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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 80-82

He (和), a peace-oriented philosophy

College English Teaching Department, Foreign Languages School, Anhui University of Technology, Maanshan, Anhui, China

Date of Submission07-Dec-2019
Date of Acceptance22-Jan-2020
Date of Web Publication29-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Asso Prof. Anwen Zheng
Postgraduate English Teaching Department, Foreign Languages School, Anhui University of Technology, Maanshan, Anhui
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_9_20

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An account of historical background, definition, and application of he(和)in traditional Chinese medicine is given in this article. It is mutual respect and tolerance that lay a solid foundation for he(和), which has deeply shaped the Chinese culture.

Keywords: Chinese culture, Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》 Inner Cannon of Huang Di), peace-oriented, philosophy, traditional Chinese medicine

How to cite this article:
Zheng A. He (和), a peace-oriented philosophy. Chin Med Cult 2020;3:80-2

How to cite this URL:
Zheng A. He (和), a peace-oriented philosophy. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jan 24];3:80-2. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2020/3/2/80/288540

  Historical Background Top

Historically, the national character of the Chinese has long been established on a basis of moderation, that is, anything but radical, which, in the past millennia, had a profound and consistent effect on people from all walks of life in this old oriental country. For this reason, 和(he), as the best embodiment of moderation, has always been the pursuit of average Chinese in their daily life and work, including traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice.

While the denotation of the Chinese character he(和) [Figure 1] is very close to peace or harmony in English, its broad connotation is certainly to amaze those who attempt to study traditional Chinese culture. According to Shuo Wen Jie Zi (《说文解字》),a classic Chinese dictionary compiled by Xu Shen (AD 58–AD 147) in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–AD 220), he(和)means the growing season of grains, which starts in February and ends in August of the lunar calendar, a period coinciding with the middle of a year. (禾,嘉谷也,二月始生,八月而熟,得时之中,故谓之和。) Shaped by her long history of agricultural production, the Chinese civilization is undoubtedly a civilization of the Agrarian Age, in which Chinese ancestors paid extraordinary attention to the relationship between human and nature. Such relationship can be well interpreted by a Chinese philosophical term Tian Ren He Yi (天人合一), which claims that man is an integral part of nature; in other words, human activities should be subjected to natural laws.[1] Through long-term observation in their agriculture production, ancient Chinese inhabitants gradually acquired an adequate knowledge concerning those natural laws by trial and error, based on which they designed a significant lunar calendar to guide their agricultural activities. More importantly, classic Chinese outlooks on life, world, and nature were also built over the same period, with he(和)as the general guidance. A harmonious relationship between human and nature was so important in Chinese culture that some even say that Chinese have had an innate thought of conservation, who firmly believed that immoderate exploitation of natural resources, though can satisfy human being's current needs, could eventually ruin the future of this planet, if such overexploitation could not be halted. Consequently, as a nation heavily dependent on agricultural production, Chinese ancestors held that Tian Dao(天道 the Dao of Heaven or a synonymous expression of natural law in English)should be held in the highest esteem in their life, and any violation of Tian Dao should be condemned and prohibited in their culture.
Figure 1: Definition of hé(和)in Chinese dictionary

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Logically, a pursuit of peace or harmony between human and nature was formed and became deep-rooted in the minds of ancient Chinese, who gradually fostered a strong conviction that Tian Dao was insurmountable by human forces, because Tian(天a concept that has no appropriate counterpart in the English language, yet the literal meaning is rather close to sky or heaven)was so powerful and unpredictable that people had no other option but to obey the rules made by the supreme being.

In their efforts to meet the requirements of Tian Dao, ancient Chinese came to realize that he(和)was the optimal strategy to reduce the conflicts between mankind and nature. With the concept of he(和)in their minds, people would never simply go in for material comforts; instead, they thought more about an establishment of amicable relationship with others than the possible interests they could gain to quench their thirst for money. However, what on earth is he(和)in the Chinese culture?

  The Interpretations of He(和) Top

Karl Marx once described human essence as “the sum total of social relations,”[2] that is to say, societies, eastern, or western, can only operate smoothly on the condition that they have an effective mechanism of relations handling, for we human being live in a web of interconnected relationships, involving family members, schoolmates, workmates, companies, regions, countries, even nature, and the universe. The philosophy of Chinese relationship handling differs substantially from that of westerners in many ways. Perhaps, the most significant difference lies in the fact that the concept of he(和)has come to pervade almost every aspect of the mechanism and serves as the highest guiding principle. Under the principle, even hostile parties with seemingly insolvable conflicts could eventually find something in common and therefore mitigate the potential risk of clash.

The concept of he(和)does not mean that one should act as a yes man all the time or concede without your own principle; instead, what the concept requires is courage, tolerance, and wisdom with great foresight. Today, under the backdrop of rapid globalization, a peaceful world is calling for cultural diversity, which should be established on cultural tolerance. In some way, the history of Chinese culture is not only a history of self-enrichment but also of cultural tolerance, that is, Chinese ancestors built their glorious and unique civilization by absorbing nutrients from other great cultures.

Buddhism, for instance, was introduced into China during the reign of Han Ming Di (AD 28– AD 75) and spread rapidly among many Chinese of different social classes. Buddhism, though borrowed from ancient India, could coexist peacefully with Confucianism and Taoism, two native beliefs in China, for more than 2000 years and constituted the well-known Chinese trinity of belief framework: Ru(儒 Confucianism), Shi(释Buddhism), and Dao(道 Taoism), which laid a solid foundation for the long-term stability and prosperity of ancient China.

Essentially, the Chinese culture is peace oriented because of the strong influence of he(和), and an effective implementation of he(和)usually means a higher tolerance for disparities because Chinese cherish a deep conviction that a productive and sustainable world depends heavily on the peaceful coexistence of culture diversities(和实生物,同则不继 《国语·郑语》), as stressed by Bo Yangfu,a philosopher of Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C.–771 B.C.) who first proposed the concepts of Yin and Yang in China's early history.

All in all, the essential meaning of he(和)is tightly around the peaceful coexistence of heterogeneity. A peaceful coexistence, however, does not mean that heterogenous cultures are at a standstill when they meet; instead, under the guidance of he(和), there is a brisk exchange of ideas between different cultures. In fact, what he(和)reveals is a state of dynamic balance.

  Application of He(和)in Traditional Chinese Medicine Top

He(和)is also the most important object pursued by TCM practitioners in their therapies or diagnoses, which are based on a delicate balance, an ideal state called as he(和), between Yin and Yang internally or externally. The leading cause of illness, according to the fundamental theories of TCM, is usually triggered by certain potential disruption of such balance. The formation and transformation of all things on the earth, as stressed by The Inner Cannon of Huang Di, are inseparable from the interaction between Yin and Yang (阴阳者,天地之道也,万物之纲纪,变化之父母。《黄帝内经·阴阳应象大论》). That is why a TCM doctor should ascertain the cause of an illness by analyzing the mutual effects of Yin and Yang, a commonly accepted foundation for an effective cure (治病必求于本。《黄帝内经·阴阳应象大论》) [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Quotations from The Inner Cannon of Huang Di

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As an agricultural nation, Chinese ancestors tended to be more pragmatic[3] and therefore developed a philosophy of Yin Yang Wu Xing, which was characterized by the ideas of early dialectical materialism of human being. According to this philosophy, everything on the earth can be classified into five categories: Jin (金metal), Mu(木wood), Shui (水water), Huo(火fire), and Tu(土earth), and when something is put into one category, it will be naturally endowed with the properties of the category. Mu (木 wood), for instance, is believed to have a need of free stretch without any inhibitions (喜调达) [Figure 3],and the liver of human body, according to TCM theories, also has a need of free stretch without any inhibitions just because of this assumption. The main function of the liver is to store blood and keep a physiological balance by means of catharsis(肝藏血,肝主疏泄。). It is for this reason that a TCM doctor's prescriptions for patients with liver disease are normally focused on the so-called liver soothing(疏肝), that is, to remove the existing restraints on a liver that has a strong need of free stretch without any inhibitions. In fact, almost all TCM prescriptions are encouraged to achieve the common goal: “Yi Ping Wei Qi”[4](以平为期 to view peace as the ultimate goal)in TCM treatment [Figure 4].
Figure 3: A tree that grows freely without control

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Figure 4: A traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy

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However, the five categories, or Wu Xing in Chinese, are not isolated; instead, they belong to either Yin or Yang and have to work peacefully with each other; otherwise, some kind of health problem may arise. Furthermore, fitness relies on a peaceful state not only inside the human body but also outside. That is why TCM firmly believes that an effective treatment cannot be conducted in a rigid manner. A specific prescription should vary from individual to individual because factors attributing to an illness involve changes in climate, season, local conditions, and even a specific period of time in a day. The chief purpose of TCM treatment is to restore a state of he (和), whether inside or outside a patient.

  The Spirit of He (和) Top

In Chinese culture, the spirit of h e(和) is undoubtedly peace oriented, whether in dealing with interpersonal relationships or international ones. It is mutual respect and tolerance that lay a solid foundation for he(和), a peace-oriented philosophy. When they described what the world should look like, Chinese ancestors said “He Er Bu Tong”(和而不同seeking peace but keeping differences). This remark serves as an exact expression of Chinese realistic attitudes toward cultural diversity.

Financial support and sponsorship

Humanities and Social Sciences Research Project of Anhui Province (SK2018A0060).

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Feng YL. A History of Chinese Philosophy. Beijing: Beijing University Press; 2013. p. 27.  Back to cited text no. 1
Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_relations_of_production. [Last accessed on 2019 Dec 07].  Back to cited text no. 2
Feng TY. A History of Chinese Culture. Shangha: Shanghai People's Press; 2015. p. 115.  Back to cited text no. 3
Hong L. Culture of Chinese Medicine. Beijing: Science Press; 2018. p. 29.  Back to cited text no. 4


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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