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Reviewed by:
  • Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective, and: Waiting for the Dawn: A Plan for the Prince: Huang Tsung-hsi's Ming-i-tai-fang lu
  • Franklin J. Woo (bio)
Wm. Theodore de Bary . Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998. 196 pp. Hardcover $27.95, ISBN 0-674-04955-1.
Wm. Theodore de Bary . Waiting for the Dawn: A Plan for the Prince: Huang Tsung Hsi's Ming-i-tai-fang lu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. xiv, 333 pp. Paperback $20.50, ISBN 0-231-08096-4.

This review is a follow-up to a previous review, in the Spring 1999 issue of China Review International (pp. 85-89), of Confucianism and Human Rights (the proceedings of an international conference), edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Tu Weiming (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998). In the two volumes discussed here can be seen more fully Professor de Bary's views on Confucian communitarian values as the basis for human rights, a pressing contemporary issue of our time. This issue is fundamental to all societies. With the demise of Eastern Europe (1990) and the USSR (1991), Western societies have lost the external Communist challenge and are directing more of their attention to addressing the dissonance between their democratic ideals and the practical realities in assuring the rights of all their members.1

One of the best ways to get into the hearts and thoughts of eminent scholars is to study their public lectures,2 where they have had to introduce their work in succinct formulation under the enormous constraints of time and necessary [End Page 429] economy of words. This can be seen in Wm. Theodore de Bary's Ch'ien Mu Lectures ("The Liberal Tradition in China") given at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1982; his Edwin O. Reischauer Lectureship ("East Asian Civilizations: A Dialogue in Five Stages"), which he inaugurated at Harvard University in 1986 ; and his Tanner Lectures on Human Values ("The Trouble with Confucianism") given at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1988. Asian Values and Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective is based on his Wing-tsit Chan Memorial Lectures at the University of Hawai'i, which de Bary also inaugurated in January 1997.

In all four of the lecture series above, Huang Tsung-hsi (1610-1695), the Neo Confucian scholar whose life spanned three and a half decades of the Ming dynasty and five of the Ch'ing, is central to de Bary's thought. Huang Tsung-hsi occupies a prominent and pivotal position in the structure of de Bary's arguments. The exception is in "East Asian Civilization," where Huang's name was mentioned only in passing. Although central to de Bary's thought, Neo-Confucianism is seen in this broad survey as only the third, but nonetheless important, stage of the revitalization of the Confucian tradition, beginning in the Sung period, of the five stages in the East Asian dialogue.

More than half a century ago, de Bary began his East Asian academic career with the translation and study of Huang Tsung-hsi's Ming-i-tai-fang lu, which he renders in English as "Waiting for the Dawn: A Plan for the Prince." The "Ming-i" is the thirty-sixth hexagram in the I-Ching, with the theme of patience and forbearance ("In great darkness, remain true. Dawn will come again"). Part of the "trouble" with Confucianism is that it did not provide any viable intermediate social mechanism for the people in family and clan to interact with the Confucian state, as well as the constitutional and infrastructural protection of good people from the unmitigated power of the emperor. Not so in the Ming-i-tai-fang lu, where, besides waiting for the dawn, Huang Tsung-hsi provides a concrete plan to remedy the ruthless and despotic rule of the Ming, under which many scholars were persecuted and perished, including his own father.

In this volume is de Bary's eighty-five-page introduction to and translation of the Ming-i-tai-fang lu—a focus of this review, which I hope will shed light...


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