Among all five traditional Chinese virtues——benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and trustworthiness——benevolence is the first. Corresponding to Philanthropy in western culture, it has been of long standing and regarded as the symbol of our traditional morality.
Maintaining benevolence is the most core value of our traditional Confucianism, also, it is the most basic morality belief and behavior principle of ancient Chinese.
The concept of “benevolence” and the thought of “benevolence and kindness” have been existed long before Confucius in our history.
But it was Confucius who firstly took it as the kernel connotation of the ritual civilization, and defined “benevolence” as the “love for others”.
Fan Chi asked what is benevolence, and Confucius said, to love others. He regarded the “love for relatives” as the aboriginal of “benevolence”, and generalized this concept from the “love for relatives” to the “love for others”, and even the “pan-loving public” which means man should be sympathy, caring and cherishing to the others.
Confucianism tells the thought of “benevolence” using plain language, it originates from our emotion to parents and relatives.
As a moral sense which takes the “love for relatives” as its starting point, “benevolence” requires us to honor parents and respect brothers and sisters in the first place.
On this base, Confucianism expands this love in a broader sense, from the “love for relatives” to the “pan-loving public”, and from the “love for human beings” to the “love for the universe” which means to love each vegetation, animals, and landscapes. It now represents a kind of universal sympathy, compassion and sense of justice.
Therefore, it also contains a sense of ecological protection which we frequently discuss today.
Throughout the history, the thought of “benevolence” with a grass-root nature has spread wildly into every household during the merging process of different ethnics of China, and it finally became an entrenched traditional virtue in our culture after generations’ inheritance as it represents the fundamental demand of ordinary people of all ethnics.
As it calls for the kindness between people and respect of human value, it represents the discovery of “human” and builds a connection with the modern ideal of “people-first” to some degree.
Therefore, “benevolence” can be seen as a valuable source of the modern human spirit.
Moreover, “benevolence” is also a significant source of “socialist core value”, loving each other must become the precondition and at the same time the purpose of the development of modern society, country and citizens.
It is no exaggeration that “benevolence” is the fundament of the twenty four-word “socialist core value”, especially the origin of “impartiality”, “integrity” and “fraternization”.
Chinese value principle of “benevolence” has always had a positive effect during the dialogue and mixture of different civilizations.
By way of examples, the thought becomes an important spirit or principle in the declaration of Human Rights and World Ethics Declaration of all language versions.
We believe that it will continue to be an inspiration of the equal and mutual beneficial, open and inclusive relation between nations and make the international order more just and equitable in the future.
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