The Organizing Power of Harmony in the Chinese Tradition of Thought

Dialogue and Universalism 30 (3):75-88 (2020)
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Abstract

Early and later Confucians, known in Chinese as the “ruists” school of ancient origins, perceived the idea of “harmony” as a fundamental concept that lies at the basis of self-cultivation, society and governance. In modern times this idea still plays in one or another form a dominant note in Chinese politics and social life. The article attempts to search for causes of the significance of “harmony” by focusing on analyzing two pivotal Confucian texts compiled in the Han dynasty, namely, Records of Music [Yue ji 樂記] and Divination of Music [Yue wei 樂緯]. The analysis shows that ruists belonging to Zhou dynasty’s imperial class of music officials, gradually developed the aesthetics of music into a complex idea of "harmony" that contains the highest aesthetical way—“Dao”—which guides both the whole universe as well as the evolution of human society.

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