和 / hé – Harmony and 同 / tóng – Sameness

Interesting examples and usage of harmony and sameness in Chinese thought in a speech.

SHA’s speech on cultural significance of HK at St Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences

Chinese culture, there is an important concept of “he” (“harmony”).This can be traced back to the 3,000-year-old Chinese classics Yi Jing (“Classics of Change”).Yi Jing presents a holistic view of how nature works in yin yang (“the two contrary forces”) and how various elements in the world complement one another to achieve completeness and harmony.”He” can be regarded as a fundamental Chinese thinking.”He” brings harmony and peace.

“Tong” (“sameness”) is a concept similar to “he”.Around 2,000 years ago in ancient China, there was much debate on the difference between “he” and “tong”. It was argued that “he” comprised of yin yang, and hence differences; but “tong” contained no diversity. Hence, “he” can accommodate diversity and, as such, provide the impetus for, and acceptance of, progress; while “tong” is more concerned with uniformity, which stifles creativity, adaptation and further development.

 

Robin R. Wang, describes it as follows in his 2005 paper “Dong Zhoungshu’s Transformation of Yin-Yang Theory and Contesting of Gender Identity” (Philosophy East amp; West Vol 55, Number 2, April/2005)

Harmony (he) if built on cultivating difference or respecting otherness. The harmony that respects otherness or cultivates the maximum benefit from difference is the ideal state of all personal social and political interactions. The Guoyu 國語 gives eloquent testimony to this epitome of harmony:

Where harmony is fecund, sameness is barren. Things accommodating each other on equal terms is called blending in harmony, and in so doing they are able to flourish and grow, and other things are drawn to them. But when same is added to same, once it is used up, there is no more. Hence the Former Kings blended earth with metal, wood, fire and water to make their products… To be like this is to attain the utmost in harmony. In all of this, the Former Kings took their consorts from other clans, required as tribute those products which distinguished each region, and selected ministers and counselors who would express a variety of opinions on issues and made every efforts to bring things into harmony…

Recognizing yin and yang interaction as harmony (he 和) is very different from accepting it as an imposed unity (he 合). The harmony of yin and yang is blending of two elements or more into a harmonious whole without sacrificing their particular identities.

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