The world is for the public (天下為公)
45 X 27cm in Regular Script (楷書)
The phrase originated from the Book of Rites
(禮記) which documents the teaching of Confucius. Specifically, the phrase can be found in the opening of the famous chapter "The Conveyance of Rites"
(禮記/禮運·大同篇), which explains and discusses the ideal society/government according to Confucius. This ideal society is often described as Great Unity (
). Book of Rites
is published during the Warring States Period of China (戰國時代), which spanned from around BC 450 to BC 221.
The phrase "The world is for the public (天下為公)" carries the meaning that society as a whole belongs to everyone but not to a selected few. Perhaps it maybe better understood here in Frank W. Price's translation on parts of
"The Conveyance of Rites"
"When the Great Way prevailed, every person was a part of public society, and public society belonged to everyone (ie. The world is for the public). The virtuous and the able were chosen for public office. Fidelity and friendliness were valued by all. People not only loved their own parents and children, but loved the parents and children of others as well. The elderly lived their last years in happiness; able-bodied adults were usefully employed; children were reared properly. Widowers, widows, orphans, the childless aged, the crippled and the ailing were well cared for. All men shared their social responsibilities, and all women performed their domestic duties in married life.
Natural resources were fully used for the benefit of all, and not appropriated for selfish ends. People wanted to contribute their strength and ability to society for public good but not for private gain. Trickery and intrigue could not occur in such a society. Robbery, larceny and other crimes all disappeared. Gates and doors were not locked; no one ever thought of stealing. This was the Age of the Great Commonwealth of peace and prosperity (or Great Unity, 大同)."
Original Chinese text:
大 道 之 行 也 ﹐ 天 下 為 公
； 選 賢 與 能 ﹐ 講 信 修 睦 。 故 人 不 獨 親 其 親 ﹐ 不 獨 子 其 子 ； 使 老 有 所 終 ﹐ 壯 有 所 用 ﹐ 幼 有 所 長 ﹐ 矜 寡 孤 獨 廢 疾 者 皆 有 所 養 。 男 有 分 ﹑ 女 有 歸 。
貨 惡 其 棄 於 地 也 ﹐ 不 必 藏 於 己 ﹐ 力 惡 其 不 出 於 身 也 ﹐ 不 必 為 己 。 是 故 謀 閉 而 不 興 ﹐ 盜 竊 ﹑ 亂 賊 而 不 作 ﹐ 故 外 戶 而 不 閉 ﹐ 是 謂 大 同 。
Note that "天下" refers to "Everything under the Heaven" which means the world that we live in.
"The world is for the public" (天下為公) and "Great Unity" (大同) play significant roles in the development of Dr. Sun Yat Sen's (孫中山
, "Father of the Nation" of contemporary China, see (3
)) political philosophy. Specifically, it serves as one of the central tenets in Sun's "Three People's Principle" (三民主義) and is noted in the current Taiwan's National Anthem of the Republic of China: "Three People's Principle, the aim of us, to built the Republic, to advance into Great Unity." (「三民主義，吾黨所宗，以建民國，以進大同。」)(5
). Note that Dr. Sun also wrote the same phrase in traditional Chinese calligraphy, which can be seen here
Historical Information, Text Interpretation, and Personal Comments first published on Nov 15, 2015. Revised May 24, 2017. By KS Vincent Poon
Calligraphy re-written May 15, 2017. By KS Vincent Poon
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