, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 558-576
Date: 28 Oct 2008

The tradition of the virtue of qian and its contemporary fate

Abstract

The virtue of qian, one of the traditional Chinese virtues, usually refers to humbleness, humility and modesty. Ancient thinkers in China not only expounded on the meaning and basis of qian, but also argued for its value. It was usually thought that the value of qian rested in its ability to cultivate virtue, promote scholarship, get along with people, and maintain enterprises. Ancient thinkers in China placed so much emphasis on the virtue of qian that there was a tendency to overemphasize qian. There is also a tradition of qian in the West, which is less likely to become excessive compared to that in the East. Presently, Chinese society is transitioning into a modern society, but the virtue of qian still has value. While continuing to embrace its traditional essence, we should adopt useful aspects from the Western concept of qian to reshape the virtue of qian so that it conforms to modern Chinese society.

摘要

作为中国传统德性之一的 “谦” 德, 一般指谦톷、 谦놰和谦虚。 中国古代思想家不仅阐述了 “谦” 的含义和根据, 而且还论证了 “谦” 的价值。 一般认为, “谦” 的价值在于其有益于修德、 为学、 待人和持业。 中国古代思想家特别重视 “谦” 德, 以至于出现了某种过谦的倾向。 西方亦有 “谦” 的传统, 不过与中国古代的 “谦” 德相比, 西方的 “谦” 德不易走向极端化。 当代中国社会虽然正在向现代性社会转型, 但 “谦” 德仍然有其价值。 我们应当在接续传统精华的同时, 吸取西方 “谦” 德的有益成分, 以重塑适应当代中国社会的 “谦” 德。

Translated by Huang Deyuan from Daode Yu Wenming 뗀뗂폫컄쏷 (Morality and Civilization), 2007, (3): 18–24