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6 Principles for a Successful Life

A scene from the Taiping Rebellion,1850-1864. (Image:  wikimedia  /  CC0 1.0)

The Chinese statesman, military general, and Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty, Tseng Guo-fan (1811-1872) was best known for raising and organizing the Xiang Army, and restoring the stability of the Qing Empire. He was also regarded as a model Confucian official.

Appointed governor-general of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Jiangxi provinces, Tseng coordinated the military campaign that crushed the Taiping Rebellion and took their capital at Nanjing in 1864.

He advocated a policy of conciliation with the Western powers and military self-strengthening. Under his sponsorship, the Jiangnan Arsenal was established at Shanghai in 1865. In addition to producing the first modern weapons and ships, the arsenal’s translation bureau played a major role in introducing Western technology and thought to China.

Tseng was later appointed a grand secretary, and was made governor-general of Hebei Province.


The Chinese statesman, military general, and Confucian scholar of the late Qing dynasty, Tseng Guo-fan (1811-1872). (Image:

His achievements in life have been respected for generations. Studying the principles he followed will not only help you understand his life, but they also provide insights on how to improve your own life. Here are six principles that Tseng Guo-fan followed:

1. Avoid doing things that always bring you profit

The first point reminds us not to be greedy. You should not always chase after things that seem beneficial, as they may only be temporary or even a trap.  You should remain level-headed; after all, if everyone is fighting for the same thing, there won’t be enough left to go around.

2. Don’t let others’ shortcomings outweigh their good points

No one is perfect, and if you focus on the kindness of others, the world will be a better place. You must always be objective and fair when dealing with others.

3. Pointing out others’ shortcomings is only covering up your own insecurities

Bragging about your own accomplishments actually reveals your jealousy of others.  Jealously only highlights your insecurities.

The Xiang Army recapturing Jinling, a suburb of the Taiping capital, July 19, 1864. (Image: / CC0 1.0)

The Xiang Army recapturing Jinling, a suburb of the Taiping capital, July 19, 1864. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

4. Profits can be shared with many, but strategies should be kept to yourself

Everyone likes monetary gain, so keeping it for yourself will only cause resentment. Strategies are different — exceptional vision and knowledge should be kept confidential.

5. Diligence and humility will bring you success

For ordinary people, as long as you remain diligent, success will knock on your door. Tseng was a typical example, for he was not only exceptionally smart, but also very diligent. Eventually, his achievements were admired by countless people. Historically, China has produced many talented people who have been destroyed by their own arrogance. This highlights that humility is a very important trait.

6. In order to accomplish many goals, you need experience and vision

Man proposes, but God disposes. If you keep this in mind and do your best, you know the rest is up to God. So, if you fail, you can rest assured that you have done your best and have no regrets.

Translated by Yi Ming and edited by Kathy McWilliams

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6 Principles for a Successful Life


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