BEIJING — Since ancient times, the philosophical concept of harmony has been put forward and interpreted, and the Chinese nation has pursued it as a vital value.
In an increasingly connected world fraught with grave challenges, the wisdom of harmony sheds light on how humanity can create a prosperous and peaceful future in a sustainable, environmentally friendly and cooperative way.
Many ancient Chinese idioms and stories contain the central concept of harmony, or “He” in Chinese, between man and nature, people and countries alike. These enlightening expressions and anecdotes have been passed on generation by generation.
A Chinese saying from the great thinker Xunzi more than 2,000 years ago teaches, “All beings flourish when they live in harmony and receive nourishment from nature.”
Another Chinese idiom, “He Shi Sheng Wu,” was advanced by the grand astrologer and thinker Shibo, who lived much earlier than Xunzi, and contained a similar notion — harmony begets new things.
In this idea, different things complement each other and beget new things when they coexist in harmony. It is necessary to preserve the particular features of different people and things, and allow them to flourish.
Another ancient concept, “Jie Ze Er Yu,” presents the philosophy in another way. The concept, which literally means “draining the lake to fish,” came from a proposal a minister made to his emperor in ancient China.
Stressing long-term interests, the minister explained to the emperor that if people drain a pond to fish, they will get fish, but the next year, they will get no fish, and if people burn the forests to hunt, they will get the animals, but the next year they will get no animals.
As China makes significant headway in ecological progress, the notion of harmony has been widely reflected in policies and practices.
A 10-year fishing ban on the Yangtze River, for example, came into force at the start of this year to preserve the fishery resources and ecology of China’s longest waterway, dubbed the “mother river” of the Chinese nation.
Yang Yourong, a fisherman in central China’s Hunan Province, went ashore last year and now runs a grocery store for a living.
“I feel deeply for the river. If we overexploit nature, these resources will run out one day. I fully support the fishing ban that benefits future generations,” Yang said.
“Dao Fa Zi Ran” is also a well-known Chinese saying with a meaning similar to those above. Dao originally refers to the way or path taken by people, but it was extended by ancient philosophers to mean the general laws followed by all things and beings. The notion calls on people to follow the natural requirements of general laws.
Another example of harmony with nature is the journey taken by a herd of wild Asian elephants in southwest China’s Yunnan Province earlier this year, which caught global attention. More than 150,000 people were evacuated from their homes to avoid conflict between them and the elephant herd, with 180 tonnes of food provided to the animals.
The herd of wild elephants returned safely to their usual habitat after a northward journey which even brought them close to the provincial capital city of Kunming, the host of the first part of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15).
Some villagers in Yuxi who had their crops eaten by the elephants said that they did not mind, as the crops would still grow next year, but that if the elephants were harmed, they would not return.
“There is a mutual relationship between human beings and animals. As long as the elephants are treated well, they won’t hurt us,” said local Zhao Jinqing, 57.
“The practice of fine traditional Chinese values has indicated that a harmonious society can be achieved,” said Wang Zhongwu, a sociology professor at Shandong University.