What Are the Four Great Spirits of the Chinese Nation?
A country’s prosperity depends on the hard work of its people, and a nation’s strength is inseparable from the spirit to which it holds.
On March 20, 2018, Xi Jinping, after being unanimously re-elected as the President of the People’s Republic of China, delivered an important address in the Great Hall of the People. He spoke of four great spirits – the spirit of creation, the spirit of struggle, the spirit of unity, and the spirit of the Chinese dream – as he expounded on the Chinese national spirit and passionately depicted hundreds of millions of Chinese people building together their shared spiritual home.
The great spirit of the Chinese nation, as an essential element of Chinese national heritage and culture, has been deeply infused into the soul of all Chinese people, becoming a rich source of nutrition.
I. The great spirit of creation
More than 380,000 kilometers from the earth, the moon sits distant. The far side of the moon, beyond the reach of human eyes, has been a limitless source of imagination and fantasy for humankind.
On January 3, 2019, a clear image of the far side of the moon went viral on the world’s major media outlets. It is the first close-range picture of the far side of the moon taken by human beings, but what most shocked the world was that this picture, which is destined to become part of a rich and colorful chapter in the history of human space exploration, was taken by Chinese scientists.
On that day, the Chang’e-4 lunar probe successfully landed on the far side of the moon and sent back to the earth high-definition images of steep mountains and uneven impact craters. Eight days later, the Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover sent back photos of themselves that they had taken of each other. This was a moment that highlighted China’s rapid advances in science and core technologies.
Although humans first set foot on the moon in the 1960s, our knowledge of it has remained limited. To land on the far side of the moon and carry out field exploration is of great scientific value and has long been a dream of scientists all over the world. Today, a Chinese probe has successfully completed a world-changing landing on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, thus turning into reality yet another great dream of humanity.
In ascending the ladder of time, this dream has flown up the rungs, seemingly becoming reality in the blink of an eye. However, the truth is that every step up the ladder has been the result of hard work by countless Chinese people working day and night.
Time is like a riddle without an answer, casually concealing its secrets one day and suddenly revealing them the next.
The name “Jixia” can be found in the Records of the Grand Historian. The Jixia Academy, the name of which was derived from the Gate of Ji, was founded during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) in response to the historical trend of reform and revolution. In 376 BC, faced with the reality of a reign in need of consolidation and a shortage of talent, Duke Tian Wu of the State of Qi continued the fine tradition of respecting and recruiting talented people and established a grand academy near the Gate of Ji in the state capital. The academy invited a broad range of literary figures and speakers to teach and give lectures, becoming a hub of activities for various schools of thought. Thus, the Jixia Academy was born, which later became known as the Jixia School. For a time, Jixia was the home of all academic achievements. It represented a miracle of Chinese civilization; even more than that, of world civilization. Dynamic thinking and abundant creativity fostered a platform upon which a hundred schools of thought could contend, created an atmosphere of cultural inclusiveness, and formed a landscape of diverse thought.
It is not hard to imagine that at some point in the depths of time past, a group of vigorous people with a sense of mission employed their wisdom, standpoint, views, and methods to observe, deliberate, judge, and finally create. They added vibrancy to human civilization, sparked flames of imagination and aspiration among the young, and gave rise to a hundred flourishing schools of thought.
Our ancestors may not have expected that more than 2,000 years later, notions conceived at the Jixia Academy would survive the contending among different schools of thought, and would spread into the bearing and character of the Chinese nation. It is exactly this kind of cultural thread and civilizational tradition that have, since ancient times, imbued the Chinese people with a spirit of creation.
Throughout the magnificent history of the Chinese nation, our people have always drawn inspiration from everyday life and wielded the pen to record the truth. China has produced world-renowned thinkers including Laozi, Confucius, Zhuangzi, Mencius, Mozi, Xunzi, Han Feizi, Dong Zhongshu, Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming, and Wang Fuzhi and great literary works such as The Book of Songs, The Songs of Chu, the rhymed prose of the Han Dynasty, the poetry of the Tang and Song dynasties, operas of the Yuan Dynasty and the novels of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and has passed on great moving epics such as the tales of King Gesar, Manas, and Jangar. Such a vast cultural heritage has, over thousands of years, shaped the Chinese people’s cultural ideal and their understanding of family and nation.
Following this remarkable historical thread, the Chinese people have always worked hard and engaged in innovation. China invented papermaking, gunpowder, printing, and the compass, all important scientific and technological advances that have had a profound impact on human civilization, and our efforts have also been fruitful in many other fields, such as agriculture, medicine, astronomy, and arithmetic. Creativity, as the ceaseless endowment and strength of the Chinese nation, has both shaped the splendid Chinese civilization and is deeply influencing the development of today’s China. Cutting-edge achievements have emerged one after another, such as high-performance computers, quantum communications, the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, and deep-sea manned submersibles, and there has been an explosion of major innovations. Today, China’s scientific and technological capacity is undergoing an important transition from quantitative to qualitative growth and from individual breakthroughs to comprehensive upgrading.
Continuing along this vibrant historical and cultural tradition, the Chinese people have always worked diligently and tirelessly to make our country strong. We have constructed magnificent projects including the Great Wall, the Dujiangyan irrigation system, the Grand Canal, the Imperial Palace, and the Potala Palace. In the new era, China’s infrastructure is developing rapidly to realize unimpeded information flow, a network of highways, dense railway coverage, towering dams, west-to-east gas transmission, south-to-north water diversion, high-speed rail, huge ships, modern airplanes, and grand bridges turning deep chasms into thoroughfares. China is now the world’s second-largest economy, largest manufacturer and trader of goods, and second-largest consumer of goods and destination for foreign investment, and our foreign exchange reserves have been the largest in the world for many years running.
Truly, everything becomes clear with time. From the collision of ideas at the Jixia Academy to the incredible exploration of outer space, it is undoubtedly the great spirit of creation that is the powerful force making our dreams come true. It is this force that drives our great nation to achieve remarkable feats and write glorious chapters.
II. The great spirit of struggle
This year marks the centenary of the May Fourth Movement. After 100 years, the pulse of China’s youth continues to beat through time and space, as strong as ever. Youthfulness does not age, and youthful passion never dies. On May 4, 1919, in an hour of national crisis, thousands of young Chinese who loved their country asked, with deep reflection, the question of where China was going. They shouted, “Chinese territory must not be forfeited and Chinese people must not bow their heads,” and “Annul the Twenty-One Demands and refuse to sign the Treaty of Versailles.” Their passionate patriotic expression exploded into the May Fourth Movement, which drew the attention of millions of people. Like the first clap of spring thunder, the May Fourth Movement awoke Chinese people’s belief in fighting for the future of the nation and sparked the pursuit of a new culture and fresh ideas, and became the strongest voice of that era.
The passage of time continues, and 100 years have gone by. Although the tempest and rallying cry of the May Fourth Movement are gone, the movement’s spirit of patriotism, progress, democracy, and science has been immersed in the blood, sweat, and tears of the Chinese people, surging into a mighty tide of reform and becoming a landmark of the Chinese national spirit. This spirit has inspired the Chinese people’s endless struggle to save the nation from destruction, preserve national dignity, and rally national strength.
Heroes are born of struggle in times of great misfortune. All those who fought for the independence and liberation of the Chinese nation, who fought to free the Chinese nation from foreign colonization and aggression, and who fought tirelessly to create a new path of development so that the Chinese nation could control its own destiny, should now in modern times be hailed as national heroes and the pride of our country. They demonstrated a kind of patriotic sentiment that compels people to share responsibility for the fate of the nation; a sense of national integrity that empowers people to look death in the face and never yield; a heroic mettle that instills people with the courage to fight to the bitter end; and an unyielding and indomitable belief in victory. This kind of sentiment, integrity, mettle, and belief embody the Chinese people’s great spirit of struggle.
A nation that respects history and remembers the past should not forget the importance of struggle, and this is even more the case for a country striding forth toward the future and prosperity. In times of peace, when the smoke of war has cleared and peace has been restored, we must remember that it is because of the unrelenting resistance and constant struggle of the Chinese people that China is now independent, our nation is prosperous, and our people enjoy happy lives.
Sports carry forward the Chinese people’s dream of a strong, prosperous, and reinvigorated nation.
In 1981, China’s reform and opening up entered its fourth year. It was a time when boosting people’s morale and building consensus was much needed. In November of that year, the Chinese women’s volleyball team won the World Cup for the first time. Over the years that followed, the women’s team redoubled their efforts and won gold in the Olympics and the world championship, miraculously snatching the gold medal five times in a row. Even more thrilling than the championships was the spirit of struggle displayed by the team members, who through diligent training and tenacious competition were able to subdue their opponents and amaze their spectators. The inspiring motto of “learn from the women’s volleyball team and reinvigorate the Chinese nation” reinforced the love of country for countless people across China.
This strength of spirit has not only emerged in sporting highlight moments, but has also shone through the clouds of fate in times of crisis. In 2008, China was struck by the Wenchuan earthquake, which was the single most destructive earthquake with the most widespread impact and most difficult relief efforts since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. During the bitter fight against this natural disaster, the Chinese people were united as one with a shared purpose and relied on their own efforts with unfailing perseverance, thus demonstrating the dignity and beauty of humanity in the greatest sense.
It is not hard to see that behind every creation, every effort to surpass an objective, and every attempt to stand firm amidst hardship, there exists the strength of spirit. The spirit of a nation is forged through the hard work and struggle of its people in responding to challenges.
The spirit of struggle runs through the course of the Chinese people. Everything that we have today is a crystallization of our wisdom and, even more so, a result of our hard work. Over 40 years of uninterrupted reform, 70 years of constant effort, and 5,000 years of continuously spurring ourselves onward; from beginning a new epoch to entering a new stage, and from standing at a new starting point to ushering in a new era, the Chinese nation has strived tirelessly forward. General Secretary Xi Jinping has emphasized the Chinese people’s spirit of struggle on multiple occasions. “Happiness is attained through struggle.” “Struggle itself is a kind of blessing.” “The new era is an era of people striving.” Xi’s interpretation of struggle as a blessing is the most powerful call to all Chinese people to work for realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.
The indomitable spirit of struggle permeating the soul of the Chinese people is a powerful source of aspiration for advancing China’s revolution, development, and reform. Socialism was established through action, and the new era will be no different. The new era belongs to people who strive; it is the era in which dreams come true. Struggle is the only way to realize our dreams. For myriads of ordinary people, the Chinese dream is the most rousing ideal, and “I struggle, therefore I am happy” are the most moving words. The Chinese dream is the goal, and struggle is the most tangible way to achieve it. Xi Jinping’s concept of struggle as a blessing says to every person that, as we endeavor to create this great era, we are also creating happy and fruitful lives for ourselves. In the new era, we must always maintain the spirit of struggle, and strive with endless and indomitable energy toward further progress in China’s reform and opening up and the goal of realizing socialist modernization and national rejuvenation.