A rediscovery of heaven-and-human oneness

The history of Chinese intellectual thought shows a constant and continuous probing into the chiasmatic encounters between tian (heaven or nature) and ren (humankind). This is conducive, in turn, to a core conception of tian ren heyi (heaven-and-human oneness) that largely embodies the general ethos or Geist of Chinese philosophy. Owing to its functional indication and dynamic character, the polysemy of the conception is apt to be extended along with the passage of time and according to the current situation or sociocultural context. At the present day, there is a tendency to rediscover the relevance of "heaven-and-human oneness" by reading new and even modern messages into the old conception. This has become an open-ended activity, inviting and involving a second reflection, transcultural exposition, and even creative transformation due to its hidden universality for the common good. This chapter attempts to look into the essential bearings of this "heaven-and-human oneness" concept employed as a Dao (Tao or Way) to deal with the interaction between nature and humanity. It also explores the complex history of the concept, with a particular reference to Li Zehou's recent reinterpretation as well as my own personal understanding. Some contemporary pragmatic implications of the concept are also examined with particular reference to eco-environmental concerns.
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