Measuring Human Relations
Continuities and Discontinuities in the Reading of the Lunyu
In Chinese literature the locus classicus of what in the West has been called «the Golden Rule» is traditionally considered a passage from the Lunyu (Analects) in which Zigong, one of Confucius’ favourite disciples, asks his Master for a principle that can guide man’s behaviour. In the sentence «What you don’t want done to yourself, do not do to others» , the Master defined shu, a character variably translated as ‘reciprocity’, ‘empathy’, ‘consideration of others’ or ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you’. Shu is one of the most widely debated and controversial assertions of Confucian ethics, not only because of the alleged analogy with the biblical «golden rule», but also because of its semantic richness, as we discover from reading the Analects and other writings. However, shu alone does not fully express the Chinese notion of concern and love for others. Shu, zhong and ren are concepts which recur in Lunyu and concur to define our perception of the Chinese golden rule in Confucian thought.