The True Chinese Worldview is a Bright and Sunny One
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.