'And remember: Heaven's blessing will cease forever if there's despair and poverty in your lands'
The Most Venerable Book (also known as The Book of History) is one of the Five Classics, a key work of Chinese literature which preserves some of the most ancient and dramatic chronicles of the history, both real and mythological, of the Chinese state. For many centuries it was a central work for anyone wishing to work for the Imperial administration, preserving as it does a fascinating mixture of key Confucian concepts as well as page after page of heroes, benevolent rulers, sagacious ministers, and struggles against flood, corruption and vicious, despotic rulers. The First Emperor tried in 213 BC to have all copies of the book destroyed because of its subversive implication that 'the Mandate of Heaven' could be withdrawn from rulers who failed their people. For similar reasons it was also banned by Chairman Mao. Extraordinarily, the values of The Most Venerable Book have been revived by the Chinese government of the 2010s.
The book describes the ways in which a shared Confucian tradition and particular historical experiences of imperialism and war have affected each country's internal dynamics, responses to the outside world, and distinctive political developmental trajectory, especially since World War II.
While the book is structured to facilitate comparisons, it avoids the limitations of most comparative politics texts by focusing less on Western conceptions of state and governance and more on East Asian perspectives of the universe and how it operates. Even the considerations of contemporary policy issues in each country are cast in a wider framework that gives the discussion enduring value.
Named for its purported author, the Xunzi (literally, “Master Xun”) has long been neglected compared to works such as the Analects of Confucius and the Mencius. Yet interest in the Xunzi has grown in recent decades, and the text presents a much more systematic vision of the Confucian ideal than the fragmented sayings of Confucius and Mencius. In one famous, explicit contrast to them, the Xunzi argues that human nature is bad. However, it also allows that people can become good through rituals and institutions established by earlier sages. Indeed, the main purpose of the Xunzi is to urge people to become as good as possible, both for their own sakes and for the sake of peace and order in the world.
In this edition, key terms are consistently translated to aid understanding and line numbers are provided for easy reference. Other features include a concise introduction, a timeline of early Chinese history, a list of important names and terms, cross-references, brief explanatory notes, a bibliography, and an index.