Huai-nan Tzu

Huai-nan Tzu: Philosophical Synthesis in Early Han Thought

Charles Le Blanc
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Huai-nan Tzu
    Book Description:

    Huai-nan Tzu (139BC) was viewed, for its great diversity of subject-matter, ideas and style, by traditional Chinese scholars as a composite work of the Eclectic School. It is the author's contention, however, that one overriding concern pervades the work: the attempt to define the essential conditions for a Taoist political utopianism. The present study emphasizes Chapter Six of Huai-nan Tzu in expounding the theory of kan-ying STIMULUS-RESPONSE; RESONANCE, which postulates that all things in the universe are interrelated and influence each other according to pre-set patterns. Only in the True Man, who is 'one with Tao' and 'attuned to the cosmos', does kan-ying attain its ultimate realization, 'the Great Peace' and 'the Great Merging'. 'After all,' concludes the author, ' it is in Huai-nan Tzu that we find the statement'

    eISBN: 978-988-220-179-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Derk Bodde

    ‘The world is common to all’, or, more literally, ‘All-under-Heaven constitutes a commonalty’. This is the rendition of the four Chinese words, T’ien-hsia wei kung 天下為仗, written by an anonymous Confucian thinker some two thousand years ago.

    At first sight the saying seems an impressive expression of universality. On further thought, however, one realizes that the term t’ien-hsia, ‘all-under-Heaven’, was less than truly universalistic when it was used two thousand years ago. First of all, its connotations at that time were overwhelmingly human. T’ien-hsia then meant, for most Chinese, primarily the world of man, not that...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    When Liu An 劉安, King of Huai-nan 准南 (179?–122 BC), paid his state visit to Emperor Wu 武 (r. 141–87 BC), he presented him, as a token of esteem, with a book in twenty-one chapters that had ‘just recently been completed’.¹ The Emperor treasured the work and had it placed in his private library. As far as we know, and notwithstanding the problems of authorship and transmission, it is this work which has come down to us under the title of Huai-nan hung-lieh 准南鴻烈 (The Radiant Light of Huai-nan) or, more simply,...

  5. Part One Historical and Textual Studies
    • Chapter I Liu An and the Authorship of Huai-nan Tzu
      (pp. 21-52)

      A full biography of Liu An would deserve an independent study of major proportions. Generally speaking, Han sources describe three aspects of Liu An’s life and personality: firstly, the thinker, writer, and patron of learning; secondly, the political leader, who allegedly attempted rebellion against the central government in a bid for the imperial throne, and failed; and thirdly, the Taoist adept, who practiced the esoteric arts and became an immortal. The present chapter will deal primarily with the first point, which, from a purely historical viewpoint, is the most reliable and straightforward. The brief chronological sketch that follows is based...

    • Chapter II The Transmission of Huai-nan Tzu
      (pp. 53-70)

      While admitting that a work called Huai-nan Tzu was effectively written by Liu An and his scholar-retainers in the mid-second century BC, do we have reasonable grounds to believe that it was transmitted faithfully over a period of more than two thousand years? Were there any significant textual interpolations, deletions or transformations? To follow the transmission of Huai-nan Tzu is to study the modalities and limits of its authenticity and integrity.

      As we have seen, Liu An offered the twenty-one chapters (p.’ien) of Huai-nan Tzu to Emperor Wu in 139 BC. From that date to about 26 BC no reference...

    • Chapter III Han Commentaries on Huai-nan Tzu
      (pp. 71-78)

      Studies on Huai-nan Tzu appear to have started remarkably early, with Liu Hsiang, and to have continued in an unbroken line till the end of the Han dynasty, with Kao Yu.

      In his Preface to Huai-nan Tzu, 2a, Kao informs us that ‘the text was collated and established’ (chiao-ting chuan chü 枝走撰具) by Liu Hsiang. The latter’s son, Liu Hsin, presumably transmitted this first critical edition to his follower, Chia K’uei 費遠 (AD 30–101),¹ whose students and fellow-scholars, Hsü Shen and Ma Jung, each wrote a commentary.² Two disciples of Ma Jung, Yen Tu...

    • Chapter IV The Sources of Huai-nan Tzu
      (pp. 79-98)

      A close study of the composition of Huai-nan Tzu reveals massive borrowing from earlier sources. Approximately one-third of the text derives directly from more than twenty pre-Han works belonging to a wide variety of philosophical schools and literary genres.

      We are faced here with a double set of problems.

      Firstly, the pervasiveness of the quotations and the diversity of their sources would seem to prejudice the unity and integrity of Huai-nan Tzu. Do we not find in this dissemination of pre-Han texts throughout the work documentary justification for H. Maspero’s claim that it was nothing but a collection of independent...

  6. Part Two Translation and Interpretation
    • Chapter V Translation of Huai-nan Tzu 6 and Commentary
      (pp. 101-190)

      The present translation is based on the Chuang K’uei-chi edition of 1789 (revised by T’ao Fang-ch’i et al in 1875), as it is reproduced in Liu Wen-tien’s Huai-nan hung-lieh chi-chieh 事餌 (Collected Commentaries on Huai-nan hung-lieh), published in 1923.

      The numbers in the margin of the translation correspond to the page and column of the Liu Wen-tien edition. The Chinese text of Huai-nan Tzu 6, with critical emendations, is appended at the end of the present study (pp. 211–5).

      The notes to the translation deal mainly with the Kao Yu commentary, textual criticism and factual information. The structure,...

    • Chapter VI The Idea of Kan-Ying in Huai-nan Tzu
      (pp. 191-206)

      At first reading, it would seem that Chapter Six exhibits, in miniature, the confusion and lack of unity scholars such as Hou Wai-lu 侯外廣 found in Huai-nan Tzu as a whole. One cannot help being struck by the lexical, syntactic and stylistic difficulty of the text. The connection of successive literary units appears obscure, if not non-existent. It is perhaps no accident that the chapter was not translated before. Yet beneath this surface of apparent literary and intellectual diversity and even confusion, patient effort can unveil a structure that not only satisfies the rational mind, but also...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 207-210)

    The cosmological texts we have examined intend to describe how (descriptive cosmology) the world is rather than why (explicative cosmology) it is so. According to the Huai-nan Tzu Weltanschauung, the world as we perceive it is the spontaneous outcome of a natural process. Naturalness (tzu-jan) is all at once inherent in the objective cosmological process and in man’s awareness and understanding of the cosmos: things are so of themselves; they form harmonious patterns of themselves.

    As far back as the mind can reach in the profound obscurity of Non-Being (lan-ming 覽冥), there is a tendency ‘to be’, and...

  8. Appendix 1 Chinese Text of Huai-nan Tzu 6
    (pp. 211-215)
  9. Appendix 2 Chinese Dynasties: Traditional Chronology
    (pp. 216-216)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-239)
  11. Glossary-Index
    (pp. 240-253)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 254-254)