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Mr Zhu's Words to His Children
- 朱子治家格言

1 March 2008
 

Mr Zhu's Words to His Children (朱子治家格言), penned by Ming scholar Zhu Bolu 朱柏卢 (1617 - 1688), of Kunshan (昆山) native, near Suzhou (苏州), in Jiangsu Province, is one of the most printed classics, used to serve as children's primers in Chinese private and public schools. After decades of absence, the sound of children reciting this piece of classics is heard again. The following are part of its English translation and the original text in Chinese:

Rise at dawn, thoroughly sweep the courtyards and the rooms. Rest when dusk sets in, carefully lock the gates and close the doors.
黎明即起,洒扫庭除,要内外整洁。
既昏便息,关锁门户,必亲自检点。

When eating, reflect on how hard it is for farmers to grow crops. When dressing, ponder how difficult it is for tailors to produce garments.
一粥一饭,当思来处不易。
半丝半缕,恒念物力维艰。

It is wise to repair your house before it rains. It is foolish to dig a well after you are really thirsty.
宜未雨而绸缪,毋临渴而掘井。

Do not live your life lavishly. Do not entertain your guests extravagantly.
自奉必须俭约,宴客切勿留连。

Although our ancestors are remote, we shall not neglect memorial services. Even though our offspring may not be bright, we still must teach them classics.
祖宗虽远,祭祀不可不诚。
子孙虽愚,经书不可不读。

Do not covet wealth beyond your entitlements. Do not drink alcohols beyond your capacities.
勿贪意外之财,勿饮过量之酒。

Do not take advantage of those vendors who work hard to earn small profit. Do not ignore our poor relatives and distressed neighbours if you can help.
与肩挑贸易,勿占便宜。
见贫苦亲邻,须多温恤。

When a family is mean, it cannot prevail long. When a household is unscrupulous, destruction cannot be kept at a distance.
刻薄成家,理无久享。
伦常乖舛,立见消亡。

To fawn the rich and powerful is the most revolting. To bully the weak and poor is the most sickening.
见富贵而生谗容者,最可耻。
遇贫穷而作骄态者,贱莫甚。

In family relations, do not initiate lawsuits, for which can only bring losses to all parties. In social situations, avoid excessive talks, as that may easily land you in troubles.
居家戒争讼,讼则终凶。
处世戒多言,言多必失。

Over-confidence will result many regrets; self-indulgence will bring no success.
乖僻自是,悔误必多。
颓惰自甘,家道难成。

To associate with trouble-makers, you will be implicated sooner or later. To learn form experienced, you could be saved from peril and danger.
狎昵恶少,久必受其累。
屈志老成,急则可相依。

When you hear tales, how do you know it is not groundless slanders? Thus do not act hastily. When you quarrel with others, are you absolutely sure you are not at fault? Please review the event calmly.
轻听发言,安知非人之谮诉,当忍耐三思。
因事相争,安知非我之不是,须平心暗想。

Do not remember good things you did for others. Do not forget good things others did in your interests.
施惠勿念,受恩莫忘。

In all situations, do not go over the top. Having obtained the objectives, do not push any further.
凡事当留余地,得意不宜再往。

Do not be jealous when others celebrate happiness. Do not be rejoice when others suffer misfortunes.
人有喜庆,不可生妒忌心。
人有祸患,不可生喜幸心。

A kind deed executed in hoping people will all notice possesses no real kindness. A wicked act exerted while wishing others will not see is a true wickedness.
善欲人见,不是真善。
恶恐人知,便是大恶。

To have a lustful heart after women will bring retributions on your own wife and daughters. To take secret revenge against men will cause disasters to your own sons and grandsons.
见色而起淫心,报在妻女。
匿怨而用暗箭,祸延子孙。

If a family is harmonious, even the food is scarce, the household can still be full of laughter. If tax is paid early, even the purse becomes light, your heart will be filled with the feeling of accomplishment.
家门和顺,虽饔飧不继,亦有馀欢。
国课早完,即囊橐无馀,自得至乐。

When studying the classics, aiming at learning from the sages, not obtaining fame and degrees. When working in government, aspiring to serve the country, not benefiting your own family and relatives.
读书志在圣贤。
为官心存君国。

Be content with what you have and accept what comes through, observe the change in time and follow the way of the universe, if you can achieve these, you shall be a man that is truly happy and wise.
守分安命,顺时听天。
为人若此,庶乎近焉。

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子孙虽愚,经书不可不读。

Mr Zhu: This finger-sucking baby may look pathetic, but you still should teach it reading classics.

 

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