Zhuge Liang’s Two Family Letters
Zhuge Liang was a Langya native living during the Three Kingdoms era. He was a renowned statesman and military strategist. His highest position was prime minister. He wrote this letter, “Caution to son” to his son Zhuge Qiao.
Zhuge Liang’s “Caution to Son”
The conduct of those who have integrity and are capable depends upon their inner peace of mind and ability to focus in order to cultivate body and mind. One cultivates character with simple actions. If one does not take worldly fame and profit lightly, he cannot be clear about his goal. If one’s mind is not tranquil, he cannot realize broad ideals. Learning must be focused on one’s goals, and to develop talent one must study arduously. If one does not study diligently, his capabilities and wisdom cannot grow. If one is not clear about his goal, he cannot achieve it, even through study. If one pursues excessive comfort and has a lazy and sloppy attitude, he cannot inspire his spirit. In being frivolous and hot-tempered, one cannot shape his temperament. Then, as one’s youth passes and his will wears down with time, he will eventually turn into a person that accomplished nothing. In the end, one will be of no use to society. By that time, there will be nothing left for him to do, besides being left in his own narrow and small world, thinking sadly of what he had missed.
Zhuge Liang’s “Caution to Nephew”
A person must have noble and lofty ambitions, admire the virtuous people of times gone by, give up lust and abandon all that hinders one’s advancement. Only this way can one achieve one’s ambition and truly change from within. One must be able to adapt to any given situation, disregard the trivial, widely seek knowledge from others and eliminate suspicion and being miserly. By following such wisdom, even if one suffers setbacks, he will not hurt his disposition and interests. Then, one need not worry about not achieving his goal. If one does not remain firm and resolute in spirit, he will succumb to the current fad, remain obscure and be fettered by lust. Such a person will inevitably be an ordinary person, or worse, a disgrace to society.