Key Chinese Concepts






You and Wu





The term has three definitions. First, it describes two different dimensions of things: One is with form and the other without form. Second, it refers to two different stages or states of a thing during its generation, existence, and demise. You (有) refers to the state of a thing after it has come into being and before it dies out; wu (无) refers to the state of a thing before its birth and after its death. Third, you refers to any tangible or identifiable thing or the sum total of such things; wu refers to the original source or ontological existence, which is intangible and unidentifiable, and transcends all specific objects. With regard to the third definition, some philosophers consider wu to be the original source or ontological existence of the world, and you comes from wu; others believe that you is fundamentally significant, and dispute the notion that you owes its existence to wu. Despite their differences, you and wu are mutually dependent.


引例 Citations:






Therefore, the with-form part of an object provides ease and convenience, whereas the without-form part performs the functions of that object. (Laozi)






The formation and existence of you originate from wu. (Wang Bi: Annotations on Laozi)






Gang and Rou





Two opposing properties or qualities that objects and human beings possess. The term has three different meanings. First, when describing natural or man-made objects, gang (刚) means hard and rou (柔) means soft. Second, when describing human qualities, gang means strong and determined, while rou means gentle and modest. Third, when describing a style of governance or law enforcement, gang means strict and rou means lenient. Gang and rou are one of the manifestations of yin and yang. Their mutual opposition and accommodation are the basic causes of change, and they must achieve a certain balance within any object or action. Too much of either is inappropriate and dangerous.


引例 Citations:






The laws governing the ways of heaven are yin and yang, those governing the ways of the earth are rou and gang, and those governing the ways of human society are benevolence and righteousness. (The Book of Changes)






Change occurs when gang and rou interact. (The Book of Changes)


Selected from Key Concepts in Chinese Thought and Culture published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.