The Chinese one-world world view means there is a direct and immediate affinity between the human being and the natural world and the purpose of human experience is to get the most harmony out of the various ingredients that constitute the world.
Harmony and cultivation of harmony therefore occupy a prominent position in Chinese ancient philosophy. The harmony begins from what is most concrete and immediate, i.e. from the perspective of any particular human being. The emphasis is on personal cultivation as a starting point for familial, social, political, and cosmic order.
The nature of harmony is explained by relating it to the culinary arts. The art of Chinese cooking requires that good cooking depends on the blending of various ingredients and at the same time for each ingredient, retains its own colour, texture, and flavour. In order to become a good cook one must first be a good matchmaker. The flavours of the ingredients must be blended with harmony. Without this harmony there is no taste. The use of colour and texture in the presentation of the dish was also stressed.
In Spring and Autumn Annals of Master Lu, the art of cooking described as follows:
‘In combining your ingredients to achieve a harmony, you have to use sweet, sour, bitter, acrid and the salty, and you have to mix them in an appropriate sequence and proportion. Bringing the various ingredients together is an extremely subtle art in which each of them has its own expression. The variations within the cooking pot are so delicate and subtle that they cannot be captured in words or fairly conceptualise. It is much like the fine skill of archery, transformation of yin and yang, and changes of seasons.’
Therefore Confucius said: ‘The exemplary person pursues harmony, not sameness (uniformity).’