Special Focus - - Contents - Zou Xin­sheng

“Law is rea­son free from emo­tion.” Aris­to­tle’s im­mor­tal re­marks be­stowed a com­pass of ra­tio­nal­ity upon the world, which guides ev­ery in­di­vid­ual on the jour­ney through life. How­ever, as we en­counter frus­tra­tions and fail­ures, we are in­clined to be aroused to lose our ra­tio­nal cen­ter­ing. Clearly, benev­o­lence and af­fec­tion are heal­ing elixirs for the in­jured and the down trod­den, the essence of which is re­flected in the Chi­nese char­ac­ter 慈 (cí).

Saint Teresa of Cal­cutta once said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small

things with great love.” To fully ap­pre­ci­ate the in­fi­nite power of love, we should get down to the fun­da­men­tals of the Chi­nese char­ac­ter 慈 . As elu­ci­dated in the ShuowenJiezi(Orig­i­nofChi­nese

Char­ac­ters) , the first Chi­nese com­pre­hen­sive dic­tionary in history, the ear­li­est and most preva­lent mean­ing of 慈爱is ( ài), mean­ing “benev­o­lence and af­fec­tion,” from which the bril­liance of Chi­nese cul­ture ra­di­ates.

Be­sides turn­ing to the dic­tionary to un­lock the mys­ter­ies of a par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter, peo­ple can sim­ply de­duce the root of the char­ac­ter 慈 from its for­ma­tion that 慈 com­bines two parts: the up­per part is 兹 ( zī), mean­ing “blos­som­ing and flour­ish­ing”; the lower part is 心 ( xīn), mean­ing “heart.” The in­te­gra­tion of the two parts am­pli­fies to help oth­ers evolve them­selves in gen­eros­ity and kind­ness, thus echo­ing with its def­i­ni­tion in the Shuowen

Jiezi .

Pro­found Chi­nese cul­ture is an av­enue for the so­lid­i­fi­ca­tion of our na­tional virtues, like benev­o­lence, mod­esty and fil­ial piety, etc. En­dowed with th­ese home­grown at­tributes, the char­ac­ter 慈 has a mul­ti­plic­ity of con­no­ta­tions.

Leg­end has it that Men­cius’ mother re­lo­cated and re­set­tled three times, in or­der to seek out sanc­tu­ary for his education— the epit­ome of a mother’s love. An­other con­crete ex­am­ple of dot­ing mother goes to a fa­mous poem en­ti­tled “Hymn of the Trav­eler” ( 游子吟 yóu zi yín), in which “谁言寸草心,报得三春晖?” (shuí yán cùn cùn xin, bào dé sān chūn huī. Who could claim that green grass might some­how re­pay the sun for its warmt h?) A por­tion of a kind mother is con­densed into a typ­i­cal Chi­nese char­ac­ter called

慈母 (címǔ, lov­ing/fond mother), where 慈 means kind and ami­able.

Chi­nese phi­los­o­phy is steeped in mod­esty and cour­tesy, two na­tional virtues. In hum­ble ex­pres­sion, 家慈 (jiācí) refers to “my mother” while its coun­ter­part

家严 (jiāyán) “my fa­ther.” An­other sense of 慈 is 尽孝道

(jìn xiàodào, prac­tice the doc­trine of fil­ial piety). In tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, fil­ial piety is be­lieved to be the very foun­da­tion of all virtues, “百善孝为先” (bǎi shàn xiào wéi xiān). It has been known by ev­ery man, woman and child in ev­ery house­hold across China for thou­sands of years. To a great ex­tent, a man’s in­tegrity is largely de­ter­mined by the ex­pres­sion of his fil­ial piety.

In any na­tion, hu­man kind­ness res­onates with benev­o­lence when it is de­voted to the sub­li­ma­tion of her na­tional char­ac­ter. Some­times life can be a strug­gle; how­ever, if some­how the virtue of hu­man kind­ness can be in­stilled into peo­ple’s heart, they will go as far as their tal­ents will take them.

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