Skip main navigation

The concept of ‘Harmony’ or ‘He’

One central idea in the DDJ and Chinese philosophy is the notion of He or Hexie, translated as ‘harmony’.
One central idea not only in the Dao De Jing but in Chinese philosophy broadly that has become a kind of mantra in modern China is the notion of He or Hexie and we translate that in English as harmony, but harmony is not a good translation for He. A much better translation is the idea of optimizing, the idea of maximizing, the idea of getting as much as we can out of the human experience. So the way of thinking that we find in the Dao De Jing is really a characteristic way of thinking that we find throughout the Chinese culture, trough the Chinese experience One way of illustrating this idea of He as optimizing as maximizing is Chinese food.
When you walk around Beijing, you see [Chong Qing] of this kind of food, Langzhou of this kind of food, Shandong, Beijing Xiaochi and so on that the kind of food that you have in Chinese restaurants is an attempt to take a finite number of ingredients and by putting them into different relationships, different textures, different colors, different seasons, different smells, different sounds, that Chinese food is an attempt to get the most out of the ingredients that are available to the human being for our nourishment. So the Dao De Jing is normative. I mean that it wants to tell us what is the best way to achieve a normal, a human normal.
That is what we mean by normative, that it gives us a guideline as to how to live human experience most effectively.

One central idea in the Dao De Jing and Chinese philosophy is the notion of He or Hexie, translated as ‘harmony’, or a much better translation: the idea of optimizing and maximizing. One of the illustrations is Chinese food, which puts different ingredients together for the nourishment of human beings.

This article is from the free online

Taoism and Western Culture

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education