Stories from History: Zhuge Liang's Two Family Letters

Zhuge Liang was a Langya native living during the Three Kingdoms era. He was a renowned statesman and strategist. His highest position was prime minister. He wrote this “Letter to son” to his son Zhuge Qiao.

Zhuge Liang's "Letter to Son"

The conduct of those who are capable and filled with integrity depends upon their innermost feelings and includes having a peace of mind and being able to center and balance one's energy. One needs to cultivate body and mind, which requires one to be mindful of his actions and be diligent. If one does not take worldly fame and fortune lightly, he cannot be clear about his goal. If one's mind is not tranquil, he cannot realize broad standards. What one studies must be fully absorbed, and to develop his talent he must study arduously. If one doesn't study diligently, his capabilities and wisdom cannot grow. If one is not clear about his goal, he cannot achieve it, even through study. If one pursues comfort and has a lazy and sloppy attitude, he cannot awaken his spirit. In being frivolous and hot-tempered, one cannot shape his temperament. Then, as one's youth passes and his will wears down, he will eventually turn into a person that accomplished nothing. In the end, one will be of no use to society. By that time, there will be nothing left for him to do, besides being left in his own narrow and small world, thinking sadly of what he had missed.

Zhuge Liang's "Letter to Sister's Son"

A person must have noble and grand ambitions, admire worthy people of times gone by, give up lust and abandon all that hinders one's advancement. Only this way can one achieve one's ambition and truly change from within. One must be able to adapt to any given situation, disregard the superficial, listen to others and eliminate suspicion and being miserly. By following such wisdom, even if one suffers setbacks, he will not hurt his disposition and interests. Then, one need not worry about achieving his goal. If one is not firm and resolute, his spirit is not sincere and he will be unsuccessful, succumb to the current fad, remain obscure and be fettered by lust. Such a person will inevitably be an ordinary person, or worse, forever.

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