Magazine article UNESCO Courier

World Peace Begins at Home

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

World Peace Begins at Home

Article excerpt

Published below are extracts from a letter by the Chinese thinker Cai Yuanpei (Ts'ai Yuan-pei; 1863-1940) which first appeared in Correspondance, the journal of the International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, in 1933. In the letter Cai Yuanpei discusses what he regards as the regrettable propensity to dissociate private morality from public morality and to demand of the individual the kind of rational and altruistic behaviour that is not expected of the state.

To the Chairman of the International Committee of Intellectual Co-operation

Academia Sinica (Shanghai)

In the book Ta Hsueh ("The Great Learning") we find a unifying conception of world order which seeks to lay its foundations in the psychology of the individual.

This book was written two thousand years ago by Tseng Ts'an, a disciple of Confucius, later incorporated in the Li-Ki by the Han scholars, and finally chosen, as one of the Four Books to be studied by every schoolboy, by the scholars of the Sung Dynasty. . . . The passage I wish to refer to reads as follows:

"In ancient times, those who wished to make clear their virtue before the world would first put their country in order; those who wished to put their country in order would first bring about right relationships in their family; those who wished to bring about right relationships in their family would first cultivate their own self; those who wished to cultivate their own self would first rectify their own heart; those who wished to rectify their own heart would first make their will sincere; and those who wished to make their will sincere would first try to attain knowledge; and they would attain knowledge by studying matter.

"When matter is studied, then knowledge may be attained; when knowledge is attained, then the will becomes sincere; when the will is sincere, then the heart is rectified; when the heart is rectified, then the self is cultivated; when the self is cultivated, then there exist right relationships in the family; when right relationships exist in the family, then the country is in order; when the countries are in order, then there is peace in the world."

The end to be aimed at is described as "world peace", while the method of attaining this peace begins with "making clear one's virtue before the world". This virtue is regarded as rational conduct, and proceeds, neither from superstition, nor from blind acceptance, but from the exercise of intelligence. The development of intelligence is again described as the attainment of knowledge through the objective study of matter. It is therefore characteristically free from theological and metaphysical fancies.

The conception of world order was further elucidated in the Kung-Yang Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals. According to Kung-Yang, a Confucianist, there are three stages in the development of world order, as follows:

"In a world of chaos, everyone is loyal to his own state but hostile to the other Chinese states; in the secondary stage of world peace, everyone is loyal to the Chinese states, while hostile to those outside China; in the final stage of world peace, all the barbarian (non-Chinese) states, large and small, far and near, have come up to the same level of civilization, and every citizen conducts himself as a perfect gentleman. …

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