Archive for December, 2007

We are Witnessing the Beginnings of a Chinese Cultural Renaissance

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Merry Christmas everyone! Hey, I live in the West, and a lot of people I know celebrate Christmas. And traditional Chinese teachings like Confucianism are secular and, as far as I can tell, are compatible with most religions.

Hey, besides Christmas, there’s something else to celebrate: the beginnings of a Chinese cultural Renaissance. Here’s an excerpt from the Tsoi Dug Foundation’s reply to a reader, who wrote wondering if the textual differences on the various Di Zi Gui websites might cause people to doubt and lose faith in the old Chinese teachings:

What has made most people doubt and lose faith in the old Chinese teachings is not the minor discrepancies among texts, which have been recognized and accepted for centuries in China, but the sad fact that during the past century these teachings have been blamed, wrongly of course, for China’s backwardness and despotism.

The good news is that today people are starting to turn back and look at these old Chinese teachings again, and the rediscovery of and renewed interest in Di Zi Gui is just part of this cultural phenomenon. Today we have the good fortune of witnessing the beginnings of a Chinese cultural Renaissance.

Just as in the cultural Renaissance of the West from the 13th to the 17th centuries, one voice cannot a renaissance make. While everyone pulls in the same general direction there will be much diversity, because there will be mass participation. And it will be diversity and mass participation that gives the Chinese Renaissance its strength and vitality. When spring arrives, a hundred flowers will bloom - 春臨大地日,百花齊放時。

Tsoi Dug Foundation

What I like to emphasize is that the popularity of Di Zi Gui in the last few years is part and parcel of the Chinese cultural Renaissance that we are witnessing.

Hurray! Cheers!

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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