zhong yong...

china01Moderation, the middle way, according to the teaching of zhong yong, is the key to a successful life. The middle way lies between two extremes - in order to achieve balance, extremes should be avoided. It is a most Eastern way of perceiving one's place in the world, although in Western cultures, the Swedish idea of lagom ('just right') comes close (see Sweden).

Zhong yong is a Confucian teaching described in The Doctrine of the Golden Mean that dates back to around 500 BCE. The Doctrine of the Golden Mean is one of the four Confucian classics that constitute the foundation of a Chinese upbringing. The other three are The Analects, The Mencius and The Great Learning (available on the Internet Sacred Text Archive).

Zhong yong means to maintain balance and harmony, and to train the mind to seek a state of equilibrium. According to Confucius 'even common men and women can carry the mean into their practices, providing they do not exceed their natural order.' Which could be interpreted as 'don't rock the boat.' Or in the words of Confucius, all things in heaven and earth are immovable.

"Zhong yong philosophy provides an idealised view of Chinese culture - a more appropriate expression is chi ku; 'eat bitterness'. It implies suffering and enduring hardship, a concept known by every Chinese, and lived by many as well. It is suffering made into a virtue."
Chinese friend, formerly resident in Australia.

"Xiang shou means 'to enjoy', is a loaded concept to the Chinese. 'To enjoy' is to indulge oneself, to be decadent, which, although privately envied, is publicly frowned upon." Richard, Chinese friend based in Paris.

In The Art of Happiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Tibetan Dalai Lama suggests that our present-day tendency to go to extremes - more wealth, more pleasure, more power, more excitement - is based on a feeling of not having enough. This, he says, comes from a discontentment that can only be tempered with moderation. Extremes are to be avoided, says the Dalai Lama; moderation is the key to a happy life.