Defining and delivering 'xiaokang'

(China Daily)| Updated : 2020-12-10

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[Photo/China Daily]

The concept of a moderately prosperous society in all respects bridges ancient and modern wisdom as China plans to achieve the standard this year, report Wang Qian in Beijing and Xing Yi in Shanghai.

Scholars are examining the centurieslong evolution of the ancient Chinese concept ofxiaokang, a moderately prosperous society, as the country plans to achieve the standard this year by eliminating absolute poverty.

"Xiaokang has become a foundation of China's reform policy, because it was based on ancient culture," says Alexander Lomanov, deputy director of scientific work and head of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "At the same time, it was secular and rationalistic, although it was colored by Confucian moral philosophy."

A concept connecting ancient tradition and modern ideology, xiaokang was first recorded in Shi Jing (The Book of Poetry), China's earliest collection of poems and songs.

In Min Lao, a poem translated by the Scottish Sinologist James Legge, the anonymous author wrote: "The people indeed are heavily burdened but perhaps a little relief (xiaokang) may be got for them."

The term is elaborated upon in Liji (The Book of Rites), the Confucian classic emphasizing the importance of ritual.

In Confucian texts, xiaokang refers to a society where "people work for their own benefit and for their families. They strive to accumulate wealth and property," Lomanov explains.

"The ancient Confucians believed that such a society could become peaceful and prosperous through moral education and ethical constraints."

In the early 20th century, reformist scholar Kang Youwei revived the concept in a modern setting in Datong Shu (Book on the Great Unity). Kang used xiaokang to describe social prosperity.

Although the term had been historically vague, the concept has gradually evolved and become clearer as an essential step on the country's development road map since the late 1970s.

"Chinese people have pursued the dream of xiaokang since ancient times," Shanghai Party Institute of the Communist Party of China professor Wang Gonglong says.

"Its meaning has evolved with the country's modernization under the CPC leadership."

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