Yuan Cai, also named Yuan Junzai, was born in Xinan (now Changshan City, Zhejiang Province) in the Song Dynasty of ancient China. He was number three in the emperor's examination in Year One of Xinglong, and served as the Prosecutor. He was once also the mayor of Leqing County, and was known for his integrity and straightforwardness. To educate the local citizens and improve the moral standards of the general public, he wrote Suxun (meaning "lessons for the general public") in the 5th year of Xiao Emperor of the Song Dynasty, to teach people how to deal with people and to behave in society. Later the book was renamed Shifan (meaning "role model to the world") and was also called Shifan by Mr. Yuan. It was widely circulated and had a profound impact. It became the first book to be a compulsory read at many private schools. Intellects throughout history have thought highly of the book. I am citing a part of its contents here to give readers a flavour of the divine culture of China, in which people respect heaven and comply with their fate, and emphasize respect and morality. This way we can understand the standard that ancient people have lived by. (Note: The paragraph titles are added by the author)
One should treat others with respect whether they are rich or poor, noble or common
There are some people in this world who cannot treat everyone with equal respect. They treat people according to their wealth and status and divide them into classes. When they see a rich or noble person they will be very polite. The wealthier and the higher-ranking the person is, the more humble they will be toward him. When they meet their fellow townsman who is poor and of lower status, they will be arrogant and look down upon him. They seldom help or take care of the lower class people. We should know that other people's wealth cannot add to our own glory, and other people's poverty cannot add to our shame either. Why change our attitude according to others' financial or social status? A person with high moral character and wisdom would never act this way.
Being of noble or common class are all predestined
One's moral character is entirely independent of one's position. A person with higher moral character is not necessarily rich or noble; and a person with bad moral character does not always have a bad fate either. If that were the case, people such as Confucius and Yan Hui (a favourite student of Confucius) ought to have been prime ministers, and none of the prime ministers in the past history could have been corrupt. Cultivating our moral character is what we need to do; it is not to achieve any particular goal of profit or self-interest. Otherwise, one would relax his cultivation once the goal is not reached. He may then change his earlier belief and turn into a bad person.
Nowadays there are many ignorant people in this world who are rich, and also many that are intelligent but very poor. These are all determined by the heaven, and we do not need to search for a reason for it. Knowing this principle and accepting it peacefully can save one much anxiety.
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