(East-West Question) Special Plan for the Roots of Civilization (3) No. 4: Wang Zhan: What is the inspiration of "Toynbee's Theory" for the present?

  China News Agency, Beijing, February 24th: What does "Toynbee's Theory" have implications for the current situation?

  ——Interview with Wang Zhan, Chairman of Shanghai Federation of Social Sciences and Former President of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

  China News Agency reporter Zheng Qiao

  Why can Chinese civilization continue to be passed down for thousands of years?

What is the most fundamental reason for the difference in development paths between China and the West?

What kind of cultural genes does the Chinese nation contain when it can become prosperous and strong after a century of prosperity?

  Wang Zhan, chairman of the Shanghai Federation of Social Sciences and former president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, recently accepted an exclusive interview with China News Agency's "East and West Questions", focusing on "Tombine's Theory" and in-depth analysis of the four major civilizations in the world, only the Chinese civilization. It has been passed down to the present without any reason for interruption, and it provides unique suggestions on how to better realize mutual learning between the current Chinese and Western civilizations.

  The following is a summary of the interview transcript:

  China News Service reporter: British historian Toynbee, in his book "Research on History", analyzed the rise and fall of major ancient civilizations in world history and pointed out that Chinese civilization is the only civilization that has been passed down.

In your opinion, why has Chinese civilization been passed down for thousands of years?

  Wang Zhan:

Toynbee's thesis on the history of human civilization reflects profound insight.

The conclusion he draws after comparative research on the development history of various human civilizations is an important issue worthy of discussion.

Chinese civilization has been passed down for thousands of years, mainly including language, political system, ideology and culture.

The production and development of Chinese characters is the cultural gene of the long-term continuation of Chinese civilization.

Chinese characters originate from pictures of nature, heaven, earth and all things, and their ideographic characteristics are symbols of universal truths of the universe. The rich cultural connotations of Chinese characters constitute the lasting and strong spiritual cohesion of the Chinese nation.

  The establishment and consolidation of a unified state is the institutional basis for the continuity of Chinese civilization.

In the "Historical Records", "studying the time between heaven and man" refers to the relationship between nature and human beings, focusing on the internal and external environment of human activities, especially the role of natural ecology on the trend of human civilization.

As the main birthplace of Chinese civilization, the Yellow River Basin, shaped by its unique geographical environment, has become a solid guarantee for the persistence of Chinese civilization.

The ruins of Anyang Yinxu Palace and Anyang Temple in the Yellow River Basin.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhang Chang

  The inheritance and innovation of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism is the ideological root of the enduring Chinese civilization.

In the process of the southward shift of the economic center of gravity, Jiangnan's creative transformation of Chinese civilization has realized the transformation of the social order from "scholars, peasants, industry and commerce" to "scholars, merchants, workers and peasants" and the social value transformation from "benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom and trustworthiness" to "faithfulness, benevolence, wisdom and courtesy". It has contributed to the renewal and development of Chinese civilization and its longevity.

  In the above three factors role, heritage of Chinese civilization so far and full of life, as Toynbee said, the Chinese civilization is bound to shine in the new century, human development brings wisdom and enlightenment.

  China News Service reporter: You once suggested that the difference in language and writing may be the root cause of the difference in the development paths between China and the West. How should you understand this?

  Wang Zhan:

Language is the cornerstone of culture and the carrier of human civilization.

Types of writing in the world today broadly include alphabets and hieroglyphs.

Differences in writing play a role in the diversion of development paths between China and the West.

  The differences between Chinese and Western languages ​​and characters have resulted in very different thinking logics between Eastern and Western nations.

Hieroglyphics guess their meaning from the phonetic, alphabetic words can not intuitively judge its meaning.

The thinking of the hieroglyphic people pursues the image association of this and the other, and the horizontal connection; the alphabetic people pursues the abstract thinking of the surface to the inside and the vertical connection.

The difference between images and abstract thinking makes Chinese people judge problems from the overall situation, while Westerners are good at analyzing and thinking about logical relationships.

Parents take their children to visit the ancient Chinese hieroglyphs - golden inscriptions at the National Museum of China.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Hou Yu

  Different ways of thinking lead to differences in etiquette tradition, culture, literature, art, philosophy and religion between China and the West.

For example, Chinese philosophy emphasizes ethics, but lacks clarity and systematicness, and inheritance is greater than criticism; Western philosophy emphasizes deductive reasoning, which is precise, systematic, and critical.

The differences in thinking between the East and the West have resulted in differences in the logic of thinking about unknowable issues in religions.

Chinese religious belief is multi-religious coexistence and polytheistic worship.

Western religion is the worship of a single god born in the world, which can be proved from the repeated religious wars in European history.

  In short, the differences in writing led to the obvious differences in the thinking and logic of the East and the West, and then formed differences in social forms, political systems, and religious beliefs. As a result, China and the West embarked on different development paths.

  China News Agency reporter: In your recently published book "Introduction to World China Studies", a special chapter expounds the "Jiangnan Phenomenon" of Chinese civilization.

What is the status of Jiangnan culture in Chinese civilization?

  Wang Zhan:

Following the pre-Qin culture and the Central Plains culture, the third stage of Chinese civilization is the economic and cultural transformation and development of Jiangnan after the Southern Song Dynasty.

With the southward shift of the political and economic center of gravity in the Song Dynasty, Jiangnan made use of the advantages of nature, water transportation and immigration to realize the development of agriculture and handicraft industry and the germination and development of commodity economy.

The Nankong culture rooted in the south of the Yangtze River has also carried out creative innovations on the Chinese civilization and has become the cultural foundation for the continued prosperity of the Jiangnan economy.

  Jiangnan culture has played an important role in inheritance and innovation in the history of Chinese civilization, and it is a critical period for the renewal and development of Chinese civilization.

The Jiangnan culture since the Tang and Song Dynasties is characterized by the canal culture and the new connotation of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

The canal culture is the crystallization of the collision and fusion of many local cultures such as Yanzhao culture and Jianghuai culture.

The new connotation of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism provides moral constraints for the development of commodity economy, and has become the driving factor for China to move from tradition to modernity.

It can be seen that Jiangnan culture has gradually surpassed the scope of regional culture and has become the cultural center of the whole of China.

It is not surprising to regard this period of Jiangnan culture as a peak in the inheritance of Chinese civilization.

Hangzhou section of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Mao Jianjun

  China News Service reporter: What kind of cultural genes does the Chinese nation contain after a century of prosperity and prosperity?

  Wang Zhan:

The Chinese nation has become prosperous and strong since modern times, and it is in the same line with the cultural tradition of the Chinese nation. The cultural character tempered by the Chinese nation in its long history is the deep-seated reason for China to become prosperous and strong.

  On the one hand, the Chinese nation has a national character that seeks stability, unity and development.

In history, China has repeatedly changed from division to unity, and from chaos to governance. The people in the north migrated to the south of the Yangtze River due to war and chaos, which shows that stability and development are the aspirations of the people.

The words and phrases in "Book of Rites·University", such as "cultivating one's body, balancing the family, governing the country and the world" are typical reflections of this national character.

After 1949, especially since the reform and opening up, China's economy and society have prospered and developed, reflecting the contemporary continuation of the character of the Chinese nation.

  On the other hand, Chinese civilization has the cultural genes of being inclusive and seeking common ground while reserving differences.

A broad and enlightened cultural mentality is the deep reason why the Chinese nation is marching toward the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation.

"The Analects of Confucius Xue Er" states that "it is a pleasure to have friends from afar", "The Analects of Confucius, Zilu" says that "a gentleman is harmonious but different", "Guoyu", "Guanzi", "Mozi", "Historical Records" and other classics also have " reconciliation".

This cultural gene is manifested in the integration of the local culture of the nationality and the practice of tolerance and reference to the culture of foreign nationalities.

The harmonious coexistence of different religions in China is a testament to this.

The Chinese nation absorbs nutrients from various religious thoughts to enrich and nourish its own spiritual world, thereby creating a more extensive and brilliant Chinese civilization.

When Europe was moving towards theocratic culture in the Middle Ages, China developed an enlightened and open kingship culture.

This civilizational feature has been passed down to this day, which has enabled the Chinese nation to develop and rise in the spirit of reform and opening up after a hundred years of ups and downs, and to regain prosperity and strength.

At the opening of the 2021 Nanjing Peace Forum, dance, poetry and painting jointly painted "harmonious coexistence".

Photo by China News Agency reporter Yang Bo

  China News Service reporter: The exchange and mutual learning of civilizations is an important driving force for the progress of human civilization and the peaceful development of the world.

In your opinion, under the current international situation, how should Chinese and Western civilizations better achieve mutual learning?

  Wang Zhan:

The current international situation is undergoing profound and complex changes. The doubts of the Western people about China are partly due to cultural misunderstanding and unfamiliarity.

Therefore, Chinese and foreign civilizations need to better communicate and learn from each other and develop through integration.

  First, to adapt to the cultural development in the era of globalization, discover and promote new connotations of Confucianism.

The "Three Cards" of Confucianism, as the value basis of the feudal ruling order, is not conducive to social progress and should be denied.

The "New Five Constants" of "Faithfulness, Benevolence, Wisdom, and Courtesy" have become the value foundation for the orderly operation of the current market economy, which needs to be adhered to.

  Second, carry forward the oriental culture and wisdom of modern significance, and provide new value references for promoting the development of various countries.

Concepts such as "harmony and symbiosis", "harmony and mutual aid", and "harmony but difference" can not only connect with the core socialist values, meet the needs of the development of the socialist market economy, but also be accepted by the global Chinese community and provide spiritual support for the countries along the "Belt and Road". Wealth contributes to people-to-people bond in today's world.

  Third, to promote Chinese civilization to the international community through the way of life, human culture, and nationalization, so that it can truly integrate into the trend of world civilization, and let the world recognize the excellent achievements of Chinese culture in cultural exchanges and civilization dialogues.


On December 11, 2021, the Chinese Consulate General in New York held the "Together to the Future" Beijing Winter Olympics Cultural Day.

The picture shows the Chinese cultural performance at the lighting ceremony of "Together to the Future".

Photo by China News Agency reporter Liao Pan

  Interviewee Profile:

  Wang Zhan, Chairman of Shanghai Federation of Social Sciences, Executive Director of China Center for International Economic Exchange, Consultant of National High-end Think Tank of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Former Deputy Secretary-General of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, Director of the Research Office of the Municipal Party Committee, Director of the Shanghai Decision Advisory Committee, Director of the Office of the Municipal Financial and Economic Leading Group, Member of the Ninth and Tenth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Representative of the Eleventh and Twelfth National People's Congress, Shanghai Society President of the Academy of Sciences, chief expert of a national high-end think tank.

  Wang Zhan began to participate in the Shanghai Municipal Government and the national decision-making consultation research in the early 1980s, and presided over the Shanghai decision-making consultation work since 1992.

Presided over "Shanghai Towards the 21st Century", "Research on Shanghai Pudong Development and Opening-up in the 1990s", "Shanghai World Expo Theme Research", "Outline of Shanghai Action Plan for China's Accession to WTO", "Shanghai Yangshan Container Hub Port Demonstration Research", "The Future Ten Years". Major decision-making consulting studies such as China's Reform and Development Strategy Research, Shanghai 2050: Towards a Global Civilized City, etc.