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Reviews 181 John S. Major. Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought: Chapters Three, Four and Five ofthe Huainanzi. Appendix by Christopher Cullen. Albany: State University ofNew York Press, 1993. xvi, 388 pp. Hardcover $74.50. Paperback $24.95. With the publication of John Major's Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought: Chapters Three, Four and Five ofthe Huainanzi and the anticipated publication of his Essays on theHuainanzi and Other Topics in Early Chinese Intellectual History,1 the scholarly world will finally have ready access to arguably the most important single corpus of seminal texts on the subject of early Chinese cosmology. The greatest value ofthese two books lies in John Major's ability to explain the intricacies of early Chinese cosmology. As the achievement of twenty years of scholarly effort, these works will become welcome sourcebooks for students of early Chinese astronomy, astrology, cosmogony, cosmography, and mythology. What began as a doctoral dissertation on chapter 4 of the Huainanzi at Harvard in 1973 has grown into an annotated translation ofthree chapters—chapter 3, "Tianwenxun " (Treatise on the patterns of Heaven); chapter 4, "Dixingxun" (Treatise on topography); and chapter 5, "Shizexun" (Treatise on the seasonal rules). From a paper on the origins of Chinese science delivered in Tokyo in 1974, diis work has grown into a book ofthirteen essays on the cosmology of the Huainanzi and related subjects. For two productive decades, John Major has played a significant role in the movement to resurrect an obscure text and place it in its rightful position as a seminal text of early Chinese thought. The three chapters translated from the Huainanzi are, according to Major, "a contemporary summary of the cosmological theories of the Huang-Lao School in the early Han" (p. 8). Because ofthe extreme difficulty of these chapters, yet also perhaps because of a certain indifference on the part of scholars, this work of Liu An and his entourage has never received the attention that should have been given to a work that Harold Rodi has called "the principal representative of Huang-Lao philosophy in the Han."2 With the recent resurgence of interest in Huang-Lao thought, engendered mainly by the discovery at Mawangdui ofwhat is purported to be the lost Huangdi sijing (Four scriptures ofthe Yellow Emperor ), Major's work will not only add an important chapter to such studies, but will also help considerably in defining die direction offuture work in this area. One of the most important (and probably most controversial) contributions y niversity ^J0J1n Major's works to me nei¿ 0feariy Chinese studies is his conviction diat the cosmology described in chapters 3-5 of the Huainanzi is not merely one element ofHuang-Lao thought, but actually the defining character ofthe "Huang" portion of that thought as it existed in the early Han dynasty. Ofcourse, Major is ofHawai'i Press 182 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 not the first scholar to point out the importance of cosmology in Huang-Lao Daoism. In 1979, Tu Wei-ming distilled four "fully integrated philosophical concepts " from the Mawangdui Huang-Lao texts, die first ofwhich was "a cosmological vision of the Way."3 And a decade ago, Jan Yun-hua noted "die stress on cosmology and its relation to man and his problems" in the Mawangdui HuangLao text, die Shiliujing.* But in his detailed study ofthe Yellow Emperor in Essays on the Huainanzi ("Huang-Lao and Huangdi"), Major notes that "in later studies of Huang-Lao in the West, there has been a tendency to downplay die cosmological aspects of Huangdi." A. C. Graham added to this growing deemphasis when he concluded that "the name of the Yellow Emperor, the inventor of the state and ofwar, may well have been chosen to represent the Legalist side of Huang-Lao."5 R. P. Peerenboom offers essentially the same reasoning.6 Major is adamant in his attempt to reverse this trend. In an estimation ofhis own work he says: In Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought I take a quite different view of these matters. In it I put forth arguments to show that the Huainanzi is a, perhaps the, exemplary Huang-Lao text; that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 181-185
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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