The center of this prodigious work of scholarship is a fresh examination of the range of Chinese thought during the formative period of Chinese culture. Benjamin Schwartz looks at the surviving texts of this period with a particular focus on the range of diversity to be found in them. While emphasizing the problematic and complex nature of this thought he also considers views which stress the unity of Chinese culture.
Attention is accorded to pre-Confucian texts; the evolution of early Confucianism; Mo-Tzu; the “Taoists,”; the legalists; the Ying-Yang school; and the “five classics”; as well as to intellectual issues which cut across the conventional classification of schools. The main focus is on the high cultural texts, but Mr. Schwartz also explores the question of the relationship of these texts to the vast realm of popular culture.
The book is a lucid, accurate, agreeably written and comprehensive survey, based on a long familiarity with the whole of the literature of Chinese schools of thought down to the second century BC, and its great strength is its range of comparisons with other traditions. Chinese thought has never before been contemplated with quite this breadth of vision… Schwartz’s book deserves to stand for some time to come as the most authoritative account of ancient Chinese thought for the Westerner interested in the history of ideas.
With this immensely learned book, Mr. Schwartz has challenged those who reflect only on Western historical experience or ‘primitive’ societies to take the world of thought in ancient China into account… The great contribution of this book is to engage ancient Chinese thought in a dialogue with late 20th-century intellectual, moral and political concerns.
[This book] is a fascinating, readable, and even inspiring study of Confucius and the great sages who followed him… A powerful exposition of the great ancient Chinese thinkers… Schwartz’s vigilance to the particular fragile core of meaning embedded in the ancient texts makes him an acute commentator… Reading this book will keep the reader from simply appropriating ‘China’—or the media’s image of it—into his own scheme of values.
[Schwartz’s] arguments are impressive, both in breadth and depth. From a lifetime of learning he offers insights into ancient Chinese ideas and Greek, modern European, and contemporary American thought as well… This work is essential reading for every scholar of intellectual history.
- 514 pages
- 1-3/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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