The everlasting infamy of shame

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 8:02AM

Eternalized in the hall of shame are the kneeling iron statues of Qin Hui, his wife and two accomplices, the treacherous villains who achieved notoriety by fabricating charges against the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD) hero and general named YueFei, leading to his execution and martyrdom.

The cast iron statues stripped of their clothes live in infamy at the temple of YueFei in the Sung Dynasty capital Hangzhou. Not only is the hatred of them immortalized in iron, there is also a popular Chinese breakfast “doughnut” called you tiao, comprising a pair of deep fried dough sticks representing Qin Hui and his wife.

Confucius was clear in his teachings on shame. His denouncement of debauchery and indulgence was unequivocal. His ascetic lifestyle was exemplary. One would be mistaken to think that Confucius was casual and sloppy with his sartorial standards. He was in fact a firm advocate of rites, ever mindful of strict decorum and appropriate conduct expected of him in dealings with others in various settings (e.g. in the court of the emperor or in official business with guests).

It is recorded in the Analects that Confucius was explicitly opposed to people who are guileful, cunningly two-faced and who speak with forked tongues. He stated unequivocally that it is shameful to even befriend such hypocrites.

In a nutshell, Confucius asserts that it is shameful to compromise our integrity, values and principles to attain wealth, power or status. If we succumb, we shame not only ourselves but also our affiliations, our God, family, friends and associations we represent. In order to develop integrity, the foundation has to be laid from birth.

In our quest to define integrity, we have examined the eight pillars. Shame is the last of the virtues and it keeps our conscience in check from infringing any of the preceding seven virtues.