ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (11): 1305-1312.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.01305

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An Exploration on the Inter Complementary Optimistic Psychological Thoughts of the Confucianism and Taoism in the Traditional Chinese Culture

HUO Yongquan1; CHEN Yongyong1,2; GUO Zhuyi   

  1. (1 College of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xian 710062, China) (2 College of Education, Qinhai Normai University, Xinin 810008, China)
  • Received:2013-03-18 Published:2013-11-25 Online:2013-11-25
  • Contact: CHEN Yongyong


Although recent Chinese philosophers, such as Sun Yat-sen, have generally believed that "the main fault of the Chinese people is their inherent pessimism", ancient Chinese culture also has a rich tradition of psychological theory that is optimistic in nature. This has had profound implications for Chinese culture and is exemplified, above all, in the Confucian and Taoist philosophies. The optimism propounded by Confucianism is an idealistic one that advocates rationality, involvement in society and taking pleasure in life. It manifests itself in the idea that the person who practices benevolence is free from anxiety, takes a moral attitude to the world, feels concern about the state of the country and its people, endures poverty patiently and remains calm in the face of adversity. The optimism characteristic of Taoism, on the other hand, stresses man's oneness with nature and the need to adapt to circumstances as they arise. It advocates the pursuit of a state of conformity with nature and an abstention from reckless behavior, so as to arrive at a point where "extreme pleasure is no pleasure". Buddhism teaches a way of life aimed at turning suffering into happiness, doing good in order to accumulate merit and devoting oneself to charitable works. By developing and drawing on the positive elements in traditional Chinese psychological thinking, by adhering to its ideas of enterprise and of turning a bad situation into a good one and by rejecting the sort of negative attitude that makes people passively accept a state of poverty or prevents them from aspiring to better themselves, we can help improve our current social climate and maintain and regulate the psychological health of the community. On the basis of previous research conducted in this area the present paper gives a detailed and systematic description of the optimistic psychological thinking underlying traditional Chinese culture. It explores such issues as the relationship between optimism and human psychology, the nature of optimism according to the Confucian and Taoist systems of thought, the realms in which optimism can operate, the channels whereby it can be put into practice and the different ways in which this concept is understood in China and the West. It thus aims to show the wide-ranging implications of optimism as a philosophical position and its significance for present-day society. We also hope that it may lay the foundation for further work on this subject by Chinese researchers in the field of psychology.

Key words: traditional culture, optimism, the thoughts of psychology, Confucianism, Taoism