Seeking the Higher Path: ‘Peace Under Heaven’
Sep 30, 2022
This year, our customary week-long October mid-term break has been somewhat truncated to accommodate the slightly longer summer vacation taken during July and August. Nevertheless, this ‘long weekend’ will allow us to observe two important public holidays: the National Day holiday on October 1st and the Chung Yeung Festival on October 4th. I wish to draw on both of these public holidays – the National Day of the People’s Republic of China and Chung Yeung ‘登高’ to provide a context for my message this week.
The celebration of the founding of a nation is an important landmark event in any community. National day celebrations around the world typically reflect on the past, draw citizens together to celebrate in the present, and renew their united purpose and resolve for the future. They are vitally important for the health and welfare of all communities globally, and our day, this Saturday, is no different.
The day speaks to the inspiration, sacrifice, courage, and resolve necessary to form a nation. It commemorates the common ground and shared purpose that binds together individuals, families, friendship groups, neighborhoods, social entities, commercial entities, and communities to form something greater than the sum of the constituent parts for the long-term wellbeing, protection, and prosperity of all. Statehood in every sense is the ultimate manifestation of common history, culture, language, values, aspirations, hopes, and dreams for humanity. It is an existential statement of collective identity.
Of course, as individuals, as members of families, communities, and enfranchised citizens, we are imperfect, and so too our nations are evolving yet imperfect expressions of our shared histories, needs, expectations, laws, actions and choices in the present, and our hopes for the future. A day of celebration of statehood and citizenship is therefore also an ideal opportunity for each of us to reflect on our own part and perhaps to renew our personal resolve for future action.
In a diverse community like Hong Kong, we must also acknowledge that not all of those who find themselves in Hong Kong tomorrow are citizens of the nation celebrating. Some are short-term visitors, guests passing through Hong Kong on their way to other destinations. There are others who are currently living in Hong Kong, residents who call this place ‘home’ for the moment. Some have become residents on a more or less permanent basis. Even so, many may still maintain strong personal connections, including citizenship, in other countries around the world. Citizens, residents, and guests, all are welcome to enjoy the moment and perhaps find ways expressing respect and gratitude for the home that protects and nurtures us at this time.
While reflecting on the state of the nation, and our rights and freedoms as citizens and residents, it is perhaps worthwhile revisiting an insightful historical document that lays out the traditional principles on which a peaceful and well-ordered society rests. The Book of Rites (禮記), a famous work of Confucian philosophy, features a series of foundational statements that collectively offer good, practical guidance on how to achieve national stability and prosperity. The Great Learning (大學) lays out a sound developmental pathway, stretching from the education and cultivation of knowledge and character in the individual (格物致知誠意正心修身), through the well-ordered household (齊家), to the governance of the nation 治國, culminating in ‘peace under heaven’ (平天下).
These ideas continue to resonate in Chinese communities everywhere. Together they offer an elegant and simple set of principles that emphasize the importance of education, character, and family in the good governance of the state, in the pursuit of peace. As we celebrate as citizens or reflect as residents this weekend, it is my sincere hope that we reaffirm our personal resolve to seek peace under heaven, in our homes, classrooms, and communities.
At the same time, Chung Yeung, the ‘Double Ninth’, is a reminder of our obligations and gratitude to those who have gone before us. Traditionally, on this day we should journey to high places to honor our ancestors. Placed alongside the celebration of National Day, it is most apt, fortuitous indeed, that on Chung Yeung, we are encouraged to always seek the higher path.
Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School