What is the significance of life? Is there any gauge to measure it? It would be very difficult, of course, trying to advance an absolute standard. However, the significance of one's existence can more or less be rated by examining his attitude toward life and work.
Since ancient times all people of accomplishment are very serious about their lives. While they are alive, even if there is only one day left to live, they try to work as hard as they can and learn as much as possible, never letting a single day slip by without any gain. This is true of the working people as well as of the great statesmen and great thinkers in our history.
In the chapter “Foods and Goods" of The Chronicles of the Han Dynasty, the great historian Ban Gu states:"In winter people stay indoors. Women get together to spin hemp threads at night. They manage to work forty-five days in a month."
”It sounds strange. How come there are forty-five days in a month? Let us look at its annotations given by Yanshigu:"They gain half a day 's time every night and, they have forty-five days in a month."
Now it’s clear. Our ancestors had, earlier than the westerners, learned how to calculate workdays accurately and reasonably. They had also learned how calculate day shift and night shift as well.
It is common knowledge that there are only thirty days in a month. Counting the time of one night for half a day, our forefathers managed to expend the month by fifteen days. In this sense the night time gained amounts to one third of our lives, doesn't it?
This one third of life is not only treasured by the working people but also by the great statesmen in our history. In the chapter "Criminal Law" of The Chronicles of the Han Dynasty, Ban Gu also states:
"The First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty set a good example in being industrious, disposing of lawsuits during the day and reading at night ,"This is about how he tried to find time to read at night.
To some people the The First Emperor of the Qin isn’t a pleasant name to recall but there is no denying that he was a great figure in the history of China. Even BanGu has an impartial opinion of him.
Liu Xiang, the great scholar of the Han Dynasty ,cites in his historical Anecdotes many princes of the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period who paid great attention to learning.
Why did the people in the set such great store by the night time? I think this is positive proof of their attitude toward the one third of their lives. This is exactly what we should learn from them.
My intention of writing this little essay tonight is to call the readers’ attention to the one third of his lifetime so that , after working for a whole day, he can sit relaxed at home, browsing through and appreciating the useful knowledge of the past and of the present.