“Key Concepts in Chinese Thought and Culture (81 pieces)” is an important Book Project disseminated by Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. The setting of “Disseminating Key Concepts in Chinese Thoughts and Culture Project” aims to organize key concepts which can reflect the features of Chinese classical culture and the way of national thinking, and can perform Chinese core values, explain and translate objectively and accurately in concise language which is easy to exchange verbally. By this way, chinese voice and stories will be disseminated in international exchanges, that the condition and history of China will be known better by people in the world.
The specialists committee of the project consist of international well-known specialists and scholars. Senior adviser and Art Review Commission of America Arts Research Institute (AARI), Mr. Yu Wentao took part in the review for the final English version. With the authorization, AARI is going to publish the 81 pieces of Key Concepts in Chinese Thought and Culture here.
This term is a Confucian statement about the relationship between literature and ideas. Wen(文) refers to literary creations and works, while dao(道) refers to the ideas conveyed by literary works. Writers and philosophers in ancient China explicated these ideas as Confucian thought and ethics. Han Yu(leader of the min-Tang-dynasty movement advocating the prose style of the Qin and Han dynasties) and some other proposed that the purpose of writings should be in line with the classics of the ancient sages as well as promote them. Zhou Dunyi, a neo-Confucian philosopher of the Song Dynasty, expounded the principle of literature serving as a vehicle of ideas. He concluded that literature was like a vehicle while ideas were like goods loaded on it, and that literature was nothing but a means and a vehicle to convey Confucian ideas. This theory was valuable because it stressed the social role of literature and emphasized that writers should know what they were about to ensure that their works conveyed correct ideas. However, it underestimated the aesthetic value of literature and later met opposition from thinkers and writers who emphasized the value of literature per se.
Writings are meant to convey ideas and ethics. When vehicles are not used, even if the wheels and shafts are excessively decorated, it is simply a waste. Fine language is only a means for writing, whereas ethics are the essence of writings. (Zhou Dunyi: The Gist of Confucian Thought)