Doctrine of the Mean - Part 1

Author: zmzlois


Confucius thinks there is a rare chance the world will be replenished to how it should be.

Doctrine Of The Mean — Part 1

Published in Ancient Chinese Culture

4 min read

Chinese calligraphy Photo by Leon Gao on Unsplash

The Doctrine of The Mean is one of the Four Books of classical Chinese philosophy and an unneglectable work in Confucianism. Zhu Xi (AC 1130–1200) considered The Doctrine of The Mean “Extremely considerate and illustrated authentically. It concerns matters far beyond humankind. Thus it was thoroughly written.”

Chapter 1


People’s nature is called “Xing”(Phonetical translation); if you do things by following “Xing” is called “Dao”; if you practice “Dao” and do things according to “Dao”, you will form your principles.

It is best not to abandon “Dao” for even a second — if you can abandon it, it is not “Dao”. So great people are cautious even when alone; they are respectful even when unheard, and the character is more obvious and apparent in the more hidden details. When you don’t have much emotion, you achieve “mean”, the balance; if you show your emotions appropriately, it is “harmony”. Mood swing is inevitable for everyone, but “Harmony” is a state everyone should practice. If you can be “Mean” and “Harmony” simultaneously, everything else will follow, and the world's peace originates from them.

Chapter 2


Confucius said, ‘Gentleman pursue mean. Mundane disobey mean. Gentlemen are great at being appropriate and not overdoing things, but mundane acts of impulsiveness and aggression and be extreme.’ Thus this book is about ‘mean’ — the quest of being appropriate.

Chapter 3


Confucius said, ‘Being appropriate is probably the highest virtue! We have been lacking it for a long time!’

Chapter 4


Confucius said, ‘I finally understood why we couldn’t practice Dao. Smart people are often boastful and overdo things. Dumb people are not smart enough to understand it and execute it. It is almost like everyone needs to eat every day, but not everyone can taste the flavour.’

Chapter 5


Confucius thinks there is a rare chance the world will be replenished to how it should be.

Chapter 6


Confucius said Emporer Shun has great wisdom. He was great at asking questions and analysing the underlying context of others’ words. He hides others’ evil, advertises their strength, harnesses both negative and positive ideas in his mind, and finds the most beneficial ones for his people. This is probably why he is great.

The art of balance is the art of leadership. And it requires extraordinary wisdom to do so. It is challenging to listen to both sides of advice because you will need to understand the art of balance and yourself deeply, and have rich experiences and have an astounding ability to understand things. It is also not easy to hide others’ evil doing and be open about others’ advantages. It would help if you were lenient, mentally stable and merciful. The ordinaries often speak of evils and forget about others’ benefits, not to mention have great leadership.

Wisdom alone is not enough to achieve balance; you must also be benevolent.

Chapter 7


Confucius said, ‘Everyone thinks they are smart but don’t even know how to escape traps. Even if they choose to act appropriately, they can’t persist for a month.’

Being egocentric would lead people to the wrong path and doesn’t know when to stop. So it doesn’t align with the Doctrine of The Mean. On the other hand, even if you know when to stop and choose Dao as your living principle, you might go on a long way because of over-competitiveness and unfulfilled desires. So you might unconsciously diverge from Dao.

Chapter 8


Confucius said, ‘Yan Hui (Confucius’ best student) chose to follow the Doctrine of The Mean and found it beneficial. So he keeps on following it and never loses it.’

Chapter 9


Confucius said, ‘One can manage a nation; abandon status and money; step on spikes and swords. But the art of balance is hard to achieve.’

He puts the art of balance in the highest state. Although for us, it might not necessary to consider it in this way.

Chapter 10


One of Confucius’ students Zilu is impulsive and loves martial arts. One day he asked Confucius what counts as powerful. Confucius answered, ‘ The southerners help people with benevolence and don’t come across as vengeful even when bad things happen. They are powerful in a way that they are noble. The northerners slept on weapons and armour, and they’d die for their mission. They are powerful in physical strength. I wouldn’t say either of them is powerful. The actual powerful people are kind and merciful but won’t be pushed onto trends or easily influenced by others. They can remember where they are coming from and also stay where they are. When a country’s resource is abundant and politically stable, a powerful emperor can be persistent and not indulge in sexual pleasure or capital. If a country leader can be consistent in helping citizens and hold on to his belief when a country is disrupted, that’s powerful.’

To be continued.