The Rise and Fall of All Under Heaven Is the Responsibility of Every Individual
The view that ordinary people also share responsibility for the fate of the country originated with the famous late Ming- and early Qing-dynasty thinker Gu Yanwu. He stated that the ruler and his officials were in charge of the state apparatus, but guarding all under heaven was the responsibility of every individual, no matter how lowly they may be. In pre-modern China, all under heaven referred to the whole territory of China ruled either directly or nominally by the Son of Heaven. By “state” Gu Yanwu, however, meant something entirely different: the state only refers to one imperial house, while “all under heaven” refers to the whole of the Chinese nation and Chinese civilization. The modern Chinese thinker Liang Qichao built on this idea and put it in more general terms stating that “the rise and fall of all under heaven is the responsibility of every individual,” turning it into a clearer and more forceful statement. It was subsequently quoted by so many statesmen and thinkers that it became a household phrase. Ever since, this saying has had tremendous influence in arousing the patriotic spirit among the people of China and making them assume responsibility for the fate of their country.
- 易姓改号，谓之亡国；仁义充塞，而至于率兽食人，人将相食，谓之亡天下......保国者，其君其臣、肉食者谋之；保天下者，匹夫之贱，与有责焉耳矣。 （顾炎武《日知录》卷十三）
When one dynasty is replaced by another, it means the state of the old dynasty perishes. When benevolence and righteousness are obstructed to the point that the powerful lead others to exploit people and people fight each other, it means all under heaven perishes... Safeguarding the state is the concern of rulers, ministers, and officials; while safeguarding all under heaven is the responsibility of every individual, no matter how lowly they may be. (Gu Yanwu: Record of Daily Study)
- 顾炎武之言曰：天下兴亡，匹夫之贱与有责焉。 （麦华《论今日疆臣之责任》）
Gu Yanwu said: The rise and fall of all under heaven is the responsibility of every individual, no matter how lowly they may be. (Mai Hua: The Responsibilities of Officials in Charge of Current Border Affairs)
- 今欲国耻之一洒，其在我辈之自新......夫我辈则多矣，欲尽人而自新，云胡可致?我勿问他人，问我而已。斯乃真顾亭林所谓“天下兴亡，匹夫有责”也。 （梁启超《饮冰室文集》卷三十三“痛定罪言”三引）
The key to wiping out our country’s humiliation lies in our self-renewal... We have a large population, so it is impossible for every individual to achieve such self-renewal. We should do it ourselves whether or not others can also do it. This is just lik (Liang Qichao: Collected Works from the Ice- drinker’s Studio)