Ancient Chinese Wisdom on How to be Successful in Life
Traditional Chinese belief systems are based on a mixture of folk traditions, Feng Shui, Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism blended into a melting pot of cultural practices and beliefs.
In the Chinese belief systems, there is a trust that living a good life depends on ten factors, some of which are within our personal control and others which are not. In Chinese, the famous saying is “一命二运三风水…” (First fate, second luck, third feng shui…). This quote was made by the late Zeng Shiqiang (曾仕強)（1935年10月20日 — 2018年11月11日）who was a great scholar of the I Ching (Book of Changes), one of the oldest Chinese classics.
In Life, some things are in our control, others are not.
The ten factors on life are based on fate, luck, Feng Shui, virtue, academics, reputation, relationship with God, friendship, connections with nobles, and personal health.
Fate — Confucianism teaches that life and death are determined by destiny. This means that we are limited by time, space, and external conditions on this planet. Some examples are where we were born, who our parents are, the time and day we were born, and our race. These aspects of life are completely beyond our control and attempting to change these things are futile and a waste of energy. In a sense these things have been predestined.
Luck — Luck is another concept beyond our control. The Chinese acknowledge that in life, both good and bad things can happen unexpectedly. Sometimes, despite our hard work and confidence, certain events may not align with our desires, and we can only choose to react to them.
Feng Shui — Feng Shui is the belief in Chinese culture that the positioning of oneself in relation to mountains, rivers, and objects in the environment, can influence personal success. For example, living near a body of water can be a symbol of wealth and can bring prosperity to the household. Living near a busy street can be a symbol of wealth leaving, and will bring hardships to the household.
While I personally do not place much emphasis on the mysticism of Feng Shui, I believe that the idea of positioning oneself in a favorable position is valid. For example, if one is searching for a job or something which they desire, one must position themselves in a place where they can maximize opportunities. Feng Shui and positioning is something which you can control.
Righteousness and Virtue — In Chinese culture, doing good works is believed to accumulate merits and virtues which can bless future generations. The Chinese proverb from the Daoist book 太上感应篇 “Tai Shang Induction Chapter” writes, “the rewards of good and evil follow each other like a shadow…Don’t follow evil paths, don’t follow darkness; accumulate virtue and merit, be kind to things; be loyal, filial and friendly, correct yourself and transform others; respect the old and cherish the young; insects, plants, and trees must not be hurt. It is advisable to pity people in their misfortune, to delight in kindness; to help others in need, and to save them in danger.”
Chinese culture suggests that cultivating morality can lead to blessings in the form of longevity, wealth, well-being, good virtue, and a peaceful death, thus, virtue and righteousness must be shared with the world.
Academics — The fifth factor is studying academics, and the emphasis on the importance of reading and academic pursuits to avoid ignorance of the world. The studious nature of Chinese students reflects the emphasis on academics among Chinese families.
Reputation — Building a good reputation, both for oneself and one’s family, is the sixth factor. This includes maintaining a positive image and integrity in personal and professional relationships.
Belief in a higher power — Believing in a higher power is another major aspect of traditional Chinese beliefs. The Chinese maxim is “God is six feet above your head”, similar to the Christian belief that “God is always watching you.” It is advised in Chinese literature to not to engage in actions that would displease God. Do not kill, do not steal, do not cheat, and do not commit any actions which God would not approve of.
Friendship — If you can make good friends, then people can strengthen and support each other.
Relationships with Nobles — In the context of modern society, “nobles” can be translated to as politicians, your bosses, police officers, representatives, leaders, and other influential individuals in the community. Why is it important to build a relationship with the leaders of your community? This is because these connections can potentially make one’s life easier or more difficult. These people can ruin your life if you make them angry.
Lastly, the final factor is health preservation, emphasizing the importance of taking care of one’s physical and mental well-being. This includes engaging in physical exercise, maintaining personal hygiene, and eating correctly.
While modernization and globalization have brought changes to Chinese society, Chinese folk beliefs continue to exist and evolve. These belief systems offer valuable insights into the collective consciousness and spiritual heritage of the Chinese people, and serve as a source of cultural identity to provide solace to many in times of uncertainty.