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The Chu Family Aphorism

weather: partially clear
outside: 19°C
mood: futile
朱子治家格言
朱熹

(left to right; top to bottom)




黎明即起
灑掃庭除
要內外整潔
既昏便息
關鎖門戶
必親自檢點
一粥一飯
當思來處不易
半絲半縷
恒念物力維艱
宜未雨而綢繆
毋臨渴而掘井
自奉必須儉約
宴客切勿留連
器具質而潔
瓦缶勝金玉
飲食約而精
園蔬勝珍饈
勿營華屋
勿謀良田
三姑六婆
實淫盜之媒
婢美妾嬌
非閨房之福
奴僕勿用俊美
妻妾切忌豔妝
祖宗雖遠
祭祀不可不誠
子孫雖愚
經書不可不讀
居身務期質樸
教子要有義方
勿貪意外之財
勿飲過量之酒
與肩挑貿易
勿佔便宜
見貧苦親鄰
須多溫恤
刻薄成家
理無久享
倫常乖舛
立見消亡
兄弟叔侄
須多分潤寡
長幼內外
宜法屬辭嚴
聽婦言
乖骨肉
豈是丈夫
重資財
薄父母
不成人子
嫁女擇佳婿
毋索重聘
娶媳求淑女
毋計厚奩
見富貴而生讒容者
最可恥
遇貧窮而作驕態者
賤莫甚
居家戒爭訟
訟則終凶
處世戒多言
言多必失
毋恃勢力而淩逼孤寡
勿貪口腹而恣殺生禽
乖僻自是
悔誤必多
頹惰自甘
家道難成
狎昵惡少
久必受其累
屈志老成
急則可相依
輕聽發言
安知非人之譖訴
當忍耐三思
因事相爭
安知非我之不是
須平心遭暗想
施惠勿念
受恩莫忘
凡事當留餘地
得意不宜再往
人有喜慶
不可生妒忌心
人有禍患
不可生喜幸心
善欲人見
不是真善
惡恐人知
便是大惡
見色而起淫心
報在妻女
匿怨而用暗箭
禍延子孫
家門和順
雖饔飧不繼
亦有餘歡
國課早完
即囊橐無餘
自得至樂
讀書志在聖賢
為官心存君國
守分安命
順時聽天
為人若此
庶乎近焉

朱熹 lived during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) This was his maxim on governing his family affairs in poetic form. It outlines general principles of conduct that we've come to accept as a part of our culture.

To understand the Chu Family Aphorism is to have a solid footing in the understanding of Chinese culture. And I don't just mean understanding the translation of the text, although that's a necessary evil. I mean understanding the background and application of each tenet; being able to differentiate the timeless, universal principles and the ones specific to that period, that life, that world. Or at least debate it.

I had to recite a part of this poem in Cantonese for Chinese school when I was 11 or 12. I still remember the entire exerpt that I memorized, it was only about a quarter (maybe less) of the whole thing. I remember my parents explaining it line by line and helping me memorize it.

It was my first real significant Chinese poetry study piece. It was the first time I realized how compact and metaphorical the Chinese language is. It's concise and precise at the same time. It's amazing.

The biggest joke my family shared about it was the opening line: 黎明即起, "Rise promptly with the dawn". I have failed Mr. Chu's rules of conduct right at Line One. *smirk* And it just kept going from there. We laughed, but the thought of being a failure in the eyes of "my people" has plagued me for a long time. And it still does, to a certain extent.

Most days, I'm okay with it. I've done what I could with what I have and I'm doing a lot better than a lot of people already. I don't have the time or energy or the need to do anything other than keep up with work, home and life in general, so it doesn't bother me. But sometimes, it just feels so futile.

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