Wisdom of the sages
By Ehsan Doostmohammadi  ·  2023-10-16  ·   Source: NO.42 OCTOBER 19, 2023
Ehsan Doostmohammadi savors Chinese tea (ZHANG WEI)

In 2009, I came to Shanghai from Iran. My fate in China began with a car accident in which my friend injured his hand. Although it could not be cured by Western medicine, it was cured through acupuncture. The effectiveness of the treatment led me to develop a strong interest in Chinese medicine and I became determined to study it in China.

In 2011, I began studying at the Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. While living and studying in Shandong, I learned that the province—home to the famous philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.C.)—has a profound cultural heritage.

Shandong is one of the birthplaces of Chinese culture. At the same time, as the birthplace of Confucianism, Shandong is uniquely endowed with outstanding talents, sages, and great philosophers.

The land of Qilu, a nickname of Shandong taken from the ancient states of Qi and Lu that once existed there, is truly the cradle of sages. Gao Yao, a philosopher who is believed to have lived more than 4,000 years ago, is one of the Four Ancient Sages, whom later generations revered as the Forefather of the Chinese Judiciary. He insisted on fairness and justice throughout his life, and emphasized the combination of "rule of law" and "moral governance" to promote social harmony.

Emperor Shun, another legendary sage, is known for being filial and kind. After he came to the throne, he accepted advice with an open mind, appointed the talented and virtuous, and all businesses prospered. Records of the Grand Historian, China's first general history book written by esteemed historian Sima Qian of the Western Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D. 25) says: "Men of illustrious virtue in the empire began from the days of Emperor Shun."

Jiang Ziya, an ancient ruler of Shandong, was a strategist and writer. He was the military commander of the state of Zhou, who contributed greatly to Zhou's overthrow of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.). After the founding of the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 B.C.), Jiang was crowned as ruler of the vassal state of Qi, now part of Shandong. He held that a country could become powerful

only when the people prospered. A ruler would last only a short time if the officials enriched themselves while the people remained poor. Under his rule, Qi became one of the most prosperous Chinese states at that time.

Confucius established the first private school in China in the state of Lu in the sixth century B.C., and, according to historical records, he had 3,000 disciples, of whom 72 became highly accomplished. Confucius considered himself a transmitter of the values of earlier periods, which he claimed had been abandoned in his time. He traveled around the country for over 10 years, promoting his political ideas of "benevolent governance" and "ritual rule." His thought on ethics and society has spanned several millennia, and is still shining brightly today, being well-known in China and abroad.

Mozi, who was born in the fifth century B.C., was another prominent essayist and philosopher. Both Confucius and Mozi lived at a time when multiple schools of thought flourished and contended for dominance. Mozi regarded universal love as the core of his social and ethical thought and believed that the cause of social turmoil at that time was that people could not love universally. He therefore emphasized love and peace and advocated the "non-aggression" principle.

Chinese cultural classics are vast, diverse in form, and rich in content. Through reading, we can find that concepts such as "benevolent governance," "moral governance" and "harmony without uniformity" contain rich philosophical thoughts and a humanistic spirit. Their value transcends time and space. These ideas provide helpful inspiration for people to understand and transform the world and provide an essential reference for solving the problems and challenges faced by humankind in the current era.

The author is an Iranian researcher with Southwest University in Chongqing Municipality 

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson 

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