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Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton Paperbacks) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1969/4/1
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A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy is a milestone along the complex and difficult road to significant understanding by Westerners of the Asian peoples and a monumental contribution to the cause of philosophy. It is the first anthology of Chinese philosophy to cover its entire historical development. It provides substantial selections from all the great thinkers and schools in every period--ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary--and includes in their entirety some of the most important classical texts. It deals with the fundamental and technical as well as the more general aspects of Chinese thought. With its new translation of source materials (some translated for the first time), its explanatory aids where necessary, its thoroughgoing scholarly documentation, this volume will be an indispensable guide for scholars, for college students, for serious readers interested in knowing the real China.
"[E]normous chunks of the philosophers, and the commentary reduced to the essential minimum. Mr Chan's theme is Chinese humanism, because this is the unavoidable theme of Chinese philosophy in nearly all ages. Heroically he has translated his philosophers himself, with the result that for the first time the entire map is seen through a consistent eye. 'Source Book': no. Please look on it instead as a massive and superb anthology."--Robert Payne, Saturday Review "[Mr. Chan's] brilliant scholarship has enabled him to strike a balance between modern, medieval and ancient periods as well as between Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, and for the first time a leading Chinese scholar has carefully weighed the influences and importance's as well as the themes of many of the Chinese philosophers."--John Coombes, Columbus Enquirer "[T]he Neo-Confucian translations in particular are the most reliable yet made, and show a familiarity with classical allusions, early colloquial idiom and the turns of Neo-Confucian thought which no Western translator can hope to emulate."--A. C. Graham, Journal of the American Oriental Society "[T]he volume is virtually an encyclopedia."--Journal of Bible and Religion
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First, it's old. It was done in 1963 and won't be revised, since the author is dead. It thus has a very "traditionalistic" selection of texts, with philosophy more narrowly defined than I feel comfortable with. And of course, it doesn't include any of the textual discoveries since 1963, or any of the groundbreaking textual work, such as Graham's on the Chuang-tzu. There are major authenticity problems with some of the selections from the Kung-sun Lung-tzu and Tung Chung-shu as well.
Second, even for its time, it's conservative. The author was, to put it kindly, credulous about some early datings. The discussion of the Lao-tzu is particularly problematic. There is also an overly dismissive attitude towards the thought of some periods, such as the Han.
Third, it's somewhat biased, though in a very traditional way. The Neo-Confucian standpoint is more or less assumed true throughout. This detracts from the discussion of some documents earlier than the Neo-Confucians.
None of this is an argument not to use the book. But be just a bit careful if you do.
My professor, Wm. Theodore de Bary, arguably Chan's successor, occasionally raises points in class regarding problems with Chan's work. In Wm. de Bary's point of view, the problems are not serious but they are worth addressing in a revision. For example, Chan uses the phrase "Doctrine of the Mean" following an earlier translation while a more accurate translation would be simply "The Mean". Chan has similar problems with English-language usage, but these only occur in exceptional instances. More often he gets bogged down in terminology that was commonly in use during his period but now seems dated.
Another matter to bring up, although not necessarily a problem, is Chan's personal faith in Christianity, which may have influenced his choice of word usage and selection of materials.
Objections aside, this is a wonderful book that anyone with more than a passing interest in Chinese philosophy will find useful. After reading this book, one might want to move on to Prof. de Bary's newly-revised "Sources of Chinese Tradition", and then on to more specialized works.
That being said, this book also has serious limitations. Arbuckle's review (which is nearby) expertly identifies many of them. Here are some more. Chan's English is much better than my modern Chinese, but he still sometimes lapses into incoherence. With a few exceptions, his comments on the translations are both confusing and confused. Chan likes to use Western philosophical terminology, but he is not in command of it. It is neither accurate nor helpful to describe the Ch'eng-Chu wing of Neo-Confucianism as "rationalistic," and the Lu-Wang wing as "dynamic idealism."
For many of the philosophers that Chan covers, this is still the best source for translations. This is especially so of later Chinese philosophy. I know of no better translation of selections from Ch'eng Yi and Ch'eng Hao, for example. But for many other philosophers, you would be better off with translations with a more narrow focus. Daniel Gardner's _Learning to Be a Sage_ is a great source on Chu Hsi. And I would (not surprisingly) recommend the anthology I co-edited for translations from ancient Chinese philosophers. (D.C. Lau, Victor Mair, and Burton Watson have also produced more extensive translations of major early Chinese philosophers. Look up their names here on amazon.com.)
The text is excellent in covering the basics, which it presents in a very straightfoward, if not somewhat regimented manner. The basics are definitely here - organized for accessiblity. The history is comprehensive - if not deep, precise - if somewhat lacking in interpretive subtlety. As other reviewers have noted, Chan seems to be more sensitive to his own perspective in the space that he allows to other schools of thought (although he admirably includes them all). The Sourcebook is perfect for the one or two page synopsis of key ideas. Every key concept and figure is at least mentioned.
However, if one's interest in primarily in the roots of Chinese thought, especially the incredible "hundred schools period", one ought to consider A.C. Graham's masterpiece, "Disputers of the Tao" for a more engaging, searching philosophical discussion. I also have a place in my heart for the introductory essay of Waley's translation of the Tao Te Ching, "The Way and its Power".
The three texts together make for a pretty good introduction to Chinese Philosophy in translation. Chan's enduring tome is a treasure house of learning which can hardly be ignored by any student of Chinese philosophy, religion, or society.