Archive for October, 2007

Mistaken Worldview, Mistaken Portrayal of Reality

Monday, October 29th, 2007

“The New Marriage Life (新結婚生活),” a Chinese soap opera series recently shown on Chinese TV KTFS Bay Area is really sinister in its concluding episode: the hero, a very successful college graduate and executive who throughout the series shows a lot of compassion for his peasant older brother and goes to great lengths to help him, actually only does so because of feeling guilty about having cheated the older brother out of going to college so that the hero has been able to! And the soap opera shows this dishonest man, who has flagrantly violated all morality and ethics, is absolutely forgiven in the show and enjoined not to tell the older brother, just to keep helping him. Alas, where is uprightness? Where is integrity? The whole cheating of one’s older brother out of his due is portrayed as being natural and expected – after all, when faced with the choice of either vicious, deliberate cheating of family or not going to college and thus staying a peasant, isn’t one supposed to choose the former? Isn’t life all against one and one against all? Isn’t it the law of the jungle, even when it comes to family? Oh woe! Oh what a terrible worldview!

Yes, when you expect others to be immoral, you then can act immorally yourself, since you are just protecting yourself and at worse you are just doing unto them what they would do unto you anyway. This worldview, this portrayal of reality is most pernicious. In fact of course, it is a mistaken worldview and a mis-portrayal of reality because, as we have pointed out in previous blogs (e.g. April 2, 2007), life is actually based on mutual help. Human society is based on mutual kindness, and is the diametrical opposite of the dog-eat-dog world.

Feng Xin-ming


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The True Chinese Worldview is a Bright and Sunny One

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Due to a number of reasons, for a lot of Chinese people, not just ones born here in North America, the very term authentic Chinese culture conjures up a gloomy worldview of a cruel, nasty world around us and distrust of that world. True, there are a few folk sayings that preach suspicion of others. Here’s one: honest people will end up being beggars (忠忠直直,終須乞食). A widely known tract of folk sayings, “Accumulating Wide Wisdom” or 增廣賢文 zeng guang xian wen, offers this one: do not believe in the honesty behind honesty, one must be on guard against kindness not being kindness (莫信直中直,須防仁不仁). It’s a dog eat dog world out there, according to these sayings that pretend to be, oh, so worldly wise. And nowadays, when it has become popular to denigrate what has been traditional Chinese, such cynicism has been taken to represent mainstream Chinese culture. Alas! Alack! That worldview cannot be more wrong!

Yes, it’s time to talk about worldview. Just like in any other culture, in Chinese culture there are a few mistaken, cynical, worldly wise folk sayings handed down from the days of old, but Confucius has never endorsed such ideas, nor have they been the mainstream in traditional Chinese culture. There are a lot more folk sayings that are correct, that reflect the correct, mainstream traditional Chinese culture of Confucianism.

The true Confucius’ worldview is a bright and sunny one, a kind and secure one. As the ubiquitous Confucian primer in traditional Chinese society, “The Three Character Classic” or 三字經 san zi jing, says so optimistically in its opening sentence, “People’s nature is good to begin with (人之初,性本善).” Under the traditional Chinese, Confucian order, everyone enjoys the benefits and obligations due him or her from the Five Cardinal Relations, and if we add the Cardinal Relation between buyer and seller as proposed by me, then everyone has all kinds of people doing all kinds of good for him or her. There is no need to be insecure or afraid, and there is no cause to be cynical or suspicious.

Feng Xin-ming


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Incorporating authentic Chinese culture into Daily Life

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

I’ve been asked by persons of Chinese ethnicity who are born in North America to write about incorporating authentic Chinese culture into daily life here in North America.

Well, the first thing about authentic Chinese culture is what I’ve been blogging about for the last few blogs: xiao, or being good to one’s parents. Traditionally, it also involves being good to one’s ancestors. See my paper on this website, 24 Ways to Carry out Xiao, for ways to be good to one’s parents and ancestors. Also, see The Classic of Xiao, written by one of Confucius’ disciples 2,500 years ago.

Carrying out xiao is the most important way to incorporate authentic Chinese culture into one’s daily life here in North America. In fact, all persons of Chinese ethnicity, no matter where they live, should do that. Actually, one doesn’t have to be of Chinese ethnicity, one can be of any ethnicity, and one should do that—everyone should carry out xiao. Whatever one’s ethnicity, religion, place of birth, etc., there should be no difference: it is only moral, just, civilized, and right that one repay the kindness from one’s parents.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Should One be Xiao, or Good to Parents?

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Why should one be xiao, or good to parents? Well, one practical and utilitarian answer is that only by so doing can one get one’s own children to be xiao to onesel. Kids learn mainly by example, and if one is not xiao or good to one’s parents then one can expect one’s own kids too, sooner or later, to not be xiao or good to oneself. Yes indeed, when I was a young boy my grandmother used to admonish my brothers and me: “Those who are xiao and compliant bear xiao and compliant sons; those who are disobedient and defiant bear disobedient and defiant children. (孝順還生孝順仔,忤逆還生忤逆兒。)”

There is another, more compelling case for being xiao: one should be good to parents because one needs to repay, or reciprocate, the kindness from one’s parents. Parents give birth to, raise and educate one, and that is a great kindness, or en- (恩). Indeed, of all people in the world, the persons who have done the most for one are one’s parents. If nothing else, they’ve given one one’s life. Even if they are adoptive parents, they have still raised and educated one. So one owes a huge debt to one’s parents. In traditional China, the repayment or reciprocation of kindness (報恩 bao` en-) is very important; it is considered a strict moral obligation to repay or reciprocate kindness, to bao` en- (see my blog of February 24, 2007). It would indeed be a great moral trespass to forget kindness and renege on one’s obligations. In Chinese, this repayment of the kindness from one’s parents is called bao` da` fu` mu^ en- 報答父母恩. That, according to traditional Chinese thinking, is the reason for being good to one’s parents, for being xiao.

Feng Xin-ming


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Being Xiao 孝: One Should Frequently Update one’s Parents on one’s situation

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Di Zi Gui says that one must “always tell the parents when one goes out, and always see the parents face-to-face when one returns.” Di Zi Gui, p.7. One tells one’s parents when one goes out so that parents wouldn’t worry so much. One always sees one’s parents face-to-face when one returns so that parents could see that one is alright.

Why must one do that? The reason is that parents love their children deeply, and worry and fret about them when their condition is uncertain. Yes, the kindness of parents! As the classic Xiao Jing says, there is no greater kindness than this. So one must lessen their worry and their anxiety, and to do that one must tell one’s parents about one’s condition, including, when one is living at home, reporting to parents when one goes out and when one returns. One must update one’s parents frequently about one’s condition. That is one of the important ways to carry out xiao.

Feng Xin-ming


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