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Being Respectful and Prudent with a Dignified Appearance
Qing Yan, Clearwisdom Net
9/15/2006

Mr. Zhu Xi (1130 A.D.-1200 A.D.) lived in the Nan Song Dynasty (1127 A.D.-1279 A.D.). A renowned scholar and educator of his time, he has been respectfully referred to as "Sir Zhu" (pin yin "Zhu Zi") by later generations.

Mr. Zhu Xi was a person worthy of respect with a calm personality. Even in his everyday life he cared a great deal about the dignity of his appearance and behavior. As a very knowledgeable person who produced an abundance of works, he has greatly influenced Chinese traditional culture, moral values, education, propriety, and religious beliefs.

In the days when Mr. Zhu Xi was at home without an occupation, he still got up before dawn every day, dressed himself properly, put on his shoes and cap, and worshiped respectfully at a temple dedicated to family ancestors and at past saints’ memorial tablets. Then, he returned to his study room, where the tables were always carefully aligned and the books and other things arranged tidily.

Sometimes, if he felt tired from studying and needed rest, he would close his eyes and sit straight for a while. Following the rest, he would stand up and take steady steps to walk around slowly.

Wherever he was and at all times, Mr. Zhi Xi’s appearance and behavior were never inappropriate. From a young age until his last days, he was always strict with himself and was never careless with nor gave up his manner of maintaining a dignified appearance and behavior.

"Dignified appearance" refers to having a classic, calm appearance and behavior. To regulate people’s behavior there is a saying, "Three hundred etiquettes with enormously dignified appearance." Children began to learn etiquette requirements from a young age. There were clear requirements for everything, from standing, sitting, and lying down, to the details of everyday life.

In addition to continuously increasing one’s virtue and integrity, it is also very important to be dressed tidily and to show propriety in speaking, behavior, and appearance. These manifest one’s self-cultivation. Only in this way can one be respected by others.

There is a saying in The Book of Odes (2) that says, "One has respect and prudence with a dignified appearance to be closer to virtuousness."

Notes:

(1) Mr. Zhu Xi was a Confucianist. He compiled selected works of Confucius’ disciples’ and the works on words, deeds, and thoughts of Confucius and his disciples into Four Books (Pinyin: Si Shu). One of his major works was Variorum on the Four Books.

(2) The Book of Odes is the first major collection of Chinese poems. It comprises 305 poems. Some poems were possibly written around 1000 B.C.

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