Establishing good habits

3 good habits

I have picked out 3 good habits that I think can reflect well on my culture. There are many more, but this is a good starting point.

1. 早睡早起

If you ever read any grade 1 Hong Kong school books, this might be the first good habit that will be mentioned, 早睡早起, meaning sleeping early, and getting up early. 早 in the basic greeting lesson I have mentioned, 早means morning, or I will introduce a new meaning of this character, it can also mean early. 睡is short for 睡覺 which is the formal or written version of the Cantonese word 訓教, meaning sleep. Bare in mind that in oral Cantonese, as in a regular conversation, not specific phrases and idioms, we will say 訓教 instead of 睡覺, because it sounds more natural. 起 means up, in 早睡早起, 起 is short for 起身, literally means up body, so meaning getting up. When I was growing up, as a teenager, I was definitely a night owl. So then my dad would say, “夜晚又唔訓, 朝頭早又唔起身” meaning “Won’t sleep at night, won’t get up in the morning”, 夜晚 means night, 又 has a meaning of also, 唔訓 means not sleeping, like I mentioned in the last episode, 唔 means un-, or not, or the negation of the following word. 朝頭早 is another way of saying the morning in Cantonese. 又唔起身 now is easy, it just means also not getting up.

For Cantonese people, getting up early in the morning means a great deal. For older people, they often say or complain about not being able to sleep too long, hence they get up early. In Hong Kong, older people like to get up early to go for a morning walk, or exercise at the park, like taichi耍太極 (if you didn’t know it’s a type of martial arts or kung fu that seeks the balance of your yin and yang, and more gentle for the body hence suitable for old people as well), then they would go to the Cantonese Dim Sum restaurant to have morning tea and breakfast, this activity of going to have dim sum and have morning tea is called 飲茶, tea is a very important Chinese Culture, I can perhaps chat about that some time.

On the other hand for the younger people, they perhaps might feel intense pressure from their parents or relatives to show up for 飲茶, morning tea and Dim Sum, like I said before, eating is a huge culture for Cantonese people, because it’s a good time to bond. But as we understand, Hong Kongers have very very busy lives, so when younger people show up for 飲茶, you would sometimes hear the elders say “好比面" meaning, giving people face, face is a super important concept in Chinese. When Cantonese or Chinese people feel that they have no face, it means they feel shamed. You can try to understand face this concept as respect or dignity. Of course, in this pandemic situation we might not want to go out to 飲茶, but this is still a good habit to have. I personally find the morning smell really cheers me up.

2. 少說話, 多做事

This you might or might not agree with, but it is with good intentions. 少說話, 多做事 means talk less, and do more. 多 means more, 少 means less, they are antonyms, meaning with opposite meanings. 說話 means talk, it is the formal and written version of the Cantonese specific word 傾計, and 做事 means do stuff, 做 means do or act upon something, 事 is short for 事情 simply put means things, or stuff. In the Chinese concept, this saying is what will help you succeed in your career or your life.

Have you ever wondered why we only have one mouth, but 2 ears 2 隻耳, 2 eyes 2 隻眼, and 4 limbs 四肢? Chinese people believe that is to show us that we need to listen more, observe more, talk less, and do more. Elders would tell us, no one truly enjoys someone who only knows how to put words beautifully but when it comes to doing it, it’s a complete mess. You might think this is a tool used to suppress people, of course they might not want people to all be talking, in China they have 1.3 billion people, if they all talk, it will be trouble. I think we should expand on this idea so it’s more clear. It isn’t saying necessarily to not talk. After all, many famous people won over people’s hearts with their speech. What this 少說話, 多做事 means, of course one might have a different interpretation, how I look at it is this: Quoting comedian Russell Peters “be a man do the right thing.” If you do things, find the right thing to do, and find the method to perfect that task. With words, think it through, say what’s right and what you mean at the right place and time, but be able to observe others.

Are you able to draw parallel of this habit saying 少說話, 多做事 to some Chinese people you know? Or do you know someone whose descent is Chinese but acts otherwise? Is there something similar in your culture? I would like to know. This is a good habit to have during this time since I am assuming we are all seeing fewer people, we don’t get to do so much talking, so it’s a good chance to be doing!

3. 不恥下問

不恥下問 literally means "no shame down ask". Literally meaning doesn’t make much sense? So basically it is saying, you shouldn’t have any shame asking and learning from people who are below you. This sounds really bad. I will tell you the story where this originally came from, then you can attempt to interpret its meaning. Back in the Spring and Autumn Period, roughly 771BC to 476 BC, Confucist孔子, the person, if you didn’t know already, Confuscist was one of the greatest philosophers in the Chinese and Korean History. He was one of the founding fathers of the confucius philosophy, his teachings are in the book “The Analects” 論語, if you are interested, check it out. It’s not a religion or anything, it is simply a school of thought. You can kind of imagine Confucist 孔子to be similar to like Socrates in Ancient Greece.

Anyway, back in the Spring and Autumn period, Confucist 孔子was kind of thought of as like a human above other humans in terms of the virtues, and how one masters the thoughts of life. Apparently at the time, he already had around 2000 followers that learned from him. Confucist already knew a lot about many different things, yet he was still humble and asked for help to learn from others. Once he went to an ancient temple to visit relatives’ graves. Once he got in, he was curious, he started asking around here and there. Someone then mocked, “Confucist is the best in his craft of knowledge, Why does he still need to be asking others?” Confucist heard, then said “Asking questions for everything or every subject, why not? What is not good about it?” One of his apprentice then asked, “Why do people call Yu Kong孔圉, Man Ji Kong 孔文子after he passed away?” (Note: Yu Kong 孔圉 was a famous politician during the spring and autumn period, he was smart but also very humble in learning) Confucist then said, “Smart and clever, curious to learn, No shame in asking people under them, someone like that is worthy of being called a “Man文”” (Note: Man 文 can be understood as cultural, literary, things that are related to the arts and humanity) So then his apprentices thought, “Our teacher, Confucist always asks for help to learn from others, and he does not feel ashamed!”When you are humble to learn with anyone, including learning from people who might have a lower status (in any sense), this is .the true meaning of 不恥下問. (No shame in asking below)

I hope you can find something useful in this episode. Remember, although you might not have school or work now, whether or not you are doing anything that might help you accelerate in life, have no guilt, sometimes, simply getting through a bad event is good enough. Hey, at least you listened to me babbling. :)

Let’s rewind on the phrases and words we learned today:

早睡早起 - sleeping early, and getting up early

訓教 - Sleep

起身- Getting up (Seat/ Bed)

夜晚 - night

朝頭早 - Morning

耍太極 - Doing Taichi

飲茶 - Drinking Tea / Sunday morning Dim Sum time

好比面 - Giving face (Giving respect)

少說話, 多做事 - Talk less, Do more

傾計 - Chatting

耳- ears

眼- eyes

不恥下問- no shame in asking people below you

論語- “The Analects”

孔子 - Confucist