Canon of Supreme Mystery by Yang Hsiung, The: A Translation with Commentary of the T'ai hsuan ching by Michael Nylan

SUNY Press
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Translation of the first grand synthesis of classic Chinese thought.

This is a translation, with a commentary and a long contextualizing introduction, of the only major work of Han (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) philosophy that is still available in complete form. It is the first translation of the work into a European language and provides unique access to this formative period in Chinese history. Because Yang Hsiung’s interpretations drew upon a variety of pre-Han sources and then dominated Confucian learning until the twelfth century, this text is also a valuable resource on early Chinese history, philosophy, and culture beyond the Han period.

The T’ai hsüan is also one of the world’s great philosophic poems comparable in scale and grandeur to Lucretius’ De rerum naturum. Nathan Sivin has written that this is one of the titles on the short list of Chinese books every cultivated person should read.

Han thinkers saw in this text a compelling restatement of Confucian doctrine that addressed the major objections posed by rival schools including Mohism, Taoism, Legalism and Yin-Yang Five Phase Theory. Since this Han amalgam formed the basis for the state ideology of China from 134 B.C. to 1911, an ideology that in turn provided the intellectual foundations for the Japanese and Korean states, the importance of this book can hardly be overestimated. 
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About the author

Michael Nylan is Professor of Modern and Ancient Chinese Studies at Bryn Mawr College.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
680
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ISBN
9781438414850
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The last decades of the Ming dynasty, though plagued by chaos and destruction, saw a significant increase of publications that examined advances in knowledge and technology. Among the numerous guides and reference books that appeared during this period was a series of texts by Song Yingxing (1587–1666?), a minor local official living in southern China. His Tiangong kaiwu, the longest and most prominent of these works, documents the extraction and processing of raw materials and the manufacture of goods essential to everyday life, from yeast and wine to paper and ink to boats, carts, and firearms.


In The Crafting of the 10,000 Things, Dagmar Schäfer probes this fascinating text and the legacy of its author to shed new light on the development of scientific thinking in China, the purpose of technical writing, and its role in and effects on Chinese history. Meticulously unfolding the layers of Song’s personal and cultural life, Schäfer chronicles the factors that motivated Song to transform practical knowledge into written culture. She then examines how Song gained, assessed, and ultimately presented knowledge, and in doing so articulates this era’s approaches to rationality, truth, and belief in the study of nature and culture alike. Finally, Schäfer places Song’s efforts in conjunction with the work of other Chinese philosophers and writers, before, during, and after his time, and argues that these writings demonstrate collectively a uniquely Chinese way of authorizing technology as a legitimate field of scholarly concern and philosophical knowledge.


Offering an overview of a thousand years of scholarship, The Crafting of the 10,000 Things explains the role of technology and crafts in a culture that had an outstandingly successful tradition in this field and was a crucial influence on the technical development of Europe on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.

From the founding of the Qin dynasty in 221 BCE to the present, the Chinese have been preoccupied with the notion of ordering their world. Efforts to create and maintain order are expressed not only in China’s bureaucratic institutions and methods of social and economic organization but also in Chinese philosophy, religious and secular ritual, and comprehensive systems of classifying all natural and supernatural phenomena.

Mapping China and Managing the World focuses on Chinese constructions of order (zhi) and examines the most important ways in which elites in late imperial China sought to order their vast and variegated world. This book begins by exploring the role of ancient texts and maps as the two prominent symbolic devices that the Chinese used to construct cultural meaning, and looks at how changing conceptions of ‘the world’ shaped Chinese cartography, whilst both shifting and enduring cartographic practices affected how the Chinese regarded the wider world. Richard J. Smith goes on to examine the significance of ritual in overcoming disorder, and by focusing on the importance of divination shows how Chinese at all levels of society sought to manage the future, as well as the past and the present. Finally, the book concludes by emphasizing the enduring relevance of the Yijing (Classic of Changes) in Chinese intellectual and cultural life as well as its place in the history of Sino-foreign interactions.

Bringing together a selection of essays by Richard J. Smith, one of the foremost scholars of Chinese intellectual and cultural history, this book will be welcomed by Chinese and East Asian historians, as well as those interested more broadly in the culture of China and East Asia.

For a Chinese immigrant in South-East Asia to make good is not unique, but what is unique in Tan Kah-kee's case is his enormous contribution to employment and economic development in Singapore and Malaya. He was the only Chinese in history to have single-handedly founded a private university in Amoy and financially maintained it for sixteen years. He was the only Hua-ch'iao of his generation to have led the Chinese in South-East Asia to help China to resist the Japanese invasion in a concerted and coordinated manner. Moreover, he was the only Hua-ch'iao leader to have played both Singapore and China politics and affairs in close quarters, rubbing shoulders with British governors, Chinese officials and commanders. Finally, it is important to point out that Tan Kah-kee was the only Hua-ch'iao in his times to have combined his Pang, community and political power and influences for the advancement of community, regional and national goals.This is an in-depth study of not just Tan Kah-kee per se but also the making of a legend through his deeds, self-sacrifices, fortitude and foresight. This revised edition sheds new light on his political agonies in Mao's China over campaigns against capitalists and intellectuals. Moreover, it analyses more comprehensively the varied legacies of Tan Kah-kee, including his successors, the style of his non-partisan political leadership, his educational strategy for nation-building, social change and “the Spirit of Tan Kah-kee”, currently in vogue in his home province, Fukien.
In early China, was it correct for a woman to disobey her father, contradict her husband, or shape the public policy of a son who ruled over a dynasty or state? According to the Lienü zhuan, or Categorized Biographies of Women, it was not only appropriate but necessary for women to step in with wise counsel when fathers, husbands, or rulers strayed from the path of virtue.

Compiled toward the end of the Former Han dynasty (202 BCE-9 CE) by Liu Xiang (79-8 BCE), the Lienü zhuan is the earliest extant book in the Chinese tradition solely devoted to the education of women. Far from providing a unified vision of women's roles, the text promotes a diverse and sometimes contradictory range of practices. At one extreme are exemplars resorting to suicide and self-mutilation as a means to preserve chastity and ritual orthodoxy. At the other are bold and outspoken women whose rhetorical mastery helps correct erring rulers, sons, and husbands. The text provides a fascinating overview of the representation of women's roles in early legends, formal speeches on statecraft, and highly fictionalized historical accounts during this foundational period of Chinese history.

Over time, the biographies of women became a regular feature of dynastic and local histories and a vehicle for expressing and transmitting concerns about women's social, political, and domestic roles. The Lienü zhuan is also rich in information about the daily life, rituals, and domestic concerns of early China. Inspired by its accounts, artists across the millennia have depicted its stories on screens, paintings, lacquer ware, murals, and stone relief sculpture, extending its reach to literate and illiterate audiences alike.

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