So , the truth is, I haven’t had many awesome adventures or conversations lately. I blame a combination of homesickness, laziness and, recently, a longing for the familiar. I’ve still found some rare moments where I do sit down and find some interesting things to do that are just so….China. I thought I would talk about those.
I have been studying a book full of ancient Chinese philosophical poems, the sort of book that is given to Chinese kids. Many Chinese children are taught to recite these poems in school and may even have to do so for their university entrance exam. It’s full of ‘lessons’ on how to live your life, including Confucian concepts. I studied the first lesson, and found out that actually ancient Chinese characters and sentence constructions may be so different to modern Chinese that my friends probably couldn’t understand me if I read one out. The poems comprise at most twenty four characters each, four lines, six characters and two ideas per line. The modern Chinese used six or seven characters just to describe the meaning of one single character in the poem, which I found interesting.
The book is full of these lessons to teach young children. The poem I studied most recently goes like this:
第子规 ，圣人训 Young children (第子) should obey the rules (规), the elder sages (圣人) taught (训)
首孝弟，次谨 信 Firstly (首), you must show filial piety and obedience (孝)to your parents (弟), second (次) be honest, trustworthy and careful (谨) with your words(信).
泛爱众， 而亲仁 Spread (泛)love (爱) to everyone (众) around you, and most of all (而)treat your parents well (亲仁)
有余力，则学文 If you have (有) extra (余) time, energy or ability (力), you must (则) use it to discover more about every culture to increase your intellectual knowledge (学文).
The last line appeals to me most of all. I feel I really don’t make the use of my time and ability very well, especially while I am sat in my room watching TV. Moments like this where I am really just studying Chinese for the sake of interest , and I come across some wisdom like this, really do make me happy!