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Chữ Hán
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Ren (Chinese: , meaning "co-humanity" or "humaneness") is a Confucian virtue meaning the good quality of a virtuous human when reaching for higher ideals or when being altruistic. Ren is exemplified by functional, instinctual, parental feelings and intentions of encouragement and protection for their children. It is considered the outward expression of Confucian ideals.

Yan Hui, one of the Four Sages, once asked his master to describe the rules of ren. Confucius replied, "One should see nothing improper, hear nothing improper, say nothing improper, do nothing improper."[1] Confucius also defined ren in the following way: "wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others."[2] Confucius also said, "Ren is not far off; he who seeks it has already found it."[This quote needs a citation] Ren is close to man and never leaves him.[3]

Interpretation of the Chinese character

The single logogram for ren is a composite of two distinct common hanzi, 人 (man, a man, a person) and 二 (two), with 人 assuming its common form inside another character, to which various interpretations have been assigned. Internally ren can mean "to look up" or "to aspire to higher principles or ideals" and, externally one often hears that ren means "how two people should treat one another". While such folk etymologies are common in discussions of Chinese characters, they are often misleading.

In the case of ren—usually translated as "benevolence" or "humaneness"—humaneness is human-ness, the essence of being human. For Confucius, the interaction of a completely dependent infant and caring parent is the most emotionally charged human interaction, "To love a thing means wanting it to live...".[4] The Way of humaneness is human interaction and, through shared experience, knowing one's family. "Fan Chi asked about humaneness. The Master said it is loving people. Fan Chi asked about wisdom. The Master said it is knowing people."[5] In other words, human love and interaction is the source of humaneness, the source of the human self.

Another common interpretation of the graphical elements is Man or a man connecting Heaven and Earth.

Pre-imperial epigraphic sources testify to alternative writings of the same character: 忎 (given as a variant of 仁 in the Shuowen dictionary), 身 with 心 below (⿱身心), and the latter compound with 人 on the right.[6]

Principles of li, ren, and yi

The principle of ren is related to the concepts of li and yi. Li is often translated as "ritual"; yi as "righteousness". These three interrelated terms deal with agency as Confucians conceive it. Li is action deemed appropriate by society, yi is action that is indeed correct, while ren deals with the relationship between the agent and object of the action. Often the same action is both li and yi; however, that is not always the case.

Li is the outward expression of Confucian ideals, while ren is both the inward and outward expressions of those same ideals. According to Hopfe and Woodward: "Basically, li seems to mean 'the course of life as it is intended to go'. Li also has religious and social connotations. When a society lives by li, it moves smoothly: men and women respect their elders and superiors; the proper rituals and ceremonies are performed; everything and everyone is in its proper place."[7]: 180–181 

Nature of ren

Traditional views

Ren relies heavily on the relationships between two people, but at the same time encompasses much more than that. It represents an inner development towards an altruistic goal, while simultaneously realizing that one is never alone, and that everyone has these relationships to fall back on, being a member of a family, the state, the world, and ultimately the Tao.[8]

Ren is not a concept that is learned; it is innate Everyone is born with the sense of ren. Confucius believed that the key to long-lasting integrity was to constantly think, since[non sequitur] the world is continually changing at a rapid pace.

Ren has been translated as "benevolence", "perfect virtue", "goodness", or "human-heartedness".[7]: 181  When asked, Confucius defined it by the ordinary Chinese word for love, ai, saying that it meant to "love others".[9]

Ren also has a political dimension. Confucianism says that if the ruler lacks ren, it will be difficult for his subjects to behave humanely. Ren is the basis of Confucian political theory; the ruler is exhorted to refrain from acting inhumanely towards his subjects. An inhumane ruler runs the risk of losing the Mandate of Heaven or, in other words, the right to rule. A ruler lacking such a mandate need not be obeyed, but a ruler who reigns humanely and takes care of the people will be entrusted by Heaven and trust by the people therefore follows, for the benevolence of his dominion shows that he has been mandated (ming ) by heaven. Confucius himself had little to say on the active will of the people, though he believed the ruler should definitely pay attention to the needs of the people and take good care of them to minimize wants. Mencius, however, stated that the people's opinion on certain weighty matters should be polled.[10][circular reference]

Ren also includes traits that are a part of being righteous, such as: xìn (), meaning to make one's words complement one's actions; (), which means to properly participate in everyday rituals; jìng (), meaning seriousness; and (), which means righteousness. When all these qualities are present, then one can truly be identified as a junzi (君子), or "superior man"—a morally superior human being. Confucians held the view that government should be run by junzi who concentrate solely on the welfare of the people they govern.[10][circular reference]

See also


  1. ^ Analects XII.1
  2. ^ Analects VI.30
  3. ^ Do-Dinh, Pierre (1969). Confucius and Chinese Humanism. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. p. 107.
  4. ^ Analects XII.10
  5. ^ Analects XII.22
  6. ^ Behr, Wolfgang (2009). "In The Interstices Of Representation: Ludic Writing And The Locus Of Polysemy In The Chinese Sign". The Idea of Writing. Brill. pp. 281–314. doi:10.1163/ej.9789004174467.i-396.94. ISBN 978-90-474-2792-6.
  7. ^ a b Hopfe, Lewis M.; Woodward, Mark R. Religions of the World. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education Inc.
  8. ^ Chi-Yun, Chang. A Life of Confucius. Taipei: Hwakang Press. p. 34.
  9. ^ Dubs, Homer H. (April 1951). "The Development of Altruism in Confucianism". Philosophy East and West. 1 (1): 48–55. doi:10.2307/1396935. JSTOR 1396935.
  10. ^ a b "The Meaning of Ren in Confucianism". Beijing Tourism. Retrieved 17 June 2021.