This term is an alternative name for China. According to The Book of History, the country consisted of nine regions (zhou), namely, Jizhou, Yanzhou, Qingzhou, Xuzhou,Yangzhou, Jingzhou, Yuzhou, Liangzhou, and Yongzhou. There are similar references to the nine regions in classic works of the same or later period, such as The Rituals of Zhou, Er Ya, and Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals. The administrative devision of nine regions was never adopted, but it designates the general geographical area where the Chinese people lived since the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC).
The vitality of China depends on wind and thunder, yet the neighing of a single horse is not heard. I urge the Lord of Heaven to once again lift his spirits and, breaking all bonds and fetters, send talent of all kinds to the human world. (Gong Zizhen: Miscellaneous Poems Written in the Year of 1839)
As I see it, the cause of China’s disasters lies not overseas but within the country. (Zhang Zhidong: Preface to To Encourage Learning)
This term refers to the time of peace and prosperity envisioned by Confucian scholars when all people under heaven were one family, equal, friendly, and helpful to one another. Confucianism takes universal harmony as the supreme stage of development of human society, somewhat similar to the Western concept of Utopia. Its main features are: all power and wealth belong to society as a whole; all people are equal and live and work in peace and contentment; everyone is cared for by society; everything is used to its fullest extent, and everyone works to his maximum potential. In the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the early Republic of China period (1912-1949), the term referred to the concepts of socialism, communism, or cosmopolitanism that had been introduced to China from the West.
When great Dao (editor: Dao means the universal pattern followed by all things and beings) prevails, the whole world is owned by all the people. Those who are virtuous and competent are selected as administrators. People treat each other with sincerity and live in harmony. People not only love their parents and bring up their children, but also take care of all the aged. The middle-aged are able to put their talents and abilities to best use, children are well nurtured, and elderly widows and widowers, childless and unmarried elderly people, orphans, and the disabled are all provided for. This is universal harmony. (The Book of Rites)
Selected from Key Concepts in Chinese Thought and Culture published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.