Zeng Guofan was a Chinese statesman, military general, and Confucian scholar of the late Qing Dynasty. He is best known for raising and organizing the Xiang Army to aid the Qing military in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion and restoring the stability of the Qing Empire.
His simple principle of eight types of people that we can mix with, and nine types of people that we cannot, reflected his approach to friendship. Zeng Guofan placed a high value on friendship and noted that with friends, one must be truthful, righteous, tolerant, benevolent, and selfless. Zeng Guofan set fourth basic criteria of friendship as a means to enlighten others when encountering potential friends:
A winning friend
You can often learn from winners, since they obviously have unique talents and abilities. Their approach toward a given situation can prove very helpful when making critical decisions. This type of friend is of great value when presented with a challenge or opportunity.
A virtuous friend
A virtuous friend has a pure soul and can accommodate the plight of many in their heart. This type of friend can enhance your understanding of others and help you to better understand the true purpose of your life.
An interesting friend
Life for an interesting person is always exciting and colorful. This friend enriches your knowledge and experience, thus enhancing your joy for life.
A friend who has experienced hardship
Those who rather suffer and sacrifice their own interests for the sake of others are people of character. This type of friend is able to bear sufferings and understand hardship. They can help you to better understand the many truths of life when encountering difficulties.
A straightforward friend
While most people in Western cultures tend to be outspoken and sincere, straightforward friends can be more difficult to encounter in Eastern cultures. During times of difficulty, they have your best interest at heart and will never leave your side. This type of friend will never lead you down a crooked path.
A farsighted friend
An army may be able to capture an enemy general, but they cannot take away his resolution. A person who has no long-term insight is destined to be mediocre. An ambitious friend helps you see the direction of your life and your own path forward, so that you don’t merely follow the crowd and end up achieving nothing.
A friend during times of distress
One who helps others during times of distress is one of the most important types of friend. Regardless of the situation, their sole purpose is to help alleviate the suffering of others. Friends who are always willing to lend a helping hand to those in difficulty should always be valued.
A friend who is forgiving
Friends who can understand, forgive, and be considerate toward others tend to be lifelong friends. There is seldom misunderstanding or disputes with these types of friends. Even if quarrels occur, they are eventually resolved from the heart with little explanation.
Translated by Chua, B.C.