The article below was written by Graeme Lyall AM. It tells us that human beings can live happily. Please read...
Happy Life – A Visit to a Confucian Village
By Graeme Lyall AM
About two years ago, Venerable Master Chin Kung decided to establish an experiment in Lujiang in Anhui Province, in China, to restore traditional Chinese moral education, based on the Confucian classic, “Di Zi Gui”, often translated as “How to be a Good Student and Child”. He found a young man, Mr. Tsai, who had expertise in this classic, to teach the villagers and children of Lujiang.
Left: Venerable Master Chin Kung Centre: New Centre in Lujiang Right: Mr.Tsai - TeacherA centre was established, under Mr.Tsai’s guidance, to train teachers to guide the people in the principles of this important teaching. Several generous supporters both in China and elsewhere contributed funds to build a hostel and college to train both teachers and students in the future. The hostel, adjacent to the large college, can accommodate 650 students. Although this centre is nearing completion, it is yet to be officially opened. Temporary premises have been acquired where sixty teachers are currently under training.
As well as training the villagers in Di Zi Gui, both villagers and children are being taught such traditional Chinese skills as calligraphy, traditional painting, stone stamp carving and choral activities.
Left: Practicing Calligraphy Centre and Right: Carving Stone Stamps
Left: Children Reading Di Zi Gui Right: Children's ChoirI had the privilege of joining a study tour and visiting Lujiang in January, 2007, to witness the activities being conducted in the village. Lujiang is an impoverished village in central China but I found the villagers to be happy, polite and totally devoted to learning and practicing these traditional Chinese activities. It is common to see both adults and children greeting each other by folding their arms and bowing. Courtesy and mutual respect are well established practices in Lujiang.
Although this training is the initiative of a highly respected and famous Buddhist monk, Venerable Master Chin Kung, there is no attempt to use this centre to proselytise. The people are free to practice the religion of their choice or no religion at all. Because of this, although the Government authorities had initial reservations about this experiment, they are pleased and supportive of the results. The local Party Secretary, who is largely responsible for all activities in the village, told me that she was delighted with what was happening in her village and expressed a wish that it could spread to the rest of China.
I witnessed the adults attending daily classes in Di Zi Gui, choral singing and painting. The children were totally absorbed in such activities as learning calligraphy and stone stamp carving and traditional Chinese moral education.
I visited a local school where the teacher asked the students, “How many of you wash your mother’s feet?” More than half of the class put up their hands. I then visited the home of a very poor family of four generations, from great grandmother to a few days old baby. This dwelling was very dilapidated with little furniture and no heating, despite it being the middle of winter. Despite their poverty, this family lives by Di Zi Gui principles and are harmonious with never an argument or disagreement. This proved that wealth is not the key to happiness. This family had little or nothing in material possessions but they were very happy and courteous.
Left: Baby with family members Right: The family with our study groupIn Western countries, like Australia, we have, largely, lost the values of respect for parents and elders, respect for and obedience to teachers, and treating our fellow citizens with respect. When I was a child, these values largely prevailed. A child, in the presence of adults, would remain silent until spoken to. A child would never occupy a seat whilst an adult was standing. Children would obey the directions of their parents without question.
Changes in societal values such as equality of the sexes and the rights of women are a positive achievement but some courtesies of the past, such as a male allowing a woman to go first, standing when a woman enters a room, walking on the outside of a pavement to protect a woman from possible splashing by passing vehicles, raising his hat when passing a woman are not symbolic of paternalism detracting from the equality of women. They are expressions of respect for a fellow human being.
The ‘United Nations declaration on the Rights of the Child’ has, largely, imposed a fear in elders and parents in correcting the bad behaviour of children. Children, certainly, have rights in not being subject to excessive punishment, not being exploited in employment or being sexually abused. These are basic human rights, which apply to adults as well as children, but adults, be they parents or teachers, must be able to exercise discipline to a misbehaving child.
Western society could well examine the values taught by traditional Chinese moral education and adapt and apply some of these principles to rectify the deterioration of our modern societal values. This could well result in a harmonious society with a resultant reduction in delinquency and our increasing crime rate.
I was greatly impressed by the tremendous achievements in Lujiang in just two years and it is a great credit to the initiative and inspiration of Venerable Master Chin Kung.