The Concept of 'Datong' in Chinese Philosophy as an Expression of the Idea of the Common Good

21 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2011

Albert H. Y. Chen

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 11, 2011

Abstract

The concept of 'datong' in Chinese philosophy was developed more than two millennia ago in the Confucian classics. It has been translated as 'Great Unity', 'Great Community', 'Great Universality', 'Great Similarity', 'Grand Harmony', etc. In the 'Liyun' section of Liji the Book of Rites, the concept of 'datong' was first introduced. In the early twentieth century, the great Chinese thinker and reformer Kang Youwei wrote a book entitled Datong shu (Book on the Great Community) in which he put forward an original and radical interpretation of 'datong'.

This paper will analyze the concept of 'datong' in Liyun and in Kang’s Datong shu, and suggest that the concept is an expression of the idea of the common good in traditional Chinese social and political philosophy. It will examine and reflect on Kang’s Datong shu and the elements of Confucianism, Buddhism, liberalism, utilitarianism, utopianism and socialism/communism that can be found in the book. It will also show that the ideology currently propounded by the Chinese Communist Party, including the ideas of the 'preliminary stage of socialism' and the 'xiaokang society', may be better understood in the light of the concept of 'datong' in Chinese philosophy.

Keywords: Chinese philosophy, political philosophy, Kang Youwei, common good, datong, xiaokang

Suggested Citation

Chen, Albert H. Y., The Concept of 'Datong' in Chinese Philosophy as an Expression of the Idea of the Common Good (November 11, 2011). University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2011/020. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1957955 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1957955

Albert H. Y. Chen (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

HOME PAGE: http://hub.hku.hk/rp/rp01240

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