There's a verse that goes,
Born of the same energy, we are connected branches that grow separately.
Why bicker and hurt each other's feelings?
Each time we see each other, we are older.
How much time left do we have as siblings?
Brothers and sisters were born from the same parents. They are like the branches of a tree: Although they grow up separately, they originally come from the same root. We should never bicker and hurt each other's feelings. Why not? Because time flies. Pretty soon we will have our own families and careers, and we'll hardly get a chance to see each other. Every time we meet, we will be shocked to see that the other has gotten older. Human life only lasts a few short decades; how much longer will we have each other as siblings?
If we don't get along when we're still young, then after we grow up we will bicker whenever we meet. But will we still have the strength to fight when we have wrinkles and gray hair? When we die, will we bring our grudges to the underworld? There's an ancient saying: "The affinity of riding in the same boat with someone took five hundred years to develop." How much more time it must take to develop the affinity to be someone's brother or sister? Think about it: these are not minor conditions! All human relationships begin with that of husband and wife; then there is the vertical relationship of parent to child, and the horizontal relationship between siblings. These three basic relationships, which give rise to the nine generations of relatives, are considered one's closest kin. How can we not be affectionate and close to them?
The Chinese refer to brothers and sisters as "those of the same womb" and "hands and feet," emphasizing how important and inseparable our siblings are to us. Parents often compare their children to the fingers of a hand. Although the fingers are of different lengths, they are all connected at the base, and it hurts the same no matter which one is bitten. Children may be wise or foolish, filial or unfilial, but they are just like the palm and the back of the hand, which are part of the same hand. One child may be wealthy and honored, while another is poor and lowly, but even though the wealthy one provides his parents with fine clothing and food, his parents can hardly feel happy in their anxiety over the less fortunate one. And if the children mutually hurt each other, how much the less could the parents be happy. A child who truly understands how to be filial is kind and affectionate to his siblings and would never quarrel with them. If such a child is successful in life, he/she will not forget to help out and take care of his siblings.
During the Three Kingdoms Period (end of Han Dynasty, c. 241-277 A.D.) the King of the state of Wei, Cao Cao, tried several times to let his favorite third son, Cao Zhi, inherit the throne in place of his eldest son, the crown prince Cao Pi. When Cao Pi assumed the throne, he attacked the Han Emperor Cheng and plotted constantly to kill Cao Zhi. Although his mother was the Empress Dowager, she was so nervous about this that she could never sleep in peace. Finally Cao Pi banished his younger brother to a distant land. When Cao Zhi went to court to bid farewell, Cao Pi deliberately challenged him to compose a poem in seven steps; if his brother failed, he would use it as a pretext to execute him. Unexpectedly, in the short time it took to walk seven steps, Cao Zhi chanted this famous "Seven-step Poem":
The beans are being cooked
Over a fire of bean stalks.
From within the pot, the beans cry out:
"We both came from the same root;
Aren't we being too hasty in torturing each other?"
Cao Zhi's meaning was, "I am like some beans being cooked in a pot, and the fuel that is used for the fire to cook me is you, my brother--the bean stalks that grew from the same root. Brother, why do you want to do me in?" At that point, the Empress Dowager, who had been watching secretly, couldn't bear it any longer. She ran out, hugged Cao Zhi, and cried for dear life. Cao Pi shed tears, too, and bid farewell to Cao Zhi.
An ancient saying goes, "There are no bonds of kinship in the imperial family." Countless times the desire for power and position pitted father against son, or led brothers to kill one another. However, there have been exceptions. Emperor Shun became known as a greatly filial son because he remained ever filial to his father and stepmother even though they plotted his death many times. As for his stepbrother who was their accomplice, Shun didn't hold it against him and even bestowed nobility and benefits upon him. This was a filial son who truly understood his parents' hearts.
Another example is Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty. Since he had earned great merit in battle as a prince, his eldest brother yielded the position of crown prince to him. After he assumed the throne, he renovated the residence he had used when he was a prince, building a tower which he called "The Mutual Shining of Flower and Calyx" there. On the four sides he built five palaces which he conferred upon his four brothers and a cousin. He called them "The Houses of the Five Kings." If one climbed to the top of the tower, one could see the five king's houses; it was just like the calyx and the flower mutually illumining each other. Emperor Xuanzong often went hunting with his brothers, and during those playful times, the brothers followed the family etiquette among themselves; the Emperor never put on airs. If any one of his brothers got sick, he would not be able to eat or sleep in peace, and would constantly inquire after him. Once when he was boiling medicinal herbs for his little brother, he even burned his beard by accident. The things people like to tell about most are his "Flower and Calyx Blanket" and "Flower and Calyx Bed"--he had a long pillow, large blanket, and large six-person bed custom-made so that he and his brothers could sleep under the same covers. That's why the term "flower and calyx" has come to be used to refer to brotherly affection.
In the families of ancient times, parents would carry a child in one arm and hold another by the hand; and the children would hang onto their parents' lapel or the hem of their robe. They would sit down at one long table for meals, and clothing would be handed down from older siblings to younger ones. Siblings even slept under the same covers and shared the same pillow sometimes! And so even if some might be smarter or more obedient than others, in general they were all very close. When they got married and new members joined the family, there tended to be some discord. At that point, each person's moral calibre would become apparent. In general, families in which siblings were taught to show respect and affection for one another had an easier time of it. In modern families where there are fewer children, individualism is on the rise. Not only do those who are "the only child" have no idea of what filiality and brotherly affection are, even those with several siblings still do their own thing ever since they are little; they don't understand what it means to yield to, to accept, or to share with others. In a single family there might even be people leading three or four different kinds of lifestyles. People call this "freedom" and "progress"; little do they know that we are actually regressing to the state of primitive societies that had no laws or ethics. There is no time to be lost: let us quickly return to our old moral and ethical values!