(East-West Question) Wang Zhenyao: What is the difference between Chinese and Western concepts of goodness?

  China News Agency, Beijing, May 24th: What is the difference between the concept of goodness between China and the West?

  Written by Wang Zhenyao, Dean of China Philanthropy Research Institute, Beijing Normal University

  Some institutions in the West evaluate whether the philanthropy of various countries in the world is advanced or not based on whether they help strangers in a period; in China, "filial piety comes first", and donations for catastrophes and disasters are world-class.

There are many different aspects of the idea of ​​the good between the East and the West.

  First of all, there are indeed differences between Chinese and Western concepts of perfection.

China's concept of perfection is what is contained in the "Great Learning": looking at things, acquiring knowledge, sincerity, righteousness, self-cultivation, ordering the family, governing the country, and bringing peace to the world.

This view of perfection emphasizes family and country feelings and self-cultivation, which is the ethics of being a gentleman; emphasizing publicity is the mission of individuals to integrate into the world.

  The Western concept of perfection originating from ancient Greece emphasizes the ideal of goodness.

In Plato's "The State", he believes that there are three kinds of goodness, one is joy, the other is health and reason, and the third is physical exercise, doctors and techniques for earning money.

Among them, justice belongs to the best good, "that is to do what belongs to oneself and have what belongs to oneself".

Plato believed that the good is the source of knowledge and truth; and although truth and knowledge are good, the "type" of the good is better than them; for this reality which gives truth to the object of knowledge gives the knower the power to know. In fact, it is the "type" of goodness.

The full affirmation of human individual life, that is, human desire, and the pursuit of "type", that is, reality, which is higher than truth and knowledge, are important features of the Western concept of perfection.

Dongyang City, Zhejiang Province held the activity of "Three Generations in the Same Hall, Respecting the Elders".

Filial piety is a behavior advocated by traditional Chinese culture, and in China, "filial piety is the first one."

Photo by Hu Yanghui issued by China News Agency

  Second, in terms of basic public ethics, especially the concept of property, the world for the public is one of the cornerstone common values ​​of China, while the West emphasizes the sacredness and inviolability of private ownership, that is, the world is private.

These two fundamental oppositions determine differences in behavioral patterns, political systems, economic and cultural systems.

This is determined by the ownership structure of the economy.

  The concept of property in Chinese civilization, which is closely related to the commonwealth of the world, emphasizes that the benevolent will make money with wealth, and the unkind will make money with their body; the country does not benefit from profit, but benefits from righteousness.

Under the influence of this concept, Chinese society has formed the concept of "good fortune", and even produced the image of a fairy of a good-fortune boy.

Such business ethics are quite different from those in the West.

  Third, based on public good, Chinese society regards public power as a necessary good, while the West regards power as a necessary evil.

"Da Yu's water control" reflects the basic orientation of the Chinese nation to public power, requiring the government to play an active role first before a catastrophe.

In a typical Western story, when encountering a great flood, there is no shadow of the government, and it is more about people's beliefs and the ark given by God.

This opposition of good and evil has influenced the concept of public good in the Chinese and Western worlds, especially the way of government governance.

The large-scale original ancient costume Long drama "Da Yu's Control of the Flood" newly created and arranged by the Gansu Provincial Long Theater was staged in Lanzhou.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Yang Yanmin

  Fourth, in terms of philosophical views, the Chinese civilization with the Zhouyi as an important classic emphasizes the Taiji Yin-Yang concept of the unity of nature and man, and believes that Yin and Yang are interrelated, and the best is like water. .

Chinese culture emphasizes the positive interaction between heaven, earth, and humanity, and believes that "the image of the law is as great as the heaven and the earth, the change is as great as the four seasons, and the image of the county is as great as the sun and the moon", "to prepare things for use, and to set up a vessel for the benefit of the world, is great. about saints”; while Western culture emphasizes the interaction between God and man.

  Fifth, in terms of epistemology, Chinese civilization, based on the overall understanding of nature, emphasizes that "it is in line with heaven and earth, so it is possible to learn the way of heaven and earth, look up to observe astronomy, and look down to observe geography, which is why it is clear and bright" , that the development of things is cyclical, periodic and holistic, and phenomena can also be understood through phenomena.

At the same time, it is believed that all things have a Tao and a name, the beginning of heaven and earth is nothing, and the mother of all things is existence; Tao produces one, one produces two, two produces three, and three produces all things, and Tao is natural.

Chinese thinking also emphasizes enlightenment and cultivation, encourages good teachers, and shows the liveliness of life.

  In the West, logical reasoning is emphasized, with special emphasis on "yes", especially in the study of natural sciences.

Aristotle, the master of ancient Greek philosophy, established a huge knowledge system and laid the foundation of the European knowledge system; he divided good into three categories: physical good, soul good, and external good. Every craft and study, every practice and choice, aims at some kind of good, with particular emphasis on the intrinsic link between knowledge and good.

During the Enlightenment period, Europe accepted the concept of progress, realized the systematic renewal of knowledge system and promoted the combination of science, technology and commerce.

  Sixth, Chinese society pays attention to people's livelihood, while the West places more emphasis on capital.

"Shangshu" put forward the concept of "the people are the foundation of the state, and the state is the foundation of the state". The ancient documents that stipulated the functions of the government put forward the concepts of agricultural administration and famine administration, and paid attention to the responsibility of the government to protect the people's livelihood.

Western social concepts pay more attention to the interests of capital, and it is a very important rule not to tax people who own assets at will.

China often implements land redistribution by changing dynasties, which is unthinkable in Western society.

  Seventh, it has become a natural tradition in China to help neighbors, help each other in times of trouble, and support from all sides, but it is completely impossible in Western society.

Because the West mainly pursues individualism and implements donations on the basis of individuals, the relationship between property and interests is quite clear.

On April 11, Tianjin sent an additional TCM medical team consisting of 78 medical personnel to assist Shanghai.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Tong Yu

  Eighth, Chinese culture pays attention to harmony but difference. The world is one family, and it has the feeling of a community with a shared future for mankind, which is fundamentally different from racial discrimination in the West.

"Do not do to others what you do not wish for yourself", "It is a pleasure to have friends from afar", this kind of benevolent behavior enables different nationalities and races to be integrated into one.

This is in stark contrast to the Western intolerance of infidels and different races.

  Ninth, there are differences in property inheritance systems between the East and the West.

In China, there is an equal succession between sons, regardless of age; while in the West and even Japan, primogeniture is common.

In the primogeniture system, even if they are brothers, once they form different property owners, they become like travelers, and even husband and wife must clearly define the property relationship.

In such a cultural atmosphere, charity can only be to help strangers.

  Tenth, goodness and love are inseparable, the same is love, and there are subtle differences between things.

Chinese civilization emphasizes non-differentiation, that is, universal love that transcends rank and race. "Righteousness" is one of the cornerstones of China's ethics.

The Western fraternity has a certain level and racial difference in the way of expressing love.

  Likewise, politically, there is a difference between meritocracy and voter democracy between East and West.

After thousands of years of exploration, China has developed various systems and methods for selecting and appointing talents. The selection system later developed into the imperial examination system.

Mr. Sun Yat-sen even considered the right of examination to be a major feature of Chinese governance, and regarded the right of examination as a component of his theory of five powers, along with the power of legislation, administration, judiciary and supervision.

From ancient Greece to the Roman Empire, more attention was paid to the role of money and votes.

The most famous case is Crassus, who was once considered the "richest man in Rome", who took out 1/10 of his property to hold a celebration and gave each Roman citizen 3 months of living expenses to participate in the election and won the election. Pompey and Caesar became the "top three".

Tourists visit the Chinese Imperial Examination Museum in Nanjing Confucius Temple Scenic Spot to experience the imperial examination culture.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Yang Bo

  As a matter of fact, Plato has already made a conclusion about democracy.

He witnessed the success and failure of ancient Greek politics, and made three famous conclusions in the eighth volume of "The State": First, "when a country honors wealth and rich people, virtuous and good people are not so honored." Second, "the result of excessive freedom can be nothing but extreme enslavement on the part of the individual and the state"; third, "Democracy tramples on all these ideals with a frivolous and impetuous attitude, without questioning a single person at all. What he did, what his conduct was, as long as he turned to politics and claimed that he loved the people, he would be respected and honored."

  It is not difficult to see that there are indeed considerable differences in the concept of kindness between China and the West.

In theory, it is difficult to say which side is right or wrong, but what needs to be affirmed is that it is impossible for the East to copy the ideas of the West, and it is impossible for the West to copy the ideas of the East.

  At present, due to the development of globalization, the cultural systems between the east and the west and between the north and the south are closely interacting, and the concepts of goodness are increasingly interacting and blending with each other.

Seeking common ground while reserving differences on the premise of mutual respect, learning from each other, promoting good with good, and creating a diverse community with a shared future for mankind are the hope for civilization exchanges.


About the Author:

   Wang Zhenyao, Dean and Professor of China Philanthropy Research Institute, Beijing Normal University.

He has worked in the Ministry of Civil Affairs for 22 years, and is committed to promoting villager autonomy and the subsistence allowance system for urban and rural residents, the national four-level emergency response system for natural disasters, the national medical assistance system, the basic living security system for orphans, the old age allowance system, and the construction of a charity development system, etc. This work was commended by the state in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake relief work.

In 2010, he was hired as a professor at Beijing Normal University, established the China Philanthropy Research Institute, put forward the theory of good economy, promoted extensive exchanges and dialogues between Chinese and foreign philanthropy circles in various forms, and participated in the drafting, evaluation and revision of the national charity law. Combining efforts to promote philanthropy, child welfare and protection system construction, and elderly care services.