The Story of China Studies(2)

Zēng Guófān, the Most Cursed and the Widely Admired Master(2)

The Ice-Clear Mirror

This is a book about how to judge a person by looking at his appearance. It is believed to be written by Zēng Guófān, and is composed of seven parts. In this section, we shall give an account of comments other persons made on how Zēng assessed people. Then we shall also give a translation of each paragraph, which will be followed with notes for further explanation.

When people analyzed why Hóng Xiùquān failed and Zēng Guófān succeeded, they concluded that the latter was able to rally a team of talents while with the former “internal conflict” killed or excluded almost all important leaders. It is said that among all talents in China, half of them worked for Zēng, or of all capable officials, half were his students. A gentleman called Zhū Dóngān made some calculations. He said of all those who had the experience of working in Zēng’s office, fifty-eight became quasi first ranking, sixty-seven became second ranking. His opponent, the famous Tàipīng General Shí Dákāi said, Zéng wasn’t known of his military skills, yet he was good at selecting commanders and detailed planning…This was something he never came across with since they rose up. His colleague Hú Līnyì said, “He has an effective way of assessing people, people he chose became fine generals later.” Zuǒ Zōngtáng who used to scold and criticize him had to admit that he was far from Zéng in the loyalty to the state and in ways to assess people. In the inscriptions Lǐ Hóngzhāng wrote for Zēng’s stone stele, he said Zéng was next to nobody in ways of knowing people.

We should also state that some scholars hold that the book was written by someone else, not by Zēng Guófān. In any case, Zēng consulted this book very often. It is useful for us to know what this book is about.

Now, let’s look at the first part, which is entitled “Spirit and Bones (神骨)” and the translation is as the following:

Paragraph 1: A saying goes, “If rice is husked, what is left is quintessence.” We are referring to a person’s spirit, his resourcefulness and energy. Another saying goes, “The mountain still stands even though soil is lost, because rock is propping it up.” We are referring to a person’s bones. All spirit, resourcefulness and energy of a person are embodied in his eyes. All his bones can be judged by his face. Farmers, workers, merchants and soldiers do look at a person’s spirit as well as his body and gesture while the educated people would mainly look at the “spirit” and “bones”. We point directly at the core issue at the beginning, because it is of extreme importance.

Notes: 神 or Shén is a unique concept in Chinese philosophy. It does not mean “spirit” only. It means a person’s wisdom which is gained from his learning, experience and his will. It also means his vitality, determination and capability to deliver. It is said when Zēng was assessing a person, he would stare at the person for a few minutes, quite often that person would be sweating all over. What he wanted to find out was how this person’s神 or Shén is.

Paragraph 2: 神 or Shén was divided by ancient people into clear ones and turbid ones. It is easy to distinguish clear ones from turbid ones, at the same time it is not so easy to distinguish the heterodox from the orthodox, for both reside in clearness. To examine them, we have to watch their performance in movement and quietness. In quietness the eyes are like the glittering pearl; in movement the eyes are like the surging spring water; in quietness there seems no trace of people and in movement the arrow is heading to its target. These two performances are transparently clear as the orthodox.

If in quietness the eyes are like glowworm, and in movement the eyes are like the floating water, such eye sight reveals either hypocrisy or duplicity. If in quietness the person is half asleep and in movement the person is like a startled deer, such performances unveil that the person is cleaver yet heretical and that the person is trying to cover up his evil intentions. One kind in the foregoing is wicked and the other is good at hiding his vicious mind; both reside in clearness and we got to separate them from the benign.

Notes: This is a continuation of paragraph 1. It shows us how eyes betray one’s spirit, resourcefulness and energy. The concepts of orthodox and the heterodox are deeply rooted in the minds of the Chinese people. They do classify people by such concepts.

Paragraph 3: When we examine one’s spirit, it is easy to tell if one pretends to be picked up, yet it is not easy to tell if one also pretend but is really perked up. One’s collection of spirit would stop like a dripping drop if he pretends to be cheerful; one’s sufficiency of spirit is generated from inside and would flow without stop. This is something like the Taoist doctrine for practicing “Qi” energy that “things should be cleaned up before entering the gate”. In movement, we have to see how much pretention or genuineness is there in one’s bold, natural unconstraintness. In quietness, we have to see if there is deliberation, peace or flippancy in the person. When we look at a careful person, we should see how he would handle something he is not capable of, and we would find out that his seemingly carefulness reveals his carelessness and his roughness in thinking. When we look at a bold and unconstrained person, we should see how he would handle something he is capable of, and we would find out that his seemingly carelessness reveals his meticulosity and his precise way of thinking. Such spirit exists in one’s inner world, and when it brims it would exhibit itself as a kind of mood, which is easy to discern.

Notes: “Qi” is a very important concept in Chinese thinking. It is one concept most westerns find difficult to comprehend. Some sinologists have tried to interpret and explain it. Take A.C. Graham, he writes “Qi is adapted to cosmology as the universal fluid, active as ‘Yang’ and passive as ‘Yin”, out of which all things condense and into which they dissolve…it is like such words in other cultures as Greek pneuma ‘wind, air, breath’. It is the energetic fluid which vitalized the body, in particular as the breath, and which circulates outside us as the air.” Another definition may also help our understanding of the word: Qi is the primal energy underlying all matter, molded as cloud vapor and breath. It gives life to living things. Qi gives us vitality, and the vital energy of the heart/mind, which controls our thoughts and emotions, and moral sensibilities and our body and physical activities.

This paragraph tells us神 or Shén is generated from inside. When one has sufficient神 or Shén, no matter he is careless or bold, he would accomplish something; and if he does not have sufficient神 or Shén, he would not be able to accomplish more even though he is careful or bold and unconstrained.

Paragraph 4: There are nine forms of noble bones: they are a raised forehead bone, a solid occipital bone, a flat parietal bone, a pointed sphenoid bone, sharply raised temporal bones, a horn like ethmoid bone, a high and straight nasal bone, a forceful zygomatic bone and a robust neck bone. To judge on head bones, we mainly look at the forehead bone, the occipital bone and the temporal bone; to judge face bones, we mainly look at the ethmoid bone and the zygomatic bone. If all the five bones are like what are described above, the person should be a pillar of the state. If only one bone qualifies the above standard, the worst of the person is that he will never be poor; if two bones qualify, the person will not be humble; if three qualify and the person works hard, he will be rich; if four qualify, the person will be rich and have a prominent social position.

Bones have different colors. Noble color for face bones is cyan. This is just like what people say, “Of all youngest dukes and ministers, half of them have cyan faces.” The reddish yellow or purple is of a lesser degree. White as a withered skull is of the lowest degree. Bones have qualities. If the head bones are well connected and a kind of vigor runs through all of them, it is of the noblest degree. If they are not well connected and not in a good order, it is of a lesser degree. All in all, it would be fine if there is no bad bone on the head. A nice head look is better than a nice facial look. However, the person would be humble if his head is big and his forehead bone is flat. The person would be a lonely monk if his head is round without a distinguishable sphenoid bone. The person’s parents would not have a long life if his nasal bone intrudes into the two eye brows. The person would have no offspring if his zygomatic bone connects directly with the end of the eye. The difference between the rich and noble with the poor and humble is just as big as between a center meter with one thousand miles.


People say what is in this book has been tested. However, the physical feature of a Chinese may be different from a foreigner. So, what works on a Chinese may not work on a foreigner. Besides, the translations of the way bones form may not be as accurate, for fully equivalent words to Chinese are difficult to find. Therefore, the advice from the author is that a foreign reader may only take this as a reference and do not easily apply it when assessing and appraise people.

Part II The Firm and the Soft

Paragraph 5

Having acquired knowledge of the spirit and the bones, we should learn how to distinguish firmness and softness. The firmness and softness we talk about are actually the results of the inter-generation and inter-restriction of the Five Elements, and are what the Taoists say “the congenital seed”. Things are to be added if there is shortage and to be discharged if there is too much. The expansion and contraction of Yin and Yang are closely related to one’s fate, this is as discernable as the moon in the sky.


The Five Elements are gold, wood, water, fire and soil. The theory of the Five Elements first appeared in the “Records of History (尚书)”. The inter-generation goes like this: gold generates water, water generates wood, wood generates fire and fire generates soil, soil generates gold. The inter-restriction goes like this: gold restricts wood, wood restricts soil, soil restricts water, water restricts fire and fire restricts gold.

Chinese people believe directions can represent the Five Elements, the east represents wood, the south represents fire, the middle represents soil, the west represents gold and the north represents water. The same applies to seasons: the spring represents wood, the summer represents fire, the end of each season represents soil, the autumn represents gold and the winter represents water. You can also find corresponding parts on the human body, for instance, the eye, the liver and the gallbladder represent wood; the tongue, the heart and the small intestine represent fire; the mouth, the spleen and the stomach represent soil; the nose, the lung and the big intestine represent gold; the ear, the kidney and the urinary bladder represent water.

The theory of Yin and Yang can be traced back to the Xia Dynasty. They are the two extremes of a matter. Yin represents things shady and feminine and Yang represents things sunny and masculine. They can be inter-changed.

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Each of the Five Elements can be merged with the other, wood can be merged with fire and water with wood, and these are “smooth mergers”. Those who have “smooth mergers” are usually rich, but not noble; if they happen to be noble, they are subject to ups and downs. Gold conflicts with fire, for fire can overcome gold, but sometimes gold is merged with fire. Similarly, water conflicts with soil, and they can be merged. These are “mergers of opponents”. Those who have “mergers of opponents” would be prominently noble. Among “mergers of opponents”, those gold type with some degree of fire component would be most noble; on the contrary a fire type with some degree of gold component would die at thirty; a water type with some degree of soil component would be lonely all life long; a wood type merged with gold type, the person would be respectful; the person is subject to disasters of knife and sword if his type is gold and merged with wood. Any other talking except the above would be unwarranted, odds and ends and far from the orthodox of the educated.


According to experience, a gold type person usually has square and smaller face, hands and feet, with a white facial color, a mellow and vibrant voice; the person is resolute, shrewd and resourceful. A wood type is usually tall and slim, has broad forehead and narrower jaw, a round waist, white facial color with some degree of cyan, a loud and vibrant voice, and the person is mild and benevolent. A water type is stout with thick waist and back, thick eye brows and big eyes, the person is a bit dark, speaks fast and sometimes slow, very sentimental, has rich imagination, clever and often changes. A fire type has a narrower forehead and broad jaw, big nose yet the nostril faces out a little bit, not hairy, his facial color is reddish, his voice is restless and brisk, he has strong passion and is straight forward. A soil type is well-built, has heavy bones and lighter flesh, big organs, yellowish color, thick voice, the person is usually calm, steady, relaxed, generous and trustworthy.

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There are exterior as well as interior firmness and softness of the performances of the Five Elements. Interior firmness and softness refer to the happiness, anger, excitement, placidity, deep and shallow workings of mind. Overjoyed, towering anger, forgetting totally shortly after what has happened are indications of an unrefined personality. Placidity with no traces of flaunt, excitement with no high spirit are indications of a dull personality. Those who can deepen their thoughts from a shallow thinking when something happened are almost “treacherous”. The one who has a “treacherous” inner heart can be expected to be meritorious. The one who is half unrefined and half dull would lead a long life. The one who is most treacherous and at the same time open and broad minded would accomplish a great deal in his career. The one who is totally unrefined and at the same time careless would give up his career halfway. Eighty or ninety people out of one hundred would neglect this interior firmness and softness when they come to assess a person.


A Chinese saying goes, “You may know a person by looking at his face, but you may not know his mind.” No doubt, it is extremely difficult to read the mind of another person. This paragraph does provide some clues.

Part III Features and the Body

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The height of a person should normally not higher than seven Chinese foot (which is 1.936 English foot); the person’s looks should be judged mainly by the two eyes. A person’s chest and abdomen have corresponding parts to gold, wood, water, fire and soil; a person’s ear, eyes, mouth and nose are connected to the air in the spring, summer, autumn and winter. Compliment, match, symmetry and coordination among all parts would bring happiness; it is not worth of mentioning if the parts deviate from one another, or huddle together.


In the comments we gave to paragraph 5, we listed the corresponding viscera to the Five Elements. Chinese traditional medicine believes man’s features are connected to the five viscera and four seasons. To be specific, eyes are connected with liver and spring; tongue is connected with heart and summer; nose is connected with lung and autumn; ear is connected with kidney and winter; lips are connected with spleen and the end of each season.

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What is most precious of a person’s appearance is its holistic-ness, we don’t mean orderliness here. A person can be short, but not as short as a crouching pig; a person can be tall, but not as tall as a weed; a person can be stout, but not as stout as a greedy bear; a person can be slim, but not as slim as a winter magpie. This is what we mean by “holistic-ness”. A person’s back should be round and thick, the abdomen should be a bit protruding and flat, the hands should be mild and soft, and the palm can be arched; the back of the foot should be plump; the foot arch should be so hollow that an egg can be put in it. This is what we mean by “holistic-ness”. A short person is a plain Jane, yet many of such persons have respectful positions. If the legs are too long, the person normally does not have a good fate. He who walks like shouldering a load is destined to be a high official; he who walks with small and hurried steps, his eyes glimpse here and there is a greedy person. This is a set formula that has been tested many times. On top of these, if a person’s arms are longer than the upper body, and the upper body is longer than the lower body plus a set of fine bones, he is destined to be a duke or a marquis. Another case would be for a person to have fine, smooth, soft and moist skin, as if silk is all over the body, and the chest bones are delicate, and if the person also has a magnificent bearing, the person would either be a prime minister or rank number one in the imperial examination.


This paragraph introduces an important concept for assessing a person, that is “holistic-ness”. It does not matter if the person is too short, too high, too stout or too slim, what matters is the person’s “holistic-ness”, which means a well-balanced, organic whole.

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A person’s look can be classified as distinctive, unsophisticated, unique and lovely. These looks can be judged by a purple star mark and a virtue wrinkle. The purple star mark can be seen at any time when the person is between thirteen and thirty-nine; the virtue wrinkle can be seen at any time when the person is between nineteen and forty-six. He who possesses both is no ordinary man. He who possesses one of them would be a rich man. The purple star mark would appear around the ophryon, and sometimes it can not be seen. It sometimes looks like a steel needle, sometimes like a small ball, the color is reddish purple, it can be easily seen when the person drinks liquor or when the person is in anger. The virtue wrinkle only appears on cloudy and rainy days at the corner of eyes, it looks like a trident, which can be very visible when the person is falling into sleep. Those who have the purple star mark can establish themselves when they are very young; those who have the virtue wrinkle would be developed a bit later. If one has none of them, there isn’t any hope in his career. If the virtue wrinkle appears at the throat, the person will have a son bone. It is hard to say what fate the person will have if the virtue wrinkle appears at other places, the fate would belong to some assorted kind.


The Chinese original for the purple star mark means a “star in the imperial examinations”, its color is purple. It would be hard to understand if we use the original name. The Chinese original for the virtue winkle means a winkle indicating a person has accumulated virtue for his/her days in the nether world.

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Eyes are like two ponds on the face, they would not be clear if they are not deep. Nose is like a mountain on the face, the face would not give an aura if the nose is not lofty. Thick, broad or square mouth and lips heralds a high social position with a hefty income. Small and round teeth indicate that the person can find food anywhere and he does not have to confine himself at home. If one’s eyes end at sidebums, he will be in charge of legislation. If the top of one’s head joins with his forehead (being bald) he would live in the valley of money all his life. All these are symbols of prominence and wealth. He who stammers can never become high level officials; he whose skin is like the peel of an orange will never be a developed person. An educated person should never hurt his left eye; a hook-nosed would be ferocious and easily inflict injuries to others. These are symbols of lowliness and humbleness.


In Chinese myth, there is a star in the sky that governs the fate of the learned people, and one’s eyes represent such a star. Male should be place on the left, and female on the right. The author was talking about men’s fate, and that’s why he only mentioned about the “left eye”.

Part IV Mood

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A person’s look, the lengthening and exterior expression of his bone formation, can make up the deficiencies of the bones. A person’s mood is the lengthening and exterior expression of his spirit and can make up the deficiencies of his spirit. A long staring is to observe spirit; a quick look is to observe mood. People of prominence, despite their occasional shyness, would not loose their beautiful bearings; the more those who act like children and get up to mischief and assume manners, the more they seem vulgar and insincere. On the macro level, mood is also divided into clear and turbid ones, and on the micro level we got to decide what to affirm and what to deny.


The word “mood” is one of the rare words that conveys completely the meaning in the original Chinese, which is 情态—the characteristic state of feelings.

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There are different types of mood, for instance, flaccidity, crankiness, slothfulness and the socialized type. Flaccidity can be interpreted as a little and timid woman in the arms of a man, graceful and delicate; overbearing can be interpreted as some one negligent of neatness in dress and in person, showing arrogant superiority to others; slothfulness can be interpreted as doing and talking about things as one likes; the socializing type can be interpreted as covering up one’s real intentions, not frivolous in talking and joking, examining others’ words and observing their countenance, avoiding misfortunes and grasping opportune tendencies. All these mood are generated by true feelings, they are not manners for manner’s sake. Those who are not adulatory even though flaccid, not noisy even though overbearing, sincere even though lazy, heroic even though sociable will become useful persons. They would be good-for-nothings if vise versa. In general, we would be twenty or thirty percent accurate in judging who would be a useful person or not.


We don’t know if state of feelings can be thus classified, or if such classifications are scientific. Yet, they do serve as some means for watching a person.

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What we discussed in the last paragraph is mood constantly appears, there are also short span mood. He who diverts his eyes or topic while talking to anther person is not sincere; He who sneers when others are laughing is snaky; people should not make friends with them. He who applaud what is being said yet not necessarily right does not have his own views; he who smear and slander one whom he has not yet been dealing with has a loose tongue and is not a responsible person; people should not work with them who are indecent and degrading. He who gives no judgment and hesitates when something crop up is week-headed; he who wipes and excited at something not so significant is not sane; the kindness of these people is inferior, people should not exchange ideas with them. However, these three types of mood may not decide the fate of an entire life. If we deal with people contrary to these types we would be able to make friends with scholars all over the country.


Through short span state of feelings we can know a person, his disposition, his characteristic and his traits. The key is not to let such short span slip away from your eyes. And there may be other types as well.

Part V Beard and Eye-Brow

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“A person with a beard and eye-brows” is how people describe a man. A man without a beard and eye-brows is not a man. “Two eye-brows of a youngster and a beard of an old man” meant that the eye-brows may decide the fate of the youngster and the beard may decide the fate of an old man. But, there are exceptions. If one’s countenance is purple, even though he has no beard, he is a noble person; if one’s two cheeks outstand with almost no beard, he may be very rich. Guō Zǐyí (郭子仪) had only half a beard, yet he was a well known high official; Huǒ Qùbìng (霍去病) had no beard, only a plain face, yet he was most meritorious. These are rare incidents, after all eighty or ninety percent of people have beard and eye-brows.


Guō Zǐyí (郭子仪): 697-781, born in Shǎnxī, a famous general of the Táng Dynasty. Huǒ Qùbìng , 140-117 BC, born in Shānxī, a famous general of the Western Hàn period. There has been no statistics to show how often such way of observations can be true, yet before we can overthrow it with reasons and proofs, we may think it works.

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Nice eye-brows have sheen, that is to say light is reflected at the end of the eye-brow. On a distinguished person, there are three layers of sheen on his/her eye-brow, sheen at both ends and the middle. For some people, there may be only two layers or one layer of sheen. What we used to call “a scene of texture and clarity” refers to the well-spaced and delicate eye-brows, not the massive, stiff and over-dense eye-brows. The first grade eye-brows, if you look from a distance, are like flying phoenix or dragons. The worst ones are like a splash of ink. The best ones are like two strokes with the outer ends tilt up. The lower grade would be those with the outer ends drooping down. Longer eye-brows should curve a little bit; shorter ones should look a bit perky. Thick eye-brows should not have shaky and blurring light; if the eye-brow is scarce, it shouldn’t look like a dried rope. If the eye-brows look like two sharp swords, the person will become a generalissimo. If the eye-brows look like two rotten brooms, the person is subjected to a fatal disaster. There are also other types of omens that have to be clearly discerned. The worst look of eye-brows include longer ones press down on the eyes, which are dull; messy ones with tired eyes; over-slim ones that look subservient and the ones that are too broad and rough.


Ancient Chinese paid much attention to eye-brows. The varieties they classified are fabulously twenty-four, willow leaf and sleeping silkworm are two examples.

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There are big and small beards. Be it big or small, it has to match the eye-brows. Big beard should be smooth, refreshing, not stiff and longer ones and shorter ones are orderly proportioned. A short beard should have sheen, is straight and sturdy and matches well with other parts of the face. He whose cursive beard is like a screw is clever, visionary and broad-minded. He whose long and thin beard is like a worn-out cord is unconventional and romantic, yet not licentious and is most likely to have a high position in the future. He whose beard is like a halberd cutting down would be a high official and enjoy a lot of power. He whose beard is shining like silver would be an important minister at a young age. The above are all big shots in the officialdom. The one whose beard is purple, eye-brows are like sharp sword, with a resonant voice, or the beard is fluffy and grows to the rear of the ear, and if the person also has a fine bone form and high spirit, he would be a duke with one thousand miles of land in his fiefdom or at least a prime minister for ten years. It is after all no good if a beard grows out first on the cheek. One who has no beard on the philtrum would be poor all his life. If one’s vibrissa is connected with beard, there would be many ups and downs in his life. If one’s moustache covers up his lips, he would be hungry all life long. All these are quite obvious to discern.


Here Zéng pointed out six kinds of beautiful beards for us. They are the curly ones, the worn-out cord type, the forceful halberd kind, the silver type, the purple sword kind and the fluffy type. We can certainly try to compare with people around us and see if what he said above is true.

Part VI Voice and Sound

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A man’s voice is just like the “Qi” moving between the sky and the earth, the Yin and the Yang and among the Five Elements. It has light or voiceless syllables and heavy or voiced syllables. The former tends to go up high and the latter tends to fall down. Voice is generated from what we call “dān tián”, a point three inches below the navel, it acquires sound at the throat, it would make some changes by the tongue, and vibrates at the teeth and finally sounds out from the lips. The pronunciation matches closely with traditional Chinese musical notations. When we listen to one’s voice for purpose of assessing him, we got to find out what is unique with him; such uniqueness should not be judged by the Five Notations. When we hear a voice we would know who is coming, so we don’t have to see his face to conclude if he is a hero.


In Traditional Chinese medicine, “dān tián” plays a crucial role in the human body; it stores up “Qi” and is the root of life. In ancient China musical notation was not in the form of numbers, but in characters, five characters to be exact. They are pronounced like: gōng, sháng, jiǎo, zhí, yǔ (宫、商、角、徵、羽). They are also related to the Five Elements: gōng with soil, sháng with gold, jiǎo with wood, zhí with fire and yǔ with water, therefore, gōng sounds thick, sháng sounds moist, jiǎo sounds high, zhí sounds tense and yǔ sounds round and hurried.

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Voice is different from sound. Voice can amplify itself and can be heard when the vocal organ starts to work; sound tends to shrink and can be heard when the voice is being transmitted in the air and the vocal organ stops working. Numerous are the ways to distinguish voices, the most important method is to assess the voice when the person is in happiness, anger, lament and joy. A happy voice is as crispy and pleasant as the breaking of green bamboo; an angry voice is as heroic and overpowering as a thunder; a sorrowful voice is as piecing and miserable as smashing a thin layer of ice; a joyful voice is as light-hearted and tranquil as dancing snow. All these voices have one common feature—light, floating and up-flying. If a masculine voice sounds like a resonant and deep, it is a noble voice; if it sounds like a frivolous and shallow gang, it is a humble voice. For a feminine voice, if it is as clear and lingering as a cock crow it is noble; if it is noisy and empty as a frog cry it is humble. Masculine and firm voice should be heard from afar; feminine and melodious voice should be heard nearby. Such voices are ear and heart pleasing when they begin; and when they stop, you would sense much ease as if a musician is plucking the fiddle. These are all nice voices. “Mouth is not wide open when words are voiced loudly and fluently, and teeth are not exposing when whisper is made in a low voice,” this shows how nice voices are made. The following kinds of voices are coarse and vulgar made by people on the streets: one type is short and desultory and sounds like the cry of a lonely cow in the desolate suburb; one creaks brokenly and hurriedly as if a mouse is eating stealthily in the night; one rambles endlessly in gasps; another type would be speaking prunes and prim ambiguously without clarity.


Ancient Chinese used to tell if one has a broad mind by watching the person’s speech to see if he has sufficient breath; they could tell the quality of a person by the quality of his voice; they could tell the person’s will and determination by the strength contained in his speech; they could also tell the state of mind of the person by the feelings carried in his speech.

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Sound is a left-over of voice, not that different between them. However, the difference is still distinctive for a careful person. When the poor and humble speaks there is no sound only voice, which is coarse and vulgar; when the slick and sly speaks, there is no voice only sound, which is mocking and distracting. These are just like what is in this saying, “birds chirp without voice and beasts cry without sound.” When a person speaks, what he pronounced is voice and it amplifies around as sound. If a person’s words still linger after they were spoken with passion, such a person is not only elegant, but also a man of national importance. If a big-mouthed speaks with urbanity and if a sharp-tongued speaks with solidity, the person must have refined himself deeply and will acquire a big name for himself.


It is difficult to tell which is sound and which is voice as with a person. As a matter of fact, in the oldest Chinese dictionary, sound (音yīn) is explained as voice.

Part VII

Paragraph 21: Countenance

Face tells destiny and facial looks tell luck. One’s destiny should be in its wholesomeness; one’s luck should also be kept in smoothness. If brilliance does not come forth, pearls and jade are the same as smashed bricks and tiles; if color does not come out, silk and brocade would be the same as coarse cloth. Destiny decides a person’s happiness or disasters for his entire life while luck tells auspicious or ominous turns in a short span in his life.


Facial looks in the Chinese origin reads as “Qì sè”, meaning the color of “Qi”. By now we know what “Qi” is. We should be aware that different “Qi” gives different colors to one’s face. Traditional Chinese medicine can tell one’s health by merely looking at his facial color. Ancient Chinese also developed some knowledge in telling a person’s fate by looking at his face and facial colors.

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“Qì” is vital for a person. It is a spirit when resides inside the body, it is a facial color when it exhibits itself on the face. There are life-long facial colors, namely “pale and innocent for a teenager age; bright and canty for a young adult; robust and rich for a mature age and simple and heavy for an old age.” There are also facial colors for seasons in a year: wood color for spring, fire color for summer, gold color for autumn and water color for winter. There are also facial colors for the first and second fifteen days in a month: flourish in the first half and gleaming in the second. There are also facial colors for different sections in a day: revival for the morning, satiety for the day, latent at dusk and tranquility at night.


A person’s facial color changes as he grows from teenage to young, adult and old age, simply because his physical and psychological conditions have changed. Similarly, the change of seasons may also bring changes to a person’s physical conditions and his mood.

Paragraph 23:

The facial color for those who have done well in the imperial examinations is yellow, which is the proper and auspicious color. If there are yellow clouds over one’s head, he would rank number one in the imperial examination. If the yellow on the cheeks fly up like two wings into the temples, it wouldn’t be long before scoring a good result in the imperial examination. If there is yellow on one’s ophryon, his chances of becoming rich or an official are coming. If one’s nose is white and clean he would have good results in the imperial examination next year. If there are red and purple colors at the outer ends of eyes, the person will do well at other level of official examinations. If there is purple on the ophryon and it expands to the above, the person will have wealth; if the flush on both sides of the nose and it is not connected over the nose, the person will have a son born; if a person’s cheeks are red and bright, his close relatives will become developed. We can see from above how closely facial color is linked to a person’s fate.


Yellow in China was a royal color, that’s why people believe it is nice to have.

Paragraph 24:
The cyan and white are the worst for facial colors. Cyan used to appear under the eyes, and white appears in between the two eye-brows. But they are caused by different reasons. If one is anxiety-ridden, the cyan is as thick as ink; if it is caused by trouble or disasters, it would be like a floating smoke with some spot heavy and other spots light; if the white color is caused by intoxication and tiredness, it is like a sleeping sheep and will disappear soon; if the white is caused by disasters, it smells withered death. If there is purple in the cyan on a gold type person, he will be very developed; if there is white yet sheen on a soil type and concurrently a gold type of person, he will be wealthy. These are however exceptions. The worst colors are the following four: “white circles eyes heralds turmoil; black on the forehead indicates that the person will be impeached; if red dots are all over two cheeks the person is likely to be put into prison; if there is pale red on the jaw, the person will come to a miserable end.” One’s career would be ended and trouble would come one after another if one of the four is with him.


The last four colors are described thus in the original; the white is referred to as the twilight star, and in the eye of Chinese it is trouble; the black is referred to as crow; red dots are “peach flowers” and the pale red is “the tail of a red fish.”

Excerpts from 100 Family Letters

Zēng Guófān’s family letters have been very influential in China. They occupy an important place in China’s philosophy, literature and family education. On the one hand, they show how he educated his younger brothers and children (the Zēng family has produced quite a number of outstanding personages for the Chinese nation, poets, diplomats and scientists are among them), they also reveal his moral standard, his way of dealing with people and being an official, and more importantly they represented his thinking, which embodies his achievement in his learning of New Confucianism and classics. The translation is based on the selected letters from “Zēng Guófān’s Family Mottoes” compiled by Chéng Xiǎojū (成晓军) and Táng Zhàoméi (唐兆梅) and published by Chóngqìng Publishing House in 2006.

Letter 1

…you got to be exclusive if you want to be profound in your learning. “Too many skills can not make a living” talks about the results of not being exclusive. It is something like having dug many wells and yet still there is no water for drinking. So, all of you and each of you should devote all your attention to one discipline. If my ninth Brother (Guóquán) is determined to practice calligraphy, he has to be very attentive when copying the models, he can also think of how to improve any time in a day; of course, I don’t encourage him to give up anything else. As for my fourth and sixth brothers, I don’t know what subject you like most or if you have chosen a discipline to work on. If you wish to explore in the ancient classics, you got to start from a single classic; if you are determined to do well in composing “eight-legged essays”, you got to choose such essays by one particular writer to start with; if you wish to write ancient style articles, you have to read the collections of one master. This also applied to writing of all sorts of poetry and the kind of poetry required at the imperial examinations. Please do remember not to proceed with several subjects at the same time; by doing so you would accomplish nothing if you’re not concentrated. Please make sure you all remember this! Please not to let me down! Later when you write to me, please tell me in detail which subject each of you has chosen; you may also ask me for detailed information and ask questions in depth. It doesn’t matter if your letters are long. So that after I read your letters I can know your will. Anyone who concentrates on one subject would have some gains and reflections on what has learned, and have questions to be answered. Please let me know and share what you have gained, and I can analyze questions and discuss problems together with you…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on October 21, 1842/lunar calendar September 18, the 22nd year during the reign of Emperor Dàoguāng)

Letter 2

…Guóhuá always complains about his poor luck, I do feel much for him. Yet, if you resent after failed only once at a local examination, I would laugh at you quietly for not having a high aspiration and that you only worry about small issues. When a man of honor makes up his will, he must have the capacity of embracing all people and all matters, he should be a king and at the same a saint in order to carry out the “non-action” doctrines so that he would not bring insult to his parents and be creditable to the name of perfect person between the sky and the earth. The worries of such a person would be those for not being as good as Emperor Shùn and Duke Zhōu , and those that his virtues have not been cultivated and his studies have not be advanced. These people worry that the indocile people are so stubborn to refuse being administered, and that the minorities are disturbing the social order in the central plains, and that the able and virtuous could not play their role because they have been repelled by vile characters who are in power, and that the innocent male and female not being touched by the favors they were given. What these people do, in general, is to sigh for the roughness of fate and to commiserate the misery of other people. These are what man of honor worries. They wouldn’t have time to worry about personal gains or losses, food of a family, honor or dishonor, fame or infamy. That’s why I laugh at you quietly, and what you do not worry about big issues and you resent for having a bad luck because a failure at a local examinations.

As soon as one starts to read books, or those who claim to be educated persons must explore the meanings stated in the important classic “The Great Learning” , which, I believe, has three key points: to understand reasons; to educate the masses of people; to achieve perfection. Everyone should regard these points as one’s own duties. If any educated person can not apply these points in their thinking, speech and behavior, and think they are irrelevant to them, then what is the use of being educated? Even though the person can compose essays and poetry, can brag about his broad knowledge, he is only a cowboy who knows how to read and write at most, how can such a person be regarded as useful and knows reasons? The imperial court selects talents by way of reviewing the “Eight-Legged Essays” written by examinees, the emphasis is to see if anyone could take over from the saints their theories and create his own, or comprehend the doctrines of the sages, act like the sages, contact the common folks as an official, rectify one’s own words and deeds and be an example for the people to follow. If one does not think it is his own business to know reasons and improve people, and even if he can write essays and poems, yet he has no sense at all of cultivating himself and administering others, and if he was appointed an official what difference is there from appointing an ignorant cowboy? Therefore, if one thinks he is an educated man, it is so obviously important for him to master the three key points in the “The Great Learning”. In mastering these points there are eight aspects, some to be done in urgency, some could be done later. But as far as I am concerned, the following two aspects need more attention: one is to examine truth and the other is to find out the actual significance of things. The process of examining truth is a process for acquiring knowledge; finding out actual significance of things is a process to implement the knowledge learned. What are things? They are the fundamentals and the tail end, the primary and the secondary. They are the body, spirit, ideas, knowledge, family, the state and everything else on earth; they are the nature, they are in everyday life. Examining truth is to get into the matter and find out the true essence. Children say hello to their parents in the morning and at night is a thing to be done; when you understand why we do so, that is examining truth. A younger brother respects the elder brother is a thing to be done, when you understand why people do so, that’s examining truth. My own heart and spirit are also things, to understand why I keep my heart and spirit, and further on why I review my cultivation, that are examining truth. My own body is a thing, to understand why I have to be careful with my body, and further why I have to use my body to score merits, rear up family, stick on to my profession, to perform rite and morality, and these are examining truth. In the book you read everyday, every word and sentence is things, and when you link them onto yourself that’s examining truth, that’s acquiring perfection in knowledge. What we mean to find out actual significance of things is to put what you already know into action, is not to cheat, not to fudge. If you know only one sentence, you put one sentence into action, which is exerting one’s outmost in practice. You would acquire thorough knowledge of things if you do the two things at the same time and learn these two things from those who are in lower rank.

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on November 28, 1842 or October 26th, the 22nd year during the reign of Emperor Daoguang on lunar calendar.)

Letter 3:

…There are only two things that are reliable for us; they are enhancement of virtue and improvement of studies. Enhancement of virtue includes filial piety, love of brothers, to be kind-hearted and righteous; improvement of studies is ability to write better poetry, articles and calligraphy. I myself can decide on these two things. If I gain a foot in enhancement, this foot is mine; if I gain an inch in improvement, this inch is also mine. An ounce of virtue I gain today is like a liter of grain I accumulated; if tomorrow I make a cent of progress in my studies, I would have one more cent of cash. If I make progress in both aspects, my private wealth would be accumulating. As far as official positions and related benefits are concerned, they are pre-destined, can be in no way decided by ourselves. Sometime ago, one official’s disciple became one in charge of provincial educational matters, the disciple sent his two grandsons to the official to study. Yet, these two children all fell into serious illness when the county examination was on; at the juncture of another examination, the parents of the children passed away. It was only several years later these two were admitted into formal schooling and the elder one got good ranks. So, one’s official career is predestined, it is of no use if one has delusions. Whether one is qualified or not depends on oneself, but as far as when one can be an official is concerned, sooner or later, it is decided by one’s fate. My sixth brother’s resentment is unavoidable after suffering a blow. Yet, you are more gifted than other brothers, you should at this moment be more determined and work even harder, and not to give up your studies because of setbacks.

(Quoted from a letter to the four brothers on October 3, 1842, or on August 29, the 24th year during the reign of Emperor Daoguang on the lunar calendar.)

Letter 4:

…among numerous ways of learning, perseverance is the key. I didn’t have much of perseverance before; I have some now, but still much to be desired. Since July 1st up to now, everyday I imitate one hundred characters from samples, copy down a hundred words from books, read at least twenty pages, if more would be better. I have stopped since. Since July, I have read one hundred volumes of 《Selected Works of Wáng Anshí (王安石) 》, forty volumes of 《Selected Works of Guī Zhènchuān (归震川) 》, twenty volumes of 《Complete Collection of the Book of Songs》 and a hundred volumes of 《The History of Later Han》, I underlined and wrote some comments with a red pen. Even though I have been busy, I still managed to finish each day’s plan, never make up what I may have failed the last day or do more for the next busy day. I wish all of you can have such perseverance as mine. Even though my fourth brother’s gift is in the medium level, such perseverance would bring you some accomplishment. My much more gifted sixth and ninth brothers would achieve more…I have been worried about this day and night, and I tell all of you this word “perseverance”, and wish you can always remember it.

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on December 30, 1844/lunar calendar November 21, the 24th year during the reign of Emperor Daoguang)

Letter 5:

I am most happy to learn that so many people are convinced of the loyalty and credibility of Chénghóu (澄侯, Guóhéng’s adult name) while he was engaged in lawsuits in the county and the Badu city…from now on, dealings with people in both the hometown and the county and the provincial capital will rest on Chénghóu’s shoulders alone. The basic rules for handling matters and dealing with people are not to bribe others with money or property, not to loose trust of others and not to be bumptious. If you can comply these three points, everyone would naturally trust you and people at various places would respect you. Since this is the first time for you to handle public affairs by yourself away from home, you have to be prudent and cautious. Others wouldn’t applause you if you could only comply with one of the three points listed above.

(Quoted from a letter to the three brothers except Guohua on July 17, 1848, or June 17, the 28th year during the reign of Emperor Guaoguang in lunar calendar.)

Letter 6:

…I may seem to be quite stern with Guóhuá, yet when I check my conscience, I don’t think I did wrong. This can be explained. Other officials tend to be generous with their wife and children, and not so generous with their brothers. They make their own families rich while being stingy with relatives and others of the same clan. Ever since I was thirty, I have regarded it as disgraceful to become rich by being an official, and so I made up my mind secretly not to leave to my offspring assets gained by being an official. The sky, the earth and the divinities can examine that I have never betrayed my pledge. As far as treating our parents is concerned, I remit a small amount of money to them each year for them to improve their meals. I also did so to relatives and anyone in the clan who are poor, for purpose of merely express my concern to them. The reason I do so is that even if I give more to our family, the amount is still not enough to make a big change for our parents. If all benefits go to one family, relatives and clan members would have a grudge and they may even hate our parents. So, why not share some with them, they would be grateful and more respectful to our parents. If I become a local official in the future and have a more hefty income, I am determined not to take one extra penny except my salary and anti-corruption silver. If my salary and anti-corruption silver keep increasing, I would have more to assist more relatives and clan members; I shall not accumulate money for food and cloth of my sons. If my sons are able and wise, they should be able to be on their own in living and not to rely on their parents; if sons are not able and wise, every penny saved by their parents would add some sin to them, they would be dissolute, lazy and may do evil when they grow up and bring a bad name to the family. I therefore am determined not to be rich by way of being an official, not to leave money for my later generations to use. It has always been my will to use all my extra money to help out relatives and poor clan members aside from giving our parents better food if my salary is more respectable.

As with brothers, my love of them is expressed by advising them what are good behaviors, not tolerating their wrong doings. I teach them to be diligent and simple; I ask them to work hard so that they can form good conduct; I would be tolerating the wrong doings of my brothers if I enable them to nice clothing and food and satisfy all their desires. In doing so, they would be lazy, arrogant and be in no way to cast nice behaviors. Doing so is not showing my filial piety to our parents, and I dare not to do so. In the ten years of being an official, I only have two things in the residence in the capital: books and clothing. Being an official, clothing is indispensible. Reading books is my hobby. That’s why I have a bit more of these two kinds of things. In the future when I resign and return home, my clothing and my wife’s should be equally divided by drawing lots among your four brothers. The books I bought should be kept at the “Lìxiàn Tower”, the family library. None of our brothers and our later generations can keep even a single book as their own. Aside from these two kinds of things, I shall not keep anything else accumulated by being an official as my own, not even a thread or a grain for myself. This has always been my will of what to do with my brothers. Fearing that Guóhuá may not appreciate my deliberated thoughts from the bottom of his heart, I hereby lay out my life long plans to all of you, and hoping you can reflect and ponder on them.

(Quoted from a letter to the four brothers on April 13, 1849, or March 21, the 29th year during the reign of Emperor Guaoguang in lunar calendar.)

Letter 7:

…I am most pleased to read the letter from Guóbǎo (the fourth brother) for his determination to study morality and cultivation. Everybody can become a saint; it does not depend on whether one reads more books. Since you have such a determination, you should read in great depth these two books: 《The Chinese Linguistics》 and 《Five Rules that Still Stand》. It is so much the better if you also read other books. But for the time being, it doesn’t matter much if you don’t read other books. Please don’t think only after reading books you can be closer to being a perfect man or a devoted son. You don’t really have to read the four-character-a line or six-character-a line old poetry; you don’t even have to read ancient writings, which you like so much. What matters is to follow strictly the 《The Chinese Linguistics》 and 《Five Rules that Still Stand》. If you can follow one sentence, you have mastered one sentence; if you can follow ten sentences, you have mastered ten sentences; it would be several dozen thousand times better than merely remembering or reciting words and phrases…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on September 14, 1851/lunar calendar August 19, the 1st year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 8:

…Guóhuá is the most gifted among all brothers, yet he has too much complaint and is too lazy. When he was in Beijing, he didn’t read or write much, and that caused my worries. I heard after he returned home, he still complains and has not touched the shaft of the brush pen for a few months now. People wouldn’t blame other brothers much if within our family people with great achievement does not emerge one after another, but Guóhuá seems to have given himself up, he should not place all his hopes on fate. I have seen among my friends who suffered many setbacks because of being resentful…the heaven wouldn’t give a good fortune to one who blames the heaven without a reason; others wouldn’t be convinced if they were blamed wrongly. This is where the theory of comeuppance would work. The situation Guóhuá is in is the best for any scholars. Yet, he is resentful at every turn, nothing could satisfy him; I really could not comprehend him. He should be determined to give up this bad habit…whenever he is about to complain, he should ask himself: why I don’t have a peaceful mind? Is there something wrong with me? Be resolute to ask yourself questions and get rid of this shortcoming. A peaceful mind and modesty would not only bring you a success in your career earlier, but also helps to remove ill fortune and decrease illness…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on October 28, 1851/lunar calendar September 5, the 1st year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 9:

…Guóbǎo, when you read books, the important thing is not to read more, you don’t have to force yourself to remember what you read. You would make progress if you keep reading everyday. Make sure not to cast away good habits and seek something novel. Not to change into another book when you haven’t finished the one you are reading…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on December 4, 1851/lunar calendar,October 12 the 1st year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 10:

…Among our five brothers none has a habit of tidying up rooms, and a diligent and frugal family shouldn’t look like this. From now on we should learn how to tidy out rooms and put things in order. While treasuring things valuable, we should also sort out things ordinary and put them into places they should go. There is still value in things like leftovers of bamboo and wood. If we do so, we can find things useful wherever we go…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on June 22, 1855/lunar calendar May 9, the 4th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 11:
…Our brothers and our children should take “being diligent and respectful” as a principle. A family can be thriving even at times of unrest if its members are diligent and respectful; a slow-witted person can assume an air of intelligence if he is diligent and respectful. I have not worked hard in following this principle, but I wish our brothers and our children could abide by it at all times…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on September 2, 1855/lunar calendar July 21, the 4th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 12:

…Among our brothers and their wives of our family, there shouldn’t be the slightest unkindness. There is no reason why a family can not thrive if its members are diligent and respectful to some extent; a family would decline if none of its members are diligent and respectful. There is no reason why a family can not thrive if there is harmony in it; it is doomed to decline if there is no harmony. Each of you, brothers should compare these three words (diligence, respect and harmony) with our relatives and clan members while you are at our hometown, and you would find there is something in what I say. You are even worse than I in tidying up rooms; lack of this habit is a sign of family decline. Please from now on do a good job in cleaning our home. A piece of paper, a thread, a scrape of bamboo or wood should be picked up and places should be kept clean and tidy and give a good example to our children. If the older generation is lazy, their next generation would be arrogant and act without restrains, they would sleep during the day and sit up at night, and pick up the bad habits of taking opium. Guóhéng and Guóquáan are more diligent while Guóhuá and Guóbǎo are lazier. I wish those who are diligent can be more diligent and those who are lazy can correct youselves, so that our children would not follow a bad example. Please do remember this point. Aside from studies, our children should also sweep the courtyard, mop the tables and chairs, collect manure and weed the fields. All these are very good things to do. Please don’t think things like these are not decent and then stop them from doing such things…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on September 21, 1855/lunar calendar August 11, the 4th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 13:

…I have never spent a penny of money in the army for myself. Fame and position are what the Heaven treasures, wouldn’t be bestowed to people easily. Despite my superficial conduct, I still enjoy such a big name under heaven; a result from accumulated virtue from former generations, yet when I examine my conscience, I still don’t think I qualify with such a name. That’s why I dare not to be the slightest extravagant. In our family, our father and uncle are entitled to some affluence, all others including all brothers, wife, children, nephews, daughters, nieces should all live simply, and not be spoiled by power I enjoy. Ancient people used to say one is subjected to a big disaster if he does not possess high virtue and talent yet enjoys a big name. I always warn myself with this saying, and I have to tell all my nice brothers in detail this principle, in particular I hope you can educate all sons and nephews in this principle…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on December 31, 1855/lunar calendar November 23, the 4th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 14:

…The first important thing for our children to do is to foster a hard-working habit. At the present time of social disorder, the way to keep a family is not to have extra wealth, which would ultimately be a scourge. They should not be given too much ease in life, for instance, going to the old residence from the new, they should walk instead of riding a horse or a carriage. They should often climb up the mountains for physical exercise. For a family of officials, if money is not saved, the children would know there is nothing they could rely on and if they are not diligent for one day, there might not be enough food and cloth the next day. In doing so, our children would become gradually hard-working and come to know how to accomplish something by their own efforts…
(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on September 25, 1856/lunar calendar August 27, the 5th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 15:

…Fighting in wars is extremely dangerous. Once you decided to lead a troop in fighting, you should never have a slightest thought of flinching or evading. Social unrest and wars could not be settled in a matter of two or three years. Once you are in the army, you can not withdraw at your will. So, before you take part, you’d better give careful considerations and weigh the pros and cons. I trust all of you will think it over with care…

(Quoted from the letter to the four brothers on December 11, 1856/lunar calendar November 4, the 5th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 16:

…Most family members who came to see me in the army told me that you bore yourself well, I feel quite gratified hearing this. Most people hope their sons and grandsons can become big officials; I do not wish so. My only wish is that you could become a gentleman with knowledge and intelligence, and that you could be frugal and rely on yourself for a living, and that you could be accustomed to hard work, and that frugality is not a bother and comfort does not spoil you. Such would be a man of moral integrity. I have been an official for twenty years, during these years I have never dared to assume an air of those big shots; I have followed still the simple family style in living. I can stand frugality, a bit more in life is acceptable, but I never dared enjoy too much more.

It is easy for family of officials to become extravagant from a poor status; yet it is really difficult for such a family to go back to frugality from extravagance. You are still young, make sure you don’t try to seek extravagance, don’t be lazy. You should know any family can be prosperous if the members are diligent, hardworking, frugal and economic; and any family can decline if the members are arrogant, extravagant, lazy and sluggish, no matter the family is big or small, no matter if it is a family of educated people or one of farmers, workers or businessmen. You should not stop in practicing calligraphy and other studies. Please do rise up early in the morning. Please not to cast aside the fine family tradition observed since my great grand grandfather, grand grandfather, grandfather and father. I myself, your uncles all rise up early, you have seen this.

Generally speaking, wealth and fame are arranged by fate. Fifty percent are efforts of man; the other fifty is the will of the Providence. Only in matters like trying to be a saint, man’s efforts would count a hundred percent; this is where the Providence can not interfere. I was determined to become a saint, the pity is when I was small I failed to form a good habit of being deferential, until now I occasionally conducted undignified manners. The basis for fostering fine virtue is to carry yourself well and not to speak without restrains…

(Quoted from the letter to his son Jìhóng on October 27, 1856/lunar calendar September 29, the 6th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)

Letter 17:

…Children of families of officials tend to be arrogant and extravagant. Avarice is not nurtured only by having luxurious clothing and food. If one is accustomed to having a fur coat and woolen jacket, a cart and some servants, one is becoming more extravagant day by day. They would laugh at farmers as being simple and shabby, and assume an air of importance before employees, they are becoming more arrogant day by day…It were “arrogance and extravagance” that ruined the children in the families of officials in the capital. You and your younger brother should take this as a lesson…

(Quoted from the letter to his son Jìzé on December 2, 1856/lunar calendar November 5, the 6th year during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng)