井底之蛙

12/19/2006

Naughty or Nice?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:29 am

As it is time to think about the good or bad behavior of children, I have been wondering why so many Chinese sage-kings had rotten kids. Lewis points out that one reason for this is that the rotten kids are actually just like their fathers in that both are those odd, extraordinary people who are beyond education. Lewis cites Huainanzi

There are those whose persons are correct and natures good, who in firm resolve perfect their excellence, who in righteous indignation carry out their duty, who by nature are open to persuasion and without study accord with the way. Such are Yao, Shun, and King Wen There are those who sink into drunkeness and licentiousness, who cannot be taught the Way nor enlightened through virtuous power. A severe father cannot correct them, nor a worthy teacher transform them. Such are Dan Zhu and Shang Jun.p83

So most people are in the category of educatable, but the sage-kings and their progeny are different. Like super-heroes and super-villains they are more similar than you might think.

Lewis goes on to show that all children were regarded as dangerous. One group of dangerous children were those who were too much like their parents, born on the same month, born with eyes open, etc. More common were animal children, like Yangshe Shiwo who howled like a wolf when he was born, or triplets (born in large groups like animals). According to Lewis -all- children are animalistic as “the belief that the child was not fully human was and extension of the conventional Chinese idea that humanity was not given at birth but fashioned through education and ritual practice.”(p.88) Thus all the fears of childbirth, nursing women, etc. that you find in later Chinese culture. There are of course various ways of dealing with all these fears, and of teaching children to be good, but threats involving Santa do not seem to be part of the Chinese tradition

From Mark Edward Lewis The Flood Myths of Early China

One response to “Naughty or Nice?”

  1. J Chan says:

    ‘According to Lewis -all- children are animalistic as “the belief that the child was not fully human was and extension of the conventional Chinese idea that humanity was not given at birth but fashioned through education and ritual practice.””

    I seem to recall the ‘Three Character Classic’ begins with the idea that a person was born with humanity, but that this humanity could get corrupted.

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