Set Moral Examples, Perform Great Deeds, and Spread Noble Ideas
This term refers to three great accomplishments that are forever remembered and eulogized by the people. The first and foremost is to set a high moral standard for people of later generations to follow. The second is to perform meritorious deeds, bringing good to the country and the people and rooting out evils. The third is to put forth noble ideas or establish them as a way of thinking through writing them down. According to Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals, these great accomplishments were proposed by Shusun Bao from the State of Lu. In Shusun’s opinion, private benefits that individuals or families have, such as wealth, official ranking, and social status, will disappear with the passage of time. Only the great accomplishments that benefit the country and the people, including setting out high moral standards, performing great deeds, and inseminating noble ideas, can be passed on for eternity. These three great accomplishments have been the lifelong pursuit of ancient Chinese literati and people of noble aspirations.
I hear that the noblest pursuit is to set a moral example; the second is to perform great deeds; and the third is to advocate noble ideas. These great accomplishments will last and never be abandoned by people despite the passage of time. (Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)