Since ancient times, the term xiaokang (小康) has been understood to mean a state of peace and moderate prosperity. As an important political concept of Confucianism, it has been used to refer to what was seen as the commendable political climate achieved through the efforts of outstanding rulers such as Yu the Great of the Xia Dynasty, King Tang of the Shang Dynasty, kings Wen, Wu, and Cheng of the Zhou, and the Duke of Zhou. This social climate was characterized by national stability, good order, high public awareness of etiquette and law, and a contented people. Such a society was held up as an ideal society, second only to that of Great Harmony, or datong (大同). Today, the Chinese people are being called upon to build a society of modest prosperity with balanced economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological advancement. As the goal of Chinese-style modernization, this xiaokang society is a new concept with deep historical and cultural roots.
The people are living a hard life and they hope they can have peace and moderate prosperity. (The Book of Songs)
Now that the Great Dao has fallen into disuse and obscurity, the kingdom has been reduced to a family inheritance… Thus intrigues and schemes are on the rise, and wars break out. Yu of the Xia, Tang of the Shang, kings Wen, Wu and Cheng of the Zhou, and the Duke of Zhou are remembered as outstanding figures. Of these six great men everyone was very attentive to the rules of propriety, thus to secure the display of righteousness, the realization of sincerity, the exposure of errors, the exemplification of benevolence, and the pursuit of courtesy, showing the people all the expected norms. Those with power and position who did not follow this course were removed, and the people regarded disrespect for the rules of propriety as a scourge. Such a society is called xiaokang (modest prosperity). (The Book of Rites)