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Confucius quote: 和而不同| Updated: September 26, 2022

Editor's Note: The Analects, a collection of Confucius' sayings from over 2,000 years ago, still has significant influence on the Chinese way of thinking and the cultural values in modern times. The book's philosophical passages are increasingly quoted by officials and dignitaries from around the world. We share some of examples in this series as follow to celebrate the 8th Nishan Forum on World Civilizations, which will be held from Sept 26 to 28 in Qufu, a county-level city in Jining, East China's Shandong province.


A gentleman seeks harmony, not conformity.


This saying from Book 13 of The Analects is an integral part of Confucianism.

During the pre-Qin dynasty (770-207 BC), maintaining harmony was essential. Harmony promotes the coexistence of many groups within a system as opposed to pursuing absolute uniformity. For example, the five flavors of food - sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, and salty, should all be present in equal measure in the perfect dish. Confucius used this idea to examine how people interact with one another.

Likewise, in today's multicultural world, the harmonious state is achieved by seeking common ground while reserving differences.

The saying "和而不同" was once cited by Alain Juppé, the former prime minister of France. Juppé, the then French foreign minister, expressed the saying while commenting on the Sino-France relationship amid growing global challenges such as the debt crisis in his speech at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Sept 13, 2011.

France hoped to enhance dialogues as well as the strategic partnership with China, said Juppé, adding that the two countries were supposed to pursue the spirit of "和而不同" which was in line with their mutual interests.


File photo: Former State councilor Liu Yandong (L) and former French foreign minister Alain Juppé attend a ceremony for promoting the French language in China at the Beijing Language and Culture University on Sept 13, 2011. [Photo/BLCU]