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Focusing the Familiar

A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong

Roger T. Ames

Publication Year: 2001

The Zhongyong--translated here as Focusing the Familiar--has been regarded as a document of enormous wisdom for more than two millennia and is one of Confucianism's most sacred and seminal texts. It achieved truly canonical preeminence when it became one of the Four Books compiled and annotated by the Southern Song dynasty philosopher Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Within the compass of world literature, the influence of these books (Analects of Confucius, Great Learning, Zhongyong, and Mencius) on the Sinitic world of East Asia has been no less than the Bible and the Qu'ran on Western civilization. With this new translation David Hall and Roger Ames provide a distinctly philosophical interpretation of the Zhongyong, remaining attentive to the semantic and conceptual nuances of the text to account for its central place within classical Chinese literature. They present the text in such a way as to provide Western philosophers and other intellectuals access to a set of interpretations and arguments that offer new insights into issues and concerns common to both Chinese and Western thinkers. In addition to the annotated translation, a glossary of terms gives in concise form important senses of the terms that play a key role in the argument of the Zhongyong. An appendix addresses some of the more technical issues relevant to the understanding of both the history of the text and the history of its English translations. Here the translators introduce readers to the best contemporary textual studies of the Zhongyong and make use of the most recent archaeological discoveries in China to place the work within its own intellectual context.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Focusing the Familiar had its beginnings in a University of Hawai‘i graduate seminar on “Reading Philosophical Texts.” We gladly acknowledge the significant contributions of several exceptional students in that seminar, who have since initiated their own...

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pp. xi-xiii

In the presentation of the Zhongyong that follows, we have attempted to provide a resource for both the scholar of Chinese thought and teachers and students who may be approaching Chinese philosophical texts for the first time. The latter may initially...

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Introduction: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong

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pp. 1-59

The Zhongyong is attributed to Kong Ji  (483–402 BCE), grandson of Confucius (551–479 BCE), born to Confucius’s son Boyu who himself appears in the Analects. Kong Ji is best known by his “style” name, Zisizi  or “Master” Zisi...

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Glossary of Key Terms

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pp. 61-87

We have attempted to provide an explanation of the following key philosophical terms and some justification for our specific translations as a means of making the text more philosophically accessible. We have included some terms...

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Focusing the Familiar: A Translation of the Zhongyong1

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pp. 89-130

What tian2 commands (ming) is called natural tendencies (xing);3 drawing out4 these natural tendencies is called the proper way (dao);5 improving upon6 this way is called education (jiao).7 As for this proper way, we cannot quit it even for...


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pp. 131-153

Bibliography of Works Cited

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pp. 155-159


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pp. 161-165

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About the Authors

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pp. 167

Roger T. Ames is professor of philosophy at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and editor of the journal Philosophy East & West. His recent publications include translations of Chinese classics: Sun-tzu: The Art of...

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862558
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824824785

Publication Year: 2001