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by Zeng Guofan (1811 - 1872, Qing Dynasty)
English translation: Miao Guang

For eons since the past until now, time has gone on without end.
During the several decades of a human’s life, time passes in just an instant.

The lands on Earth extend across thousands of miles, whose boundaries are undetectable. Living on it are humans who sleep, live, roam about, and rest. During the day, one person can only occupy one room at a time, and at night, only one bed at a time.

Books from the past and writings by contemporary people are as numerous as water in the ocean. That which we can read over in our entire lives only amount to one hair out of nine ox hides.

Things can occur in countless ways; put nicely, people have endless options. However, what our ability and power allows us to deal with is only a grain of sand in an entire universe.

Upon knowing Heaven’s eternity, and how short our life experiences can be, when faced with hardship and adversity, it is best to be patient and wait it out.

Upon knowing the Earth’s vastness, and how small the space we occupy, when faced with the contest for fame and profit, it is best to defend our stance by stepping aside.

Upon knowing the innumerability of books, and how scant our knowledge is, we dare not rejoice over a minor attainment. Instead, we choose what is good and abide by it.

Upon knowing the countless matters in this world, and how little we are able to achieve, we dare not commend ourselves for our ultimately insignificant accomplishments. Instead, we recommend those who are capable and work together in achieving success.

By such, any selfishness or arrogance can be gradually eliminated.

── from Zeng Wengong Wenji (Anthology of Zeng Wengong’s Works)