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The Three Treasures or Three Jewels (Chinese : 三 寶 ; pinyin :sānbǎo; Wade–Giles :san-pao) are basic virtues in Taoism. Although the Tao Te Ching originally used sanbao to mean "compassion", "frugality", and "humility", the term was later used to translate the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) in Chinese Buddhism, and to mean the Three Treasures (jing, qi, and shen) in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.
Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.
Wade–Giles, sometimes abbreviated Wade, is a romanization system for Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Wade, during the mid-19th century, and was given completed form with Herbert A. Giles's Chinese–English Dictionary of 1892.
Sanbao "three treasures" first occurs in Tao Te Ching chapter 67, which Lin Yutang (1948:292) says contains Laozi's "most beautiful teachings":
The Tao Te Ching, Chinese: 道德经; pinyin: Dao De Jing), also known as Lao Tzu or Laozi, is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the late 4th century BC, but modern scholarship dates other parts of the text as having been written—or at least compiled—later than the earliest portions of the Zhuangzi.
Lin Yutang was a renowned Hokkien Chinese writer, translator, linguist, philosopher and inventor. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, and his compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts into English were bestsellers in the West.
Laozi, also rendered as Lao Tzu and Lao-Tze, was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.
Every one under heaven says that our Way is greatly like folly. But it is just because it is great, that it seems like folly. As for things that do not seem like folly — well, there can be no question about their smallness!
Here are my three treasures. Guard and keep them! The first is pity; the second, frugality; the third, refusal to be 'foremost of all things under heaven'.
For only he that pities is truly able to be brave;
Only he that is frugal is able to be profuse.
Only he that refuses to be foremost of all things
Is truly able to become chief of all Ministers.
At present your bravery is not based on pity, nor your profusion on frugality, nor your vanguard on your rear; and this is death. But pity cannot fight without conquering or guard without saving. Heaven arms with pity those whom it would not see destroyed. (tr. Waley 1958:225)
Arthur Waley describes these Three Treasures as, "The three rules that formed the practical, political side of the author's teaching (1) abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment, (2) absolute simplicity of living, (3) refusal to assert active authority."
Arthur David Waley was an English orientalist and sinologist who achieved both popular and scholarly acclaim for his translations of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Among his honours were the CBE in 1952, the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1953, and he was invested as a Companion of Honour in 1956.
The first of the Three Treasures is ci (Chinese : 慈 ; pinyin :cí; Wade–Giles :tz'u; literally: 'compassion, tenderness, love, mercy, kindness, gentleness, benevolence'), which is also a Classical Chinese term for "mother" (with "tender love, nurturing " semantic associations). Tao Te Ching chapters 18 and 19 parallel ci ("parental love") with xiao (孝 "filial love; filial piety"). Wing-tsit Chan (1963:219) believes "the first is the most important" of the Three Treasures, and compares ci with Confucianist ren (仁 "humaneness; benevolence"), which the Tao Te Ching (e.g., chapters 5 and 38) mocks.
Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese, is the language of the classic literature from the end of the Spring and Autumn period through to the end of the Han dynasty, a written form of Old Chinese. Classical Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese that evolved from the classical language, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese. Literary Chinese was used for almost all formal writing in China until the early 20th century, and also, during various periods, in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Among Chinese speakers, Literary Chinese has been largely replaced by written vernacular Chinese, a style of writing that is similar to modern spoken Mandarin Chinese, while speakers of non-Chinese languages have largely abandoned Literary Chinese in favor of local vernaculars.
Wing-tsit Chan was a Chinese scholar and professor best known for his studies of Chinese philosophy and his translations of Chinese philosophical texts. Chan was born in China in 1901 and went to the United States in 1924, earning a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1929. Chan taught at Dartmouth College and Chatham University for most of his academic career. Chan's 1963 book A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy was highly influential in the English-speaking world, and was often used as a source for quotations from Chinese philosophical classics.
The second is jian ( 儉 ; jiǎn; chien; 'frugality, moderation, economy, restraint, be sparing'), a practice that the Tao Te Ching (e.g., chapter 59) praises. Ellen M. Chen (1989:209) believes jian is "organically connected" with the Taoist metaphor pu (樸 "uncarved wood; simplicity"), and "stands for the economy of nature that does not waste anything. When applied to the moral life it stands for the simplicity of desire."
The third treasure is a six-character phrase instead of a single word: Bugan wei tianxia xian不敢為天下先 "not dare to be first/ahead in the world". Chen notes that
The third treasure, daring not be at the world's front, is the Taoist way to avoid premature death. To be at the world's front is to expose oneself, to render oneself vulnerable to the world's destructive forces, while to remain behind and to be humble is to allow oneself time to fully ripen and bear fruit. This is a treasure whose secret spring is the fear of losing one's life before one's time. This fear of death, out of a love for life, is indeed the key to Taoist wisdom. (1989:209)
In the Mawangdui Silk Texts version of the Tao Te Ching, this traditional "Three Treasures" chapter 67 is chapter 32, following the traditional last chapter (81, 31). Based upon this early silk manuscript, Robert G. Henricks (1989:160) concludes that "Chapters 67, 68, and 69 should be read together as a unit." Besides some graphic variants and phonetic loan characters, like ci (兹 "mat, this") for ci (慈 "compassion, love", clarified with the "heart radical" 心), the most significant difference with the received text is the addition of heng (恆, "constantly, always") with "I constantly have three …" (我恆有三) instead of "I have three …" (我有三).
The Mawangdui Silk Texts are Chinese philosophical and medical works written on silk which were discovered at the Mawangdui site in Changsha, Hunan, in 1973. They include some of the earliest attested manuscripts of existing texts, two copies of the Tao Te Ching, a copy of Zhan Guo Ce, works by Gan De and Shi Shen and previously-unknown medical texts, such as Wushi'er Bingfang. Scholars arranged them into 28 types of silk books. Their approximately 120,000 words cover military strategy, mathematics, cartography and the six classical arts: ritual, music, archery, horsemanship, writing and arithmetic.
The language of the Tao Te Ching is notoriously difficult to translate, as illustrated by the diverse English renditions of "Three Treasures" below.
|Translation||Sanbao三寶||Ci慈||Jian儉||Bugan wei tianxia xian不敢為天下先|
|Balfour (1884:41)||three things which I regard as precious||compassion||frugality||not venturing to take precedence of others — modesty|
|Legge (1891:110)||three precious things||gentleness||economy||shrinking from taking precedence of others|
|Lin (1948:291)||Three Treasures||Love||Moderation||Never be the first in the world|
|Erkes (1950:117)||three jewels||kindness||thriftiness||not daring to play the first part in the empire|
|Waley (1934:225)||three treasures||pity||frugality||refusal to be 'foremost of all things under heaven'|
|Wu (1961:97)||Three Treasures||Mercy||Frugality||Not daring to be First in the World|
|Chan (1963:219)||three treasures||deep love||frugality||not to dare to be ahead of the world|
|Lau (1963:129)||three treasures||compassion||frugality||not daring to take the lead in the empire|
|English & Feng (1972:n.p.)||three treasures which I hold and keep||mercy||economy||daring not to be ahead of others — humility|
|Wieger & Bryce (1984:34)||three things||charity||simplicity||humility|
|Mitchell (1988:110)||three treasures which I preserve and treasure||compassion||frugality||daring not to be first in the world|
|Henricks (1989:38)||three treasures||compassion||frugality||not presuming to be at the forefront in the world|
|Chen (1989:208)||three treasures||motherly love||frugality||daring not be at the world's front|
|Mair (1990:41)||three treasures||compassion||frugality||not daring to be ahead of all under heaven|
|Muller (2004:n.p.)||three treasures||compassion||frugality||not daring to put myself ahead of everybody|
A consensus translation of the Three Treasures could be: compassion or love, frugality or simplicity, and humility or modesty.
In addition to these Taoist "Three Treasures", Chinese sanbao can also refer to the Three Treasures in Traditional Chinese Medicine or the Three Jewels in Buddhism. Victor H. Mair (1990:110) notes that Chinese Buddhists chose the Taoist term sanbao to translate Sanskrit triratna or ratnatraya ("three jewels"), and "It is not at all strange that the Taoists would take over this widespread ancient Indian expression and use it for their own purposes."
Erik Zürcher, who studied influences of Buddhist doctrinal terms in Daoism, noted (1980:115) two later meanings of sanbao: Dao道 "the Way", jing經 "the Scriptures", and shi師 "the Master" seems to be patterned after Buddhist usage; Tianbao jun天寶君 "Lord of Celestial Treasure", Lingbao jun靈寶君 "Lord of Numinous Treasure", and Shenbao jun神寶君 "Lord of Divine Treasure" are the Sanyuan三元 "Three Primes" of the Lingbao School.
Taoism, or Daoism, is a philosophical or religious tradition of Chinese origin which emphasises living in harmony with the Tao. The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasising rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving "perfection" by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called "the way" or "dao". Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasise wu wei, "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 "compassion", 儉 "frugality", and 不敢為天下先 "humility".
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The Three Treasures or Three Jewels are theoretical cornerstones in traditional Chinese medicine and practices such as Neidan, Qigong, and T'ai chi. They are also known as Jing Qi Shen. Despeux summarizes.
Jing, qi, and shen are three of the main notions shared by Taoism and Chinese culture alike. They are often referred to as the Three Treasures, an expression that immediately reveals their importance and the close connection among them. The ideas and practices associated with each term, and with the three terms as a whole, are complex and vary considerably in different contexts and historical periods. (2008:562)
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