The concept of “Self-Improvement” or “Self-Strengthening” is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, drawing influences from Confucianism, Daoism, and other ancient Chinese wisdom. Self Strengthening emphasizes the importance of the individual person pursuing a journey of self-improvement to contribute to the betterment of the entire community and country. Since ancient times, this was the mindset of the Chinese people, both within China and overseas, to strive to enhance themselves physically, mentally, academically, and spiritually, to achieve the goal of realizing the Chinese dream of the revival of Chinese civilization.
Confucius emphasized the importance of self-improvement, stating that “Heaven moves vigorously, and a gentleman strives constantly for self-improvement.” This analogy refers to the ceaseless movement of stars, the sun, and the planets, highlighting the need for Chinese men to continuously strive for improvement continuously to become true gentlemen or Junzi (君子).
Furthermore, in Daoism, the Chinese philosopher Laozi wrote, “He who overcomes others is powerful, and he who overcomes himself is strongest.” This quote reflects the Chinese attitude towards the notion of strength, that it goes beyond physical power and combat, emphasizing the need of continuous growth in one’s inner world and intellectual development.
Honoring filial piety and perpetuating the family structure is considered a crucial aspect of traditional Chinese culture and the ultimate means to achieve self development. According to Chinese traditions, the family, based on the marriage between a man and a woman, forms the foundation of a country. The Book of Rites emphasizes the importance of family ethics, defining it as “Loyal to the country, filial piety from son, love between husband and wife, trust in friends.”
Filial piety extends beyond providing financial support to aging parents; it involves genuine love and respect. Confucius wrote, “If children do not love and respect their parents, but only meet their material needs, how is that different than raising horses?” He goes on to state, “If children and parents cannot have a mutual love, how can we expect that the masses [in society] to love each other?”
Today in China, the Communist Party of China has reversed its previous criticism of traditional Chinese values and recognizes the rich history and profound nature, finding it highly consistent with the values of scientific socialism.The report of the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of China pointed out that the excellent traditional Chinese culture, wisdom, and morality are highly consistent with the values of scientific socialism.
President Xi Jinping has quoted Confucius in his speeches, declaring: “Heaven moves vigorously, and a gentleman strives constantly for self-improvement…The reason why a nation is great is that its people never give up, never shrinks, never stops in the face of any difficulties and risks and are indomitable.”