仁民爱物 – Chinese philosophy and culture

rénmín-àiwù 仁民爱物

Have Love for the People, and Cherish All Things

仁爱百姓,爱惜万物。这里的“物”泛指一切禽兽草木,而“爱”意思是取之有时、用之有节。它是孟子提出的一种思想。孟子认为,人类对待自己亲人的态度是亲爱,对待百姓的态度是仁爱,对待动植物的态度是爱惜,这是自然形成的情感差异。爱虽然有亲疏差等,但君子能以“亲亲”为原点,推己及人,广被万物,即由爱亲人进而仁爱百姓,进而爱惜万物。它是一种源于家族本位而又超越家族本位,甚至超越人类本位、遍及万事万物的博大的爱,是达成人自身、人与人、人与自然关系和谐完满的基本原理。张载的“民胞物与”思想与此不无渊源。

The term means to have love for the people, and cherish all things in the world. Here wu (物) includes plants and animals, while ai (爱) implies using them in a measured and appropriate way. This was first proposed by Mencius who differentiated natural emotions as: a love for close family, a broad compassion for other people, and a sense of cherishing for plants and animals. The love could be close or distant, but a person of virtue always begins with love of close relatives, which then extends to other people and eventually to all things in the world. Though this feeling starts within the family, it should extend beyond it, even beyond the human race to include plants and animals, to become a broad love. The goal is to achieve harmony within oneself, with others and with nature. Zhang Zai’s concept that “all people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions” is very similar.

引例 Citations:

◎孟子曰:“君子之于物也,爱之而弗仁;于民也,仁之而弗亲。亲亲而仁民,仁民而爱物。”(《孟子·尽心上》)

(孟子说:“君子对于万物,爱惜却说不上仁爱;对于百姓,仁爱却说不上亲爱。[君子]由亲爱自己的亲人进而仁爱百姓,由仁爱百姓进而爱惜万物。”)

Mencius said, “Men of virtue cherish all things but this is not benevolent love, have compassion for others but this is not love of family. Men of virtue love and care for their loved ones, they are therefore kind to other people. When they are kind to people, they treasure everything on earth.” (Mencius)

◎凡人之生,皆得天地之理以成性,得天地之气以成形,我与民物,其大本乃同出一源。若但知私己而不知仁民爱物,是于大本一源之道已悖而失之矣。(曾国藩《诫子书》)

(大凡人出生时,都禀受了天地的“理”而成就本性,都得到了天地的“气”而成就形象。我与万民、万物在根本上是同出一源的。假如我只知自私自利而不知仁民爱物,那么就和我与万民万物同根同源这个道理相背离而失去自我了。)

At birth, all humans in accordance with nature’s laws are bestowed with natural tendencies, and derive their forms from vital force qi. I come from the same origins as all people and the myriad things on earth. If I care only about my selfish interests and ignore love for all people and things, then I turn my back on our common origins, and lose my sense of self. (Zeng Guofan: Letter of Warning to My Sons)

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