Essential Readings on Chinese Philosophy

Compiled by Bryan W. Van Norden
(version of February 16, 2000)

This list represents one opinion on the essential secondary readings in English on Chinese philosophy. My editorial policy is to include only works that are essential reading on particular topics (i.e., this is not a comprehensive list), and only works that will appeal to those with training in philosophy (i.e., some works that will be of more interest to those from other -- equally valuable -- intellectual disciplines have not been included). 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. Note also that this list is "work in progress." Feel free to email me with comments or suggestions about this bibliography. My username is "brvannorden" at host "vassar.edu".

In this list, cross reference links will take you to the main entry for a book or article. At the main entry for a work, a link will take you to a WWW site about that entry or, in some cases, to the text of the entry itself.

Books marked with this symbol are especially appropriate for undergraduates or other beginners (although they may also be of interest to specialists). In the case of translations, the symbol indicates the one(s) that I think undergraduates or other beginners will enjoy the most (and not necessarily the best translation overall).

I have added some links so that you can order books from this web site. Only a few books are currenty linked, but I hope to add more such links soon. If you click on the "order this book" links, you will be transfered to the amazon.com web site, where you will be supplied information about the price of the book (usually at a discount), and offered an opportunity to purchase the book. (I often order books this way myself, and have been very pleased with the service.) They can also help you try to locate out of print books.



I. Early (Pre-Qin Dynasty) Philosophy

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 directly.

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 directly.

Also, for very good, but less comprehensive, discussions of early Chinese philosophy, see Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation, Munro, The Concept of Man in Early China, and Nivison, The Ways of Confucianism.

2. Specialized Studies

Works in this category typically follow some special topic through two or more early Chinese thinkers.

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?

Chad Hansen, Language and Logic in Ancient China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983). (This book is currently out of print.) Controversial interpretation of Chinese views on language, thought, and ethics. For a slightly shorter presentation of some of Hansen's ideas, see his "Chinese Language, Chinese Philosophy, and 'Truth,'" in Journal of Asian Studies 44:3 (May 1985), pp. 491-519. For critical discussions, see the reviews by P.J. Ivanhoe, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 9 (1987), pp. 115-123, and Angus C. Graham, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 45:2 (1985), pp. 692-703; see also the articles by Christoph Harbsmeier, "Marginalia Sino-logica", Harbsmeier "The Mass Noun Hypothesis, and B.W. Van Norden, "Hansen on Hsun Tzu," Journal of Chinese Philosophy 20 (1993), pp. 365-382. Hansen's work is also discussed by several contributors to Hans Lenk and Gregor Paul, eds., Epistemological Issues in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993). Anyone interested in the issues Hansen discusses must also read Graham's Later Mohist Logic in order to have a qualified opinion on the topic.

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, with a particular focus on Hansen's hypothesis.

Philip J. Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation (New York: Peter Lang, 1993). ISBN: 0820422002. An excellent introduction to six major Confucian thinkers: Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming and Dai Zhen. Want to order this book?

Philip J. Ivanhoe, ed., Chinese Language, Thought and Culture: Nivison and His Critics (La Salle, Il.: Open Court Press, 1996), 359 pp. Essentially a festschrift in honor of Nivison, with articles addressing various topics related to his work. See especially the essays by Kanaya Osamu, Susan Mann, Donald J. Munro, David B. Wong, and Ivanhoe himself. Want to order this book?

Philip J. Ivanhoe, "Thinking and Learning in Early Confucianism," Journal of Chinese Philosophy 17:4 (December 1990), pp. 473-493. Claims that Mencius and Xunzi (Hsun Tzu) offer distinct versions of Confucius' original vision, the former stressing intuition and reflection, the latter stressing the acquisition of knowledge through study.

D.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?

David S. Nivison, "Hsün Tzu and Chuang Tzu," in Henry Rosemont, ed., Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts (La Salle: Open Court, 1991), pp. 129-142. Thoughtful critique of Yearley's "Hsün Tzu on the Mind." See also the response by Graham in the same volume.

------, 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?

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?

Henry Rosemont, ed., Studies in Classical Chinese Thought (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1981). ISBN: 0891306773. This anthology is really not organized around any one particular theme, so technically it does not belong in this section of my bibliography. However, it is a very important collection, containing seminal papers by Nivison ("Mencius and Motivation"), Riegel ("Reflections on an Unmoved Mind"), and Herbert Fingarette (on Analects 4:15). This volume is also a supplement to The Journal of the American Academy of Religion in their "Thematic Series." (What this means is that this book can be filed or misfiled in many different places in your local library.) Want to order this book?

B.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. See also the discussion of this article in Wong, "Xunzi on Moral Motivation".

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.

3. Confucianism

A. Translations

i. Anthologies

Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden, eds., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Seven Bridges Press, 2000). ISBN: 1889119091. This anthology will include translations from all the major early Chinese philosophical texts: the Analects, Mozi, Mengzi, Zhuangzi, Dao de jing, Xunzi and Hanfeizi. Among the features of this translation are the following. (1) In-depth coverage. Some anthologies try to cover all of Chinese philosophy in one volume, or (worse yet) all of "Asian philosophy." In contrast, this anthology provides more extensive selections from some of the most interesting philosophers from the "Classical Period" of Chinese philosophy. (2) Reflects contemporary scholarship. Most translations on the market were done decades ago, and even some published more recently do not reflect the best contemporary research. The selections in this anthology were translated by a team of cutting-edge scholars. (3) Consistency of translation. When several different translations are used in a class, students must struggle with varying romanization schemes and different translations of key terms. In contrast, this translation will use Pinyin romanization (the current standard) and standardized translations throughout. Want to order this book?

ii. Confucian Analects

D.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."

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?

See also Brooks and Brooks, The Original Analects.

iii. Mencius

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.

D.C. Lau, Mencius (New York: Penguin Books, 1970). Very good translation with interpretive introduction and scholarly appendices on various topics. Should be read with Nivison et al., "Comments and Corrections to D.C. Lau's Mencius.

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.

Bryan W. Van Norden, Mengzi. A partial translation with notes.

See also Nivison, "On Translating Mencius", in his The Ways of Confucianism.

iv. Xunzi (Hsün-tzu)

John Knoblock, Xunzi (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). Translation is fairly good, correcting some mistakes made by Watson, but making others all its own.

Burton Watson, Hsün-tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 177 pp. Fairly good translation of selected passages. See also this.

B. Secondary Discussions

Secondary studies which focus primarily on one thinker or text.

i. Confucius

E. 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 Brooks attempt to sort the "books" and "chapters" of the Analects according to the historical order in which they were composed. There is extensive discussion of the politics surrounding the composition of the text. Although clearly written, this is probably not an appropriate book for undergraduates, but it is a major contribution to the scholarly literature, and is a must read for anyone with a serious interest in Confucius or the Analects. Want to order this book?

Herrlee G. Creel, Confucius and the Chinese Way (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960; o.p. Confucius: The Man and the Myth, 1949). Perhaps the best general study of Confucius in English, although I think Creel overestimates the "democratic" and "adaptive" aspects of Confucius's thought. This is currently out of print, but may be available second hand, or in your library.

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 and Wilson.

David Hall and Roger Ames, Thinking Through Confucius (Albany: SUNY Press, 1987). Controversial interpretation of Confucius which sees him as advocating a very fluid and inovative ethic. See the reviews by Michael Martin, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 17 (1990), pp. 495-503 (see also the response by Hall and Ames, and Martin's rejoinder, in later issues of the same journal) and Philip J. Ivanhoe, Philosophy East and West41:2 (April 1991), pp. 241-254. See also Wilson.

Kwong-loi Shun, "Jen and Li in the Analects," Philosophy East and West 43:3 (July 1993), pp. 457-479. A careful philosophical discussion of the significance of li (ritual) in Confucian thought.

B.W. Van Norden, ed., Essays on Confucius and the Analects (forthcoming).

Stephen Wilson, "Conformity, Individuality, and the Nature of Virtue," Journal of Religious Ethics 23:2 (Fall 1995), pp. 263-289. Thoughtful critique of Fingarette and of Hall and Ames on Confucius.

On Analects 4:15

"The Way of the Master is loyalty and reciprocity, and that is all."

Fingarette, Herbert, "Following the 'One Thread' of the Analects, Journal of the American Academy of Religion Thematic Issue S (1980), Supplement to JAAR 47:3, pp. 373-404.

Ivanhoe, Philip J., "Reweaving the `One Thread' of the Analects," Philosophy East and West 40:1 (January 1990), pp. 17-33.

Nivison, David S., "Golden Rule Arguments in Chinese Moral Philosophy," in his The Ways of Confucianism.

Van Norden, Bryan W., "Unweaving the 'One Thread' of Analects 4:15," forthcoming in Essays on Confucius and the Analects.

On Analects 12:1

"If one can, through overcoming the self, return to the rites, one can be humane."

Kieschnick, John, "Analects 12:1 and the Commentarial Tradition," Journal of the American Oriental Society 112 (1992).

ii. Mencius

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 Mencius and Wang Yang-ming (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990). ISBN: 1555404510. 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?

David S. Nivison, "On Translating Mencius," in his The Ways of Confucianism. Originally published in Philosophy East and West 30 (1980), pp. 93-122. Critiques several translations (including Lau's and Legge's) and discusses interpretive problems in several passages from the Mencius.

Kwong-loi Shun, Mencius and Early Chinese Thought (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 295 pp. ISBN: 0804727880. I have not had a chance to read this yet, but Shun's earlier work has been very good, so I suspect that this will be an important study. Want to order this book?

David S. Nivison, Philip J. Ivanhoe, and Bryan W. Van Norden, "Comments and Corrections to D.C. Lau's Mencius. One view of possible errors in Lau's translation, with some commentary and suggestions for further reading.

Lee H. Yearley, "A Confucian Crisis: Mencius' Two Cosmogonies and Their Ethics," in R. Lovin and F. Reynolds, eds., Cosmogony and Ethical Order (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 310-327. Deals with the issue of how, and whether, Mencius can accommodate cultural diversity.

On Mencius 1A7

King Hsuan spares an ox being led to slaughter.

David S. Nivison "Motivation and Moral Action in Mencius," in his The Ways of Confucianism. A shortened version of this paper was published under the title "Mencius and Motivation," in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion Thematic Issue S, a supplement to JAAR 47:3 (September 1980), pp. 417-432.

Kwong-loi Shun, "Moral Reasons in Confucian Ethics," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 16:3/4 (September/December 1989), pp. 317-343. Influenced by Nivison's "Mencius and Motivation", this article has prompted a considerable amount of discussion. See Van Norden, "Kwong-loi Shun on Moral Reasons in Mencius", and Wong "Is There a Distinction between Reason and Emotion in Mencius?"

Bryan W. Van Norden, "Kwong-loi Shun on Moral Reasons in Mencius," Journal of Chinese Philosophy 18:4 (December 1991), pp. 353-370. A critique of Shun's interpretation of Mencius 1A7, as presented in his "Moral Reasons in Confucian Ethics".

David Wong, "Is There a Distinction between Reason and Emotion in Mencius?" Philosophy East and West 41:1 (January 1991), pp. 31- 44. Critiques Shun's "Moral Reasons in Confucian Ethics". See also the response to Wong by Craig Ihara, and Wong's rejoinder, in the same issue.

On Mencius 2A2

"What you do not get from words, do not look for in the heart. What you do not get from the heart, do not look for in the ch'i."

David S. Nivison, "Philosophical Voluntarism in Fourth Century China," in Nivison, The Ways of Confucianism.

Jeffrey K. Riegel, "Reflections on an Unmoved Mind: An Analysis of Mencius 2A2, Journal of the American Academy of Religion Thematic Issue S, a supplement to JAAR 47:3 (1980), pp. 433-457. Riegel drew heavily on Nivison's "Philosophical Voluntarism in Fourth Century China," which was originally written in 1973, but not published until 1996.

Kwong-loi Shun, "Mencius and the Mind-Inherence of Morality: Mencius' Rejection of Kao Tzu's Maxim in Meng Tzu 2A:2," Journal of Chinese Philosophy 18:4 (December 1991), pp. 371-386.

Bryan W. Van Norden, "Mencius on Courage," in Peter A. French et al., eds., Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Volume 21: The Philosophy of Religion (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), pp. 237-256.

On Mencius 3A5

Mencius debates the Mohist Yi Chih over funeral rituals, and suggests that ethics has "one root," while Yi Chih mistakenly gives it "two roots."

David S. Nivison, "Two Roots or One?" in his The Ways of Confucianism. Originally published in the Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 53:6 (August 1980), pp. 739-761.

Kwong-loi Shun, "Mencius' Criticism of Mohism: An Analysis of Meng Tzu 3A:5," Philosophy East and West 41:2 (April 1991), pp. 203-214. An interpretation influenced by, but clearly distinct from, that found in Nivison's "Two Roots or One?"

On Mencius 6A1 ff.

The Debate between Kao Tzu and Mencius on Human Nature

D.C. Lau, "On Mencius' Use of the Method of Analogy in Argument," in Lau, Mencius (New York: Penguin, 1970), Appendix 5, pp. 235-263.

David S. Nivison, "Problems in the Mengzi 6A3-5," in his The Ways of Confucianism.

Kwong-loi Shun, "Mencius on the Mind-Dependence of Morality: An Analysis of Meng Tzu 6A4-5," Journal of Chinese Philosophy 18:2 (June 1991), pp. 169-193.

iii. Hsun Tzu (Xunzi)

Paul Rakita Goldin, Rituals of the Way: The Philosophy of Xunzi (Chicago: Open Court, 1999). ISBN: 0-8126-9400-7. In my opinion, this is the best book on Xunzi in English, and also one of the best books on early Chinese philosophy to come out in recent years. Want to order this book?

Philip J. Ivanhoe, "A Happy Symmetry: Xunzi's Ethical Thought," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 59:2 (Summer 1991), pp. 309-322. Claims that Xunzi (Hsun Tzu) thought that Confucianism was justified because the rites-based society it advocated harmonized humans with one another and the natural environment.

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?

Henry Rosemont, "State and Society in the Hsun Tzu," Monumenta Serica 29 (1970-1971).

David Wong, "Xunzi on Moral Motivation." Pp. 202-223 in Ivanhoe, ed., Chinese Language, Thought, and Culture. Excellent discussion of Xunzi's view of how we develop virtuous inclinations from our original non-virtuous motives. See also the unpublished response by B.W. Van Norden, "Wong on Xunzi".

Lee H. Yearley, "Hsün Tzu on the Mind: His Attempted Synthesis of Confucianism and Taoism," Journal of Asian Studies 39:3 (1980) pp. 465-480. Defends Hansen's interpretation of Hsun Tzu as a "conventionalist." Explores the ways in which Hsun Tzu appropriated aspects of Chuang Tzu's philosophy for Confucianism.

4. Daoism (Taoism)

A. Translations

i. Anthologies

P.J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden, eds., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Seven Bridges Press, 2000). Includes selections from the Dao de jing and the Zhuangzi. Want to order this book?

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?

ii. Dao de ding (Tao Te Ching)

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.

The Dao De Jing is 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.

Wang Bi (Wang Pi) Version

D.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?

D.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.

A.C. Graham, Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters (Boston: Unwin Paperbacks, 1989; 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?

Burton Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 148 pp. ISBN: 0-231-10595-9Very good translation of the Inner (first seven) Chapters, along with several other chapters. Want to order this book?

------, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), 397 pp. Very good complete translation.

B. Secondary Discussions

Herrlee G. Creel, What Is Taoism? And Other Studies in Chinese Cultural History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970). ISBN: 0-226-12047-3. The title essay in this seminarl work should be read in conjunction with Sivin, vide infra.

Philip J. Ivanhoe, "Zhuangzi on Skepticism, Skill, and the Ineffable Dao," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 61:4 (Winter 1993), pp. 101-116.

Philip J. Ivanhoe and Mark Csikszentmihalyi, eds., Essays on Religious and Philosophical Aspects of the Laozi (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999). ISBN: 0791441121. This should prove to be an excellent collection of essays. Want to order this book?

Paul Kjellberg, "Zhuangzi and Skepticism," Doctoral Thesis, Department of Philosophy, Stanford University, 1993 (University Microfilms International Order Number 9403970). This work is an excellent critical historical overview of the secondary literature on Zhuangzi along with an original interpretation. Although unpublished, this is the best single book on Zhuangzi. Go here to order a copy of this dissertation, and use Order Number 9403970.

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). I have not seen this anthology yet, but there is so little out there that is any good on the Dao de jing, and this collection includes works by several major scholars, so it will almost certainly be worth looking at. Want to order this book?

Victor Mair, ed., Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983), 171 pp. Uneven collection, but see the articles by Chad Hansen, A.C. Graham and Lee Yearley.

Nathan Sivin, "On the Word 'Taoist' as a Source of Perplexity: With Special Reference to the Relations of Science and Religion in Traditional China," History of Religions 17 (1978), pp. 303-330. Reprinted in Sivin, Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in Ancient China.

Bryan W. Van Norden, "Competing Interpretations of the Inner Chapters," Philosophy East and West 46:2 (April 1996), pp. 247-268. Includes a running commentary on the opening of the Zhuangzi.

See also the Introduction to Graham, Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters.

C. Commentarial Tradition

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?

Paul Kjellberg, "Zhuangzi and Skepticism." Discusses the influential early commentary of Guo Xiang, along with the Buddhist commentarial tradition.

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

A.C. Graham, Later Mohist Logic, Ethics, and Science (Londond: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1978), 590 pp. Scholary and technical, but a landmark study of the Mohist "dialectical chapters." (Probably too intimidating for undergraduate classes.)

P.J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden, eds., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Seven Bridges Press, 2000). Includes selections from the Mohist "synoptic chapters." Want to order this book?

Philip J. Ivanhoe, "Mohist Philosophy," entry in the International Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Routledge Press, 1998). An excellent overview.

Scott Lowe, Mo Tzu's Religious Blueprint for a Chinese Utopia (Lewiston, UK: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), 200 pp. To be honest, I have not gotten a chance to read this yet, but there is so little work on Mo Tzu that this is probably worth looking at.

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." See also this.

6. Comparative (Western and Non- Western) Studies and Methodology

Taylor Carman and B.W. Van Norden, "Being-in-the- Way," forthcoming in Sino-Platonic Papers. A review of the anthology, Heidegger and Asian Thought, arguing that the connections between Heidegger and Chinese philosophy are more tenuous than some have supposed.

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.

Joel Kupperman, "Confucius, Mencius, Hume and Kant on Reason and Choice," in Biderman and Scharfstein, eds., Rationality in Question (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989), pp. 119-139. A subtle and sophisticated comparison.

Alasdair MacIntyre, "Icommensurability, Truth, and the Conversation between Confucians and Aristotelians about the Virtues." Pp. 104-122 in Eliot Deutsch, ed., Culture and Modernity: East-West Philosophic Perspectives (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991).

Munro, The Concept of Man in Early China.

Martha Nussbaum, "Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Appraoch." Pp. 32-53 in Peter A. French et al., eds, Midwest Studies in Philosphy XIII: Character and Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988).

Bryan W. Van Norden, "What Should Western Philosophy Learn from Chinese Philosophy?" Pp. 224-249 in Ivanhoe, Chinese Language, Thought and Culture. An overview of the state of the field in Chinese philosophy with a discussion of its relevance to Western philosophy.

Lee H. Yearley, Mencius and Aquinas (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990). A brilliant comparative study. Want to order this book? See the discussion of this work in the Journal of Religious Ethics 21:2 (Fall 1993).

------, "Recent Work on Virtue," Religious Studies Review, 16:1 (1990), pp. 1-9. Good introduction to some of the literature on "virtue ethics," a movement in mainstream Anglo-American ethics that, I believe, also sheds much light on Confucianism.

7. Other Early Schools and Miscellaneous

Roger T. Ames, Sun-Tzu : The Art of Warfare : The First English Translation Incorporating the Recently Discovered Yin-Ch'ueh-Shan Texts (Ballantine Books, 1993). ISBN: 034536239X. Want to order this book?

Angus C. Graham, "Kung-sun Lung's Discourse Re-Read as Argument about Whole and Part." Pp. 193-215 in Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy. This is probably the best thing to read about Kung-sun Lung's paradox ("a white horse is not a horse"). It is suitable reading for (strong) undergraduate students.

P.J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden, eds., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Seven Bridges Press, forthcoming). Includes selections from the Hanfeizi. Want to order this book?

Kwong-loi Shun, Mencius and Early Chinese Thought. Good discussion of what we know about the so-called "egoist," Yang Chu, on pp. 35-47.

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.


II. The I Ching

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?

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?


III. Han Dynasty

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.

Michael Nylan, trans., Yang Hsiung, The Canon of supreme mystery (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993).

Sarah Ann Queen, From chronicle to canon : the hermeneutics of the Spring and autumn, according to Tung Chung-shu (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).


IV. Chinese Buddhism

A. Indian Background

N.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? There are some brief selections from a different translation of this work in W.T. de Bary, ed., The Buddhist Tradition (New York: Vintage Books, 1972).

I.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.

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. ISBN: 0-8021-3031-3. 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. Translations from the Chinese

Derk Bodde, trans., Fung Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 2, The Period of Classical Learning (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953), 783 pp. This book is probably most useful for its translations of selections from Chinese Buddhist and Neo-Confucian texts. Bodde's additional notes are also often helpful.

Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 856 pp. Translations of selections from almost three thousand years of Chinese thought. We owe a great debt to Chan for making so many works accessible to English-speaking readers. However, his translations are not always reliable, and his commentary is sometimes simply confused. Nonetheless, depending upon the course, this may be the best book to use.

William Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, eds., Sources of Chinese Tradition, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). ISBN: 0231109385. Selections from a variety of texts from Shang oracle bone inscriptions through the Ming Dynasty. 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

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.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra (Parallax Press, 1988), 54 pp. ISBN: 0938077112. 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?


V. Neo-Confucianism

A. Translations

Derk Bodde,
A History of Chinese Philosophy.

Wing-tsit Chan, Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings by Wang Yang-ming (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 358 pp. Similar comments apply to this as apply to Chan's A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy.

------, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy.

William Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, eds., Sources of Chinese Tradition.

John Ewell, "Re-inventing the Way: Dai Zhen's Evidential Commentary on the Meaning of Terms in Mencius (1777)," Ph.D. dissertation, History, University of California at Berkeley, 1990 (University Microfilms International Order Number 9126550). Probably the best translation of the magnum opus of Dai Zhen (Tai Chen), a critic of the Neo-Confucian tradition and an interesting philosopher in his own right. Interpretive notes also very good. Go here to order a copy of this dissertation, and use Order Number 9126550.

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?

Philip J. Ivanhoe, Selected Writings of Zhang Xuecheng (forthcoming).

B. Secondary Studies

Han Yü

Charles Hartman, Han Yü and the T'ang Search for Unity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).

Shao Yong

Anne D. Birdwhistell, Transition to Neo-Confucianism: Shao Yung on Knowledge and Symbols of Reality (Stanford University Press, 1989), 317 pp.

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.

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.

Philip J. Ivanhoe, "Zhu Xi," in Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation.

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?

Wang Yangming

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.

David S. Nivison, "The Philosophy of Wang Yangming," in Nivison, The Ways of Confucianism, pp. 217-231. This is the one essay to read if you can read only one on Wang.

Chang Hsueh-ch'eng (Zhang Xuecheng)

An 18th century historian and philosopher of history who has been compared to Hegel and Vico.

Paul Demieville, "Chang Hsueh-ch'eng and His Historiography," in W.G. Beasley and E.G. Pulleyblank, Historians of China and Japan (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 167-185.

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.


VI. Chinese Science

Most of the items on this list come from a syllabus for a course taught by Roger Hart (see below under Syllabi and Other Resources ).

Francesca Bray. Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.

Hashimoto, Keizo et al. eds. East Asian Science: Tradition and Beyond. Osaka: Kansai University Press, 1995.

Horton, Robin and Ruth Finnegan, eds. Modes of Thought: Essays on Thinking in Western and Non-Western Societies. London: Faber, 1973.

Huff, Toby E. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Lloyd, G. E. R. Adversaries and Authorities: Investigations into Ancient Greek and Chinese Science. Ideas in Context. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Lloyd, G.E.R. Demystifying Mentalities. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Martzloff, Jean-Claude. A History of Chinese Mathematics. Translated by Stephen S. Wilson. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1997.

Nakayama, Shigeru. A History of Japanese Astronomy: Chinese Background and Western Impact. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, vol. 18. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969.

Joseph Needham, The Grand Titration: Science and Society in East and West (Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1969). Classic, but sometimes dated, essays on Chinese science.

Joseph Needham et al., Science and Civilization in China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1954 ff.). Classic, multivolume work. Some portions now rather dated, though. Some volumes still forthcoming.

Reardon-Anderson, James. The Study of Change: Chemistry in China, 1840-1949. Studies of the East Asia Institute, Columbia University. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Sivin, Nathan, ed. Science and Technology in East Asia. History of Science: Selections from Isis. New York: Science History Publications, 1977.

Nathan Sivin, Science in Ancient China: Researches and Reflections, Variorum Collected Studies Series (Aldershot, Hants: Variorum, 1995). This and the following are collections of essays by a leading contemporary scholar of Chinese science.

------, Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in Ancient China: Researches and Reflections, Variorum Collected Studies Series (Aldershot, Hants: Variorum, 1995). Among the articles worth consulting in this collection are "The Myth of the Naturalists," "On the Word 'Taoist' as a Source of Perplexity," and "An Introductory Bibliography of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Books and Articles in Western Languages."

------, "Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China -- Or Didn't It?" Chinese Science, 5 (1982), pp. 45-66 (reprinted in Sivin Science in Ancient China: Researches and Reflections).

Tambiah, S. J. Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.


VII. Syllabi and Other Resources

Steve Angle's home page has information on several courses he teaches on Chinese philosophy, including pointers to the course syllabi and other information.

Steve Brown's Chinese Philosophy Page is a pretty comprehensive guide to resources on Chinese philosophy available on the web.

Thomas Carlsonšs Looking for Confucius page has links to some on-line information about translations and secondary works on the Analects of Confucius.

Chinese philosophical texts are available on the web from several sites, including the CND Chinese Classics Archive and the Wesleyan Chinese Philosophical Etext Archive. Both sites include information on reading Chinese on the web.

Chad Hansen's Chinese Philosophy Courses.

Roger Hart's Chinese Science Syllabus provides an extensive reading list on this topic.

John Knoblock's Classical Chinese Philosophy Page includes pointers to sites with information on several early Chinese philosophers.

Bryan W. Van Norden's Glossary of Key Buddhist Terms. (You may find this helpful, but it is not yet complete.)

Bryan W. Van Norden's syllabus for Early Chinese Philosophy.

Bryan W. Van Norden's syllabus for his Chuang Tzu Seminar.

Bryan W. Van Norden's list of Key Terms in Chinese Philosophy.


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