Journal directory listing - Volume 21-30 (1976-1985) - Volume 27 (1982)

The Chinese Traditional Culture and The Three Principles of the People Author: Chi-Jung Sung(Department of Civic Education College of Education)


In China slogans, "Democracy" and "Science" were adopted during the New Culture Movement" in 1919. Most Chinese in those days were imbued with the idea of westernization to such an extent that they neglected the old moral tradition. Also, the scientific achievements in ancient China did not arrest their attention. As a matter of act, the scientific knowledge of the Chinese in ancient times was as broad as that of the western people. Emperor Yao (2357 B. C.? - 2257 B. C. ?), the legendary sovereign of Chinese people, was very much concerned with the celetial phenomena because of its influence on the mundane affairs. Some fifty years later, Emperor Yu (2205 B. C. ? - 2160 B. C. ?), another sovereign, controlled successfully the flood of the Yellow River. These two examples proved at least one thing: the Chinese people in ancient tune had strong interest in sciences.
In 1966, the late President Chiang Kai-shek promulgated "the Cultural Renaissance Movement". The purpose of themovement is to reemphasize the old moral tradition conpled with the recognition of profound scientific knowledge and ability the Chinese people have had. It goes without saying that the renova-tion is not the restoration of something old, but the reevaluation of them. It is logical that the Chinese cultural heritage should be extolled and broadened in order to enact the Three Principles of the People ("San Min Chu I") as indicated by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China.
Dr. Sun said, "there is an old moral tradition held continuously by Yao, Shun, Yu, Tang, Wen, Yu, Duke Chou and Confucius. My philosophy, in a word, is an inheritance of the tradition which is worth to be brightened and broadened."
The following words related closely to the Chinese moral tradition were stated clearly in the Book of History ("Shang Shu"):
-People are the basis on which a nation is established. To fortify the basis is to make a nation formidable.
-To rectify the moral principles, to utilize the available materials and to achieve a prosperous livelihood.
-Heaven sees according to what my people see, heaven hears as my people her.
-Moral principle makes a good government, and a good government provides the people with good living conditions.
-Love your own relatives other than strange persons, respect your own old folks other than the young.
All in all, these words are so meaningful that the modern scholars accept them as goals which a democratic and prosperous country strives to attain.
(1) Filial Duty
Ethics goes along with the family system. To the Chinese people, the filial duty is the first and foremost ethical standard. With the standard in his mind, Emperor Yao found his successor Shun. According to Ssu-ma Chien's work, General History ("Sai-chi"), Shun's father was a blind man and, after the death of his first wife, he married another woman. Since then Shun was ill-treated by his parents and his stepbrother Shiang. Shiang attempted several times to kill him but failed to do so- because of his escape. Through thick and thin devotion loyalty Shun was still a good son to his parents and a good elder brother to Shiang. After fulfilling the fillial duty, a virtuous man like Shun, as the Confucianists insisted, became the ruler of a good government. At this point. Dr. Sun concluded, "the moral disciplines are indispensable to the establishment of a country and the moral disciplines are helpful to put the whole world in order."
(2) People to be Served
The Chinese people, originally living a primitive life, were led to civilization by their distinguished leaders. Few examples are given here. Fu-shi was famed for teaching people how to tie a knot in order to knit a net. The nomadic group thus settled down at a place to be fishermen since then. Sheng-lun was famed for teaching people to raise corns in accordance with the climatic conditions and the fertility of the land. All of them had just one thing to be considered: Their people should be first served. Dr. Sun said: "livelihood is the esseuce of history." To elaborate the theory he listed four criteria for a prosperous livelihood, "in a country where the abilities of its people are fully mobilized, where the daily necessities are fully supplied, where the land is here and there explored, and where the commodities are freely transmitted."
(3) The Government Ruled by Man of Virtue
The government ruled by the virtuous man is certainly a government of benevolence and tolerance. Confucius said: "He who exercises government by means of moral disciplines may be compared to the North Polar star, which keeps its place and all stars turn fowards it." He added. "If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to moral disciplines, all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him." Mencius went into detail in this respect as saying, "He who is keeping the moral disciplines practices benevolence and tolerance, "is the sovereign of his people. To become a sovereign of his people, he need not wait for a broad territory. "Both Confucius and Mencius emphasized that what the virtuous men follow is the so-called "royal way", the way leading to a govern-ment of benevolence and tolerance."
(4) The Good-Neighbor Policy
The Chinese are known as a peace-loving people. It is true that Huang-ti (2697 B. C. ? - 2598 B. C. ?) had engaged himself in two wars. But those were holy wars - the banishment of vicious men. When Emperor Yao enthroned, he devoted himself to the affection of nine classes of relatives and the co-existence of ten thousand countries. As a result all people under heaven revered him. In Emperor Shun's days, the territory was expanded to 5,000 square miles (1 i) and the people "within four seas" paid respect to him. Confucius applauded those rulers and said, "moral disciplines do not simply stand alone. He who keeps them will have neighbors." In a speech named, "The Pan-Asianism" given in 1924 in Yokohama, Dr. Sun denoted the Good-neighbor Policy which the new republic is to pursue. He said: "We hope to influence other peoples instead of suppress-ing them. What I mean is that we like to see other peoples to be influenced by morality instead of being threatened by force. The Chinese culture is aimed at the royal way-the way of benevolence and tolerance prevailing all over the world."
(5) The Golden Mean
"The Gold mean was first mentioned in the Book of History. "To hold fast the due mean, please," Emperor Yuo told Shun when the latter was appointed
his successor. Just in the same words Emperor Shun told his successor Yu. Thus, the golden mean was handed down and maintained from one ruler to another. Several subjects mentioned in last few sections, such as the moral disciplines, the government ruled by virtuous men and the good-neighbor policy, can be attached to the golden mean. Dr. Sun said clearly that The Three Principles of the People are an embodiment of the Doctrine. This is the doctrine that the founder of the Republic of China emphasized; that can be effectively practiced in this country and in international community as well.
There is an argument whether the old moral tradition has been discontinued after the death of Mencius. According to Han Yu, the great poet in Tang Dynasty, Confucius left the tradition to Mencius. Since Mencius died, however, the next holder of the tradition did not appear." The opposite of his argument is possibly true. The old moral tradition is being held in one way or another even if both Confucius and Mencius passed away some thousands years ago. It is undeniable that most rulers from Han Dynasty to Ching Dynasty knew just little about the teachings of Emperor Yuo and Emperor Shun. The "royal way" was more or less abandoned by them. Then came Dr. Sun, the great leader df this century, and he deemed it a duty to be the inheritor of the old moral tradition. On the very day Dr. Sun was born Chinese culture carried a nole of hope once again.
The moral tradition advocated by Dr. Sun is composed of the "royal way" and the golden mean. The former means "what to be," while the latter means "where to be." The Three Principle of the Peoples will accordingly be enacted in the following ways:
a. The Principle of Nationalism
1. To liberate the Chinese people from oligarchy;
2. To give every ethnic group in China equal opportunity;
3. To help deliver the people of the world from any form of oppression.
b. The Principle of Democracy
1. The anthentic equality; equably from the starting point; equality of opportunities; service to avert inequality to equality.
2. The rights sufficiently enjoyed by the people; direct votes to elect officials and to make law.
3. A all-powerful government.
c. The Principle of Livelihood
1. The equalization of land-ownership;
2. "The land to the tiller" program;
3. The control of private capital and the development of national capital.
The enactment of The Three Principles of the People will provide all the Chinese people with opportunity to be equal ethnically, politically and economic-ally. The new epoch of Chinese culture has begun since Dr. Sum founded the first democratic Republic in Asia. It is certain that the Chinese people, being the holder of the old moral tradition, will attain the goals: to establish a strong and prosperous China and to promote the brotherhood of peoples in the world.

《Full Text》