- A Reader’s Companion to the Confucian Analects by Henry Rosemont, Jr, and: Confucius: A Guide for the Perplexed by Yong Huang
I will begin with Henry Rosemont’s useful volume A Reader’s Companion to the Confucian Analects. This is a fine introduction to the text and its issues, within a manageable length, and has much to recommend it. It is aimed at situating readers who have no experience with Chinese texts and enabling them to understand the unique style, concepts, and central issues of the Analects.
The first five chapters concern general issues, such as the identity of the Confucian school, the character of the Analects as a text and its language, and a consideration of the peculiarities of the Chinese language and concepts (as distinct from English). Each of these chapters is very short—around three to six pages—but Rosemont manages to offer some useful information in each for the beginner to the Analects and to Chinese philosophical texts in general. Chapters 6 through 12 deal with particular issues in the Analects, including most of the important ones: knowledge, roles, filial piety, and ritual. One interesting feature of this overview that one does not always find in works of its kind is a chapter dealing with the students of Confucius. This is an interesting little chapter, and Rosemont explains that an understanding of the Analects requires an understanding of the students, their characteristics, and the different ways Confucius interacts with them on the basis of these characteristics. While this is a welcome addition, I wish Rosemont had also stressed the issue of the “corporate” nature of the Analects here. The appearance of different students in the Analects does not always signal the significance of a particular point of view from the perspective of some overarching unified author of the text, but rather it often signals the teachings of different Confucian schools or individuals, affiliated with particular students. Even if the Analects can be read profitably as a unified whole, there is little question that it is a compilation that is the work of many hands, with just as many different views and interests. This point is not stressed enough among philosophers, and the chapter on Confucius’ students would have been a natural place to do this.
One section of the book that will be useful to beginners and experts alike (I have personally been using the text in this capacity) is the section of appendices, particularly Appendix II, a “Concordance of Key Philosophical Terms,” and Appendix III, a “Student Finding List.” In the latter, Rosemont offers an index of passages connected to individual students of Confucius, which is tremendously useful. I only wish this had gone even further, to include other important characters who appear in the Analects [End Page 360] and whom one might have reason to investigate, such as Confucius’ son Boyu, or such characters as Nanzi and Duke Jing of Qi, for example.
My main criticism of the volume is actually not a criticism of the contents themselves, which I think are excellent and very useful not only for students but also for scholars of the Analects. Rather, I wonder why this volume was published as a stand-alone volume. It is clearly a companion to the Ames and Rosemont translation of the Analects specifically, following that translation throughout. This volume has the feel of an expanded introduction, and would have served best, I think, as the introduction to a new edition of the Ames and Rosemont translation of the Analects. Such an updated edition would be welcomed, certainly by me and I suspect by plenty of other scholars. Given that the volume is only seventy-five pages, including all four appendices, and requires access to the Ames and Rosemont translation, I think its value would have been much greater as an addition to that translation...