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Balanced Discourses: A Bilingual Edition. Translated by JOHN MAKEHAM. The Classical Library of Chinese Literature and Thought. New Haven: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS; Beijing: FOREIGN LANGUAGES PRESS, 2003. Pp. xl + 366. $45. Xu Gan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (170-217 C.E.) is fortunate to have an advocate in John Makeham. The philosophical treatise, Zhong lun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] by this Jian'an period (196-220 C.E.) scholar has been given scant attention in modern scholarship. Hsiao Kung-chuan, for instance, paid it almost no heed in A History of Chinese Political Thought, disparaging the work as containing "virtually no original views," essentially being a rehash of Confucius and Mencius. Hsiao suggested that the praise Zhong lun received in traditional Chinese scholarship was on account of "the classical elegance of its literary style." (1) Dang Shengyuan, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who supplies the first introduction to John Makeham's new, serviceable translation of the work, comments in a similar vein that the spare style of Zhong lun is deserving of praise, but by the same token its concise, compact literary style impedes the work's incisiveness. In what seems a rather tepid defense of Zhong lun, Dang adds that it "boasts some unique intellectual qualities and in its approach to many philosophical problems it makes some definite advances." Dang nonetheless asserts that Zhong lun "is of unique value to the study of the transition in thought between the Han and Wei periods" (p. xix). However that may be, it is also one of the rare philosophical books written at that time that are largely extant, so one must be wary of investing it with too much representative authority. As even Makeham concedes in his introduction, Xu Gan "is not a major figure in Chinese intellectual history ..." (p. xxix).

April 1
American Oriental Society
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