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Confucian values and characters series: Harmony

Harmony (和)

Confucian value of harmony:

子曰:“君子和而不同,小人同而不和。”

Confucius says, "cultivated persons seek harmony but not sameness."

(Analects 13. 23).

painting titled harmony by wendy l fletcher

"Harmony" by Wendy L. Fletcher, Renison University College President for her series 'An East West Conversation'.


The Origin of『和』


The character『和』is first created by combining『禾』and『口』. 
harmony graphic one
『禾』means 'seedlings'. In 1200-1050 B.C., it is written in the oracle bone script as:

 harmony graphic two

The right part of『和』is『口』meaning a mouth:

harmony graphic three

The Meaning of 『和』(harmony)

The ancient Chinese made simple flutes using the stalks of seedlings, which they played with their mouths. As a result, we can deduce the original meaning of『和』is: “making harmonic sound by playing stalk flutes.” —from the ancient Chinese dictionary『说文解字』(Shuowen Jiezi)


In Chinese culture

『和』(harmony) is believed to be the most important value for a family or a society.

  • 『家和万事兴』/ 『家和萬事興』: If your family is harmonious, everything can go well.
  • 『以和为贵』/『以和為貴』: Harmony (by reacting but not over reacting) should be given priority

In Western culture

The word “harmony” comes from the Greek word “harmonia” meaning “agreement”. In music, it is the theory behind how pitches relate (or agree) with one another.

  • "Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language. - Ludwig Wittgenstein"
  • "With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things." - William Wordsworth

We want to know...

What are your thoughts on 'harmony' as both a Confucian and western value? 

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