Inheritance and Innovation
This term highlights the relationship between inheritance and innovation. Yin (因) implies inheritance or adoption, whereas ge (革) means reform or innovation. The whole notion can be traced back to Confucius (551-479 BC). In his view, the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties had all modified their respective codes of etiquette in accordance with their own circumstances and on the basis of a previous era’s established rules. “Modified” here implies the idea of innovation grounded in inheritance. Yang Xiong (53 BC-AD 18) of the Han Dynasty expounded this idea more systematically. This concept was later used by Liu Xie (465?-520) of the Southern Dynasties in literary criticism, giving rise to the notion of “continuity and change.” All these ideas reflect a unity of opposites, stressing constant change in history and tradition, favoring innovation grounded in past experience and achievements, as well as avoiding either unquestioning adherence to convention or blind pursuit of novelty. Besides literary and artistic creation, the concept above is also applicable to academic research and even the governance of a country.
Confucius said: “The Shang Dynasty inherited the Xia Dynasty’s codes of etiquette with abridgements and additions, which can be known. The Zhou Dynasty followed the Shang’s codes of etiquette with abridgements and additions, which can also be known. Therefore, if there should be a successor to the Zhou Dynasty, even a hundred generations from now, its codes of etiquette could be foretold.” (The Analects)
The operation of Dao involves inheritance and continuity, and innovation and change. Only through inheritance and continuity can we fully explore the mystery of Dao. Only through innovation and change can we meet the needs of our times. Thus, respecting tradition while pursuing innovation helps us understand the laws of Dao, and pursuing innovation while respecting tradition helps us apply the laws of Dao… Therefore, if we overemphasize tradition to the neglect of innovation, we will fail to fully understand universal laws; if we focus on innovation at the expense of tradition, we will fail to master the rules of equilibrium. (Yang Xiong: Supreme Mystery)
Ever since ancient times, writers from generation to generation have made remarkable achievements, through inheritance, change, and innovation, in accordance with circumstances. Scenes have limits, but human feelings linger on due to our ability to integrate and accommodate. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)