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Hsun Tzu: Basic Writings (Translations from the Asian Classics) [Paperback]

Burton Watson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

14 Oct 1996 Translations from the Asian Classics
Hsun Tzu set forth the most complete well-ordered philosophical system of his day. Although basically Confucian, he differed with Mencius, his famous predecessor in the Confucian school, by asserting that the original nature of man is evil. To counteract this evil, he advocated self-improvement, the pursuit of learning, the avoidance of obsession, and constant attention to ritual in all areas of life. With a translation by the noted scholar Burton Watson, includes an introduction to the philosopher in relation to Chinese history and thought. Readers familiar with Hsun Tzu's work will find that Watson's lucid translation breaths new life into this classic. For those not yet acquainted with Hsun Tzu, will reach a new generation who will find his ideas on government, language, and order and safety in society surprisingly close to the concerns of our own age.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Revised edition edition (14 Oct 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231106890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231106894
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.1 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 577,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hsun Tzu - Burton Watson. 14 Nov 2010
Hsun Tzu (312-235BC), was a Confucius scholar who is believed to have studied directly under Zi Si - the grandson of Confucius. His thought differs dramatically from that of Confucius and Mencius, (the latter being a near contemporary of Hsun), in the that Hsun clearly devotes an entire chapter (section 23 of this translation), where he expresses his view that the nature of humanity is 'evil'. Indeed, this section carries the name ' Man's Nature is Evil', deriving from the fact that in a natural state, people are greedy and have feelings of hatred and pride. When greed, envy and pride are indulged violence is the result, when violence prevails order breaks down and there is chaos. Hsun believed that this uneducated state could be rectified however, through appropriate forms of training and discipline. Only then could the 'good' be truly realised and therefore beneficial to humanity and employed in good governance. Despite its often argumentative tone, this is not a Legalist document - it is a Confucian text, but one that may be considered highly ideosyncratic.

Hsun Tsu taught two historically important people - Han Fei Tzu, the conveyer of a ruthless form of Legalism, and LiSi, a man who would ruthlessly assist the Qin emperor to consolidate his empire. Hsun Tzu appears to lack the wise sophistication of Confucius, and the respectful transmission and interpretative qualities found in Mencius. In one conversation (section 15 - Debating Military Affairs), Hsun directly contradicts a lord who is discussing military strategy in the presence of his king. One is left with the impression of an un-Confucian exercise in forceful argument, and in a sense, the presence of ego, rather than persuasion through wise words and gentle guidance.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting take on Confucianism 24 July 2001
By "phoenix830" - Published on
While Hsun Tzu's writings are interesting in themselves, I found that a comparison of his work to both Confucius and Mencius provides much insight into the ways of human life. Particularly interesting is Hsun Tzu's take a human nature versus that of Confucius and Mencius. All in all this is an interesting read for anyone interested in philosophy, ancient Chinese culture or human interaction and life in general.
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