五德终始 – Chinese philosophy and culture

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wǔdé zhōngshǐ 五德终始

The Cycle of Five Elements

用五行生克、循环往复交替作用的原理比附并解释历史上王朝兴替和制度变迁的一种学说。由战国思想家邹衍(前324?—前250)提出。“五德”即金、木、水、火、土“五行”或五种“德性”;“终始”即循环运转,周而复始。邹衍认为,人类历史的变化与天地万物一样,也受金、木、水、火、土五种物质元素的支配,每一王朝的出现都体现了五行中某一行的德性,历史上改朝换代、制度变迁的内在机理实际上就是五行相生相克、循环变化所作用的结果。这种源于阴阳五行思想的“德性”政治论和循环历史观,自诞生之日起在中国传统语境中就一直发挥着重要影响。

The cycle of five elements that repeatedly follow each other in fixed succession is a belief that interpreted the rise and fall of dynasties and political changes. It was propounded by Zou Yan (324?-250 BC), a thinker of the Warring States Period. The five elements are metal, wood, water, fire and earth; they are also known as the five virtues that appear in cyclical repetition. Zou Yan believed changes in human history were similar to those of the natural world and were controlled by these five physical elements. The birth of each new dynasty represented the rise of a certain “virtue.” What drove dynastic transitions and political changes was the recurrence of the five elements as they generated or overcame each other. This view of political virtue and cyclical history with its roots in yin and yang and the five elements has, from its inception, had a very strong influence on traditional Chinese culture.

引例 Citation:

◎始皇推终始五德之传,以为周得火德,秦代周德,从所不胜,方今水德之始。(《史记·秦始皇本纪》)

(秦始皇根据世所流行的五德终始学说,认为周朝得到了火德,秦朝代替周朝的火德,依照五行能胜火德的原理,以之比照秦应该是水德的开端。)

The First Emperor of Qin believed in the widespread notion of the cyclical sequence of the five elements of virtue. He regarded the Zhou Dynasty as having the virtue of fire. When the Qin Dynasty replaced the Zhou, he believed this began the virtue of water which prevailed over the virtue of fire. (Records of the Historian)

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