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Afraid Not that Others Know, But that I Know

April 21, 2006 |   By Qingyan


In the Yongzheng era of the Qing Dynasty, there was a person named Ye Chunren. He was a government officer for over thirty years and he was uncorrupted and disciplined. When he resigned from his position, his subordinates wanted to see him off by sending him a boat. However, the boat did not come until it was dark and the moon was high. It turned out that those officers prepared it as a parting gift for him. They deliberately waited until it was dark so that others would not see it. Ye Chunren turned down the gift and wrote a poem, saying

At midnight, with the moon bright and the wind cool
A farewell boat with gifts came late
I appreciate your caring, but I have to return the boat
Afraid not that others may know, but that I know

"Not afraid that others may know, but that I know" is the spirit of self-control. It tells people that one can control and behave oneself by following certain rules. In traditional Chinese culture people stress "not to misbehave in a dark room," meaning that even though nobody would know about it if we did a wrong deed, we should still follow our moral standards. People who believe in gods and heaven know that our every thought and every move are being watched.