Di Zi Gui

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Di Zi Gui (simplified Chinese: 弟子规; traditional Chinese: 弟子規; pinyin: Dì Zǐ Guī; Wade–Giles: Ti Tzu Kui, Standards for being a Good Pupil and Child) was written in the Qing Dynasty during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661-1722) by Li Yuxiu. The book is based on the ancient teaching of the Chinese philosopher Confucius that emphasises the basic requisites for being a good person and guidelines for living in harmony with others.[1] Like the San Zi Jing (another classic Chinese children's text), it is written in three-character verses. The source for the main outline of it is from Analects of Confucius,[2] Book 1, Chapter 6, where Confucius said:

A young man should be a good son at home and an obedient young man abroad, sparing of speech but trustworthy in what he says, and should love the multitude at large but cultivate the friendship of his fellow men. If he has any energy to spare from such action, let him devote it to making himself cultivated.

And here's a translation more faithful to the original Chinese text than James Legge's 19th century version above:

A student should show filial piety at home and respect people outside, behave prudently and trustfully, love all universally, and draw close to sages. While he has energy to spare, he should study edification by the sage.

There are altogether seven chapters in Ti Tzu Kui,[3] with each chapter listing one duty that a good person should follow in life.

Chapter 1 - At Home, Be Dutiful to My Parents[edit]

When my parents call me, I must answer right away. When they ask me to do something, I must not be lazy to do. When my parents instruct me, I will listen respectfully. When my parents scold me, I must accept and obey them. I will try to ensure my parents are always warm and comfortable. In the morning I will greet my parents and at night I will wish them a good night. Before going out or after returning home, I will tell my parents. I will maintain a disciplined life and strive for good results in all my studies. I must not do as I please, even though it may be just a small matter. If I do so, then I will not have been a dutiful child. I must not keep anything from my parents, even though it is small. If I do so, I may hurt their feelings. I will try my best to please my parents. I will try not to do anything that offends them. If I behave badly, my parents will feel ashamed. With loving parents, it is not difficult to be dutiful to them. Even if my parents sometimes treat me badly, I must still be dutiful to them. If I feel my parents are wrong, I may advise them to change. I must do this politely. If my parents pass away, I will mourn them. I will not decorate my home and I will avoid any festivities. I will serve my parents'funerals with deepest sorrow and as if they were still alive.

Chapter 2 - Standards for Younger Brothers (and Juniors[4]) when Away from Home[edit]

If I am the older sibling, I will befriend the younger ones. If I am the younger sibling, I will respect and love the older ones and most certainly never forget their birthdays for all time. The punishment for not respecting the older sibling is to wear all black for three years as penance. Only when I can maintain harmonious relationships with my siblings am I being dutiful to my parents. (See [5] for the following.) When brothers take money and objects lightly, resentment won't arise among us. When we tolerate each other's words, anger naturally dissipates. In eating and drinking, and in walking and sitting down, the elder person goes first, the junior person goes after. When an elder is calling someone, immediately call that person for the elder. If that person is not there, go to the elder yourself first. When addressing a respected elder, do not call him by name. In front of a respected elder, don't show off. When meeting an elder on the road, quickly go up and bow with hands together. If the elder has nothing to say, retreat and stand respectfully. Get off if riding a horse, get out if in a car. Wait even after the elder passes for a hundred steps or more. When the elder person stands, the junior person stands. When the elder person sits, only upon being ordered does the junior person sit. In front of a respected elder, one's voice has to be low. If it is too low to be heard, however, then that's inappropriate. When going in to see an elder, one must hurry; when leaving an elder, one must be slow. When asked a question, one rises and answer without moving one's gaze. Serve the many fathers (elders) like serving (your own) Father. Serve the many older brothers like serving (your own) Older Brother.

Chapter 3 - Be Cautious (or Reverent[6][7]) in My Daily Life[edit]

I will get up each morning before my parents; at night, I will go to bed only after my parents have gone to sleep. (Or just: "In the morning I will get up early; at night I will sleep late." See.[8]) When I realize that time is passing me by and cannot be turned back, and that I am getting older year by year, I will especially treasure the present moment. (See [9] for the following.) In the morning one must wash the hands plus rinse the mouth. After returning from urinating and defecation, one always cleans the hands. The hat must be on straight; the buttons must be done up. The socks and shoes should all be on snugly. For putting away hats and clothes, use set places. Don't set them down just anywhere, making a sweaty mess. In clothes value cleanliness not fanciness. First follow one's station in life; second suit the family's financial situation. With food and drink do not be picky. Eat just enough, not excessively. While still young, don't drink alcohol; being drunk is a most ugly sight. Walk relaxed and stand straight; bow deep and round, and salute reverently. Don't stand on thresholds; don't lean on one leg. Don't sit with legs apart and straight; don't wave the bottom. Open curtains slowly, without noise. Make turns widely, without hitting the corners. Hold empty vessels like holding full ones. Enter empty rooms as if someone is there. Do not be too busy, or there will be many mistakes. Don't fear difficulties; don't look down upon asking questions. Where there is fighting and disturbance, do not ever go near. Evil deviant things, don't ever say. When about to enter through a door, ask who is there. When about to enter a hall, one must call out. When people ask who it is, answer with your name. "Me" and "I" don't make anything clear.

Chapter 4 - Be Trustworthy[edit]

When using other people's things, one must clearly ask. If one doesn't ask, then it is stealing. When other people borrow things from you, if you have them don't be stingy. When I speak, honesty is important. Deceitful words and lies must not be tolerated. When still unsure of what you saw, do not say it. When still unsure of what you know, don't spread it. If conditions aren't favorable, don't lightly make promises. If lightly make promises, then both going forward and backing off are wrong. Whenever words are said, say them with weight and relaxation, not hurriedly or quickly, nor in a blurred and unintelligible way. Upon seeing others being good, think of becoming equally good. Even when far below them, gradually get better. Upon seeing others being bad, inspect yourself. If you are like them then correct it; if not then be vigilant. In virtue and learning, in ability and skill, if not as good as others, then spur yourself to catch up. If it's in clothing and attire, or housing and food, that you are not as good as others, then don't be affected. Doing wrong unintentionally is called making a mistake. Doing wrong intentionally is called committing an evil. If one corrects what one has done wrong, then it's as if it hasn't happened. If one covers up, then one adds to one's guilt.

Chapter 5 - Love All Equally[edit]

Human beings, regardless of nationality, race, or religion - everyone - should be loved equally. We are all sheltered by the same sky and we all live on the same planet Earth. (See [10] for the following.) People with high conduct naturally have high reputations; what people value is not high looks. People with great ability naturally have great fame; what people respect is not great words. If you have an ability, don't be selfish with it. If other people have an ability, don't lightly denigrate them. Don't toady to the rich; don't be arrogant to the poor. Don't despise the old; don't favor the new. If people don't have time, don't bother them with things. If people are not at peace, don't bother them with words. When people have shortcomings, definitely don't publicize them. When people have secrets, definitely don't tell them. Speaking of others' good deeds is in itself a good deed. When others learn of it, they become more encouraged. Publicizing other people's shortcomings is in itself evil. People hate it very much, and troubles arise. Admonishing each other to do good builds up both parties' virtue. Not dissuading the other person from doing wrong damages both parties' character. When taking and giving, making the terms clear is most important. Better to give more and take less. When about to do unto others, first ask yourself; if you don't want it yourself, then stop immediately. One wants to repay kindness and forget grudges. Repaying grudges is short; repaying kindness is long. In dealing with maids and servants, one is of high station. Though of high station, one must be kind and forgiving. Using force to make people submit doesn't make their hearts submit. Only using reason to make people submit will cause there to be no mutterings.

Chapter 6 - Be Close to and Learn from People of Virtue and Compassion[edit]

All are human, but their types differ. Most belong to the unrefined; the truly kind-hearted are rare. A truly kind-hearted person is feared by most people. He is not afraid of his words causing offense; his expression is not fawning. (See [11] for the foregoing.) If I can be close to and learn from people of great virtue and compassion, I will benefit immensely. My virtues will grow daily and my wrongdoings will lessen day by day. (See [12] for the following.) Not becoming close with the kind-hearted is infinitely harmful. Lowly people will enter, and everything will turn bad.

Chapter 7 - After All the Above are Accomplished, I Should Study Further and Learn Literature and Art to Improve My Cultural and Spiritual Life (or "If I Have Energy Left Over, I Should Study Writings"[13])[edit]

If I do not actively practice what I have learned, but continue to study on the surface, even though my knowledge is increasing, it is only superficial. What kind of person will I be? (See [14] for the following.) If one only works hard at conduct but does not study writings, then one relies only on his own views, and remains ignorant of true reason. The way to study requires three things coming together: heart, eyes, and mouth are all necessary. When you've just started reading one book, don't yearn for another. When the first book hasn't been finished, don't start another. Widely set limits; tightly apply efforts. With proper effort, obstacles will be overcome. When there is doubt, jot it down right away; that way you can ask people and get the true meaning. The room should be clean; the wall, clear; the desk, spotless; the pen and inkwell, straight. If the ink is ground unevenly, the heart is not upright. If the words are not respectful, the heart has fallen ill first. Books should be set in a regular place. After reading, return them to their original place. Though there may be something urgent, still roll and tie the books up properly first. If there is damage, repair it immediately. Books not of the sages, reject them; don't look. Such books cloud the intellect and corrupt one's heart and aspirations. Don't abuse yourself; don't give up on yourself. What is saintly and virtuous can be smoothly arrived at.

Confucius emphasised that the basic moral values and virtues should be first taught to a child since young; those values are to respect elders, respect brothers and sisters, respect wife and husband, respect the society and lastly respect the country as a whole. He believed without those values all other learning would amount to nothing. The teachings in Ti Tzu Kui has been the standard teaching for the young of China for thousands of years.

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