bái mǎ fēi mǎ 白马非马
A White Horse Is Not A Horse.
This is an important proposition made by the School of Names. Gongsun Long discussed this thesis in great detail. In his view, “horse” is a name of the physical body of a horse, whereas “white” is the name for white color. “White horse” refers both to “horse” and “white” and therefore is not the same thing as that which is referred to as “horse.” The proposition that “a white horse is not a horse” is meant to point out that the name “horse” accurately refers to the particular characteristics of white, brown and black horses. More careful differentiation is necessary in order to indicate an object precisely.
The reason why I am famous is because I made the proposition that “a white horse is not a horse.” (Gongsunlongzi)
Gongsun Long said: “Horses definitely have colors. That is why there are white horses. Suppose horses had no colors: if there were horses only, how could we pick out a white horse? Therefore, whiteness is not a horse. A white horse is horse with whiteness. Is horse with whiteness the same thing as horse? For this reason, I say: A white horse is not a horse.” (Gongsunlongzi)
bǎo mín ér wáng 保民而王
Protect the People and then Rule as a King
If one can make the people live in peace and happiness, he can unify all the land. In ancient China, a “king” (wang) was not just the one who held the highest power. Rather, he was a man who clearly understood the fundamental principle of maintaining harmony with heaven and earth as well as other humans and enjoyed popular support. To “protect the people” is to love and care for them, ensuring that they obtain the means of survival, receive education and live and work in peace. To “protect the people” is the primary function of the state or government, a prerequisite for winning the people’s hearts and minds; it is also the source of legitimate power. It gives concrete expression to the vision of “putting the people first” and “benevolent governance.”
King Xuan of Qi said: “What kind of virtue should one poses to be able to rule as a true king?” Mencius replied:”Protect the people and ensure their wellbeing, and you can rule as a king of all the land. No one can challenge you.” (Mencius)