休养生息 – Chinese philosophy and culture

xiūyǎng-shēngxī 休养生息

Recover from a Social Upheaval and Restore Production / Develop Economy and Increase Population

休息保养,繁殖人口。指在战争或社会大动荡之后,执政者减少徭役和征税,重视农业发展,减轻人民负担,安定人民生活,恢复社会元气。“休养生息”作为治国方略,产生于汉初,时历秦末战乱,民生凋敝,百废待举,它有效恢复了国家和社会的元气。自此之后,“休养生息”作为一种重要的治国理念和政策,贯穿于中国历史的不同时期,或是执政者迫于社会现实不得已而为之,或是出于让民众休息的仁政实践,或是两者兼而有之。这一政策是“民惟邦本”理念的具体体现。

The term means that in a period of peace after war or social upheaval, the economy and population can recover and multiply. In practice it means the sovereign shall reduce taxes and conscript labor, support agriculture, allowing the population to procreate, life to return to normal, and society to recover. It first appeared as a governing strategy in the early Han Dynasty after the ravages of the wars with the previous Qin Dynasty. By the time the Han took over, the country was devastated and the population severely depleted. This policy allowed society to gradually recover and the nation to grow. From then on, “develop economy and increase population” became an important principle and policy of government throughout Chinese history. Sometimes it was instituted reluctantly because of specific circumstances, sometimes actively pursued as a manifestation of benevolent rule, sometimes a mixture of both. It is the concrete application of the social and political principle “the people are the foundation of the state.”

引例 Citations:

◎(霍)光知时务之要,轻徭薄役,与民休息。(《汉书·昭帝纪》)

(霍光懂得当前国家重大事情的关键在于减轻徭役、降低赋税,让民众休养生息。)

Huo Guang understood that what the state needed most was to give time for the population to recover and multiply by lightening taxes, and cutting back on conscript labor. (The History of the Han Dynasty)

◎汉兴,扫除烦苛,与民休息。至于孝文,加之以恭俭,孝景遵业,五六十载之间,至于移风易俗,黎民醇厚。(《汉书·景帝纪赞》)

(汉朝建立后,废除秦朝制定的一切繁琐严苛的法令,让民众休养生息。到汉文帝之时,奉行恭谨俭约的政策,景帝承继了这一做法,五六十年之间社会风俗就得到了很大改善,百姓都变得朴实敦厚了。)

In the early days of the Han Dynasty, rulers abolished numerous harsh laws of the former Qin Dynasty, giving the people time to recover and multiply. Emperor Wen of Han carried out respectful, cautious, and thrifty policies that were continued by Emperor Jing. Thus after fifty to sixty years of such rule, social atmosphere improved, and the people became decent and honest. (The History of the Han Dynasty)

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