Victor Leung
Victor Leung
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My love of Chinese philosophy in high school

August 07, 2021

I spent a lot of time in high school thinking about life and developing my character. I became interested in the art stream as a science student since I could study them without taking the exams. Chinese literature influenced me a lot because the poetry and essays had persisted for thousands of years and contained a great deal of wisdom. I recall one of the legends about Su Qin (苏秦), a powerful political strategist in ancient China's Warring States period. He returned home in poverty and frustration after failing to persuade the Emperor of Qin. His family members, moreover, showed no respect for him. His wife no longer treated him properly, his sister-in-law no longer cooked for him, and his parents refused to speak to him. As a result, he decided to lock himself in his room and read his teacher's books. To stay awake and study, he would stab himself in the thigh when he fell asleep. After studying diligently, he travelled and persuaded six kingdoms to join forces against Qin, the country that had brought him misfortune in the first place. When he went home, he was wealthy and accomplished; his wife was scared to look him in the eyes, and his sister-in-law crawled on the ground in terror. "Even my parents didn't want to recognize me as their son when I was impoverished," he sighs. My family members are terrified of me now that I have grown wealthy and accomplished. How could we ignore money and status in life?" This narrative was realistic and encouraging for me to succeed.

Chinese literature was full of diverse viewpoints and wisdom. Du Fu (杜甫) a Tang era poet, was my favourite Chinese poet. He created a song about the autumn wind damaging his straw roof. Despite his old age and poverty, he was deeply concerned about others. The children in the hamlet bullied him and robbed his reed in front of him as the autumn wind blew off the reeds on the roof. Then came the storm, which brought rain, a leaking roof, and water dripping on his bed. As a result, there was no place to dry. He was harmed by rainfall and the cold, but his dream was to build a vast home with ten million rooms where all the academics could feel safe and smile. The structure would be strong to withstand the wind and rain. Suddenly, if he would be able to see such a building in front of his eyes, it would make him so joyful that he would be satisfied even if his own house collapsed and he died. He'd gladly exchange his life for it. It demonstrated that he was more concerned about the well-being of others than about his own. I appreciated his mentality for being willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. It continually reminded my desire to help people.

When it comes to Chinese history, I have to emphasize Confucius' philosophy, which significantly influenced me. Tang Junyi (唐君毅), a well-known Chinese philosopher, wrote an article that I loved. He founded my university and led the New Confucianism movement. He claimed that humanity is at the heart of Chinese culture, emphasizing that people are the most important spirit and avoiding discussing the existence of God. As a result, morality has become the most important concern in human life, and it is all about how we live as human beings with dignity. There are only a few distinctions between people and animals, and exhibiting animal-like behaviour is the worst thing a human could do.

There are four significant differences: First, human beings are compassionate. Second, human beings are concerned with justice and dignity. Third, human beings treat others with respect and courtesy. Finally, human beings are capable of distinguishing between what is right and what is wrong.

We show kindness to our family members, country, and everything, even other animals when we fully grow and utilize these four characters. We want justice and the ideal political system to bring order to chaos and sacrifice ourselves for the greater good. We have the decency to respect our parents, teachers, notable individuals, and anybody else who has contributed to the community throughout history. We are wise to distinguish between good and bad, seek the truth, and self-reflect to amend our errors. All of this is predicated on the four distinctions that exist between humans and animals.

It wasn't just Confucius who trigger my interest in Chinese philosophy. Taoism has had a significant impact on my thinking. They are complementary, and it works for me at different times, particularly when I am depressed. I'm reminded not to be stubborn by Taoism. It urged me to look at things from a new viewpoint to see the whole picture holistically, and that once I did, I'd realize I wasn't all that significant in the crowd, and I'd be able to forget about myself. Besides, I need to understand the universe, even if I may not be the best in class, my second place is so unique that no one could ever duplicate it. My number two should make the number one champion envious since I obtained something that no one else could. Taoism's knowledge liberates my mind from self-imposed limitations. When I look at Taoism through the lens of the natural world, I see various influences, including in battles. Sun Zi's book "The Art of War" (孫子兵法) is one of my favourites. I love it so much that in my spare time, I attempted to memorize it. "Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak," says one quote. "If you know your enemy and yourself, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred fights," I still attempt to put these strategies into effect whenever I have the opportunity. Taoism affected these tactics, which in turn influenced how I lived in this complex environment.

The irony of Chinese philosophy was that while most sounded excellent in principle, few were useful. There was a period of time in history when people could argue their ideologies due to freedom of speech. Survival was ultimately the best option for the emperor at that moment, which was legalism. It was not the same concept as the British social contract, which established the rule of law. Instead, it meant that the king employed harsh laws to enslave the populace. High taxation would make the government enormously powerful, and every citizen would be required to join the army. Ignore the Confucianist party's emphasis on kindness and justice, and ignore the Taoist intellectuals lurking in the cave. The only truth was that survival of the fitness with military strength. As a result, throughout the conflict, legalism won and unified seven countries into one China. This event is an important lesson to remember, especially in this modern-day chaos, such as the US-China tensions. The emperor achieved his aim of conquering everyone under legalism, but it was also the shortest-lived political administration in history. Because the people's were so hostile to the government, and everyone was suffering due to the conflict. Even the politician who enacted the rule died due to his restrictions being overly harsh and absurd. No one could ever survive in such a high-pressure, high-surveillance atmosphere. If we do not take history seriously and learn from it, I believe it will repeat. The once-powerful nation would crumble.

I was a science stream student during my high school years. Chinese literature, philosophy, and history were merely leisure for self-study. Science disciplines, on the other hand, are more valuable and practical in today's environment. Other countries took advantage of the circumstances near the end of the Qing dynasty when the emperor was weak, and the regime fell. Only two things, according to the intellects, might save China from corruption. Science was the first. Democracy was the second. I sincerely believe in the Qing dynasty's intellects vision, and I think these two things are relevant and necessary for China nowadays. The scientific method begins with observations, hypotheses, and experiments, then verified by trial and error. Even if we never discover the ultimate truth, we now have a way of determining what is incorrect. The democratic system may not be perfect, but it provides a voting system for people to express their opinions peacefully without resorting to violent revolution, hoping that the government will self-correct and change leadership. This democratic process is something I've believed since high school and continue to believe today.

About Victor Leung

Software development professional with expertise in application architecture, cloud solutions deployment, and financial products development. Possess a Master's degree in Computer Science and an MBA in Finance. Highly skilled in AWS (Certified Solutions Architect Professional, Developer and SysOps Administrator), GCP (Professional Cloud Architect), Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes(CKA, CKAD, CKS, KCNA), and Scrum(PSM, PSPO) methodologies.

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