Dizi Hui: Guan Ning Cuts the Mat

Guan Ning
Disappointed with his peer’s attitude, Guan Ning chose to sever ties with him.( sref.cnki.net)
By Ting Ting
Epoch Times Staff


Dizi Gui (Standards for Being a Good Student and Child) is a traditional Chinese textbook for children that teaches children morals and proper etiquette.

Conscientiousness and focus are important when doing tasks.  Dizi Gui emphasises this lesson by saying that we should avoid doing things in a hurry, as doing things in haste will lead to many mistakes.

We should not be afraid of difficult tasks, or look down on asking questions and clarifying doubts.

In addition, where there is fighting and disturbance, we should not ever go near. We should never say evil or deviant things.

A good example is the historic figure Guan Ning, who was known for being very focused in his work and spiritual cultivation.

Guan Ning Throws Away Gold in the Paddy Field

Guan Ning was a scholar during the Three Kingdoms period. From a young age, he developed the habit of doing things with great carefulness and concentration.

Guan Ning had a classmate called Hua Xin, and the two used to study and farm together. One day while Guan Ning was hoeing the rice paddy, he hit upon a rock that turned out to be a gold nugget. He threw the gold out of the rice paddy and continued hoeing.

Hua Xin saw Guan Ning throw away the gold nugget and picked it up. He examined it from all angles and then looked at his classmate for a long time before he too decided to throw it away.

Why did Guan Ning throw away the gold nugget? This was because he was a man of virtue. He treated farming as part of his cultivation practice and welcomed the hardship of farming as joy. He viewed the gold nugget, which would provide him a comfortable life, as a test and distraction from his farming work, and thus from his cultivation practice.

Guan Ning Cuts the Mat

On another occasion, the two friends were studying together when they heard the sound of drums and gongs outside their window. The noise was from a grand procession of high-ranking officials and their guards-of-honour passing by.
Guan Ning continued to focus on his book, but Hua Xin could hardly sit still. Finally, he could not resist but go outside to watch the procession, until the procession had walked far away.

When Hua Xin returned, Guan Ning took out a knife and cut the mat they had sat on together in half, saying, “We should no longer be friends.”

Confucius once said, “Do not work with people who has different values from yours.” Mo Zi also once said, “One who stayes near ink gets stained black”, meaning that one will inevitably be influenced by the behaviour of one’s company.

After observing Hua Xin’s behaviour in various situations, Guan Ning realised that they differed too much in personality. Hua Xin was easily distracted by money and power, and was careless in his attitude to studying, which would have made it more difficult for Guan Ning to maintain his own focus in his work.

Therefore, Guan Ning cut the mat in half, and made the decision to stay away from Hua Xin.  From then on, “breaking up with a friend by severing the mat” became an idiom referring to the end of friendship.

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