He Fangjing, a retired teacher, lives in Hengyang, a city in Central China's Hunan Province. During the 41 years He worked fulltime as a teacher, he was named — 24 times — an advanced worker in education. He was also named a "national excellent teacher." He's diligence and warm-heartedness have influenced his children and grandchildren. He has consistently set a good example for members of his big family, and he has passed on his moral virtues.
Talking about Family Virtues in Spring Festival is a book compiled and printed by He's family. The family lives in Hesi Village, in Chashi Town, administered by Hengyang. The book includes all of the speeches He made each year, between 1998 and 2015, when his family gathered to celebrate Spring Festival. During the past 24 years, He's family has kept the tradition of holding a meeting during each Spring Festival celebration. During the annual gathering, He made a speech, and he asked his family to share the pains and gains throughout the previous year.
When he spoke during the family's gathering in 1998, He said, "I hope my speech will give you some inspiration. I also hope the speeches, which I am going to make during Spring Festival celebrations in following years, will be kept as records. Besides our gathering during every Spring Festival, we should also express best wishes during each National Day celebration, and we should pose for a family photo every year."
Lasting 24 Years
He, 84, was born into a peasant's family in Chashi. "My parents had five children. My siblings and I did not have enough food when we were young. At that time, I cherished very much the opportunity to study in school," He recalled.
When his five children were young, He attached great importance to their education. He urged his children to concentrate on their studies. He did not require them to complete very many chores; instead, He completed most of the family's farm work.
In 1995, ahead of Chinese New Year, He visited villagers in his hometown. He noticed most of the villagers had planned to spend the Spring Festival by enjoying grand meals and playing cards or mahjong. He hoped his family could celebrate the festival in a new way. He suggested his family hold a meeting during the Spring Festival.
Ahead of the first annual meeting, some members of He's family thought it might be unreasonable to hold such a "serious" gathering when everyone wanted to relax and enjoy the holiday after a year of hard work. But He insisted. Every year, He reads at least 100 books. He spends at least four hours reading and writing every day. He takes notes to record the valuable things he has read. He prepares carefully the speech he plans to make during the family's Spring Festival gathering.
"Grandpa writes in his speeches his expectations for us every year. We tell him about our studies and work, and he will give us comments. Each member of our big family takes a turn talking about the pains and gains during the past year, and shares his/her New Year's resolution. There is a special award ceremony during each gathering. Grandpa divides the younger generations of our family into four groups — kindergarten group, primary school group, middle school group and college group. He gives reward money, as the family education prize of our family, to those who have done well in their studies," says He Xiufeng, He Fangjing's granddaughter.
Throughout the years, the Hes have grown to realize the significance of holding such a meeting as an important part of their annual Spring Festival celebration. As a result, He Fangjing's children and grandchildren have displayed an increasingly positive attitude toward their studies and work. They have also grown closer as a family, and they have become more determined to make achievements in their studies and work.
Zeng Zhiyun, He Fangjing's granddaughter-in-law, participated in the family's Spring Festival meeting, for the first time, in 2013. She was impressed by the special and meaningful way the family celebrated the festival. "I was touched by Grandpa He's speech, and by the sharing of other family members. I felt happy and encouraged to have joined such a beautiful family. I believe the family's gathering, every year, will make my small family happier; at the same time, it will make our big family more harmonious," says Zeng.
"I have a five-year-old great-granddaughter. She looks so excited every time she receives the family education reward from me. Last year, someone tried to give her 1,000 yuan (US $143) in exchange for the 400 yuan (US $57) in reward money I gave her. The little girl refused to make the trade. Why? She treasured more the award she received. For her, the reward money represented an honor," He Fangjing explains.
In 2015, the Hes printed 1,500 copies of Talking about Family Virtues in Spring Festival and gave the books to friends and neighbors as gifts. In this way, the family hoped to encourage more people in their hometown to establish family rules and promote family virtues.
Teaching the Family
He Fangjing believes parents and children should respect each other. In his opinion, parents must set a good example for their children. If parents want their children to study hard, they must put down their smart phones and read with their children. If parents want their children to have good manners, they must say "thank you" to their children when the children help fetch something for the parents. If parents want their children to show filial piety to the elderly, they must tell their children the most delicious foods and the most comfortable residences should be given to the elderly members of the family.
He Qingfeng is the eldest son of He Zhaohui, who is He Fangjing's son. He Zhaohui owns a company, and he hopes to pass the business on to his son. As He Fangjing's eldest grandson, He Qingfeng sets a good example of how to shoulder responsibilities within the big family. "During the summer vacation, every year, Qingfeng buys fruits and snacks, and he asks his brothers and sisters to visit me together," says He Fangjing.
During the summer vacation of 2009, He Qingfeng returned to his father's company, in Hengyang, after he completed the third year of his undergraduate studies. He worked with ordinary employees in a workshop for two hours every day. When the company relocated, during his winter vacation, He Qingfeng did not hesitate to help the workers move equipment to the new location. "I asked my grandson what he had learned from that experience. Qingfeng said he realized the workers' jobs were not easy, and that he should respect their work and try to improve their work environment through reforms and innovation. He also said he must study hard to gain knowledge, which he would put into practice to solve problems," says He Fangjing.
Since he graduated from Wuhan University of Technology, in 2010, He Qingfeng has acquired three patents, and five utility patents, for the items he has invented. In his family's book, Talking about Family Virtues in Spring Festival, He Qingfeng writes, "Face life with a positive attitude, try my best to make achievements and be a person with values in society — those are what I have learned from my family, a family led by Grandpa."
Promoting Family's Culture
In 2014, a 90-meter "cultural corridor" of the He family was established in He Fangjing's hometown. Records about the family's history, ancestors, mottos and stories of renowned family members are engraved on the walls. Walking along the corridor helps people better understand the family.
He Fangjing lives a simple and thrifty life. However, he is generous with children from impoverished families. During the past 20 years, He Fangjing, with his family, has donated more than 1.2 million yuan (US $171,429) to improve the facilities of schools in Chashi. Although he is retired, he still serves as an assistant instructor, who gives free lectures to promote family virtues and positive energy.
"I want to do valuable things, which make my life happier and more meaningful. I want to use my own deeds to set a good example for my children and grandchildren," says He Fangjing.
"Grandpa is an ordinary retired teacher. He insists on inheriting traditional virtues of our Chinese nation. The virtues of our family have been passed from Grandpa to us. As a member of the younger generation, I am always touched by the power of our family's virtues," says He Xiufeng.
(Women of China English Monthly November 2019 issue)
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