LI Denglei: On the Concern for Human Beings in Ancient China--- Take the Case of “Hehui”
February 19,2020   By:
On the Concern for Human Beings in Ancient China--- Take the Case of “Hehui”
LI Denglei
Abstract: Helping the poor, the weak and helping each other has always been the fine tradition of the Chinese nation. In ancient China, there were many charities with an official background. It is worth noting that the Chinese nation also gave birth to Hehui, a kind of very typical non-government organization in ancient times, which implies a profound concern for human beings. Hehui originated from the Sui Dynasty, an economic cooperation system emerged from the custom of helping each other in ancient Chinese folk society. The main reasons for the emergence of Hehui are: the public welfare granary or barn performed practically no function, Free estate’s family only benefited few people and so on.
Concern for human beings in Hehui includes: concern for the survival of human beings. In the Tang, Five dynasties and the early Song Dynasty, Private Societies prevailed in Dunhuang. Dunhuang Private Society is mainly on goods and manpower, such as when the family of a society member dies, all the other members are required to participate. In the late Qing Dynasty, there was also a "Wowo Tou Society" in Beijing. The "Wowo Tou Society" was mainly to help the extremely difficult people, but also to raise a large number of clothes in winter. 
Concern for human dignity. The scholars the were busy with the reading so they have no time to make money. They are very poor, especially the students. According to records, the emergence of the Black Gold Society was a great help to poor students during the Song Dynasty. Black Gold Society gathered the money of the students to buy firewood and coal, helping each other spend the cold winter. "Wangui Society" was very popular, It gathered the power of all the students to help each other , rather than accepted the food handed out in contempt.
Concern for human character. Eliminate differences and cultivate equality. In the Hehui, special emphasis is placed on the idea of equality for all. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, the “Wowo Tou Society” put abject Manchu people on an equal footing with the poor. In the period of the Republic of China, they even began to invite female members to join and give them the status of subjectivity. Make regulations and cultivate good faith. Hehui also had a profound impact on the cultivation of integrity, providing a profound background for this purpose.
Concern for human abilities. Paying more attention to the cultivation of individual ability is a long-term solution to help a person. The emergence of Hehui brought together resources. Each member benefited greatly, Through organized empowerment, Hehui provided people with the means of production, and at the same time made them learn how to get rich, how to manage themselves, and how to realize themselves. “Hoe Society”, which appeared in Yuan Dynasty, is a mutual help organization with farming as the content.It realized the "aggregation" and "loan" of labor force and production tools to help the weak farmers. In the Ming Dynasty, the “Reproductive Society” raised cooperative funds to earn money.
Concern for the belongingness of human beings. In the event of natural disasters or the marriage and bereavement, they could share the burden. The isolated individual combined together. Hehui also was a spiritual community. In Ming Dynasty, there were mutual help groups "Yi Society", "Grain Society" and "Ji Society" in Yanzhou, Shandong Province. The establishment of the “Yi society” was mainly for everyone to solve the funeral problem together. They got together to deal with the funeral affairs. It was a great comfort to the persons involved. In the process, Hehui was like a spiritual bond, linking lonely and helpless individuals together so that the people would get the sense of belonging to the village.
Today we can learn a lot from Hehui in ancient China. The spirit of mutual help is indispensable in any era; Perfecting villagers' autonomy is an important way to build a harmonious village; Honesty is the foundation of establishing people and building the country; Teaching people to fish is better than giving people the fish.
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