Virtues valued by the traditional Chinese

The virtues most valued by the traditional Chinese people have been grouped into the so-called Four Principles and Eight Virtues. We have already touched upon a number of these virtues in the previously posted articles.

The four principles are regarded as the bonds that hold the fabric of society together.

(lǐ) refers to having good manners and following the protocol.

(yì) means righteousness and proper behavior and deeds.

(lián) means having moral integrity and not accepting bribes. (chǐ) means having a sense of shame. These two words usually go together as 廉耻 (liánchǐ integrity and sense of honor).

不知廉耻 (bùzhī liánchǐ) is a serious accusation that means “shameless”. If it will help you remember this phrase, you could associate it with “not knowing one’s face, (liǎn), and teeth 齿 (chǐ)”. In fact, the familiar way of saying “shameless” or “brazen” is 不要脸 (bùyào liǎn not caring about one’s face or honor).

The Eight Virtues are actually four virtues made up of eight characters.

忠孝 (zhōng xiào) refers to loyalty and filial piety, which strengthen the foundation of a country and a family, respectively.

仁爱 (rénài) is kindheartedness, the good will that connect people to one another.

信义 (xìnyì) is good faith and trustworthiness that keeps things going in a predictable way.

和平 (hépíng) means peace.

If you’ve been to Taiwan, you most likely have passed by streets named after the above four virtues. At school, students are reminded of the importance of these virtues through ethics classes and posters displayed in classrooms and doorways. In fact, many public schools have the classes named with these eight characters as well as the characters representing the following often-cited virtues.

(gōng) stands for 公正 (gōngzhèng being just or impartial) or 公平 (gōngpīng fair or equitable).

这不公平.
Zhè bù gōngpīng.
This is not fair.

(chéng) means being sincere and honest. 诚心 (chéngxīn) and 诚意 (chéngyì) both mean sincere or sincerity.

我诚心诚意邀她去看电影,但她不领情.
Wǒ chéngxīn chéngyì yāo tā qù kàn diànyǐng, dàn tā bù lǐngqíng.
I sincerely invited her to a movie, but she did not appreciate it. (She refused.)

诚实 (chéngshí) means being honest.

(qín) is being diligent and hardworking. It often appears in the form 勤劳 (qínláo).

他是个勤劳的年轻人.
Tā shìgè qínláo de niánqīngrén.
He is a hardworking young man.

(yì) is being determined or resolute. 毅力 (yìlì) is a person’s willpower or stamina.

我们要有坚强的毅力.
Wǒmén yào yǒu jiānqiáng de yìlì.
We must have a strong will and perseverance.

(wēn) refers to a temperate personality.

他的女朋友很温柔.
Tā de nǚpéngyou hěn wēnróu.
His girl friend is warm and gentle.

(liáng) means being a good and kind person, as in 善良的人 (shànliáng de rén).

(gōng) meanes respectful and reverent. When you say 恭喜 (gōngxǐ), you are offering your congratulation respectfully.

(jiǎn), or 节俭 (jiéjiǎn), means being thrifty and not squandering money on luxuries.

(ràng let) is to yield a privilege to another person, such as when you say, “After you”.

在公车上要让位给老年人.
Zài gōng chē shàng yào ràngwèi gě lǎoniánrén.
When riding a bus, one should offer one’s seat to the elderly.

Which virtues do you value the most? Do you know the corresponding Chinese words?

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