The Maxims of Mr. Zhu Bolu
The Maxims of Mr. Zhu Bolu (1617–1688) is familiar to every Chinese. It is one of the most influential guidebooks on household management and family education in China. His teachings are a mixture of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.
For every bowl of rice, think how hard it is to grow the grain. For every piece of clothing, think how much labor has been woven into it.
Mend your home before it rains. Dig your well before you are thirsty.
Practice thrift in your daily life. Do not indulge yourself even when you are entertaining guests.
Keep kitchen utensils simple and clean, then they are as good as silverware. Eat simple and nourishing foods; vegetables are better than expensive delicacies.
Do not build a house that is too luxurious. Do not buy a farmland that is too fertile.
Shun gossipers for they can be scandalous. Do not keep domestic maids who are too pretty, for they may bring discord to your household.
Servants should not be too handsome. Wives and concubines should not put on too much make-up lest they attract the attention of those who harbor evil designs.
Ancestors may be distant, but we should keep our ceremonies of worship. Children may not be bright, but they should study the classics.
A well-to-do family needs to practice frugality. A child’s education must start with the cultivation of good behavior.
Do not seek ill-gotten gains. Do not drink too much.
Do not take advantage of small businessmen. Do help your neighbors and relatives who are needy.
Do not accumulate a family fortune by being mean, for such a fortune will not last long. Do not betray moral values, for doing so will bring ruin upon your family.
Give more of the family inheritance to those kinsmen who are poorer than you. Everyone in the household must abide by family rules and observe family decorum.
He is not a man who blindly believes a woman’s words and alienates himself from other blood relatives. He is not a man who loves money more than his parents.
Shame on those who fawn on the rich and powerful. Cheap are those who look down upon the poor and needy.
Avoid law suits for more often than not law suits lead to disaster. Do not talk too much for you are bound to have a slip of the tongue.
Do not use your position to take advantage of the weak and helpless.Do not kill wantonly for the pleasures of the table.
An unreasonable but self-righteous person will have many things to regret. An indolent but complacent man can never get established.
Mix with bad company, and you will get into trouble sooner or later. Make friends with those who are prudent and experienced, and you can depend on them when you are in need.
Do not be too credulous, for what you hear may not be truth. Better be patient and think twice. Do not argue endlessly, for you may be in the wrong. Better keep calm and reconsider.
Do not remember what you have given. Do remember what you have been given.
Always leave some leeway in doing anything, and never be too sure. Be content with what you have gained, and know when to stop.
Do not be jealous of other people’s good luck. Do not gloat over other people’s misfortune.
Having done something good but wanting others to know is not so good. Having done something bad but trying to cover it up is even worse.
If you lust after beauty, retribution will visit upon your wife. If you hate a man and hurt him stealthily, disaster will fall on your children.
As long as there is harmony in the house, a family can still be happy even if it is poor. As long as you have paid all the taxes due, your mind will be at peace even if you do not have much money left.
The goal of studying is to learn from virtuous men in history, not to seek a high position. The goal of taking office is to serve the king and the country, not to scheme for personal gains.
Confucius said if there is integrity in character, there will be harmony at home; if there is harmony at home, there will be order in the nation; if there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.
The Chinese have long held that a family living in harmony will be blessed with good luck and prosperity while a household filled with discord will be visited upon by misfortune and decline. Hence the significance of Mr. Zhu’s maxims.