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Asian Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


see Chinese Religion, Chinese Buddhism

Confucius: The Analects by Confucius (Penguin Classics) Slingerlands use of commentary gives readers a fighting chance at understanding and appreciating this foundational Confucian classic. A record of the words and teachings of Confucius, The Analects is considered the most reliable expression of Confucian thought. However, the original meaning of Confucius's teachings have been filtered and interpreted by the commentaries of Confucianists of later ages, particularly the Neo-Confucianists of the Song dynasty, not altogether without distortion.
In this monumental translation by Professor D. C. Lau, an attempt has been made to interpret the sayings as they stand. The corpus of the sayings is taken as an organic whole and the final test of the interpretation rests on the internal consistency it exhibits. In other words, The Analects is read in the light of The Analects.This results in a truer understanding of Confucius' thought than the traditional interpretation and paves the way for a re-assessment of its importance in the history of Chinese thought and its relevance to the present day world.
This volume also contains an introduction to the life and teachings of Confucius, and three appendices on the events in the life of Confucius, on his disciples, and on the composition of The Analects. See more.

Confucian Spirituality, Volume 1 edited by Tu Weiming, Mary Evelyn Tucker (World Spirituality: Herder & Herder) Confucian Spirituality, Volume 2 edited by Tu Weiming, Mary Evelyn Tucker (World Spirituality: Herder & Herder) these two volumes on Confucian spirituality in prestigious World Spirituality series offers a series of vital essays on the living Confucian ethos.  These essays represent Confucianism as it is understood and practiced in the late 20th century.  For an orientation to what the worldview of this religion is there is no better starting place.

Excerpt from introduction to both volumes: The art of Confucian spirituality might be described as discovering one's cosmological being amidst daily affairs. For the Confucian the ordinary is the locus of the extraordinary; the secular is the sacred; the transcendent is in the immanent. What distinguishes Confucian spirituality among the world's religious traditions is an all-encompassing cosmological context that grounds its world-affirming orientation for humanity. This is not a tradition that seeks liberation outside the world, but rather one that affirms the spirituality of becoming more fully human within the world. The way of immanence is the Confucian way.

The means of self-transformation is through cultivation of oneself in relation to others and to the natural world. This cultivation is seen in connection with a tradition of scholarly reflection embedded in a commitment to the value of culture and its myriad expressions. It aims to promote flourishing social relations, effective educational systems, sustainable agricultural patterns, and humane political governance within the context of the dynamic, life-giving processes of the universe.

One may hasten to add that, while subject to debate, aspects of transcendence are not entirely absent from this tradition, for example, in the idea of Heaven in classical Confucianism or the Supreme Ultimate in later NeoConfucianism.2 However, the emphasis of Confucian spirituality is on cultivating one's Heavenly-endowed nature in relation to other humans and to the universe itself. There is no impulse to escape the cycles of samsaric suffering as in Hinduism or Buddhism or to seek otherworldly salvation as in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Rather, the microcosm of the self and the macrocosm of the universe are implicitly and explicitly seen as aspects of a unified but ever-changing reality.

The seamless web of immanence and transcendence in this tradition thus creates a unique form of spiritual praxis among the world's religions. There is no ontological split between the supernatural and the natural orders. Indeed, this may be identified as one of the distinctive contributions of Confucian spirituality, both historically and in its modern revived forms.

How to describe this form of spirituality is part of the challenge of these two volumes, which are intended to give the reader an overview of the remarkable array of Confucian spirituality from the classical period to the contemporary period. This is the first time such a comprehensive collective perspective has been offered to Western readers interested in exploring the varied dimensions of Confucian spirituality. We hope that by examining these distinctive forms of Confucian spirituality the very notion of spirituality in the larger human community will be broadened and enriched.

These essays are intended as an invitation for further research into the religious and spiritual dimensions of Confucianism. We trust that future research on East Asia, in both its premodern and modern phases, will include more extensive interdisciplinary collaborative reflection on the significant topic of the multiform spiritual dimensions of Confucianism.

What Is Confucian Spirituality?

Among the world's religious traditions Confucianism has the distinction of being the tradition that is least understood as having religious or spiritual aspects. Part of the complexity of the problem regarding the religious nature of Confucianism lies in sorting out a series of interlocking questions. Foremost among them is how one defines Confucianismas a political system, as ethical teachings, as social norms, as a humanistic philosophy, or as a religious worldview.3 We acknowledge all of these features as being part of Confucianism. However, we aim here to explore Confucianism not necessarily as a "religion" per se, but as a religious world-view with distinctive spiritual dimensions.

We are refraining from using the term "religion" to describe Confucianism, as "religion" tends to be associated with formal institutional structures and most often with characteristics of Western religions such as theism, personal salvation, and natural/supernatural dichotomies.' The term "religion" may thus obscure rather than clarify the distinctive religious and spiritual dimensions of Confucianism.5 Therefore, instead of claiming Confucianism as a religion (which is problematic in itself for many people), weare suggesting that Confucianism manifests a religious worldview in its cosmological orientation.6 This cosmological orientation is realized in the connection of the microcosm of the self to the macrocosm of the universe through spiritual practices of communitarian ethics, self-transformation, and ritual relatedness.

A religious worldview is that which gives humans a comprehensive and defining orientation to ultimate concerns? Spirituality is that which provides expression for the deep yearnings of the human for relatedness to these ultimate concerns. While a religious worldview may be assumed as part of a given set of cultural ideals and practices into which one is born, spirituality is the vehicle of attainment of these ideals. The Confucian religious worldview is distinguished by its cosmological context, in which humans complete the triad of Heaven and Earth. Confucian spirituality requires discipline and practice along with spontaneity and creativity. Confucian spirituality establishes different ethical responsibilities for specific human relations, deepens subjectivity in its methods of self-cultivation, and celebrates communion of cosmic and human forces in its ritual connections. It aims to situate human creativity amidst concentric circles of interdependent creativity from the person to the larger universe.

One way to appreciate the distinctiveness of the Confucian religious worldview and its spiritual expressions is to observe broad characteristics of religions with a common geographical place of origin. In this spirit it is significant to note that the flowering of the world's religions that took place in the sixth century B.C.E. was labeled by Karl Jaspers as the Axial Age.' This period of flowering can be characterized as having three major centers of origin: those in West AsiaJudaism, Christianity, Islam; those in South AsiaHinduism, Jainism, Buddhism; and those in East AsiaConfucianism and Daoism. The first can be described as prophetic and historically based religions; the second can be seen as mystical religions and religions of liberation; the third can be understood as religious worldviews of cosmic and social harmony. It is precisely the interaction of the cosmic and social that underlies the spiritual dynamics of Confucianism.

The Dimensions of Confucian Spirituality

The cosmological orientation of Confucianism provides a holistic context for its spiritual dimensions, namely, communitarian ethics, modes of self-transformation, and ritual practices. The integrating impetus of these spiritual practices can be described as celebrating the generativity and creativity of the cosmos in the midst of changing daily affairs. These three forms of spirituality are interrelated, and they set in motion patterns of relational resonance between humans and the ever-expanding, interconnected circles of life.

The cosmological orientation of the Confucian religious worldview has been described as encompassing a continuity of being between all life forms without a radical break between the divine and human worlds. Heaven, Earth, and humans are part of a continuous worldview that is organic, holistic, and dynamic. Tu Weiming has used the term "anthropocosmic" to describe this integral relatedness of humans to the cosmos." The flow of life and energy is seen in qi (material force or vital energy), which unifies the plant, animal, and human worlds, and pervades all the elements of reality. The identification of the microcosm and the macrocosm in Confucian thought is a distinguishing feature of its cosmological orientation."

Humans are connected to one another and to the larger cosmological order through an elaborate system of communitarian ethics. The five relations of society are marked, for example, by virtues of mutual exchange along with differentiated respect. Reciprocity is a key to Confucian ethics and the means by which Confucian societies develop a communitarian basis so that they can become a bonded "fiduciary community." Moreover, the cultivation of virtue in individuals is the basis for the interconnection of self, society, and the cosmos. As P. J. Ivanhoe observes, the activation of virtue evokes response: "This mutual dynamic of de 'virtue' or 'kindness' and bao 'response' was thought to be in the very nature of things; some early thinkers seemed to believe it operated with the regularity and force of gravity."

In all of this, Confucian spirituality aims at moral transformation of the human so that individuals can realize their full personhood. Each person receives a Heavenly-endowed nature, and thus the potential for full authenticity or even sagehood is ever present. Nonetheless, to become a noble person (junzi) is an achievement of continual self-examination, rigorous discipline, and the cultivation of virtue. This process of spiritual self-transformation is a communal act." It is not an individual spiritual path aimed at personal salvation. It is, rather, an ongoing process of rectification so as to cultivate one's "luminous virtue." The act of inner cultivation implies reflecting on the constituents of daily experience and bringing that experience into accord with the insights of the sages. The ultimate goal of such self-cultivation is the realization of sagehood, namely, the attainment of one's cosmological being.

Attainment of one's cosmological being means that humans must be attentive to one another, responsive to the needs of society, and attuned to the natural world through rituals that establish patterns of relatedness. In the Confucian context there were rituals performed at official state ceremonials as well as rituals at Confucian temples. However, the primary emphasis of ritual in the Confucian tradition was not liturgical ceremonies connected with places of worship (as in Western religions), but rituals involved in daily interchanges and rites of passage intended to smooth and elevate human relations. For the early Confucian thinker Xunzi, rituals are seen as vehicles for expressing the range and depth of human emotion in appropriate contexts and in an adequate manner. Rituals thus become a means of affirming the emotional dimensions of human life. Moreover, they link humans to one another and to the other key dimensions of realitythe political order, nature's seasonal cycles, and the cosmos itself. Thus Confucian rituals are seen to be in consonance with the creativity of the cosmic order.

Confucian spirituality, then, might be seen as a means of integrating oneself into the larger patterns of life embedded in society and nature. P. J. Ivanhoe describes this effort succinctly when he observes that the Confucians believed "that a transformation of the self fulfilled a larger design, inherent in the universe itself, which the cultivated person could come to discern, and that a peaceful and flourishing society could only arise and be sustained by realizing this grand design. Cultivating the self in order to take one's place in this universal scheme describes the central task of life.""

The Appeal of Confucian Spirituality

Scholars in the field of religious studies may be able to make certain helpful clarifications toward elucidating the rich and varied nature of Confucian spirituality. While historians in the last fifty years have analyzed the development of Confucian texts, lineages, and institutions, and while social scientists have examined individual, family, and political patterns of Confucian-influenced behavior, only a few scholars have as yet explored the religious and philosophical dimensions of the Confucian tradition. Further interpretations of the religious and philosophical nature of Confucianism may be important for understanding the endurance and appeal of Confucianism across East Asia, both traditionally and in the modern period.

As David Keightley observes: "The strength and endurance of the Confucian tradition, ostensibly secular though its manifestations frequently were, cannot be fully explained, or its true nature understood, unless we take into account the religious commitment which assisted at that tradition's birth and which continued to sustain it." Clearly, Confucian thought had an appeal to individuals and groups in East Asia for centuries

beyond its political or ideological uses. Individual scholars and teachers engaged in the study and practice of Confucianism for intellectual inspiration, personal edification, spiritual growth, and ritual expression. We can see this in the spread of Confucianism to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. This was especially evident in Japan, where there was no civil service examination system to advance personal careers. In the Tokugawa period (16031868), for example, many Japanese scholars and teachers studied Confucianism for its inherent value and assisted its spread in the society by establishing schools.

Confucianism is more than the conventional stereotype of a model for creating social order and political stability sometimes used for oppressive or autocratic ends. While Confucianism aimed to establish stable and harmonious societies, it also encouraged personal and public reform, along with the reexamination of moral principles and spiritual practices appropriate to different contexts. This is evident in Confucian moral and political theory, from the early classical concept of the rectification of names in the Analects to Mencius's qualified notion of the right to revolution. It is likewise seen in the later Neo-Confucian practice of delivering remonstrating lectures to the emperor and, when necessary, withdrawing one's services from an unresponsive or corrupt government.

On a personal level, the whole process of self-cultivation in Confucian spiritual practice was aimed at achieving authenticity and sincerity through conscientious study, critical self-examination, continual effort, and a willingness to change oneself. "Learning for oneself," not simply absorbing ideas uncritically or trying to impress others, was considered essential to this process. Thus, authenticity could only be realized by constant transformation so as to bring oneself into consonance with the creative and generative powers of Heaven and Earth. These teachings sought to inculcate a process in tune with the dynamic, cosmological workings of nature. It thus affirmed change as a positive force in the natural order and in human affairs. This process of harmonizing with changes in the universe can be identified as a major wellspring of Confucian spirituality expressed in various forms of self-cultivation.

This focus on the positive aspects of change can be seen in each period of Confucianism as well as in its spread to other geographical contexts. Change in self, society, and cosmos was affirmed and celebrated from the early formative period, which produced the Classic of Changes (Yijing). Later Han Confucianism emphasized the vitality of correspondences between the human and the various elements in nature. Eleventh- and twelfth-century Song Neo-Confucianism stressed the creativity of Heaven and Earth. Confucian spirituality in all its diverse expressions was seen in East Asia as a powerful means of personal transformation. Furthermore, it was a potential instrument of establishing social harmony and political order through communitarian ethics and ritual practices. It emphasized moral transformation that rippled outward across concentric circles rather than the external imposition of legalistic and bureaucratic restraints. It was precisely this point that differentiated the Confucian aspirations and ideals from those of the Legalists, such as Han Fei Tzu, who felt humans could be restrained by law and changed by punishment. It is a tradition that has endured for more than two and a half millennia in varied historical, geographical, and cultural contexts and is still undergoing transformation and revitalization in its contemporary forms.

Cosmology and Cultivation:
Creativity of Heaven and Transformation of Humans

The Confucian organic cosmological order is distinguished by the creativity of Heaven as a life-giving force that is ceaselessly self-generating. Similar to Whitheadian process thought, the Confucian universe is seen as an unfolding, creative process, not as a static, inert mechanistic system controlled by an absent or remote deity. As a protecting, sustaining, and transforming force, Heaven helps to bring all to their natural fulfillment as cosmological. This is because humans are imprinted with a Heavenly-endowed nature that enables them to transform themselves through self-cultivation.

The ethos, then, of this creative cosmology is one that encourages education, learning, and self-transformation. The optimistic view of humans as receiving a Heavenly nature results in a Confucian educational and familyethos that ideally create a value system for nurturing innate human goodness and the creative transformation of individual potential. This ethos is one that encourages a filial sense of repayment to Heaven for the gift of life and for a Heavenly-bestowed nature. The way to repay these gifts is through ongoing moral cultivation for the betterment of self and society. The symbol or model that joins this aspect of the worldview and ethos together is the noble person (junzi), or the sage (sheng), who "hears" the will of Heaven and is able to embody it naturally in the ongoing process of learning and self-cultivation. The sage is thus the highest embodiment of the spiritual aspirations of the Confucian tradition.

Vitalism of the Earth and Co-creativity of Humans: Cosmological Correspondences and Human Ritual

The creativity of Heaven in the Confucian cosmological worldview is paralleled by the vitalism of the natural world. From the early text of the Classic of Changes (Yijing), through the Neo-Confucian reappropriation of this classic, the sense of the vitality of the natural world infuses many of the Confucian writings.'" This vitality is understood as part of the seasonal cycles of nature, rather than as the developmental, evolving universe discussed by contemporary process philosophers and theologians. It is expressed in an elaborate series of correspondences (seasonal, directional, elemental) and rituals that in Han Confucianism were seen as patterns suggestive of the careful regulation needed in the social and political realms. This cosmological view of the integral cycles of nature reinforces an ethos of cooperating with those processes through establishing a harmonious society and government with appropriate ritual structures. The rituals reflect the patterned structures of the natural world and bind humans to one another, to the ancestral world, and to the cosmos at large.

The vital material force (qi) of the universe is that which joins humans and nature, unifying their worldview and ethos and giving humans the potential to become co-creators with the universe.'" As Mencius notes, it is qi that unites rightness (ethos) and the Way (worldview), filling the whole space between Heaven and Earth. The moral imperative of Confucianism, then, is to make appropriate ethical and ritual choices linked to the creative powers of the Way and thus contribute to the betterment of social and political order.

The Confucian worldview, then, affirms change, as is manifest in the creativity of Heaven and in the vitality of Earth. In particular, the varied and dynamic patterns of cosmological change are celebrated as part of a life-giving universe. Rituals and music are designed to harmonize with these cosmic changes and to assist the process of personal transformation. Rituals help to join the worldview of cosmic change with the ethos of human changes in society, thus harmonizing the natural and human orders. Rituals and music are a means of creating grace, beauty, and accord. Thus, the natural cosmological structures of the Earth provide a counterpoint for an ethos of social patterns expressed in ritual behavior and music. Harmonizing with the universe in a cosmological sense is balanced by an ethos of reciprocal resonance in human relations and is expressed in the patterned behavior of rituals.

The religious worldview of Confucianism encompasses a dynamic cosmological orientation that is interwoven with spiritual expressions in the form of communitarian ethics of society, self-cultivation of the person, and ritual expressions integrating self, society, and cosmos. This tapestry of spiritual integration, which has had a long and rich history in China and in other countries of East Asia, deserves further study. These volumes are a contribution to such investigations. We trust they will also point the way toward future forms of Confucian spirituality in new and creative expressions. 

Confucian Moral Self Cultivation by Philip J. Ivanhoe (Hackett) A concise and accessible introduction to the evolution of the concept of moral self-cultivation in the Chinese Confucian tradition, this volume begins with an explanation of the pre-philosophical development of ideas central to this concept, followed by an examination of the specific treatment of self cultivation in the philosophy of Kongzi ("Confucius"), Mengzi ("Mencius"), Xunzi, Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming, Yan Yuan and Dai Zhen. In addition to providing a survey of the views of some of the most influential Confucian thinkers on an issue of fundamental importance to the tradition, Ivanhoe also relates their concern with moral self-cultivation to a number of topics in the Western ethical tradition. Bibliography and index are included. 

Humanity and Self-Cultivation: Essays in Confucian Thought by Wei-Ming Tu (Cheng & Tsui) first paperback edition of a classic text includes a new preface by the author, and a new introductory essay on "Tu Wei-ming`s Confucianism" by Robert Cummings Neville, Dean of the School of Theology at Boston University. The 12 essays in this volume concisely illustrate the inherent "religiousness" of Confucianism, one of the most influential systems of thought on earth. Through an intensive focus on the Confucian process of self-cultivation, noted author and teacher Tu Wei-ming aggressively explores the spiritual dimension of this tradition. These essays soundly establish the significance of Confucianism, in China as well as throughout the entire world, for the modern society and individual. Tu Wei-ming is professor of Chinese history and philosophy at Harvard University and director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute.

Centrality and Commonality: An Essay on Confucian Religiousness by Tu Wei-Ming (SUNY Series in Philosophy: State University of New York Press) A brilliant essay on the sociopolitical, religious and personal dimensions of the Chinese Confucian classic "Doctrine of the Mean" is not only the perfect companion for the original text, but stands alone as a useful analytical text. Tu's treatment of the profound person, fiduciary community and the moral metaphysics as propounded by the esoteric text attributed to Confucius' grandson are enlightening. His final analysis of Confucianism as a religious system is eye-opening and convincing, and rings with his personal beliefs. Not perhaps the most easy text to follow for the uninitiated novice, but highly informative to those who would seek to understand this ancient system through a different lense.

Confucian Thought: Selfhood As Creative Transformation by Tu Wei-Ming (SUNY Series in Philosophy: State University of New York Press) these commentaries upon Confucian thought quite literally open a "whole new world" to those whose thought patterns descend from Athens. The Chinese have drawn their world view from Confucian thought, and from Buddhism and Taoism. The Chinese perspective contrasts sharply with Western rationalism. Intuition is highly valued, feeling and reasoning are considered to act together, the situation at hand and, above all, personal relationships, take priority over abstract principle. Professor Tu's work is not without its "practical" significance. The US and the Western world overall need to understand the Chinese world. This is a good place to begin the attempt. It will be highly rewarding.

Confucian Ethics: A Comparative Study of Self, Autonomy, and Community by Kwong-Loi Shun (Cambridge University Press) The Chinese ethical tradition has often been thought to oppose Western views of the self--as autonomous and possessed of individual rights--with views that emphasize the centrality of relationship and community to the self. The essays in this collection discuss the validity of that contrast as it concerns Confucianism, the single most influential Chinese school of thought. (Alasdair MacIntyre, who has significantly articulated the need for dialogue across traditions, contributes a concluding essay of commentary.) 

Transformations of the Confucian Way by John H. Berthrong (Explorations; Contemporary Perspectives on Religion: Westview Press) The twentieth century has been cruel to the Confucian tradition throughout East Asia. At the beginning of the century it was painfully obvious that traditional China was in terminal dynastic decline as well as being under persistent attack by the powerful Western colonial powers. Korea was already partially incorporated into the reinvigorated Japanese imperial system. Vietnam was a French colony. The Confucian tradition was likewise considered moribund because its fortunes were assumed to be inextricably intertwined with the fate of the late Chinese and Korean imperial states. Joseph Levenson, at the end of his great trilogy about the fate of the Confucian tradition, wrote, "When Confucianism finally passed into history, it was because history passed out of Confucianism. Intrinsic classical learning, the exercise of divining from canonical historical records how men in general should make history for all time, lapsed" ( 1968:3, 100).

Although Levenson mourned the shattering of the Confucian world under the hammer blows of Maoist ideology and Western modernism, it was clear both to him and to the revolutionaries that there was much to be condemned in the Confucian past before East Asia could rise again.

However, the predicted demise of Confucianism and the Chinese empire proved premature. Confucianism now shows signs of rejoining the history of East Asia and is expanding rapidly into the larger global community of nations. But just as the projected demise of Confucianism proved chimerical, so the renewal is likewise subject to various interpretations. At one end there are scholars who firmly believe that we are witnessing a renewal of the tradition, albeit in a remarkably different manner than ever before. What we are seeing, according to this positive reinterpretation, is the emergence of an ecumenical Confucianism, at once chastened by the failures of the past and open to the influences of the modern and primarily Western world. At the other end of the spectrum there are those who note that whatever else may happen with Confucianism, the traditional pattern of what Mark Elvin ( 1996) has perceptively called "scriptural Confucianism" will never be revived in East Asia or anywhere else. According to this less sanguine prognostication, although we will certainly observe vestigial Confucian habits of the heart, there will never be anything like a scriptural tradition that will command the study, attention, affirmation, and then total commitment to a life lived in conformity with the Confucian Way. What is the truth of the situation? It is probably somewhere in the middle and probably impossible to ascertain at this time.

The Confucian tradition has changed so many times before, due to the pressure of history's dance to the music of time, that we must expect it to do so again. New Confucianism will retain a fascination with its classic texts and history; but it will change. And this change, because it embodies new patterns of response and transformation, will be something unexpected, unanticipated, and, it is hoped, exciting. Just as Confucius, after starting his travels, would have been surprised about becoming the great teacher of ten thousand generations and just as Chu Hsi would have been surprised by Wang Yang-ming's critique, so too will we be astonished by the ceaseless transformations and creativity of the Confucian Way in the future. Therefore, the task before us is to chronicle the developments and transformations of the Confucian Way. As we shall see, the Confucian Way has known some periods of resplendent glory and others of intense self-doubt and despair. But if China is poised to dominate the twenty-first century of the Pacific Era, it is supremely ironic that Confucian habits of the heart will help guide this remarkable transformation from an early colonial defeat to the growing wealth and power of the contemporary technological world.

I will display the pageant of the tradition's actual and intrinsic beauty (and blemishes) as a complicated and compelling creation of generations of East Asian people. There really were and still are good reasons for generations of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese people to find a source of inspiration for ordering their lives in the philosophy of the first teacher, as Confucius is often called in East Asia. I believe that these great scholars, farmers, soldiers, rulers, poets, painters, doctors, historians, writers, civil servants, provincial officials, local teachers (both men and women), merchants, and common people had every right to embrace and promote the Confucian Tao. The Confucian tradition is one of the great intellectual achievements of humankind. As with all such variegated cultural systems, it has had its internal and external critics; it also has a history of failures and perversity. Nonetheless, the Confucian Tao represents one of the supreme human systems of study, contemplation, speculation, and action.  

The Moral Circle and the Self: Chinese and Western Perspectives by Kim Chong Chong (Open Court Publishing Company) If ethics encompasses not just a concern for self and family but also for a wider circle of others, what resources do Chinese and Western ethics offer to motivate and guide this expansion of concern? This question is the theme of these essays by leading Chinese and Western philosophers. The concept of rights is discussed in relation to the treatment of children, the possibility of a civil society, and attitudes toward minority populations. A chapter by well-known American philosopher and author Martha Nussbaum is included in this collection.

Comparative philosophy as an institutionalized and academic field is still a young discipline. It could, of course, be argued that it has been practiced since the first philosophers appeared on the scene, for any philosophical activity is, after all, comparative in character. However, the discipline of comparative philosophy does not understand itself in such a broad manner as to include just any philosophical discussion, but explicitly takes traditions, cultures, or other predefined communities as terms of reference. It is therefore a fundamental challenge for comparative philosophers to do appropriate justice to the diversity, porosity, and dynamism of any such entity. Since these properties suggest inner tensions instead of a harmonized unity, and openness instead of hermetic borders, it is always an artificial, and, to some extent, an arbitrary act to draw borders between different traditions, cultures, or, for example, language communities. Thus, it is up to comparative philosophy to demonstrate that its focus is indeed productive and that it itself does not reinforce the artificiality of the involved entities. In its moderate version, comparative philosophy has to substantiate the claim that its terms of reference are at least of similar philosophical importance as other familiar and maybe equally constructed categories such as age, gender, or social class.
At the same time, it remains of the utmost importance to abstain from regarding
any of these notions as absolute and thereby ignore their artificial and generalizing character as well as their subjection to change.

The Analects of Confucius as Wisdom and as Cultural History

THE ANALECTS: Confucius translation and notes by David Hinton ($24.00, hardcover, 252 pages, Counterpoint, ISBN: 1887178635) Hinton approach to translation is a poetic rendering well grounded in meticulous scholarship and a good ear for idiomatic English.
No one has influenced Chinese life as profoundly as Confucius. For more than 2,000 years his teachings have been the foundation of China's ethical and social system; his legacy is inseparable from what it means to be Chinese. Among the most important embodiments of that influence is THE ANALECTS , a seeming record of Confucius's conversations with his disciples and with the rulers and ministers of his own time. These sayings, many of them laconic, aphoristic, and difficult to interpret, have done much to shape the culture and history of East Asia.

The spiritual cornerstone of the most populous and oldest living civilization on Earth, THE ANALECTS has inspired the Chinese and all the peoples of East Asia with its affirmation of a humanist ethics. As the Gospels are to Jesus, THE ANALECTS is the only place where we can encounter the real, living Confucius.

THE ANALECTS OF CONFUCIUS translation and notes by Simon Leys ($12.95, paperback, 256 pages, W.W. Norton & Company ISBN: 0393316998)

In this sturdy translation by Simon Leys offers us an traditional approach to the Confucian text, lettings it speak with clarity and brilliance. Confucius emerges as a man of great passion and many enthusiasms, a man of bold action whose true vocation is politics. Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) lived in an age of acute cultural and political crisis. Many of his observations mark a world sinking into violence and barbarity. Unable to obtain the leading political role he sought, he endeavored to reform society and salvage civilization through ethical debate, defining for ages to come the public mission of the intellectual. As we read Confucius across twenty-five centuries, it seems at times that he is directly addressing the very problems of our age.

Though Leys work is well presented it does not offer the steady insight that more classic translations offer. We recommended one consider especially THE ORIGINAL ANALECTS: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors reviewed below as well as some standard English renditions by Arthur Waley (Vintage Books), William Edward Soothill (Dover Thrifteditions), D.C. Lau revision of Waley (Penguin Books).

Simon Leys is the pseudonym of Pierre Ryckmans, who was professor of Chinese studies at Sydney University until his retirement. Dr. Ryckmans is a noted scholar of Chinese culture and an astringent observer of contemporary Chinese culture and politics. He is the author of Chinese Shadows and, most recently, the novel The Death of Napoleon (Farrar Straus & Giroux).

The changing social and political conditions of that period introduces a human dynamism to the text that undermines the static traditional myth of the wise sage. This new historicism is a fundamental shift for the understanding of Chinese civilization, replacing a contemplative 'Chinese mind' with a lively human process. The study of early China will never be the same as the implications of this approach to Chinese texts is extended. The richly thoughtful commentaries the Brooks provide assure that the general reader will stop to ponder the words of the most influential book in the long history of the Chinese civilization.

"This translation seeks to make available to readers our finding that the Analects is not one text but a series of texts of different date, containing a few sayings that may go back to the historical Confucius, along with many others that were added in the next two centuries by his successors in what gradually because the Confucian school of Lu," the authors write in the introduction. One of its twenty chapters is revealed as the core sayings by the historical Confucius, while the remaining nineteen emerge as the work of his disciples and successors over the years, both elaborating the original insights and transforming them into a mature social and political philosophy.

An extraordinary work of historical reconstruction, THE ORIGINAL ANALECTS includes a fresh and fluid translation, a detailed commentary and interpretation for each saying, illustrations of contemporary objects from the collections of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and an extensive critical apparatus setting forth the argument on which the translation is based, and showing how the later interpretation of the work gradually took shape. A remarkable achievement, THE ORIGINAL ANALECTS represents a sharp departure from the dominant traditional interpretations of Confucian thought, and at the same time displays a strong continuity with the work of critical Chinese scholars. It will influence serious scholarship and popular debate for years to come.


E. Bruce Brooks holds a Ph.D. degree in Chinese language and literature from the University of Washington, and has published studies on various aspects of textual analysis in Chinese and English. He is Research Professor of Chinese at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

A. Taeko Brooks holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Japanese history from the University of Hawaii. She is the co-author, with E. Bruce Brooks, of Chinese Character Frequency Lists (1974), and was the co-founder with him, in 1993, of the Warring States Working Group.

THE ORIGINAL ANALECTS: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors by E. Bruce Brooks with A. Taeko Brooks ($29.50 cloth 342 pages, Translations from the Asian Classics, Columbia University Press, ISBN: 0231104308)

In a controversial and groundbreaking new interpretation, THE ORIGINAL ANALECTS have returned this wide-ranging text to its full historical, cultural, and intellectual settings, organizing the sayings in their chronological sequence. Read in this way, the Analects become more vivid than ever before, a window on the period and the events that shaped it. Painstakingly validating a powerful method of textual analysis that is rooted in earlier Chinese scholarship, THE ORIGINAL ANALECTS introduces a new era in that it establishes a new chronology for the text, but its implications go far beyond chronology. By placing the growth of the text itself within the epoch of the Warring States. For the first time in any language this new translation presents the Analects in a revolutionary new format that distinguishes the original words of the Master from those of his later supplemental sayings of his followers. The historical arrangement of the more than five hundred sayings in the Analects clarifies many contradictions within the text itself by showing how the sayings reflect changing social conditions and philosophical emphases during the more than two centuries in which the text was compiled.

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