In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Libraries & Culture 37.4 (2002) 402-403

[Access article in PDF]
Ways with Words: Writing about Reading Texts from Early China. Edited by Pauline Yu, Peter Bol, Stephen Owen, and Willard Peterson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. ix, 283 pp. $19.95 (paper). ISBN 0-520-22466-3.

Reading is an essential art of the humanities; however, it is not always easy work for students and scholars. In general, for the modern Western readers, the ancient Chinese reading texts are very difficult to understand, and those in philosophy and religion are extremely difficult. This Book, Ways with Words: Writing about Reading Texts from Early China, supported by the Joint Committee on Chinese Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, is the twenty-fourth volume of the series of conference volumes of studies on China sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies. It is not only a crystallization of the collective wisdom of twelve well-known scholars from different disciplines but also a gatewayto understanding the reading of texts in the Chinese humanities and the ancient Chinese culture.

The purposes of this volume are to encourage the reading and discussion of particular texts from disparate cultural traditions as a core experience in humanistic education; to challenge the presumption of a monolithic China that is all too often promoted by scholarship and popular culture alike in both China and the West; and to show that a return to the particular texts that have constituted a cultural tradition can both illuminate the working of that historical process and sharpen our understanding of interpretive practices that are all too easily taken for granted. [End Page 402]

To address these three purposes, Ways with Words presents interpretive essays on seven core premodern classic Chinese texts elaborately drawn from literature, philosophy, religion, and art history, including a poem from the Classics of Poetry compiled in the sixth century B.C.E.; passages from Mencius and Zhuangzi; the Heart Sutra; a poem by Du Fu and the Biography of Yingying by Yuan Zhen, both written during the Tang dynasty; and Notes on the Method for the Brush, a tenth-century text attributed to Jing Hao. Of those texts, four might be called monuments: "Seeing Things as Equal" from Zhuangzi; Du Fu's "Going from the Capital to Fengxian," from his "Meditation on History in One Hundred Rhymes"; "Mencius 2A.2"; and the Heart Sutra. Both the original Chinese versions and translations are provided for each primary text. There are at least two interpretive essays on each work, when possible from scholars in different fields. A "Perspective" is provided on each set of readings as well. Importantly, the "Introduction: Reading Texts in the Chinese Humanities," as the first part of this volume, is a very useful guide for readers. Without a doubt, these arrangements in logical order not only help readers to better understand these reading texts in an orderly way and step by step but also make the volume very attractive.

In a word, this book as a whole demonstrates the various ways in which modern Western readers can confront the impressive variety of texts from the classical Chinese tradition and is essential to students and scholars in the field of Chinese studies and even to general readers who are interested in Chinese culture as well.


Cheng Huanwen
Zhongshan University, Guangzhou, China



Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 402-403
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.