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Hong Zicheng

1572 – 1620. A Chinese philosopher. The author of the Qingyang (literally “pure sayings”) aphorisms.



1. A rope used to pull a bucket from a well will cut through the wood, as water will wear through a stone. Those who want to know the truth must be persistent. Water will find its own way. The ripe fruit falls to the ground itself. Those who have found the truth follow only the call of nature.

2. Whoever learns without thinking is misled. Whoever reflects while unwilling to learn will find himself in difficulty.

3. A useful lesson can often be drawn from failure, so mishaps are the best help.

4. When stepping forward, think whether you can step back. Then you will avoid the fate of the dashing lamb who had its horns stuck in the wall. If you think about desisting when planning a venture, you will avoid the danger of riding a tiger.

5. Words are the gates of mind. If you keep them open, the mind will slip out.

6. It is better to protect what has already been achieved than to dream of what has not yet been accomplished. It is better to prevent a future mistake than to regret a past sin.

7. It is common for people to hesitate and change their decisions. Worldly paths are confusing and dangerous. Where you cannot go forward you need to be able to take a step back. And where you can pass, let others go before you.

8. Fair opinion should not be contradicted. Go against it, and you will be embarrassed for life. The self-interest of those in power should not be served. Serve them once, and you will tarnish yourself for the rest of your life.

9. Thrift is a great virtue. But when there is no moderation, it will turn into ordinary stinginess and become a vice. Compliance is an excellent character trait. But if there is no moderation, it will turn into servility and make a man a sycophant.

10. Our lives are, in fact, puppet performances. One only has to hold the threads firmly with one’s hands so as not to entangle them, to move them at one’s own will and to decide when to go, and when to stop, never letting others to pull them – and then one will soar over the stage.