CHINESE WAYS OF LIVING
D. Kidd & Suncrates
This work begins with an idea presented by Thome H. Fang.
In speaking of Confucianism, Taoism and Mohism, Fang says that recognition of
a common ground, a view of life comprehensive and profound, would indicate
the highest achievement of Chinese thought. Fang says:
firmly believe that the point of convergence among these vital systems of
thought should be found in the affirmation of life and its precious values.
From this vantage point we may come to see clearly the common ground of
Chinese moral life.1
come to think of life as originating in Heaven and they elucidate the
meanings of benevolence, justice, propriety and wisdom on the basis of nature
that has been conferred by heaven.2
Tzu begins with the primordial root of life for the purpose of showing that
Tao together with Teh is a living spring of moral excellence, along with
benevolence, justice and propriety.3
Tzu says that life is comprised within justice; the justice within virtue;
the virtue within Tao; and Tao is comprised in Heaven.4
Tzu develops a theory of universal love identifying all purposes of life with
the will of Heaven.5
see that the ground of morality is found in the universal life that is
permeated with values. We come to see that Tao or Heaven is equally the
primeval origin of life. The metaphysical implications of this are that all
things find their origination in the Tao or Heaven and live incessantly and
continuously through the process of transformation from what is actual to
what is spiritually ideal. Tao or Heaven asks for nothing but embraces all
we will look into the nature of a common moral standard. Fang presents a
description of morality:
is the essence of life inasmuch as it is the concrete embodiment of the
values of life.6
themes stand out, for Fang, in each system of thought: for Confucianism
measures of moral life are found in empathy and sympathy; for Taoism measures
of moral life are found in compassion and kindness; for Mohism measures of
moral life are found in love and benefit:
the Mohist principle of identifying all purposes of life with the will of Heaven,
the Taoist attempt to bring all things within the embrace of Tao, and the
Confucian endeavour to subject all the cosmic activities to the originating
power of Heaven are only different versions of what I have called the
principle of comprehensive harmony or the doctrine of sympathetic unity in
six themes: empathy; sympathy; compassion; kindness; love; and reciprocal
benefit as measures of moral life are of integral harmonious relation.
is a going out of oneself. It is identifying oneself with others in thought,
feeling and action. Sympathy is the entering into community as a whole with
all forms of existence. It is an all-pervading unity. Compassion and kindness
are expressing the same spirit of love, benevolence and beneficence. Love is
the basis of benevolence and justice; and reciprocal benefit is identifying
all purposes of life with the will of heaven. In this way one contributes to
the world all one has in oneself.
six themes share basic characteristics of Chinese thought: the realization of
human perfection; inclusiveness; and complimentariness.
perfection, within and without is basic to Chinese thought. This inclusive
view naturally places the emphasis on ethics and the spiritual life. The
cornerstone of Chinese morality is familial virtues. With love and respect,
the beginnings of perfection are established in children through the parents.
of views rather than exclusiveness leads to a spirit of harmony. This brings
forth tolerance and sympathy. Complementariness looks for harmony in
different modes of life and brings them together into a whole. Tolerance for
the thoughts and actions of others promotes sympathy and appreciation.
Thome H. Fang, The Chinese View of Life (Taipei: Linking Publishing Co. Ltd.,
1980), p. 98-99.
2) Ibid., p. 102.
3) Ibid., p. 102.
4) Ibid., p. 102.
5) Ibid., pp. 102, 105.
6) Ibid., p. 102.
7) Ibid., p. 115.