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ABOUT ASKING (EXCERPT)
by Liu Kai (1784 - 1824, Qing Dynasty)
English translation: Zhang Senbing and William Chong

The education of gentlemen must involve proactive query.
Asking and learning complement each other.
Ask he who is more virtuous than thee,
To resolve one’s doubts.
Ask he who is inferior to thee,
And hope for a surprise.
Ask he who is equal to thee,
And enjoy a thorough discussion.
If one is of greater virtue,
you might not be willing to ask him
for fear of infringing decorum;
If one is inferior,
you might not care to ask him
because you belittle him;
If one is an equal,
you might not be inclined to ask him
because of your arrogance;
In this way, there would be no one to ask.
The wise can consider a matter without end,
but there will certainly
be times he makes mistakes.
What is unknown to the wise
Might not be unknown to the fool.
What the ordinary is capable of,
Might not necessarily be lesser than that of the wise.
The noble can ask the lowly,
The virtuous can ask the vile,
The elder can ask the junior;
One can only stop when one has accomplished the path.

── from Liu Mengtu Shiwen Ji (Liu Mengtu’s Collection of Poetry and Prose)