Prospects For The Study Of The History Of Chinese Philosophy

AND THE ISSUE OF THE TRUE, THE GOOD AND THE BEAUTIFUL IN CHINA'S TRADITIONAL PHILOSOPHY

Confronting us now is the problem of prospects for the study of Chinese philosophy, that is, the problem of how to evaluate the traditional philosophy of China.

China is a great country with a long history and cultural tradition. The traditional philosophy of China is rich in content and displays an originality. Because society has moved forward and China has been in a backward position for more than one hundred years, and also because we failed to adopt a scientific attitude toward the study of China's traditional thought and culture, we have been unable, over a long period of time, to acquire a true understanding of the value of China's traditional philosophy or to find out wherein its shortcomings and problems lie. However, things have been changing dramatically in this area in recent years.

In addressing the rally commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of Marx's death. Comrade Hu Yaobang, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, said: "The mistaken tendency to split Marxism from the cultural achievements of mankind and pit the one against the other must be opposed; we must acquire a standpoint of respecting the knowledge of science and culture." Note that in recent years a very important phenomenon has appeared in China's newspapers and periodicals, namely, large numbers of articles on problems in real life all quoting philosophical remarks made in ancient China.

For example, Guangming ribao [Bright Daily] carried two short articles on February 19 this year. One article was entitled "Remain Tenacious after a Thousand NVhettings and Ten Thousand Thrashings." It was a line from Zheng Banqiao's poem "On Bamboo," which the article used to encourage an indomitable behavior among the people. Another article, entitled "King of Wei Killed Those Who Knew him and the Fake King of Wei," dwelt on the suspicious character of Cao. The article quoted from the Chronicle of the Reign of Zhengguan what Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty said to Feng Deyi: "Whether a flowing water is clear or muddy hinges on its source. An emperor is the source of government and the common people are like the water. If the emperor plays tricks himself and expects his ministers to behave honestly, it is like a muddy source expecting its flow to be clear; it is unreasonable." The same goes for quite a few literary works. Take, for example, "A Wreath at the Foot of a High Mountain," a controversial short story, which describes how a PLA commander criticized a high-ranking cadre's wife. As an admoni tion, the commander quoted from Du Mu's "Epic of E-Pang Palace" by saying: "People of Qin had no time to lament and were lamented by people after Qin. If the people after Qin lamented but did not take warning, then they would be lamented by those after them."

There are many examples like this which can be found everywhere in newspapers and periodicals. All this has raised a question: Since so many ancient sayings in China still bear great significance for us today and serve as an indispensable guide to our behavior in real life, what value does the traditional philosophy of China have in its entirety? A re-evaluation of China's traditional philosophy seems called for.

If we say that philosophical ideas may embody the problems of the true, the good, and the beautiful, then does not the traditional Chinese philosophy have something valuable or unique in this regard? I think it does, and very remarkably so. We can approach this issue from two aspects, one is the contents of its thinking, another is its attitude toward life, both of which aspects are closely related.

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