知常达变 – Chinese philosophy and culture

zhīcháng-dábiàn 知常达变

Master Both Permanence and Change

既掌握事物的基本规律,又懂得灵活应对具体情况或问题;既坚持原则,又能随机应变。“常”与“变”是中国古代哲学的一对范畴。事物的本质规定性、基本规律、一般原则等具有相对稳定性,故称“常”;具体事物及具体应对方法又有多样性,且随时而化,故称“变”。“常”相对于“变”而言,是存在于“变”之中的常道。“常”是根本,“变”是派生。因此,既要掌握事物的基本规律和一般原则,也要根据客观形势的变化灵活运用这些常道。“知常达变”反映了古人关于普遍性与特殊性、原则性和灵活性辩证统一的认识论和方法论。

This term means one should not only have a good command of the basic rules that govern things, but also know how to deal with exceptional situations or problems in a flexible manner. It suggests that one should not just adhere to principles, but also act according to circumstances. Chang (常 permanence) and bian (变 change) are two opposing concepts in ancient Chinese philosophy. The nature of things that decides what they are, and their basic rules or general principles that are relatively stable are called chang (permanence); but when it comes to specific situations or ways to deal with them, they are different and change in different circumstances, thus they are called bian (change). Relative to change, permanence is what endures within change. Permanence is fundamental while change is a deviation. Therefore, one needs not only to have a good command of the basic rules and general principles of things, but also know how to apply these rules and principles in a flexible manner according to objective circumstances. The mastery of both permanence and change reflects ancient Chinese people’s perception of both generality and particularity as well as principles and flexibility. It also shows their methodology in the application of both.

引例 Citations:

◎归根曰静,静曰复命。复命曰常,知常曰明。(《老子·十六章》)

(返回事物的本原就叫做“静”,“静”就是回归事物的本来状态。回归事物的本来状态就是“常”,认识了“常”就达到了圣明。)

Returning to the basics leads to tranquility. Tranquility leads to the return of life. The return of life means permanence, and understanding permanence is to be enlightened. (Laozi).

◎盖事贵因时而达变,道在取法以自强。(王韬《越南通商御侮说》)

(大凡处理事情贵在根据时机做到灵活变化,最好的办法就是师法[他国的通商]以求自强。)

In dealing with matters, it is best to be able to be flexible; the best way is to learn to strive for self-improvement. (Wang Tao: Vietnam’s Resistance against Bullying by France Through Trade with Other European Countries)

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