In China’s history, there have emerged many legendary figures. Yet it’s hard to find one that compares with Guiguzi—a famous Taoist, thinker, strategist, diplomat, inventor, medical scientist, and a great educator—in terms of accomplishments.
There are five classic sayings of Guiguzi that can help you to understand another person’s character, and it works universally, for people of all nationalities and backgrounds.
- Look at How a Person Behaves With Money
A person’s values can be seen very clearly by looking at how they manage their money. There are many wealthy people worldwide, but not many are good at handling their money well. Money is something that you can’t bring with you at birth, nor take away with you at death; its transitory nature can test one’s heart. You can’t live without money, but you can’t live your life for it—it’s a delicate balance that involves morality.
2. Look at How a Person Behaves When in Hardship
It’s easy to drop your morals through desperation, when faced with hardship or overwhelming life circumstances. If, despite life’s hardships, people would all stay steadfast to virtue and good principles, there would likely be less corruption and crime in the world. It’s important to spend time with people who have strength in their character and are able to face the world and all of its problems, while remaining positive and steadfast in their beliefs.
3. Look at a Person’s Relatives
The environment we grow up in and the people we associate with can have a huge impact on a person. There is a legend about a Chinese philosopher called Mencius, who lived around 300 BC and is often described as second only to Confucius. The famous saying, 「Mencius’ mother moves three times」 (孟母三遷), refers to the story of Mencius’ mother moving house, until she felt that she had found a location that was supportive of her child’s development. As an expression, the idiom refers to the significance of finding a decent environment for raising children.
4. Look at How a Person Behaves When in Power
A person’s heart can show after a promotion or a raise in responsibility. Is the person able to remain fair and truthful, and grounded? Is talent and good work appreciated or has power and ego caused the person to recommend irresponsible people, secretly hold alternative intentions or focus on self-interest?
5. Look at Whether a Person Values Filial Piety
In ancient China, filial piety—the virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors—was very highly valued. Especially when a person obtains wealth, observing their value of filial piety can be a good indicator of character.
Translator: Yi Ming
Edited by Emiko Kingswell