The Three Cardinal Guides

The Significance of the Chinese Character for Three “三”

The Chinese character for the number ‘three’ is: “三”, pronounced, ‘san’. This character refers to the laws that govern Heaven, Earth and Humanity.

The top horizontal stroke of “三” represents Heaven. The bottom stroke refers to the Earth, and the middle stroke refers to human beings.

According to traditional Chinese culture, all things on Earth came into existence for humans’ sake. Lao Zi, one of the most prominent philosophers in Chinese history, said: “Heaven was born, followed by Earth. Man was born on the Earth, then all things came into existence.”

What Did the Three Cardinal Guides Represent in Ancient China?

The Three Cardinal Guides represented the ethical principles that everyone in ancient Chinese society adhered to.

Both king and officials required themselves to act righteously. Officials respected the king, and in turn the king needed to be responsible and be considerate of his subjects. As long as the king didn’t deviate from governing with moral principles, officials remained loyal and served their country faithfully.

Hierarchy existed in the family, such as among father and son. Son’s were dutiful and respectful. The close family bonds dictated that siblings respected and loved one another.

Fathers were benevolent, whilst sons obedient. Fathers placed hope in their sons and made sure they were raised properly. Should a son misbehave, the father disciplined him, as this was considered being responsible to both family and society.

Pace of life in the 20th century is fast and quite demanding, often with both husband and wife having to spend long hours working away from home.

In ancient China, a husband worked hard to support his family, and the wife endeavored to be the understanding wife and loving mother. A wife would make sure the household was warm and inviting for all. Regardless of whether the husband was near or far, he would always long to return home.

Chinese have always believed in predestined relationship, or fate. And it is such a predestined relationship that the Chinese believe allows a man and woman to be together, so a couple holds a deep appreciation for one another.

In ancient China, people emphasized tolerance in relationships. Despite any differences, harmony is maintained through mutual respect, tolerance and consideration for the other. Marriage at that time was considered indestructible.

Friends cherish relationships that are based on honesty and kindness. These moral principles allow people to behave properly.

Adhering to the Three Cardinal Guides and self discipline allow society to function properly and be in harmony with nature. Neglecting its principles leads to disorder among king and officials, as well as in the family, with people being less able to practice self restraint.

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