the Golden Mean 中庸 Zhongyong


中庸之道 Zhōngyōng zhī dào – the Golden Mean
儒学的高峰 Rúxué de gāofēng – the peak of Confucianism

When talking about Zhōngyōng 中庸, many people consider that it refers to ‘Don't go to extremes, don’t insist too much, don't offend anyone, take a middle solution – so, stay mediocrity’. But what does the ‘Golden Mean’ really mean? According to the in-depth study of Mr. Hua, a famous scholar and a strict practitioner of Confucianism, the Golden Mean is absolutely not mediocrity, but perfection, the ultimate and unconditional perfection.  

     Based on Confucianism, Zhong () means unbiased (不偏bùpiān), Yong () means unchanged (不易búyì). (不偏之谓中,不易之谓庸。中者,天下之正道;庸者,天下之定理。) Zhong is the authentic way of the world; Yong is the theorem of the world. Being unbiased means that, there is no mistake, there is nothing wrong, nothing is excessive, and there is nothing that is not achieved, so everything is just right; Yong means never change, following the eternal and unchangeable theorem can set a good example for all generations. Zhongyong 中庸is the authentic way and the theorem of the world, and is the truth of the universe in the legend. In another word, the Golden Mean means that there is no fault at all, like the white jade that is flawless and has no faults.

     Confucius also said: A country can be equally divided among the brothers; high-ranking positions and generous salary can be given up; the hardships can be undertaken, the Golden Mean however, is impossible (天下国家可均也,爵禄可辞也,白刃可蹈也,中庸不可能也。). No one can reach the real Golden Mean, and Confucius can't reach it neither.
Then, you may doubt, why we discuss the unachievable Golden Mean?  Because we should know that this kind of standard does exits, the fact that we have not achieved it, drives us always to be vigilant and work hard to approach it.
Apparently, the golden mean is like a limit value in mathematics. You can approach infinitely, but you can never reach it.

     Knowing that the Golden Mean cannot be reached, and knowing that we need to examine ourselves at all times and try to approach the perfection when we want to follow the Golden Mean of Confucianism, what would be the executable practices that we can apply in our life? There are several principles that may guide us in our daily practice. One important principle is, to be cautious of being alone (Shèndú 慎独). Shendu refers to, when others can't see or hear you, only God and you know what you are thinking and doing, your behavior is still moral. It is self-cultivation and it is easy to learn and carry out for once, twice or even many times. However, it is really not easy to stick to it for a whole life and to apply it everywhere and at any time, if you are honest to yourself.

     Constantly following the moral principles, consistent in words and deeds, being sincere, not flattering superiors, not contemptuous of subordinates, is what the Golden Mean advocates. Let’s start with Shèndú - cautious of being alone.