Learning wisdom of mopping the floor | Shanghai Daily

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May 28, 2013

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Learning wisdom of mopping the floor

WHEN she mopped the floor of our home over the weekend, my wife suddenly realized that mopping wasn't just a household chore about removing dust: it was about moral fiber, ethics, and virtues.

"If I complain about toiling and sweating associated with cleaning the floor every day, how can I measure up to the many other challenges with ease?" she said.

Indeed, in traditional Confucian teaching, one must first learn how to clean the ground, and how to properly greet people before he can go on to learn other things.

In Zen Buddism, that idea is deeply embedded in Chinese life - cleaning the ground is also spiritual homework.

In the past, I often got annoyed about cleaning the floor, since dust seemed to settle all the time.

I even quarrelled with my wife over how best to clean the floor. But on Sunday, came the "Aha" moment, when my wife expressed her belief in cultivating one's moral fiber through daily chores, such as cleaning the floor.

In many other families floor mopping is deemed humble, a low-status manual task fit only for an ayi.

Children are seldom taught to mop the floor as a way to refresh their minds or to reflect.

My colleague Wan Lixin wrote in today's article about the Chinese boy who left graffiti in Egypt, and I wholly agreed with him that family education is part of the problem.

When a child carved graffiti into precious cultural relics - and this was condoned if not encouraged by parents - it marks not only a failure of the child, but also a failure of his or her family education.

In most Chinese families today, children are only taught to excel in academic tests.

Rarely are they required to clean the floor (or do any other household chore), when they can actually reflect on life's meanings.


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