- Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, and: Classic Asian Philosophy: A Guide to the Essential Texts
Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, an anthology edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan Van Norden, contains introductions to and translations of seven important Chinese philosophical works from the sixth to the end of the third centuries B.C.E. The figures included are Kongzi (the Analects), Mozi, Mengzi, Laozi (the Daodejing), Zhuangzi, Xunzi, and Han Feizi. Each selection is about fifty pages in length, including the introductory remarks, which are typically very concise. The translation is followed by a short and briefly annotated bibliography that is divided into two parts: other translations and secondary works. The volume was originally published in 2001 by Seven Bridges Press, but it is now reprinted by Hackett Publishing.
A usual worry one has when using an anthology of translations in which works are not rendered in their entirety is that principal passages might be omitted. It cannot always be the case that one's favorite passages will make it into a condensation of a work, but one does expect to find the major component passages available to the reader. With regard to this collection, I must say that while there can be no guarantee that these translators have included everything that everyone will think is important, nonetheless, as I will try to show in what follows, the selections are very well chosen and ably translated.
The first selection is taken from the Analects. Edward Slingerland is the translator. Subsequent to his work in this readings collection, Slingerland has recently published an entire translation of the Analects including a robust collection of the commentarial tradition on that work. What few differences I have been able to notice between this version and the publication of the entire translation seem to be inconsequential. In this readings collection, all twenty chapters of the Analects are represented. [End Page 687] Chapter 4, widely regarded as the centerpiece of sayings reliably traceable to Kongzi himself, is translated in its entirety.
Slingerland uses several conventions for dealing with the concepts regarded as fundamental to a Confucian lexicon. For example, he leaves ren untranslated. And a few scholars will be troubled by his decision to translate junzi as "gentleman." As an aid to the reader, he often uses pinyin and gives the Chinese character for other strategic terms, but he does not allow the translation to be cluttered with too many characters. He seems to stay always consistent with the overall intention of the editors of the collection to use characters only as an aid to the beginning student and nonspecialist. What one needs to introduce key Confucian concepts and Kongzi's way of dealing with his students is available here.
Philip J. Ivanhoe's translation of Mozi follows next. What struck me in the beginning was Ivanhoe's fine introductory essay on Master Mo, and I think it will be of benefit to students and nonspecialists alike. This is especially true if one is considering this anthology for a first course in Chinese philosophy or comparative philosophy. Some scholars will think that Ivanhoe's translation of jian ai as "impartial care" instead of "universal love" is not adequately explained in the introductory remarks and even somewhat problematic. But this could provide a point of conversation in the study of the text.
Ivanhoe bases his translation on his own selections from the various versions available of the central chapters of the Mozi but the result is relatively uncontroversial. He includes the important eighth and eleventh chapters, concerned with worthy ministers, and chapter 16 on jian ai. The inclusion of Mozi's remarks on funerals, ghosts, and spirits demonstrates Ivanhoe's claim that Mozi is the first philosopher of China to exhibit a sustained interest in argumentation and debate. These sections should be read carefully, not only for what they tell...