《双语园地》Respecting Teachers and Cherishing Virtue 尊师重道


Respecting teachers and cherishing virtue are part of the traditional ethics practiced by the Chinese people. Teachers, who impart morality, knowledge, and values, teach people the proper ways to interact with each other and with society at large. They exemplify virtue.

It was stated in the chapter “Record on Education” in The Classic of Rites: “Upon securing the proper reverence for the master, the virtue he embodies is regarded as honored. When that is done, the people know how to respect learning.” To maintain respect for the teacher and revere virtue, the student must not only show respect and courtesy but also hold respect in his heart and faithfully follow the teachings imparted to him. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how ancient people showed respect for their teachers and for virtues.

尊师重道 (上)


Yin Xi Performs the Ritual of Honoring Laozi as Master

Yin Xi was a scholar in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 – 711 BC). He became fond of ancient books at an early age. He had expertise in astronomy and was accomplished in watching the stars to predict the future. One day, he observed the heavenly climate and saw a purple mist on the eastern horizon that didn’t dissipate. He figured that a sage was to come from that direction and go through the Hangu Pass. Because he was in charge of allowing people to go through the pass on their way to the west, he ordered the guards to inform him immediately if they saw anyone with an uncommon appearance in the next few days. He also sent people to clean the roads and burn incense in preparation for greeting the sage.

A few days later, he received reports that an elderly man with white hair and a divine physique was riding in an ox-drawn cart toward the pass heading west. He immediately went to greet the elderly sage. He knelt down a dozen yards from the cart and said, “Yin Xi, the chief officer at Hangu Pass, greets the sage!” The elderly man replied, “I’m simply an average citizen. Can you tell me why you are performing this extraordinary ritual?” Yin Xi explained, “I have been waiting for days for your arrival after I saw indications that a divine being would soon arrive. It is my sincere hope that your holiness will enlighten me.”

The elderly man asked, “What were the indicators you saw?” Yin Xi answered, “I often watch the stars and know the basics of their changes. In the tenth month of last year, the Sage star moved across the western sky in wintertime. Early this month, a tender breeze passed by while a bloom of purple mist rose on the eastern horizon. Thus I knew that a sage would pass here heading west. The purple mist was so vast that it spanned 10,000 miles, which told me that this was no ordinary sage. The purple mist was led by the Ox star, which told me that the sage was to arrive in an ox-drawn cart. Today, upon seeing your holiness with this extraordinary, transcending countenance, I would be unable to express my gratitude if you would advise me on my cultivation practice.” The elderly man was pleased to see Yin’s sincerity as well as his kind heart and courteous demeanor. He smiled, “You recognized me, the old man. I, too, was aware of you. I am to offer you salvation.” Yin was glad and kowtowed to the sage.



When he asked the elderly sage’s name, the sage said, “My name is vast. At the moment, my surname is Li, my given name Boyang. People call me Lao Dan.” Yin burned incense, kowtowed, and completed the ritual of honoring Laozi as his teacher. Zi is a courteous title used in place of one’s name.

Laozi stayed briefly at Hangu Pass, only long enough to record something that is hard to define or describe, which he termed Tao. In it, he imparted his views about the universe, man, and society. He gave Yin Xi a 5,000-word manuscript called Tao Te Ching. Yin Xi followed Laozi’s instructions to cultivate his mind and body, promoted the teachings of the Tao school in managing the country and benefiting the world, and succeeded in his cultivation. He was honored by later generations as Yin, the True Man.