Relative and Total Resonance in the Huainanzi

The Huainanzi presents two categories of ganying resonance. Charles LeBlanc labelled these as “relative” and “total” resonance.

Relative resonance relates to those of the same category – that which shares the same essence shares the same reality even though they come in many forms, and thus they may influence one another. Musical notes, mirrors, and magnetism are often used as examples. This is the type of resonance of which we are most familiar when discussing correlative cosmology: “All resemble their forms and evoke responses according to their class.” (HNZ 6.2)

The second is that which extends beyond its own category to stimulate and transform any and all other categories of things. It is Love. Love is unconstrained by the limitations of relative resonance and the authors placed this at the center of their political teachings for their ideal ruler. Love is the gravitance that draws the distant near, that illuminates obscurity, harmonizes the hierarchy of human relations and patterns, and inspires others to act appropriately though the ruler takes no action him/herself. The authors label this force as shenhua, likened to the sacred transformative processes of nature that transcend spacetime, such as the seasons themselves. Shenhua is discussed at length in chapter 9.

Love resides in the heart, and the heart is the root of the self (and of the cosmos). Simply said, love emanates order, be it in the individual body or the social body. Power, for them, was not holding a position or hereditary rank or a respected title, but rather the ability to win the hearts of the people and bring them together as one family.

The only way to do that was to first master their self and adopt a supremely humble position, and in doing so position themselves so that all respectfully submit to them in the same way that the four seasons submit to the year. Only in that way can the whole world “blend together and become one.” HNZ 6.9 presents Shen nong, Fuxi, and Nuwa (as opposed to the techniques of Huangdi) as examples of those who ruled with this superior form of resonance.

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