The Evolutionary Change of the Concept of Cheng 誠 in Mencius, Zhuangzi and Lüshi chunqiu, and the Formation of the Idea of “Non-verbal Rule"

Vol. 35 No. 2   12/2005    


The Evolutionary Change of the Concept of Cheng  in Mencius, Zhuangzi and Lüshi chunqiu, and the Formation of the Idea of “Non-verbal Rule"


Masayuki Sato









Key words

concept of cheng , concept of jing , non-verbal rule, Lüshi chunqiu


       The aim of this paper is to elucidate a characteristic aspect of early Chinese political thought: The formation of a theory of “non-verbal rule." I have tried to explain it by tracing the evolutionary process of the term cheng  (sincerity) , which functioned as the key concept in its theorization, and by delineating its conceptual structure among major concepts that appear along with the term cheng in the Warring States texts. My observations can be divided into four points as follows.

   First, in its presumably earliest use, the term cheng appears to denote piety in funeral rites and ceremonies for ancestral worship. However, in the majority of its early usages, it is an adverb, meaning “really" or “truly."

   Second, in Mencius, the term cheng appears as a moral value. Yet, strangely, it is not combined with other major Confucian values such asren, yi, li, etc. Instead, it appears in strong connection with the terms shan (goodness) and the phrase “dongren" (to move others), in which the term implies a kind of miraculous transformative power leading people to virtue.

   Third, in Zhuangzi, cheng appears as an important moral value, meaning the genuineness of one's mind and natural providence. Here, the effect of the term cheng is associated with the providential power of Heaven and Earth.

   And fourth, in Lüshi chunqiu, the term cheng, in conjunction with the term jing, appears as an indispensable component enabling a ruler to practice “non-verbal rule." Here, the psychological state of cheng is taken to cause the transmission of atomic essence between the sender and receiver resulting in the receiver becoming virtuous.



Author: Masayuki Sato
Genre: Article