Essential Readings on Chinese Philosophy
Compiled by Bryan W. Van Norden
(version of August 5, 2015)
This list represents one opinion on the essential translations and secondary readings in English on Chinese philosophy. This is not a comprehensive list, and it focuses on works that will appeal to those with interest in philosophy. Obviously, such a list is, of necessity, parochial and biased in certain ways. I apologize in advance for offending anyone by leaving out their favorite books or articles. Feel free to email me with comments or suggestions about this bibliography. My username is “brvannorden” at host vassar dot edu.
Table of Contents
- General Histories
- General Anthologies
- Daoism (Taoism)
- I Ching (Changes)
- Han Dynasty
- Thematic Studies
- Online Resources
1. General Histories
- Angus C. Graham, Disputers of the Tao (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1989). ISBN: 0812690885. One of the best general histories of ancient Chinese philosophy so far. Much of this book is culled from Graham’s earlier articles. Graham is not as strong as Schwartz (see below) on Confucianism, but his discussion of Later Mohism and the “School of Names” is better than Schwartz’s. You can order this book
- Benjamin Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 1985). ISBN: 0674961919. One of the best general histories of ancient Chinese philosophy so far. Schwartz is not as strong as Graham (see above) on Later Mohism and the “School of Names,” but his discussion of Confucianism is better than Graham’s. You can order this book
- Bryan W. Van Norden, Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2011). A general history of ancient Chinese philosophy. Chapters are brief and designed to be accessible to undergraduates or general readers. You can order this book
2. General Anthologies [ToC]
- Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden, eds., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, 2nd (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2005). Want to order this book?
- Justin Tiwald and Bryan W. Van Norden, eds., Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to the 20th Century (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2014). Want to order this book?
3. Confucianism [ToC]
i. Analects of Confucius
- Edward Slingerland, trans., Confucius: Analects: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2003). In my opinion, this is the best English translation of the Among its advantages is that it includes commentary on each passage, which gives English readers an experience more faithful to that of generations of Chinese readers. There are also several very useful appendices. For those who prefer a different format, Slingerland has also published The Essential Analects, a partial translation with the commentary grouped at the end of the text. Want to order this book?
- Bruce and A. Taeko Brooks, The Original Analects: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 342 pp. ISBN: 0-231-10430-8. This translation includes extensive notes and commentary. The Brookses present their controversial theory of how to sort the “books” and “chapters” of the Analects according to the historical order in which they were composed. Want to order this book?
- C. Lau, Confucius: The Analects (New York: Penguin Books, 1979), 249 pp. ISBN: 0140443487. Very good translation with interpretive introduction and scholarly appendices on various topics. Want to order this book?
- James Legge, Confucian Analects, The Great Learning, and The Doctrine of the Mean (New York: Dover Books, 1971; o.p. 1893), 503 pp. Translation of the Analects along with two other important Confucian texts. A little dated, but still worth consulting. Includes Chinese text and, as Legge himself observes, “Critical and Exegetical Notes, Prolegomena, Copious Indexes, and Dictionary of All Characters.” Want to order this book?
- Simon Leyes, trans., and Michael Nylan, ed., The Analects (W.W. Norton and Company, 2014). Like other works in the “Norton Critical Editions” series, this includes a translation of the primary text, along with selected secondary essays. Want to order this book?
- Arthur Waley, The Analects of Confucius (New York: Vintage Books, 1989; o.p. 1938), 257 pp. Very good translation with interpretive introduction and scholarly appendices on various topics. (Different, in defensible ways, from Lau’s translation.) Want to order this book?
ii. Mencius (Mengzi)
Although he is less well-known in the West than Confucius, the fourth-century B.C. philosopher Mencius has had an immense influence on Chinese (as well as Korean and Japanese) culture. Indeed, one could argue that his influence on China alone is equivalent to the combined influence of Plato and St. Paul on Western civilization. In addition, Mencius is more systematic and “philosophical” than Confucius.
- C. Lau, Mencius (New York: Penguin Books, 1970). Very good translation with interpretive introduction and scholarly appendices on various topics. See especially “On Mencius’ Use of the Method of Analogy in Argument,” Appendix 5, pp. 235-263. Want to order this book?
- James Legge, Mencius (New York: Dover Books, 1970; o.p. 1895). A little dated, but still worth consulting. Includes Chinese text, indexes and critical notes. Want to order this book?
- Bryan W. Van Norden et al., “Comments and Corrections to D.C. Lau’s Mencius.”
- Bryan W. Van Norden, trans., The Essential Mengzi (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2007). Partial translation with commentary on selected passages at the end of the volume. Want to order this book?
- Bryan W. Van Norden, trans., Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2005). A translation with interlineal commentary. Want to order this book?
See also Nivison, “On Translating Mencius”, in his The Ways of Confucianism.
iii. Xunzi (Hsün-tzu)
- Eric Hutton, trans., Xunzi: The Complete Text (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). This is the best English translation of the complete writings of Xunzi, one of the most philosophically sophisticated ancient Confucian thinkers. The translation is elegant, accessible, and accurate. In addition to being an important work of high-level scholarship, Hutton’s translation will be invaluable for non-specialists with an interest in Chinese thought, ranging from advanced undergraduates and graduate students, to scholars in Chinese language and literature, history, philosophy, religious studies, and other disciplines. Hutton’s work is more comprehensive and more philosophically precise than Watson’s translation, but much more readable than Knoblock’s version. Hutton makes some innovative editorial choices in this translation, such as rendering the poetry Xunzi cites into rhyming verse in English. Not everyone will agree with this decision, but I find that it makes the poetry much easier to read and appreciate. I also concur with Hutton’s decision to add line numbers to chapters. Those of us who encourage our students to use the technique of “close reading” will particularly appreciate this. Want to order this book?
- John Knoblock, trans., Xunzi, reprint (Hunan Publishing House, 1999), 2 vols. The Chinese and English texts. Want to order this book?
- John Knoblock, Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988, 1990, 1994), 3 vols. A complete translation with extensive introductory material (which is better on textual and narrowly historical matters than philosophy). Want to order volume 1 of this book?
- Burton Watson, Hsün-tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 177 pp. Fairly good translation of selected passages.
- Ian Johnston and Wang Ping, trans., Daxue and Zhongyong (Chinese University Press, 2012). Chinese text and English translation of the original text of the Great Learning and the Mean, along with two sets of commentaries. You can read a review of this book here. Want to order this book?
B. Secondary Discussions of Confucianism [ToC]
- Herrlee G. Creel, Confucius and the Chinese Way, reprint (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960; o.p. Confucius: The Man and the Myth, 1949). Perhaps the best general study of Confucius in English, this is a thoughtful discussion of his life, his era, and the contemporary relevance of his thought. Any book this old (the original version was published in the 40’s, I think) is a little out of date. And Creel sometimes succumbs to the temptation to read Confucius as a proto-Deweyan pragmatist-democrat. However, Creel was one of the great Sinologists of the 20th century, and even when one disagrees with his conclusions, he notes his sources and explains why he accepts or rejects them. In my opinion, Creel provides many insights into the teachings of “the Master,” and gives an engaging (if speculative) portrait of his life. Want to order this book used or order a reprint of the original edition?
- Ken Brashier uploaded and translated “The Evil Life of Confucius,” a Cultural Revolution era propaganda poster.
- Erin Cline, Confucius, Rawls, and the Sense of Justice (Fordham University Press, 2012). Want to order this book?
- Herbert Fingarette, Confucius: The Secular as Sacred (New York: Harper & Row, 1972). Controversial, but several chapters are very insightful. A good critique of some of Fingarette’s less plausible claims may be found in Schwartz. Want to order this book?
- David Jones, ed., Confucius Now: Contemporary Encounters with the Analects (Chicago: Open Court, 2008). Want to order this book?
- Michael Nylan and Thomas Wilson, The Lives of Confucius: Civilization’s Greatest Sage through the Ages (Crown Archetype, 2010). Want to order this book?
- Amy Olberding, ed., Dao Companion to the Analects (Springer, 2013). You can read a review of this book here. Want to order this book?
- The UNESCO World Heritage site about the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius in Qufu includes videos and other useful information.
- W. Van Norden, ed., Confucius and the Analects: New Essays (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). Want to order this book?
ii. Mencius (Mengzi)
- Kwong-loi Shun, Mencius and Early Chinese Thought (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 295 pp. ISBN: 0804727880. Everyone in the West has heard of Confucius. But in East Asia, Mencius is known as the “second sage” of Confucianism, and has been almost as influential. This book is a serious scholarly study of Mencius as a philosopher. Shun (a professor in the Philosophy Department at U.C. Berkeley) carefully argues for his interpretations of key terms and claims in the sayings of Mencius, always considering the intellectual context in which Mencius thought and lived. Shun has well-defended positions regarding Mencius’s views on the key virtues (benevolence, righteousness, wisdom and propriety), and the relationships among the human heart-mind, human nature, and ethical cultivation. This is a real tour de force as a work of scholarship. Want to order this book?
- Alan K-L Chan, ed., Mencius: Contexts and Interpretations (University of Hawaii Press, 2002). You can read a review of this book. Want to order this book?
- Angus C. Graham, “The Background of the Mencian Theory of Human Nature,” in his Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990). Want to order this book?
- Philip J. Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition: The Thought of Mengzi and Wang Yangming (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2002). How Mencius was (mis)understood by one leading Neo-Confucian. A good introduction to the thought of both Mencius and Wang Yang-ming, with chapters contrasting their views on “The Nature of Morality,” “Human Nature,” “The Origin of Evil,” “Self-cultivation,” and “Sagehood.” Want to order this book?
- Xiusheng Liu and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Essays on the Moral Philosophy of Mengzi (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2002). Excellent collection of secondary essays! See especially the contributions by Hutton, Ivanhoe, and Wang. Want to order this book?
- Lee H. Yearley, Mencius and Aquinas: Theories of Virtue and Conceptions of Courage (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990). Want to order this book?
- Bryan W. Van Norden, “Mencius,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/mencius/ .
iii. Hsun Tzu (Xunzi)
- Paul Rakita Goldin, Rituals of the Way: The Philosophy of Xunzi (Chicago: Open Court, 1999). ISBN: 0-8126-9400-7. Intriguing secondary study on Xunzi, and also one of the best books on early Chinese philosophy to come out in recent years. Want to order this book?
- Thornton Kline and Justin Tiwald, eds., Ritual and Religion in the Xunzi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014). Want to order this book?
- Thornton Kline and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Virtue, Nature, and Moral Agency in the Xunzi (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2000). Want to order this book?
- Edward J. Machle, Nature and Heaven in the Xunzi (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993). A very detailed (and very good) textual study of the “Essay on Heaven” by Xunzi (Hsun Tzu). Want to order this book?
- Broader Studies of Confucianism
- Philip J. Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation, reprint (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2000). I am aware of no other work in English that introduces such a broad range of figures from the Confucian tradition with such depth and accuracy. This is one of those rare works that provides an accessible introduction to the novice, yet challenges the specialist scholar. As Ivanhoe observes, Confucius mentions both study (xue) and reflection (si) as methods of self-cultivation. This introduces a tension within Confucianism, never definitively resolved, between learning from texts and teachers vs. reflecting upon one’s own innate moral sense. Ivanhoe traces how this tension plays out in a variety of later Confucian philosophers, including the seminal figures Mengzi, Xunzi, Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming, and Dai Zhen. Want to order this book?
- Daniel K. Gardner, Confucianism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). Want to order this book?
- C. Lau, “Theories of Human Nature in Mencius and Shyuntzyy,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 15:3 (1953), pp. 541-565. An excellent and often overlooked comparative study of Mencius and Hsun Tzu.
- Donald Munro, The Concept of Man in Early China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969). A theoretical overview, stressing the differences between early Chinese and Western thought. Focuses on Confucians and Daoists. Want to order this book?
- ——, The Ways of Confucianism: Investigations in Chinese Philosophy, ed. Bryan W. Van Norden (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1996). Nivison’s collected papers on Chinese philosophy, mostly on Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism. Some essays are good for undergraduates or beginners (including “Weakness of Will in Ancient Chinese Philosophy” and “The Philosophy of Wang Yangming”) while others are fairly heavy going. Want to order this book?
- W. Van Norden, “Mengzi and Xunzi: Two Views of Human Agency,” International Philosophical Quarterly 32:2 (June 1992), pp. 161-184. Overview of the philosophies of Mencius (Mengzi) and Hsun Tzu (Xunzi), focusing on their views of the role of desire in self-cultivation.
- Lee H. Yearley, Mencius and Aquinas (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990). A brilliant comparative study. Want to order this book?
4. Daoism (Taoism) [ToC]
- Translations of Daoist Texts
- Livia Kohn, The Taoist Experience: An Anthology (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993). ISBN: 0791415805. Readings from “Taoist” texts from a variety of periods and orientations. Want to order this book?
- Daodejing (Tao Te Ching)
The Dao De Jing is one of the two foundational texts of Daoism, and one of the most frequently translated texts in the world, but unfortunately most of the translations are quite unreliable. Following are a few of the good translations.
- Richard John Lynn, trans., The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-te Ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004). Although it is a challenging read, this is the best introduction to the Daodejing overall because it provides the classic commentary on the text by Wang Bi. If you only read Lynn’s translation of Wang Bi’s “Outline Introduction to the Laozi” section, you will learn a lot. Want to order this book?
The standard text of the Dao de jing for many years was the so-called “Wang Bi” text, so most translations are based on that text. However, an earlier (and slightly different) version of the text was found at a placed called “Mawangdui,” so many recent translations are based on this older (but more recently discovered) version.
Wang Bi (Wang Pi) Version
- Philip J. Ivanhoe, The Daodejing of Laozi (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2003). Want to order this book?
- C. Lau, Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching (New York: Penguin Books, 1963), 192 pp. Very good translation with interpretive introduction, scholarly appendices, and some textual notes.
Mawangdui (Ma-wang-tui) Version
- Robert G. Henricks, Lao-tzu: Te-Tao Ching (New York: Ballantine Books, 1989), 282 pp. ISBN: 0345370996. Very good, scholarly translation with many notes. (Perhaps a little too scholarly for undergraduates — they may be scared off.) Provides Chinese text of the Mawangdui manuscript only. (This is somewhat unfortunate, as the Mawangdui manuscipts are incomplete and must be supplemented with the Wang Bi text to be readable.) Want to order this book?
- C. Lau, Lao-tzu: Tao Te Ching (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Everyman’s Library, 1994). ISBN: 0679433163. Updated translation, based on the Mawangdui texts. Omits Lau’s (interesting) original introduction, but retains the appendices. The version of this translation published in Hong Kong (not legal for sale in the U.S. because of copyright problems) includes both the old and the new translation, along with the Chinese text. Want to order this book?
- Victor Mair, Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way (New York: Bantam Books, 1990). ISBN: 055334935X. Very good translation, although some of the notes and other supporting material is rather controversial. Want to order this book?
iii. Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu)
Although less well-known in the West than the Dao De Jing , the eponymous Zhuangzi is a beautitul classic of world literature and a truly great work of “anti-rationalist” philosophy. (I actually find it much more beautiful and interesting than the Dao De Jing.) The complete Zhuangzi is a fairly long work, but scholars now agree that most of it cannot be attributed to the philosopher Zhuangzi, a contemporary of Mencius (see above) who lived around 300 B.C. However, the first seven sections of the text, the “Inner Chapters,” are believed by many (although not all) scholars to be by one hand.
- Burton Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 148 pp. ISBN: 0-231-10595-9 This is the most readable translation for the general reader of the Inner (first seven) Chapters, along with several other sections. Trust me: you will love reading this! Want to order this book?
- C. Graham, trans., Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters, reprint (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2001; o.p. 1981), 292 pp. Very good translation of the Inner (first seven) Chapters, with some material from other chapters too, although Graham is fond of re-arranging the text (believing it to be out of order). Introductory discussion also very good. Unfortunately, this book is out of print.
- Victor Mair, Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1998; o.p. New York: Bantam Books, 1994), 402 pp. ISBN: 082482038X. A very good, new, complete translation of the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu). Somewhat less “literary” a translation than Watson’s. The introduction, which gives a brief survey of early Chinese philosophy, is not bad either. Want to order this book?
- ——, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), 397 pp. Very good complete translation.
- Brook Ziporyn, trans., Zhuangzi: Essential Writings: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009). You can read a review of this book here. Want to order this book?
B. Secondary Discussions of Daoism [ToC]
- Alan K.L. Chan, Two Visions of the Way: A Study of the Wang Pi and the Ho-shang Kung Commentaries on the Lao-Tzu (SUNY Press, 1991). ISBN: 0-7914-0456-0. Want to order this book?
- Scott Cook, ed., Hiding the World in the World: Uneven Discourses on the Zhuangzi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003). Read a review of this book. Want to order this book?
- Herrlee G. Creel, What Is Taoism? And Other Studies in Chinese Cultural History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970). ISBN: 0-226-12047-3.
- Mark Csikszentmihalyi and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Religious and Philosophical Aspects of the Laozi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999). Excellent anthology focusing on philosophical issues. Want to order this book?
- Paul Kjellberg and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Essays on Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1996), 240 pp. Excellent collection of articles, plus a comprehensive bibliography. Want to order this book?
- Livia Kohn and Michael LaFargue, eds., Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998). A good collection focusing more on historical and textual issues. Want to order this book?
- Livia Kohn, Sitting in Oblivion: The Heart of Daoist Meditation (Three Pines Press, 2010). Want to order this book?
- Victor Mair, ed., Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983), 171 pp. See especially the articles by A.C. Graham, Victor Mair, and Lee Yearley.
- Ariane Rump and Wing-tsit Chan, trans., Commentary on the Lao Tzu by Wang Pi (University of Hawaii Press, 1979). ISBN: 0-8248-0677-8. A translation of one of the classic commentaries on the Dao de jing. Want to order this book?
- Rudolf G. Wagner, The Craft of a Chinese Commentator: Wang Bi on the Laozi (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999. ISBN: 0-7914-4396-5. Want to order this book?
5. Mohism [ToC]
- C. Graham, Later Mohist Logic, Ethics, and Science, reprint (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 2003), 590 pp. Scholary and technical, but a landmark study of the Mohist “dialectical chapters.” to order this book?
- Ian Johnston, trans., The Book of Master Mo (New York: Penguin Books, 2014). Want to order this book?
- Scott Lowe, Mo Tzu’s Religious Blueprint for a Chinese Utopia (Lewiston, UK: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), 200 pp. A good summary of the core chapters of the
- Yi-pao Mei, The Ethical and Political Works of Motse (Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1973; o.p. 1929) 275 pp. Translation of a number of passages, including many not included in Watson.
- Burton Watson, Mo Tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 140 pp. Translations of selections from the “synoptic chapters.” Want to order this book?
6. The I Ching (The Changes) [ToC]
- Cary F. Baynes and Hellmut Wilhelm, trans., The I Ching (Princeton University Press, 1992). ISBN: 069109750X. One of the best translations based on the traditional version of the text. This translation includes an interesting Foreward by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Want to order this book?
- James Legge, trans., The I Ching, 2nd ed. (New York: Dover Books, 1975). ISBN: 0486210626. One of the best translations based on the traditional version of the text. (Legge’s translation is available in several editions from several publishers; however, Dover Books are reasonably priced and well bound.) Want to order this book?
- Richard John Lynn, trans., The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004). Want to order this book?
- John Minford, trans., I Ching: The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Oracle and Book of Wisdom (New York: Penguin Books, 2014). Want to order this book?
- Edward Shaughnessy, trans., The I Ching (Ballantine Books, 1998). ISBN: 0345421124. This translation is based on earlier versions of the text of the I Ching, which have only recently been recovered from archaeological sites. Want to order this book?
- Kidder Smith, Peter Bol, Joseph Adler, and Don Wyatt, Sung Dynasty Uses of the I Ching (Princeton University Press, 1990). ISBN: 0691055904. This is the best secondary discussion I have seen on the I Ching: clear and scholarly. Although it focusses on Song Dynasty (A.D. 960-1279) uses of this text, there is also a chapter on “The I Ching Prior to the Sung.” Want to order this book?
7. Han Dynasty [ToC]
- Mark Csikszentmihalyi, ed., Readings in Han Chinese Thought (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2006). Excellent anthology of readings from a variety of Han Dynasty texts and authors. Want to order this book?
- John S. Major, Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought : Chapters Three, Four and Five of the Huainanzi (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993). ISBN: 0791415864 . The paperback edition of this book is currently out of print, but you can still order the hardback edition of this book.
- Sarah Ann Queen and John S. Major, trans., Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn (Columbia University Press, 2015). Want to order this book?
- Burton Watson, Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu and Han Fei Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press). Three translations bound together in hardback. Cheaper than making students buy all three individually. General note: An interesting aspect of Watson’s translations is that he seems to translate from Japanese translations of the works, rather than directly from the Classical Chinese.
- Wang Chong, Lun-heng [Balanced Discourses], Alfred Forke, trans., reprint (BiblioBazaar, 2009). Want to order this book?
- Yang Hsiung, The Canon of Supreme Mystery, Michael Nylan, trans. (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993). Want to order this book?
- Yang Xiong, Exemplary Figures: Fa Yan, Michael Nylan, trans. (University of Washington Press, 2013). Want to order this book?
- Yang Xiong, Philosophy of the Fa Yan, Jeffrey Bullock, trans. (Mountain Mind Press, 2011). Want to order this book?
8. Thematic Studies [ToC]
Works in this category typically follow some special topic through two or more early Chinese thinkers.
- Lee H. Yearley, Mencius and Aquinas (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990). This is a brilliant comparative Yearley’s strength is that he avoids simplistic comparisons. His motto is “similarities in differences and differences in similarities,” meaning that superficial similarities often mask deeper differences, while superficial differences sometimes mask deeper similarities. Yearley uses this approach to explore Mencius (Mengzi) arguably the second-most influential Confucian philosopher, and Thomas Aquinas, the brilliant synthesizer of Aristotelianism and Christianity. This is a wide-ranging study, discussing comparative methodology, practical rationality, the nature of virtue, and how to distinguish courage as a genuine virtue from its semblances and counterfeits. Want to order this book?
- Stephen C. Angle, Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy (Polity, 2012). Want to order this book?
- Angus C. Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990). ISBN: 0791404501. An excellent collection of essays on many topics, including the notion of “human nature” in both early Chinese thought and in Neo-Confucianism, and the “White Horse Paradox.” (Not a book for beginners, though.) Want to order this book?
- Christoph Harbsmeier, “Marginalia Sino-logica,” in Robert Allinson, ed., Understanding the Chinese Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 125-166. Discussion of “truth” and related concepts in early Chinese thought.
- ——, “The Mass Noun Hypothesis and the Part-Whole Analysis of the White Horse Dialogue,” in Henry Rosemont, ed., Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts (La Salle, IL: Open Court Press, 1991), pp. 49-66. A discussion of nouns in Classical Chinese.
- John B. Henderson, Scripture, Canon, and Commentary: A Comparison of Confucian and Western Exegesis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 247 pp. This is a brilliant and often-overlooked study, showing how different commentarial traditions often make similar assumptions and use similar interpretive strategies.
- Lisa A. Raphals, Sharing the Light : Representations of Women and Virtue in Early China (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1998), 348 pp. ISBN: 0791438562. I have not had a chance to read this book yet, but, based on Raphals’ earlier work, I expect that it will contain much interesting detail. Want to order this book?
- May Sim, Remastering Morals with Confucius and Aristotle (Cambridge University Press, 2007). You can read a review of this book here. Want to order this book?
- Bryan W. Van Norden, Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Want to order this book?
- Robin Wang, ed., Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2003). Want to order this book?
- David Wong, “Universalism vs. Love with Distinctions: An Ancient Debate Revived,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 16:3/4 (September/December 1989), pp. 251-272. Stimulating discussion of Confucians and Mohists on whether we should care for all humans equally.
- Jiyuan Yu, The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue (Routledge, 2007). Want to order this book?
9. Buddhism [ToC]
A. Indian Background
- Mark Siderits, Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2007). This is the best introduction to the Indian schools of Buddhism as philosophy. It discusses Theravadan Buddhism, as well as the various schools of Mahayana, including Yogacara and Madhyamaka. Want to order this book?
- Christopher W. Gowans, Philosophy of the Buddha: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2003.
- B. Horner, Milinda’s Questions, 2 vols. (United Kingdom: Pali Text Society, 1963-64). ISBN: 0-86013-046-0 and 0-86013-047-9. A complete translation of a work also known as The Questions of King Menander. Go here for information about ordering this book in the U.S.
- K.G. Mendis, ed., The Questions of King Milinda, I.B. Horner, trans. (Vipassana Research Publications, 1993). ISBN: 9552400678. This is an abridgement of Horner’s complete translation (see below) of the work also known as The Questions of King Menander. This is a Theravadan Buddhist work (written in Pali) which is very interesting philosophically for its discussion of issues such as “no-self.” Want to order this book?
- Nagarjuna, The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, trans. with commentary by Jay L. Garfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). ISBN: 0-19-509336-4. Nagarjuna is one of the most influential and profound Buddhist philosophers. (Nagarjuna’s philosophy influenced the development of Hua-yen and Ch’an in China.) This translation of his major work includes a very clear commentary by a Western-trained philosopher. Want to order this book?
- Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (New York: Grove Press, 1979), 151 pp. This is about Theravada as opposed to Mahayana Buddhism (the latter being what is most influential in China), but it is one of the clearest and most philosophically accurate introductions to Buddhism of which I am aware. Want to order this book?
B. Chinese Buddhist Texts
- Stephen Addiss et al., eds., Zen Sourcebook (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2008). Want to order this book?
- Peter Gregory, trans., Inquiry into the Origin of Humanity (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995). Want to order this book?
- Burton Watson, trans., The Lotus Sutra (Columbia University Press, 1993). Want to order this book?
- Burton Watson, trans., The Vimalakirti Sutra (Columbia University Press, 2000). Although originally an Indian Buddhist text, this work had an immense influence on Chinese Buddhism. Want to order this book?
- Philip B. Yampolsky, The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), 212+ pp. Annotated translation of one of the fundamental texts of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Includes the Chinese text.
C. Secondary Discussions of Chinese Buddhism
- Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra, rev. ed. (Parallax Press, 2009). This is a very readable introduction to the metaphysics of Hua-yen and Chan (Zen) Buddhism by a Vietnamese monk and peace activist. Want to order this book?
- Jinhua Chen, Philosopher, practitioner, politician: The many lives of Fazang (643-712) (Leiden: Brill, 2007). Want to order this book?
- Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (University Park, Penna.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), 146 pp. A fairly good and often overlooked discussion of one of the most important Chinese Buddhist schools. Unfortunately, this book is currently out of print.
- Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism: A History, vol. 1, India and China (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1994), 387 pp. The standard history of the subject.
- Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery, reprint (Vintage Books, 1999). First-person account of a Westerner who learned about Zen through studying archery. Although technically about Japanese Zen, it is also relevant to understanding Chinese Chan. Want to order this book?
- Tao Jiang, Contexts and Dialogue: Yogacara Buddhism and Modern Psychology on the Subliminal Mind (University of Hawaii Press, 2006). Want to order this book?
- Stephen S. Teiser and Jacqueline Stone, eds., Readings of the Lotus Sutra (Columbia University Press, 2009). Want to order this book?
- Morton Schlüter and Stephen S. Teiser, eds., Readings of the Platform Sutra (Columbia University Press, 2012). Want to order this book?
10. Neo-Confucianism [ToC]
- Charles Hartman, Han Yü and the T’ang Search for Unity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).
- Don J. Wyatt, The Recluse of Loyang: Shao Yung and the Moral Evolution of Early Sung Thought (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996), 340 pp.
The Cheng Brothers
The philosophers who, in the opinion of many scholars, established the mature metaphysics of Neo-Confucianism. Subtle differences between the two brothers, of which they seem to have been unaware, led to the major schism between the “Cheng-Zhu” and “Lu-Wang” schools of Neo-Confucianism.
- Angus C. Graham, “What Was New in the Ch’eng-Chu Theory of Human Nature?” in Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature, pp. 412-435. An excellent discussion of the ethical implications of the mature, Neo-Confucian view of human nature.
- ——, Two Chinese Philosophers (La Salle, Il.: Open Court Press, 1992; o.p. 1958), 201 pp. Excellent introduction. Want to order this book?
Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi)
This philosopher has been compared to Thomas Aquinas because of his masterful intellectual synthesis, which became orthodoxy in China and Korea.
- Daniel K. Gardner, Chu Hsi: Learning to Be a Sage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 218 pp. ISBN: 0-520-06525-5 Excellent translation of selections from the writings of Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi) along with very good interpretive notes. Want to order this book?
- Daniel K. Gardner, The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of the Later Confucian Tradition (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2007). You can read a review of this book here. Want to order this book?
- Wing-tsit Chan, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986), 644 pp. Collection of essays by various scholars; some excellent, some abysmal.
- Donald J. Murno, Images of Human Nature: A Sung Portrait (Princeton University Press, 1988), 322 pp. ISBN: 0691073309. Traces and attempts to explicate the use of key Neo-Confucian images. Want to order this book?
Deeply influential Neo-Confucian critic of the orthodox school of Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi.
- Philip J. Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition.
- ———-, “Wang Yangming,” in Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation.
- Bryan W. Van Norden, “Wang Yangming,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/wang-yangming/ .
Chang Hsueh-ch’eng (Zhang Xuecheng)
An 18th century historian and philosopher of history who has been compared to Hegel and Vico.
- Philip J. Ivanhoe, trans., On Ethics and History: Essays and Letters of Zhang Xuecheng (Stanford University Press, ). Want to order this book?
- David S. Nivison, The Life and Thought of Chang Hsueh-ch’eng (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966), 336 pp. ISBN: 0804702306. An acclaimed intellectual biography. Want to order this book?
- ———-, “The Philosophy of Zhang Xuecheng,” in Nivison, The Ways of Confucianism, pp. 249-260.
Dai Zhen (Tai Chen)
Brilliant critic of the entire Neo-Confucian tradition, who demonstrated that Neo- Confucians see their traditions through Buddhist lenses.
- Philip J. Ivanhoe, “Dai Zhen,” in Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation.
- David S. Nivison, “Two Kinds of Naturalism: Dai Zhen and Zhang Xuecheng,” in Nivison, The Ways of Confucianism, pp. 261-282.
- Online Resources [ToC]
- Classic Chinese Texts Online
- The Chinese Text Project is one of the best online resources for classic Chinese texts.
- The Hong Kong Society of Fellows Philosophical Classics (set your browser to read Big-5 encoding):
- The Wesleyan Chinese Etext Project is one of several online sites with Chinese texts.
- The Ancient Literary Classics (gushiwen.org) in simplified Chinese:
- Buddhist Tripitika at the Chinese Buddhist E-Text Archive.
- Translations of Important Texts
- The Chinese Text Project usually includes a public-domain translation along with the classical Chinese texts.
- Mou Zongsan, Nineteen Lectures, Julie Lee Wei, trans.
- Mou Zongsan et al., “Manifesto on Behalf of Chinese Culture” (the “New Confucian Manifesto”), partial translation by Eirik Harris
- Liu Shaoqi’s How to Be a Good Communist (The Ethical Cultivation of Communist Party Members) at the Marxists Internet Archive.
- Mao Zedong’s Writings at the Marxists Internet Archive:
- “On Contradiction”
- “On Practice”
- “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People”
- Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao’s “Little Red Book”)
- Miscellaneous Resources
- Biography Channel Video Biography of Confucius.
- Chinese Language Learning Resources:
- com has language lessons for learners of all levels.
- I recommend the Pleco Chinese Dictionary for smartphone users.
- com is an analytical dictionary of Chinese. (Keep in mind, though, that it is not an historically accurate, philological reconstruction.)
- Sensible Chinese has a list of Chinese language study scholarships.
- Benjamin A. Elman has created an excellent set of resources on Classical Historiography for Chinese History.
- New York Times articles on the contemporary relevance of Chinese philosophy:
- Chris Buckley on President Xi Jinping and Han Feizi: “Leader Taps into Chinese Classics in Seeking to Cement Power” (2014)
- Chris Buckley, “Xi Touts Communist Party as Defender of Confucius’s Virtues” (2014)
- Chris Buckley, “Xi Pays Homage to Confucius, a Figure Back in Favor” (2013)
- Andrew Jacobs, “Confucius Statue Vanishes near Tiananmen Square” (2011)
- Jiang Qing and Daniel A. Bell, “A Confucian Constitution in China” (2012)
- Austin Ramzy, “Kung Tsui-chang on Life as the Heir to Confucius” (2014)
- Ying Zhu, “The Confucian Tradition and Chinese Television Today”
- Other articles on the contemporary relevance of Chinese philosophy:
- Same Crane, “What Confucius Teaches Us about Modern American Justice” (2013)
- Jonathan DeHart, “Confucian Crackdown: New Chinese Law Enforces Filial Piety” (2013)
- Christine Gross-Loh, “Why Are Hundreds of Harvard University Students Studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy?” (2013)
- Ryan Mitchell, “Is ‘China’s Machiavelli’ Now Its Most Important Political Philosopher?” (2015)
- Paul Pryce on “The Influence of Han Feizi on China’s Defense Policy” (2015)
- Bryan Van Norden, “Confucius on Gay Marriage.” (2015)
- Bryan W. Van Norden Online Resources:
- Sample Syllabus for a 13-week Course on Classical Chinese Philosophy.
- Sample Syllabus for a 13-week Course on Later Chinese Philosophy.
- Guide to Reading Three Kingdoms (Romance of the Three Kingdoms).
- Guide to Reading Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber).
- Guide to Viewing The Last Emperor.
- Classical Chinese for Everyone (unpublished textbook).