While addressing complementary roles of Chinese schools of thought in which ideal personality is grounded, Guo identifies five characteristics of an ideal political leader, traces their evolution, and then analyzes these characteristics as they influence ideal personality of political leaders. As modeled by a paragon of combining the Confucian noble man, the Daoist sage or authentic person, and the Legalist enlightened leader, Chinese political leaders pursue humaneness, ritualism, moralism, and follow naturalism in order to seek political survival and advancement against the radical development of Confucian political zealousness. He emphasizes the philosophical and historical conditions that facilitate the production of agency in an effort to understand how the legacy continues. A provocative analysis that will be of interest to scholars, researchers, and policy makers involved with Chinese politics, history, and philosophy.
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.