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Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsun Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu (Records of Civilization Sources & Study) Hardcover – 1 Jan 1967


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About the Author

Burton Watson is one of the world's best-known translators from the Chinese and Japanese. His translations include The Lotus Sutra, The Vimalakirti Sutra, Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan, Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, and The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, all published by Columbia.

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Almost nothing is known about the life of Mo Ti, or Master Mo, the founder of the Mo-ist school of philosophy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Fine translations of fascinating philosophers! 22 Jan. 2001
By DocCaligari - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is actually three books bound together. Each is a very good translation of a major ancient Chinese philosophical text. Although these philosophers are not as well known in the West as Confucius or Lao Tzu, they are very much worth reading.
Mo Tzu was an early critic of Confucianism; he founded a movement known as "Mohism." The Mohists advocated "universal love." This is less sexy than it sounds: they mean simply caring for each person equally, as opposed to the Confucian doctrine that one should care more for family members than for strangers. Mo Tzu is noteworthy because he is perhaps the first Chinese sage to present genuine philosophical arguments. The "essays" in this collection will challenge your preconceptions about Chinese philosophy: they are practical, hard-headed, and relentlessly rational.
Hsun Tzu (pronounced like "syun zuh") was a major figure in later Confucianism. He is best known for his doctrine that "human nature is evil." This teaching got him condemned by Song and Ming Dynasty Confucians, who thought that the view of the rival philosopher Mencius that human nature is good was the orthodox view. However, Hsun Tzu is a careful, systematic, and eclectic thinker. He may be the greatest Confucian philosopher of ancient China.
Han Fei Tzu was a figure in the so-called "Legalist" movement. Although Legalism could sometimes be pushed to draconian extremes, Han Fei Tzu has lots of insightful advice about realpolitik.
Burton Watson is one of the leading translators of Chinese philosophy and literature. He lives in Japan, and is heavily reliant on Japanese scholarship, but Japanese translations of Chinese texts are often pretty good, so this isn't a bad thing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Yet another great translation by Watson 2 Aug. 2004
By Adrian Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I wish that Burton Watson would translate (or possibly publish his translations of) many more Chinese classics. I have two of his works (which actually encompass about six volumes) and I have never been disappointed. This translation of the masters Mo, Hsun (Xun) and Han Fei is incredibly insightful and appealing, particularly since, in many school classrooms, the philosphical works of the Chinese are restricted to Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu and possibly Chuang Tzu. It is refreshing to read some of the other. lesser known masters encompassed in this volume.

To begin with, the excerpts of master Mo are very interesting, particularly his notion of universal love, his vigilante stance against war and his hatred of music. Though the prose is dry (Watson explains this in an excellent introduction), the ideas are pretty spectacular, particularly considering the time from which they came. Although the master Mo's teachings did not sit well with the Chinese in the end (Mencius accused him of "having no father" and Hsun Tzu writes a parody of his essay, "Making Music is Wrong") their historical context is clear from this translation.

The works of the master Hsun are also presented here. His notion that man is by nature evil is quite compelling, all the more so by his hope that education can overcome this nature. An interesting anecdote is tht two of his students (Han Fei and Li Si, I believe) would go on to be very important contributors to the Machiavellian Legalist theory, which essentially ruined Hsun's chances with the Chinese populace. Still, his essays are interesting and are presented here.

Finally, my favorite of this bunch is the Legalist, the master Han Fei. Believing that order could only be kept by strict system of reward and punishment (and the punishment was incredibly harsh) and that a ruler could keep power only by a constant check on the prestige and faculty of his ministers and even his family, Han Fei's philosophy was a radical departure from the philosophies of the past. Though his theories were not original (again, as explained by Watson, an earlier writer by the name of Lord Shang had espoused these theories earlier), Han Fei would give them a voice with a very ornate and beautiful writing style (with the number of parables appearing, I was reminded of Plato). Of course, these theories would be put to practice by the First Emperor of Ch'in (Qin), Shi Huangdi. When the Han came to power after his death, Confucianism became the norm, and Han Fei, as its opponent, would lose his stature, but still research was done on his writings throughout the years.

All in all, these writing are very interesting, and Watson's translation does them (and us) a great justice. I hope that anyone with an interest in Chinese history or philosophy (yeah, including you RTK out there!) picks up this fine book!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
helpful information 10 Mar. 2002
By Edward P. Mahaney Walter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a good edition of three books that ought to be better known than they actually are. One point to consider when shopping: the book is actually more like 450 pages than the 130... It is three books bound together, each of which is also published individually as a translation of Watson's. Since this book is hardcover and they are trade paperbacks, this copy (particularly at used prices) is more desirable...
Looking Forward 9 Jun. 2014
By Blaine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have not had a chance to read this book yet but after learning about Mo Tzu on the new Comos series I am looking forward to exploring his writings.
Also, I should mention that the book arrived promptly and in promised good condition from the seller. I am pleased with my purchase.
Some real weirdos 30 Oct. 2013
By Avery Morrow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good translation of some odd Chinese philosophers of the ages of Mencius and the Qin. Mozi, described by Oswald Spengler as a "socialist", has an oddly autistic worldview which absolutizes some elements and demands the elimination of others. Xunzi is a pessimistic Confucian who believes that rituals make us human and without rituals we would revert to animality; I cannot help but have some sympathy for his views. Han Fei, the only actual prince among the Chinese philosophers, is a distrustful Machiavelli constantly seeing the seeds of treason and assassination around him. Burton Watson pulls no punches and gives us the real flavor of the philosophers with carefully chosen excerpts.
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