Doctrine of the Mean - Center Unchangeable 中庸 Translation and Commentary 5

   The Logics Home The Logics Site Info The Logics Archives

Doctrine of the Mean 中庸

Zhong Yong - Center Unchangeable

Translation and Commentary - Part 5

The Logics - Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong) Translation and Commentary

(PD) Zhong Yong on Winter Forest

Photograph enhancements and wording by Larry Neal Gowdy

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright©2018 April 08, 2018

Translations and Comments Continued


The Mean is the great root of all-under-heaven.


(zhong ye zhe, tian xia zhi da ben ye.)

Normal: Center ~~ ~~, heaven under of great root.

Nature-based parallel: Center, heaven under, great root.

There exist different centers, different balances, and different equilibriums. It is not possible to be confident of which center that the book is speaking of. One balance is as previously mentioned, of feeling the inner sensations of physical centeredness, of mental centeredness, and of a presence of a harmonious 'tone' near the center of the body. While there is some validity that each of the types of centers are as if the root of Nature, still, there are other centers that more deeply 'connect' to Nature's root.

There exists a different writing that was written near to the time of 中庸, and the other writing is intensely brief, but it does point to a deeper Nature's root, and to my knowledge, the only individuals who have a knowledge of the root, are they who have experienced the root firsthand. The concept of 'great root' is far more literal than it might appear, but the great root within 中庸 does not suggest to be the greater root.


“Harmony” is the penetration of the Way through all-under-heaven.


(he ye zhe, tian xia zhi da dao ye.)

Normal: Harmony ~~ ~~, heaven under of up way ~~.

Normal: Harmony ~~ ~~, heaven under of entering way ~~.

Normal: Harmony ~~ ~~, heaven under of understand-thoroughly way ~~.

Normal: Harmony ~~ ~~, heaven under of express way ~~.

Nature-based parallel: Harmony, heaven entering way.

implies 'express, extend, understand thoroughly', with some translations referring to the word as implying 'up, up to'. Legge's choice of 'penetration' had originally caught my excited attention as perhaps inferring a progression, but upon closer inspection, it appears that the word was only meant to perhaps be a pointing to the thought that 'being harmonious is being an extended way of Nature'.

Nature is the standard. Nature creates through harmony. Nothing can be created without harmony. Nature creates, harmony exists when Nature creates, creativity is harmony, harmony is Nature's way, the correct dao is harmony.

Though the sentence might be pointing at a different direction of attention, still the sentence is agreeable with Nature's way.


When the Mean and Harmony are actualized, Heaven and Earth are in their proper positions, and the myriad things are nourished.


(zhi zhong he, tian di wei yan, wan wu yu yan.)

Normal: Achieve center harmony, heavens earth establish ~~, ten-thousand things flourish ~~.

Nature-based parallel: Achieve mind-body-center harmony, heavens earth establish, ten-thousand things nascent.

The sentence appears to infer that when an individual is properly centered of emotions and mind, that is when the sense of harmony arises, and also when the mind is more aware of the nascentings of the world around him and within himself. The sentence is capable of being both literal and figurative.

It appears that Legge's use of to imply "Mean" is the result of translators applying a scholarly mathematical translation while the translators themselves had no firsthand experience with — nor understanding of — the topic itself. A 'centering' is not judged nor evaluated from the outside like what is done with mathematics, but rather the centering is observed from within the centering itself. The 'centering' is a state of being, of being present at that one state, and there are no peripheral thoughts judging the center. If peripheral thoughts exist, then the thoughts cannot be of the center, and the thoughts cannot know what the center is.

The 'center' of mind and body cannot be measured from the outside; the center can only be experienced from within the center. Scholarly translations, therefore, all fail.

Conclusions of the First Sentences

Just because a thing has been written, it does mandate that the words must be true.

Just because scholars have translated words, it does not mandate that the translations must be true.

Just because 中庸 exists and is held with high esteem within Confucianism, it does not mandate that the book's claims must be true.

Of all the many ideologies and philosophies throughout history, the only one that has produced creative results has been Confucianism, but just because an ideology might produce some good results, it does mandate that all words and all results within the ideology must be true.

Find that which is good, be centered of mind and body, and let-go of that which is bad.

Most commonly, the book's first sentences are presented within four paragraphs. The following brief comments place James Legge's sentences together within their respective paragraphs.

Paragraph 1

What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called Instruction.

The book begins well by inferring that the heavens created, and that the nature of the heavens' creativity is to be one's own dao. All English translations are weak, but, nevertheless, a vague general idea can be gleaned that the dao is to be relative to the way of the heavens.

Paragraph 2

The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be apprehensive.

The second paragraph's sentences begin very good by stating that a dao related to the 'heavens that created all under heaven' cannot be left. Any 'dao' that is not 'heavens-related' cannot be a true dao because 'heaven-Nature' is the one and only true truth within this Reality. People can change their minds and change their beliefs, but the 'Nature-heaven' way of creativity will still be there unchanged.

The second sentence's references to 'fear' and 'dread' do damage to the idea of an unchangeable dao. Hopefully the translated words are mere misunderstandings of how to verbally express words that relate to emotions. No known western science or academia can describe any emotion within English words, and so, there is no reason to expect Legge's English translation to use words that simply do not exist within the English language.

Paragraph 3

There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful over himself, when he is alone.

There are several plausible interpretations of the two sentences, and perhaps the only one that is of value is when a centered individual observes his own self, and recognizes his own state of being centered. The words themselves, are not important.

Paragraph 4

While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is the great root from which grow all the human actings in the world, and this Harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue. Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.

The first sentence inserts additional conflicts of stating that the desired harmony exists when joy and happiness are not emitted, which is very troublesome because a follower of the sentence would destroy their mind and life, and become cold and without heart towards the world: callous, unfeeling, uncaring, the symptoms of psychopathy. Some forms of Buddhism teach similar ideas of achieving enlightenment through the destroying of one's thoughts and senses so as to achieve an empty mind, which are contradictory, anti-creative, and destructive teachings.

As translated by Legge and most all others, the first sentence also conflicts with the Confucius sayings that later follow, and the sentence contradicts the idea of 'ren' which infers a good and positive emotional feeling towards other people, the very ideal of Confucianism itself. If the sentence were pointing to the ⦿ not being where emotions arise, then that would agree with the first sentences. If the idea were of 'emit but all center-released, call this harmony', then that might be excusable, but force-fitting what is correct into written words that might be incorrect, does not make for an honest translation.

Summary of the First Four Paragraphs

If 中庸 is pointing to the nature of Nature, then the book's words were authored by an individual who had a firsthand understanding of his own experiences. If the book is merely pointing to Nature-based words that the author recited from someone else's writings, then the book is still valuable, but not as much.

If the book is pointing at a scholarly mathematical balancing of one's own nature of personality and behavior, then the book is a book of philosophy, and though the philosophy might be one of the better ones, and though Confucianism has good value, still, the concepts of dao, center unchangeable, and harmony would not accurately relate to the book's claims.

Individuals who are masters of their selves, they tend to not be eloquent of words, and it is to be expected that the best masters' words will be rather blunt and conceptual without the individuals having gained an experience of how to communicate with people who have no understandings through firsthand experience. And so, for me, I am not much concerned of how eloquent the wording might be within 中庸; the conceptual message is the only thing of importance, and the general message within 中庸 does appear to be worthy.

Perhaps my one core question remains: does 中庸 imply '⦿ center unchangeable', or does it imply 'mind-body-centered stable'? The following quotes of Confucius' appear to support the idea of mind-body centering, but the unchangeable dao quotes refer to the ⦿ center. And so, it is acceptable to question the possibility that 中庸 has added Taoist-like ideas within Confucius' ideas, which is okay, but the distinctions between the two — if they were more clearly stated — would be appreciated by those of us who are new to the ideas of Confucianism.

To me, the book 中庸 is a collection of little stories and brief thoughts that are related to the ideals of Confucianism. 中庸 gives no pretense of being a teaching, nor an instruction, nor a doctrine. To me, 中庸 is as if several junzis sharing a conversation of their own memories and thoughts. The remainder of the book focuses upon the little stories, those that point to the ideals and ways of life for the people who lived during the era of which 中庸 was written.

The junzis created micro-cultures that still remain to be the most beautiful cultures known to man, which tells me, and reconfirms to me, that the way of Confucianism is not birthed within books, nor within doctrines, but rather nascented from the beautiful people who possess beautiful hearts, the very things that no words can convey.

The full list of available articles in this series can be found on the home page at Doctrine of the Mean 中庸 Zhong Yong Translation and Commentary.

The Logics Home Page