Tseng Guo-fan: 6 Principles for a Successful Life

Tseng Guo-fan leading the victorious Taiping Army.

Studying the life principles followed by Tseng Guo-fan, the military general who coordinated the campaign that crushed the Taiping Rebellion, can provide insights on how to improve your own life. (Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia) Commons)

Tseng Guo-fan (1811-1872) was a flourishing Chinese statesman, military general, and Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty. Throughout history, those who have become successful have had specific themes in their lives. Sometimes they need a mentor or an important figure in their lives. Others had a particular mindset.

Tseng Guo-fan 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.

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Appointed governor-general of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Jiangxi provinces, Tseng Guo-fan 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 in Shanghai in 1865. In addition to producing the first modern weapons and ships, the arsenal’s translation bureau significantly introduced Western technology and thought to China.

Under Tseng Guo-fan's leadership, the Jiangnan Arsenal was established in Shanghai, producing China's first modern weapons and ships.
Under Tseng Guo-fan’s leadership, the Jiangnan Arsenal was established in Shanghai, producing China’s first modern weapons and ships. (Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia)

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

His achievements in life have been respected for generations. Studying his principles will help you understand his life and provide insights into how to improve your own life.

6 principles that Tseng Guo-fan followed:

1. Avoid doing things that always bring you profit

The first point reminds us not to be greedy. It would help if you did not always chase after things that seem beneficial, as they may only be temporary or even a trap. You should remain level-headed; 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 insecurities

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

The Xiang Army recapturing Jinling, a suburb of the Taiping capital, July 19, 1864.
The Xiang Army recaptured Jinling, a suburb of the Taiping capital, on July 19, 1864. (Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia)

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, success will knock on your door if you remain diligent. Tseng Guo-fan was a typical example, for although he was not exceptionally smart, he was diligent. Eventually, his achievements were admired by countless people. Historically, China produced many talented people whose arrogance destroyed them. This highlights that humility is an essential trait.

6. 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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