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The Huainanzi: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Government in Early Han China, by Liu An, King of Huainan (Translations from the Asian Classics) [Hardcover]

Liu An

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Book Description

14 May 2010 Translations from the Asian Classics
Compiled by scholars at the court of Liu An, king of Huainan, in the second century B.C.E, The Huainanzi is a tightly organized, sophisticated articulation of Western Han philosophy and statecraft. Outlining "all that a modern monarch needs to know," the text emphasizes rigorous self-cultivation and mental discipline, brilliantly synthesizing for readers past and present the full spectrum of early Chinese thought. The Huainanzi locates the key to successful rule in a balance of broad knowledge, diligent application, and the penetrating wisdom of a sage. It is a unique and creative synthesis of Daoist classics, such as the Laozi and the Zhuangzi; works associated with the Confucian tradition, such as the Changes, the Odes, and the Documents; and a wide range of other foundational philosophical and literary texts from the Mozi to the Hanfeizi. The product of twelve years of scholarship, this remarkable translation preserves The Huainanzi's special rhetorical features, such as parallel prose and verse, and showcases a compositional technique that conveys the work's powerful philosophical appeal. This path-breaking volume will have a transformative impact on the field of early Chinese intellectual history and will be of great interest to scholars and students alike.

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An excellent and richly annotated translation. -- Moss Roberts Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol 130, no2 (2010) Users of this magnificent contribution to the study of Chinese thought will find here almost everything imaginable. -- Russell Kirkland Religious Studies Review Vol 37, No 2 It is a major accomplishment in every sense of the term. -- Mark Csikszentmihalyi Journal of Chinese Studies No 54, January 2012 In sum, this volume bringing to annotated translation all 21 chapters of the Huainanzi will invaluably ease and enhance the work of future scholars. -- Benjamin E. Wallacker Journal of Asian History Vol 45, No 1, 2011 [An] epochal achievement... The Huainanzi vibrates with the authors' intellectual confidence... this translation of the Huainanzi is a convenient and reassuring shortcut into the heart of traditional China. -- Barbara Hendrischke Monumenta Serica Vol 59, 2011 This English version earns for the Huainanzi the widespread recognition as anepochal classic that it deserves, and at the same time provides a resource forspecialists. The translations are carefully thought out but evocative. China Review International Vol 18, No 4 2011

About the Author

John S. Major, formerly professor of history at Dartmouth College, is an independent scholar and writer. He is the author of Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought: Chapters Three, Four, and Five of the Huainanzi and the author, coauthor, or editor of almost thirty other books, including Defining Chu: Image and Reality in Ancient China. Sarah A. Queen, professor of history at Connecticut College, is the author of From Chronicle to Canon: The Hermeneutics of the Spring and Autumn, According to Tung Chung-shu. Her current work includes a translation and study of the Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn (with John S. Major) and an edited volume, Liu An's Vision of Empire: New Perspectives on the Huainanzi (with Michael Puett). Andrew Seth Meyer, assistant professor of history at Brooklyn College, is the author of several articles, including "The Sunzi bingfa as History and Theory." His current projects are To Rule All Under Heaven, a history of the Warring States period (481-221 B.C.E.), and a translation of the Wenzi (with Harold D. Roth). Harold D. Roth, professor of religious studies and East Asian studies at Brown University, is the author or editor of four books and more than forty scholarly articles. His books include The Textual History of the Huai-nan tzu and Original Tao: Inward Training and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism. Michael Puett, professor of Chinese history at Harvard University, is the author, most recently, of Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity. Judson Murray, assistant professor of religion at Wright State University, is the author of "A Study of 'Yaolue,' 'A Summary of the Essentials': Understanding the Huainanzi Through the Point of View of the Author of the Postface."

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work for scholars and students alike 5 Jan 2011
By Anna - Published on
This book took over ten years to complete, and the dedication of the authors is clear from the first page. The introduction to the Huainanzi is clear and nuanced, and would be appropriate for scholars of China and also those who know little about the field. The translation of the text is splendid: it shows that the original text was not simply a text but was also poetry. The footnotes are carefully crafted and useful for the reader. The introduction to (almost) each chapter is a very useful tool for the reader unfamiliar with the material. Even though the chapters were translated by different scholars, I was also impressed with how consistent the translations were written. The only criticism I have with the structure is the addition of Chapter sections. I think the introduction to the chapters is sufficient for smooth reading.

The text of the Huainanzi itself is fascinating. The purpose of the book was to aid the emperor with rulership, and so it is filled with advice, knowledge about the cosmos, and strategic designs. It was compiled by Liu An during the Han dynasty and is thus composed of information from a variety of sources--thus it has often been described as an "encyclopedia." Actually, one can see from the translation that there is an agenda within the text: an agenda for how to properly rule China.

Aside from the topic of rule, the Huainanzi includes a great deal of philosophical material on the cosmos and how humans fit into the Way (dao). There is a detailed description of the formation of the cosmos and its eventual transformation. Chapter 3 is dedicated to astronomy and astrology. Time and space, yin and yang, human consciousness--all covered in the first half of the text. The second half is dedicated to rule, but these philosophical concepts are still at the core of such discussions.

All in all, I believe this book is essential for all scholars of China. The Huainanzi was greatly influential throughout later periods of Chinese history, and so gaining a clear understanding of the principles held within is important. But even nonspecialists have much to gain from the Huainanzi, especially if they are interested in early philosophy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good and useful translation of a major text. 28 July 2013
By Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Recommended for all those who are interested by ancient Chinese thought, including those who try to understand the thought behind ancient Chinese medicine.
5.0 out of 5 stars REQUIRED reading for Sinophiles 31 Oct 2012
By Phil Nugent - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a welcome addition to available translations of Chinese philosophies. At long last the whole of the Huainanzi,the Han synthesis of political philosophy, cosmology etc has been well translated with an introduction and explanation to each chapter. It is a very satisfying read and study. much to be recommended.
2 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars measuring China up 17 Sep 2010
By Cloud Combustion - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a stage in human history, this book is about good government, geography, mythologic fengshui, and the national products pages of the local atlas.
For a political primer it is not quite charmingly vague, and awkwardly rephrases Laozi's Daodejing. . . (I can feel some dispair in that)
It has a sparkling section on trees like jujube, chestnut, willow, almond, pear, peach, elm, catalpa, soapberry, cudrania, sophora, and sandalwood. Which suggests a USA climate like North Caroline, Georgia, and Mississippi. . . (Makes me feel like a fortunate gardener)
For further reading, there is David Hawkes' translation of "Chuci -- the Songs of the South", and a French science institute's translation of "Shanhaijing"!
2 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing the rhythmic beauty of Huainanzi. 16 Jan 2012
By John Wu - Published on
Three translation criteria clash in The Huainanzi (Columbia UP, 2010, p. 33); "keeping all Chinese words" spreads "standard English" to thin out "parallels, verse, aphorisms." Now de-zinged, its faint rhythm has no rhyme-punch. Poet must give Chinese alive in English alive. Western government has no cosmology; "government in Huainanzi" is no hefty politics in it. Translation is no explanation. Wordy pages must cut in half. Fake exactitude is eked out of 4 people's laborious 12 years! Sad. Kuang-ming Wu
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