not outright deceit, to become rich and successful?

No, no, being honest doesn’t mean that one will get fleeced. Being honest doesn’t mean one doesn’t perform due diligence and checking things out before one buys something. And how does one check things out? It’s easy in countries with a free market: you just go out and do some shopping around! Get some bids! There’s an old Chinese saying: not to fear that you do not know the merchandise, just compare merchandise with merchandise (不怕不識貨,只要貨比貨). Once you do some comparison shopping, you will know whether something is worth it or not.

And being honest doesn’t mean you tell everyone in the world your trade secrets and your weaknesses. Being honest means you don’t lie to people, but doesn’t mean you can’t keep secrets. How can a person be trustworthy if he can’t even safeguard some secrets? So, what do you do when someone asks you about something you don’t want to tell them and still be honest with them? Simple, be honest, and tell them, “Sorry, but that’s confidential.” Or, “Sorry, but I can’t tell you.” Just be honest and tell them the truth; don’t be afraid that will offend them, but be sure to be polite and apologize; people will respect you for your honesty even if they are miffed at your refusal. At least you have been polite and you have apologized! They surely should understand, and if they are so mean-minded that they take offense, they are probably not upright people anyways and therefore not worthwhile dealing with. There’s no need to be “devious,” nor is there need to be deceitful and lie. In a country where people rely on the free market, such honesty is valued as a sign of reliability, as a sign that the person is “good to deal with.”

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 2

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

edited Nov. 22, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Now let us look at why honesty leads to success and happiness in life.

It’s all because the fundamental feature of human society is mutual help. Thus, to be as successful as one’s ability warrants, one must maximize both the help one gives to others and the help others give to one. Of course, a lot of this occurs as buying and selling, including the buying and selling of labor, i.e. going to work for an employer, and a lot of this occurs as non-monetary mutual help among family and friends.

No matter, for the mutual help to be maximized, one must give an open and complete picture of what one can offer. Only thus can one maximize one’s “customers,” whether monetary or non-monetary, whether stranger, acquaintance, friend, relative or family.

Only thus then can one maximize one’s return, again whether monetary or not. When one helps others, others will help one. With monetary mutual help things are priced beforehand with each exchange, with non-monetary mutual help among friends and family things are fixed beforehand as part of the Cardinal Obligations (see my blogs Mar. 2 – April 5, 2007). Either way, for others to help us maximally, they must be able to see clearly what our needs are. Only by being open and honest with them can they best help us.

It’s a mutual help world out there, and to be as successful and happy as one’s ability warrants, one must be honest.

Feng Xin-ming


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