22、Chinese Culture Is a System Culture

I think the Western countries should have a better understanding about the concept of system than Chinese or the Oriental, even that there was no word like ‘system’ in ancient Chinese language. In ancient China, the nation, society, and individual harmony in a good system is called nature-human integration or harmony between Yin and Yang, without mentioning the concept of system while the actual meaning is the system.

The concept of system is not complex. As far as I know, system is an integration composed of many parts to complete a certain function and is able to assist and control each other. Bicycle is a system, car is a system, aircraft is a system, production line is a system, a computer is a system, and computer software is also a system.

But it is the excellent and advanced point of Chinese ancient civilisation to research the whole country, universe, and society as a system.

Chinese ancient civilisation was ahead of other countries and civilisations of around a thousand years, which exactly relied on the system culture of Chinese tradition.

It leads the ancient Chinese far ahead of other countries, but because of its great success, Chinese people still follow this system culture and social institutions inherited by the ancient sages while other countries are in the industrial revolution and changed from the natural economy to the market economy. The system culture promoted Chinese social civilisation. But later, due to its users without adjust the system in time, the system that formed thousands of years ago had seriously hindered China’s economic development, technological advances, and the development of productivity and eventually led to the Eight-Power Allied Forces and the invasion of foreign powers.

It is not the fault of the system culture itself and system concept; instead, it is the users of the system, those in power that did not really comprehend the principles and concepts of the system. The system can be continuously adjusted and improved and with the ability to accomplish certain functions. The Chinese Confucius and Mencius system is to bring the Chinese society into a relatively stable and conservative position. However, with the development of productivity, the development of commodity economy, and the increasingly fierce international competition, the kind of conservative and stable system should be upgraded and the operation direction of the system should be adjusted to make the social system toward the development direction of promoting the development of productivity and fully adapted to the jungle of international competition, thus China can get the opportunity and social system to exceed the West.

Why the traditional Chinese culture is system culture?

Traditional Chinese culture is Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, i.e., Confucius and Mencius culture, Buddhism culture, Taoism culture, and the philosophy of Yin and Yang.

The systematic of Buddhism is not very obvious while the Confucius and Mencius culture and Lao-Tzu ethical culture as well as the philosophy of Yin and Yang are purely system cultural.

There are several features of system:

1. The holistic view, to integrate the whole country and society as a whole to research and to unify dispatch and arrange for a variety of social resources.

2. The system can be regulated and given feedback. When there is problem in system operational, the underlying system can feedback information to the management centre and the system can be adjusted by the management centre.

3. There is a certain purpose of the system, which is like a boat always with a sailing direction. That where he wants the people on board go is very clear but not aimless.

4. There is a clear division of work for the system components.

5. The system requires each part in harmony and unity.

6. The system excludes the people who corrupt the stable social system.

There are several following characteristics of the society under the guidance of traditional Chinese culture, and these are the basic characteristics of the system.

1. The holistic view, to integrate the whole country and society as a whole to research and to unify dispatch and arrange for a variety of social resources.

All the lands in the world are belonging to the emperor, and all the people on the lands are the courtiers of the emperor. Chinese ancient emperor has supreme authority and is the second only to heaven. The Chinese ancient emperor can decide everything of the country which he rules. In the Confucius and Mencius culture, those who challenge the authority of the emperor are all considered to commit treason and heresy. It is precisely because the emperor has so much power that makes the emperor handle the overall situation of all things domestic without any restrictions and constraints.

2. There is a clear division of work for the system components.

The system administrator is the emperor who governs the people through courtiers.

In a family, the husband is the administrator and the wife is the one under administration.

And in a family, the husband is the administrator and the child is the one under administration.

The emperor, husband, wife, and children have their own clear division of social work and social position through moral and legal force to strengthen the management.

3. The system requires each part in harmony and unity.

How to achieve harmony and unity in Chinese feudal society? Due to the despicable humanity, everyone has the trend to maximise the benefits while the feudal society arranged the code of conduct for everyone, which is called Taoism.

The emperor requires Taoism—kingcraft. An emperor without kingcraft is called tyrannical and the subordinate of which is reasonable to eradicate, kill, and take place of him.

The courtiers also have their courtier rules—loyalty to emperor and patriotism that the courtiers have to die if the emperor commands. Therefore, loyalty is always the highest evaluation criteria for Chinese ancient courtiers.

The wife – female virtues require women to chastity and virtuous. In ancient China, the demands for women are very stringent to be obedient to the husband whoever they marry and a husband can divorce his wife, but the wife only have to endure to the dissatisfaction of her husband.

Children – filial piety. Filial piety is a very famous ethics in China and there are twenty-four filial models to regulate and discipline children’s behaviour.

Brothers – fraternal duty. In feudal society, the brothers are requested to be friendly and helpful to each other that the story of Kong Rong’s ‘Humility of a Pear; is a very famous education of fraternal duty in China.

In fact, the fundamental means to keep harmony in society in ancient Chinese culture is the inequality of the social status, and the one in a low status should be subject to the high-status managers. It can be said that everyone has a manager and a very clear codes of conduct and norms of behaviour for themselves, of which are enforced through legal and ethical to achieve the purpose of social harmony.

4. The system excludes the people who corrupt the stable social system.

The behaviours of those who do not obey to the filial piety and female virtues, and mislead and insubordinate his majesty, are considered to be a felony in the feudal society, so that the entire social systems and social power will eradicate and eliminate them regardless of the legal or moral.

5. The system can be regulated and given feedback.

This is deeply rooted in the Chinese mind and that to go to the capital city to appeal to the emperor and stop the sedan chair of courtiers to accuse injustice are the most classic materials in traditional Chinese artworks. Thus Chinese people have the petition complex, which is an act that people have strong resentment against local officials and demand the system administrator to come forward for system adjustments. It is always a hot topic for Chinese people that a grassroots people can win the case with the evil forces of people in high and powerful positions.

6. There is a certain purpose of the system.

The system is like a ship, and it always has the sailing directions. Actually it is obvious where the state system wants to bring the country to. The purpose of Chinese Confucius and Mencius system is to let the whole society in a state of rural life, which is smooth, quiet, and in an orderly way with a population increase. It is the situation described by Lao-Tzu: ‘To smaller the country and to scarce the people so that, even though there are a variety of instruments, but do not use them; to make people attach importance to death, rather than to distant migration; although there are boats and vehicles, do not always take them; although there are weapons and equipment, no place to go embattle and war; to bring the people return to the ancient natural state of tying knots for recording. As a result, people can eat well, dress beautiful, live comfortable and have happy lives. Between countries, there are only just a few kilometres so that people even can see and hear each other without intercommunication from birth to death.’

The philosophy of Yin and Yang, Confucius and Mencius doctrine, and moral philosophy actually come down in one continuous line, and their dominant ideas are exactly the same. In a manner of speaking, the philosophy of Yin and Yang as well as moral philosophy is a kind of idea, while the Confucius and Mencius ideas and doctrine can be treated as the specific application of this culture concept in the social system.

Lao-Tzu’s thought deems that the country should be governed by morality, and Confucius’s thought is about the specific application of this idea.

The kingcraft, female virtues, filial piety, loyalty to emperor and patriotism, being faithful to the husband to the end, and the twenty-four filial, etc., are all the Taoism summed up by Confucius and Mencius, and all these are identified with Chinese past dynasties’ kings and used to govern the country as well as the basic concept and basic national policy of governing the country.

In the philosophy of Yin and Yang, Yang is equal to heaven, rigid, enterprising, attack, innovation, heat, light, conquer, man, and male, as well as the leftist and the government. While Yin is equal to earth, flexible, conservative, defence, old-fashioned, cold, dark, obedience, woman, and female, as well as the rightist and the people.

It strengthens that Ying should submit to Yang in the specific application of Confucius culture in the social system.

Emperor equals to Yang, courtier equals to Yin, and courtier absolutely submits to emperor.

Husband equals to Yang, wife equals to Yin, and wife absolutely submits to husband.

Father equals to Yang, son equals to Yin, and son absolutely submits to father.

The philosophy of Yin and Yang divides all things between heaven and earth into two kinds of one to one corresponding things: Yin and Yang according to their properties. And in these things, there is a primary and secondary as well as the opposite and complementary relationship. The philosophy deems that everything will be okay if it strengthens and clears this kind of relationship; on the contrary, the mess that reverses Yin and Yang will appear if it breaks this kind of relationship.

Confucius used this concept in society and cleared and strengthened the relationship between humans to Yin and Yang and subordinate relationship. He established the orbit and code of conduct for each one, which was not allowed to be damaged.

The basic theory of traditional Chinese medicine is ‘Inner Canon of Yellow Emperor’, which is not only an ancient book, but also a book of systems theory. ‘Inner Canon’ is a theory that treats the human body as a system to study, and many systems of it can’t be fully explained by present technology on the anatomy, while they have been proved to be very effective by practice.

So the traditional Chinese medicine culture is also the system culture.

In a word, traditional Chinese culture is the system culture.