Stories from History: Zhang Zhibai’s Simple Life

September 23, 2014 at 12:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Author: Zhen Yan

[PureInsight.org] Zhang Zhibai lived an uncorrupted and simple life. When he was the prime minister for Emperor Song Ren Zhong, he lived just like an ordinary person. He was very happy and content. Many advised him to change his lifestyle and follow the trend so he would not be criticized as a hypocrite.

People around him said, “You make very good salary, but your life is so simple and frugal. Why do you do that?”

Zhang Zhibai replied,” I heard that one gets more enjoyment out of a simple life. With my salary, I can easily provide the best food and clothing for my entire family. My common sense tells me that it is easy to change from a simple lifestyle to a luxurious lifestyle. However, it is extremely hard to change back and live a simple life again. Can my salary last forever? Can my life last forever? If my family members get used to a luxurious life, once I die, how are they going to adjust to a frugal life? As it is now, whether I have my job or not and whether I am here or not won’t make any difference to my family. They live the same way.”

People admired him for his vision and understanding after hearing that.

Later, when he was seriously ill, the emperor came to visit him. His wife dressed in simple and inexpensive clothing to receive the emperor. In his bedroom, the emperor saw old worn- out curtains, quilts, and bedding. The emperor sighed and admired his character for a long while and then asked someone to immediately bring him new replacements for everything in his bedroom.

For the later generations, anyone who wanted to cultivate an uncorrupted character would take him as a model.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/8/2/45092.html

Great Wisdom

September 23, 2014 at 12:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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[PureInsight.org] Han Qi, a high ranking official from the Song Dynasty, once said, “We should treat a superior man and an inferior man alike: with sincerity. If we know he is inferior, just getting acquainted with him should be enough.” Usually, when ordinary people meet an inferior person who is deceiving others, they will expose his scheme.  However, Han Qi was different. He knew clearly the bad thoughts of an inferior man, but he would tolerate it and would not show it.

Everyone likes to be with superior people and it is easy to be sincere with them. However, it is much harder to deal with inferior people. The mentality of ordinary people is that if you are nice to me, then I’ll be nice to you; if you are not nice to me, why should I be nice to you?  In that way, when we see that others are having a problem, we point it out bluntly. As a consequence, this will make the inferior man angry and look for the opportunity to hurt us.

We do not tolerate others for their mistakes or impurity because we consider ourselves clean and pure. Actually, this is due to that fact that we have not assimilated virtue deeply into our heart.  We should observe others and not expose their shortcomings.  When we disclose other’s weaknesses, we express our dislike and our contempt for others. The motive to do this comes from our indifference and resentment.  We do not have the compassion to help others. If we can maintain a calm heart and are not concerned what others may think, we will not be so concerned about the strengths and weaknesses of others.

It is the same when we are having conflicts in our official or personal interactions with others. If we cannot tolerate other’s shortcomings, we are more likely to have enemies.  Even among friends, you reject others and others reject you. Eventually you are in a hostile environment and disasters will follow.  Prime Minister Kouzhun from the Song Dynasty was a typical example. He was very straightforward and very critical of Dingwei’s fawning personality and reproached him openly in front of others.  Dinghui was very offended and he helped others to gain power and had Kouzhun banished to Aizhou.

Compassion does not mean that one cannot tell right from wrong. On the contrary, it means that I know exactly that you are deceiving me and hurting me but I am broad-minded and do not keep score. In my heart I know what happened but, on the surface, I look like that I have been fooled.  Most people cannot do that except the cultivators.

Prime Minister Koushun did just that. When he encountered an inferior person, he exposed him. As a result, they became opposing forces to each other, and the opportunity to transform Dinghui was thus
lost.  Han Qi reacted differently. When he ran into an inferior person, he treated him just the same as others. He was sincere but kept the contact on a superficial level and avoided being trapped into mind games.  Superior men know how to transform others with their virtue and will not abandon or reject others because they are inferior. Others will accept us easily only if we can be tolerant.

Translated from: http://big5.minghui.org/mh/articles/2005/8/18/108411.html

Four Things That Endanger a Society

September 30, 2013 at 10:00 am | Posted in Asia, Culture, Discoveries, Discussion, Good Advice, Moments from History, Reflections, Relevance to Today, Stories from China | Leave a comment
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September 18, 2013 | By Li Qing

Minghui.org

Around 2,400 years ago, about 10 nations coexisted in China, and each had its own king. One day, King Hui of the Wei Nation invited the other kings to his magnificent palace for a feast. Among them was King Gong of the Lu Nation (the nation where Confucius was from). When King Hui proposed a toast, King Gong told a story about the factors that lead to a nation’s destruction:

“Yidi was good at making wine, and she once gave some to King Yu, who tasted it and liked it very much. Nonetheless, from then on, King Yu abstained from wine and distanced himself from Yidi. Yu said, ‘I know some kings in the future will ruin their nations for greed for good wine.’

“When King Huan of the Qi Nation felt hungry one night, renowned cook Yi Ya prepared a delicious meal for him. King Huan really liked it and ate a lot, which made it difficult for him to wake up the next morning. King Huan then said, ‘Some kings in the future will lose their nations over their fondness for delicious food.’

“After King Wen of the Jin Nation obtained the beautiful Nan Zhiwei, he indulged himself in sensuous pleasure for three days before returning to his work on national affairs. He thus sent Nan away and said, ‘Future kings will ruin their nations for over indulging sensuously in beauty.’

“When King Zhao went up a tower to view the scenery surrounding his kingdom, he was deeply impressed by the great mountains and rivers. He was so impressed that he almost forgot everything else. He thus promised to never again forget his duties and warned others: ‘Someone in the future will lose his nation after exerting too much effort in building grand structures and being too moved by beautiful scenes.’

King Gong then concluded that any one of the four indulgences from the story could lead a nation to destruction. During this feast, however, King Hui had gathered all four types of pleasure, which could be an alerting sign.

King Hui heard these words and wholeheartedly agreed with King Gong.

Using History as a Guide

The story offers insight into the many examples of this kind from history. The Zhou, Shang, Qin, and Sui Dynasties all came to an end as a result of over-indulgences by their rulers. When kings have recklessly sought for physiological or material pleasure, they’ve doomed themselves for destruction.

Similar things are also taking place in contemporary China. Especially over the past two decades, seeking material pleasure has become a stronger and more accepted trend. Government officials now go all out in the pursuit of self interest. Officials in all spheres of society openly accept bribes at the demise of society’s well-being. Mass food consumption and untended waste from public works projects are skyrocketing at unprecedented levels. Prostitution, including the exploitation of under-aged young girls, is now commonplace. Moral degeneration on the whole has reached an unprecedented level.

After recognizing the communist regime’s corruption and inevitable deterioration, especially through reading the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party nearly 140 million people have publicly declared their intentions to quit the Chinese Communist Party and its affiliated organizations. Such an occurrence is an encouraging sign for China and the rest of the world.

Chinese version available

CATEGORY: Traditional Art and Culture

Taken from: http://en.minghui.org/html/articles/2013/9/18/142085.html

By Doing Good We Benefit Ourselves

January 16, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Posted in Asia, Children's Stories, Culture, Discussion, Good Advice, Life Lessons, Moments from History, Reflections, Stories from China | 1 Comment
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To the reader,

Enjoy this wonderful story from the Qing Dynasty (the last dynasty of China). It’s very touching. I hope this story will inspire compassionate thoughts in your life. Have a great day, and a wonderful new year!

Kind regards,
June Taylor

August 04, 2012 | By Chufan

(Minghui.org) A broker in the Qing dynasty, Mr. Zhang, crossed the Yangtze River from the north to Jiangning, also known as Nanjing, to collect a debt. He planned to return home for the New Year holiday right before the year ended. With his belongings on his shoulder, he left very early, but had to wait under the eave of a building in the market for the city gate to be opened.

After waiting for some time, Mr. Zhang got so tired that he gave up, put down his cloth bag filled with gold and silver, sat on it, and closed his eyes to rest. When the city gate opened, he rushed to the gate with his belongings on his shoulder, completely forgetting the cloth bag he had been sitting on. When he realized he did not have the bag with him, it was more than one li (~0.3 mile) away. He immediately hurried back to the site. But the marketplace was already crowded with people and his bag was gone.

Mr. Zhang frowned and hovered nearby, hoping that someone might return his bag. An elderly man appeared and asked what had happened. He listened, then invited Mr. Zhang to his home and said, “I found a bag on the ground when I opened the door this morning. I don’t know if it is yours.” Mr. Zhang replied, “Inside the bag are two envelopes, each with a certain amount of silver bullion. The larger one belongs to my boss and the smaller one is mine.” The elderly man checked the items in the bag, which were exactly as Mr. Zhang had described. He thus returned the bag to Mr. Zhang.

Mr. Zhang was moved to tears and wished to thank him by giving him his own silver bullion. The elderly man smiled and replied, “I would not have told you about the bag if I loved money so much. Do you understand?” Mr. Zhang asked the elderly man his name and left for home.

When Mr. Zhang was waiting by the river for the ferry, a strong wind suddenly started up. Many boats capsized, and many passengers were drowning. Seeing this terrible scene, Mr. Zhang had a compassionate thought: “I recovered the lost bullion today. Without it, I would have been dead. I indeed regained my life.” Using all of his own money, he hired people to rescue those who were drowning. Several dozen people were saved by his compassionate thought.

All the survivors came to thank Mr. Zhang for saving them. One of them happened to be the son of the elderly man who had returned Mr. Zhang’s lost bag to him. He was on his way home to Nanjing after finishing business in the north area of the Yangtze River. Mr. Zhang was surprised about this. He then told his own story to those present, and everyone was amazed at the miracle. They realized it must be the heavenly law of good is rewarded with good. Later, these two families became relatives by marriage.

In this story, the elderly man did not keep the fortune he found for himself and did not ask for a reward for doing a good deed. He not only saved Mr. Zhang during his hardship, but also planted a seed in Mr. Zhang’s heart to do good deeds, thus laying an opportunity for his own son to be saved later.

Can you imagine what might have happened if the elderly man had kept it for himself? Mr. Zhang might have killed himself over the huge financial loss, and in turn, would not have had the chance to save many people from drowning, including the son of the elderly man. Even if Mr. Zhang did not die and was compassionate toward those who were drowning, he would not have had the money to hire people to help rescue them. On the other hand, it would have been worse if Mr. Zhang had not cared about those who were drowning because of his own misfortune.

An old saying advises, “Doing good deeds without seeking repayment will inspire others to be compassionate and resolve your own tribulation; helping people in need will help them accumulate money to do good deeds and you will receive help from others.

Finally, the following saying provides sound advice, “It is better do small good deeds to build up fortune for the future than to sigh over the decline in morality; it is better to help others every day so that you might be helped in hard times than to sigh over degenerate morals.”

Story from Xi Chao Xin Yu by Xu Xiling and Qian Young, Qing Dynasty

Chinese version available

CATEGORY: Traditional Art and Culture

The Greatest and Strongest Moral Force

October 16, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Posted in Asia, Culture, Moments from History, Reflections, Relevance to Today, Stories from China | Leave a comment
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October 15, 2012

(Minghui.org) Mencius (372 BC - 289 BC) was born in the state of Zou during the Warring States Period (475 BC – 221 BC). He wrote a book named “Book of Mencius,” and was referred to as the “Next Sage” after Confucius. Their philosophies are called the “doctrine of Confucius and Mencius.” Mencius once said to one of his disciples, “I am proficient in cultivating my noble spirit. It is the greatest and strongest force. It will fill heaven and earth with a noble mind. It must be matched with virtue and morality, otherwise it will lack force. Besides, it must be constantly reinforced with virtue and morality in order to maintain it, rather than relying on the occasional act of justice.” “Be impervious to the temptation of wealth and high position, do not be shaken by poverty, and do not be subdued by force.” Mencius advocated benevolent governance his whole life. In his dealings with feudal lords and nobility, he behaved neither submissively nor pompously. His pursuit of the truth deeply influenced later generations.

Mencius’ view of destiny was that heaven possessed the highest will. “The mandate of heaven determined the change in dynasties and emperors, rise and decline, and rich and poor. People had to follow the will of heaven and know how to dedicate, know heaven and do things for heaven. Those who submitted to heaven’s will prosper and those who defy it will die.” Mencius emphasized moral cultivation. He considered morality to be a natural gift, innate to the human mind and conscience of people. If everyone is able to maintain goodness and strive to improve in self-cultivation, people can be like Emperors Yao and Shun. Both Mencius and Confucius toured various states to promote their teachings. He spread the virtue and benevolent governance of the ancient emperors Yao, Yu Shun, and others. Lord Wei Hui treated him with a courteous reception and Lord Qi Xuan honored him as a high official. He persuaded them to apply benevolent governance that had won popular allegiance, and many times avoided war.

Mencius once traveled from Qi to Wei and was stopped by a heavy rain. People found out about it and ran around spreading the news. Many people came to visit him to ask for advice. Seeing people were so eager to learn, he thus decided to stay to lecture for several days. Mencius believed that a man of noble character must pursue morality, and persuade monarchs to establish moral supremacy, and value justice above material gain. The following are stories of his unswerving determination to urge people to do good.

Rule a Country With Justice, Why Talk About Profits?

When visiting Liang, Lord Liang Hui said to him, “You have traveled a great distance to come here. You must have some things to benefit my country?” Mencius replied, “Lord, why talk about benefits? It is sufficient to just say righteousness.” Lord Liang said, “How can it benefit my country?” Mencius said, “If people are always asking: ‘How will my family benefit from this?’ and, ‘How will I benefit from this?’ the result will be that everyone will be competing for their own benefits. Then the country will be in danger! In a country with 10,000 military vehicles, often the senior officers who own 1,000 military vehicles will kill their monarch. In a country owning 1,000 military vehicles, the monarch is often killed by the senior officers who own 100 military vehicles. You cannot say that these senior officers don’t own enough. However, those who put their own interests above righteousness will never be satisfied with what they already own and will try to seize their monarch’s position. Those who always think of benevolence will never abandon their parents and those who always think of righteousness will not abandon their monarch. Therefore, why do you only want to talk about benefits?” The prominent historian Sima Qian in the Western Han Dynasty sighed when he read this dialogue between Mencius and Lord Liang, “Personal interest is really the source of chaos!”

Being Fond of Good People is Good Enough to Rule the World

The state of Lu intended to let Le Zhengzi govern. Mencius was very glad to hear the news. His disciple Gongsun Chou asked, “Is Le Zhengzi very experienced?” Mencius said, “no.” Gongsun Chou asked, “Then why are you pleased?” Mencius said, “He likes to listen to well-intended advice and he has always fulfilled his duties.” Gongsun Chou asked again, “Are these enough?” Mencius said, “With these qualities, one can rule the world, not to mention govern the state of Lu! If one likes to listen to truthfulness, he will only be willing to meet with good people and villains would have no market. If one doesn’t like to listen to good words, then those with breadth of vision will shy away and those with vile character will come. He will be surrounded by people of vile character. How can he govern a country well? Officials must dare to uphold justice and fairness. If one cannot be diligent and responsible, why then would one want to be an official?”

Every Day I Was Hoping Lord Qi Would Change His Mind!

Mencius went to Qi twice to persuade Lord Qi to carry out a policy of benevolence, but he did not get to see the lord. When Mencius left Qi for the second time, a Qi person, Yinshi, said to Mencius’s disciple Gaozi, “It is unwise not to know that Lord Qi will never be a monarch like Emperor Shang Tang or Emperor Zhou Wuwang. If knowing that Lord Qi cannot be convinced and Mencius still comes to Qi, it looks like he was hoping to gain benefits. After traveling a long distance to see the lord, he found that he could not be persuaded and thus left. But Mencius still stayed for three nights before leaving. Why was he so reluctant to leave? I am not very appreciative of Mencius.” Gaozi told Mencius about Yinshi’s remark.

Mencius said, “How could Yinshi know my thoughts? I traveled a long way to expound the kingly way to Lord Qi and that was my wish. I remonstrated without success and left; did I wish that? I had no alternative but to leave. I stayed for three nights before leaving. I think that is too soon. I thought Lord Qi might change his mind and ask me to return. If he called me back, I would have to make good use of the opportunity. After I left, he did not send people to chase after me to ask me to return. I was thus determined to leave. Although I did, was I willing to give up on the lord? Lord Qi can govern well. If he carries out benevolent governance, not only Qi will have peace, but also the people of the whole country. Every day I hope that he will change! Do I look like a narrow minded person? I was unable to remonstrate with a monarch, got angry and left with resentment, and then travelled a whole day before stopping for a night.” Upon hearing this, Yinshi said, “I am really a lowly person.”

People Will Be Completely Won Over With One’s Virtue

Upon hearing that Lord Qi Xuan intended to use force to conquer other countries, Mencius hurried to Qi for the third time. Lord Qi Xuan asked him, “Are there principles when dealing with neighboring states?” Mencius replied, “Yes, there are. Only the benevolent monarch of a big country can serve a small country, just like Emperor Shang serving Ge. A clever monarch of a small country will serve a big country, just like Gou Jian serving Lord Wu. A monarch with great power serving a small country is obeying the destiny of heaven, while a monarch of a small country serving a big power is fearing destiny. Being willing to obey the will of heaven can bring peace and stability to the country, while fearing destiny will allow one to hold on to his country.” The “Book of Songs”(1) said: ‘by fearing the dignity of heaven, a country can maintain stability.’ “Lord Qi Xuan said, “Great! But I have a problem, as I like combat.”

Mencius said, “My lord, don’t behave with trivial courage. When you hold a sword with a fierce look, ‘Who dares to oppose me!’ This is just personal courage. What is true bravery?” The “Book of Songs” said, ‘Emperor Zhou Wenwang suddenly flared up and geared up his army to protect Ju.’ This is the courage of Emperor Zhou Wenwang. His anger stabilized people’s minds.” The “Book of Shang” (the earliest compilation of historical documents. It is one of the Confucian classics) stated, “Heaven created all the people and set up a monarch and provided teachers to assist heaven to take good care of the people and follow the code of ethics strictly. Who dares to go beyond one’s duty? When there was a person rampaging the country, Emperor Zhou Wuwang felt ashamed. This was the valor of Emperor Wuwang. His anger stabilized the country. Now if my lord can get angry and stabilize the country, people will be worried that my lord doesn’t like to be courageous!”

Mencius went on, “My lord should implement a policy of benevolence and reduce taxation so that people will learn loyalty, righteousness, etiquette, and trustworthiness in their leisure time. Then people close by will live in peace and contentment, and people from distant places will come to join you. If another monarch does injustice to his people and puts them in misery, when my lord goes to crusade against that monarch, who can then oppose my lord? People will welcome your troops with food and drink. Do they have any demands? They only want to avoid the abyss of suffering. Otherwise, people will look for someone else to rescue them. When a lord cares for people and unifies the country, no one can stop him.” Lord Qi Xuan nodded. Mencius elaborated on the kingly way with nature’s law and popular sentiment and thus ultimately made Lord Qi Xuan give up on war and implement the policy of benevolence that achieved a great order. People were very grateful for Mencius’ graciousness.

A Benevolent Monarch Is Invincible

Mencius said, “Only benevolent people can be invincible in the world and only with benevolent governance can a country be prosperous and can people live in peace. If people higher up do not follow reason and good sense to restrain themselves and people below do not use laws to bind themselves, if governments do not believe in morality and justice, officials do not abide by the law, gentlemen violate justice, villains violate the criminal law – then a country will be lucky to even survive. A state that does not have vast lands or that accumulates great wealth is not the curse. Not revering morality is the calamity for a state. Consequently, remonstrating with a monarch to cultivate virtue and carry out benevolent governance is to respect one’s monarch. Expounding to a monarch with reason to clear up his wicked ideas is being respectful to a monarch. Flattering and currying favor with a monarch is to entrap him. When a monarch himself is upright, the world will come to be in allegiance with him. The “Book of Songs” stated, ‘Cooperate with the mandate of heaven and one will have happiness.’ Living in the world’s widest residence – benevolence; standing in the most correct position – etiquette; walking on the broadest road in the world – righteousness; wealth cannot confuse one’s thoughts, rank cannot change one’s conduct, and force will not make one yield. This is what a benevolent person does.”

Mencius lived in the middle of the Warring States Period, during which time etiquette collapsed and society was in turmoil. But he did not hesitate to push forward promoting morality and justice. He believed that the difference between people was not whether one is rich or poor, but rather, having the ability to maintain noble morality and have a clear conscience. Enlightening to the good side of people’s minds and helping them follow heaven’s way is the true reason for exhorting people.

In today’s materialism and decline in moral standards, Falun Dafa helps people to have a brighter future and reminds people to follow and treasure the characteristics of the universe: Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

1) “The Book of Songs” is China’s first poetry collection. It brought together 305 pieces of poetry starting from the early Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 BC) to the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period (600 BC)

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