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A Short History of Chinese Philosophy Paperback – March 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0684836348 ISBN-10: 0684836343 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (March 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684836343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684836348
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I found this book highly enlightening and enjoyable.
M. Xu
First published in 1948 Fung Yu-Lan's "Short History" is still the best intro to Chinese Philosophy.
Thomas Riggins
I checked out a few books at the library and this was one of them.
Paul Selbst

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Riggins on July 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
First published in 1948 Fung Yu-Lan's "Short History" is still the best intro to Chinese Philosophy. After reading it move on to his two volume magnum opus "A History of Chinese Philosophy" which has nothing "short" about it. The short history is an adaptation of the two volume work so if anything grabs your fancy in the smaller work you can look it up for elaboration in the two volume work. I should also point out that the book is very well written with an accessible style which makes what could have been very difficult to understand concepts readily understandable. This book will widen your worldview ( if your are not already familiar with Chinese thought) so you can look at reality from a greater perspective than just that of the English speaking West.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Chan Wai Man on February 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
A short version of his longer original work, this is a great book in that it tells the history of Chinese philosophy in a systematic manner. Both fortunately and unfortunately, the content is a lot easier to absorb than any Chinese text on the subject, simply because it is written in an analytical language (English) rather then a poetic and suggestive language (Chinese), (plus reference to western philosophical terms which really helps). Highly recommended for any reader who want an introductory course on the subject.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elsa Rodrigues on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
For the people who want to understand chinese philosophy, it is a positively simple text that allows to pinpoint all the important issues about each person that mattered in History. I recomend it to every student, every person that wants to know about philosopy and even those who are determined to elaborate deeper studies, as a start on the matter.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. Xu on May 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Fung Yu-lan (or Feng You-Lan) was one of the most important Chinese philosophers and scholars in the 20th century. His most famous accomplishment is the two-volume History of Chinese philosophy, which presents a comprehensive view of Chinese philosophy, the different schools, the trends and development through millennia, and the many historical figures and the schools of thought they each championed. This book here is an abridged version and presents the history of Chinese philosophy in a single, handy volume. Fung's writing is characterized by clarity and lucidity. He explains ideas and theories in simple, straightforward English and gives examples that can be clearly understood by laymen. As a Chinese reader, I actually found this English version more easily accessible than its Chinese version, because the Chinese one contains numerous quotes from ancient scriptures that can be hard to understand without pre-knowledge in ancient Chinese language. Here, all the quotations have been interpreted and rendered in plain English. I found this book highly enlightening and enjoyable. It remains the single best introduction on Chinese philosophy you can find today. It is a book to keep on your shelf and in your mind.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Michael Weinstein on August 22, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I never had any idea of where or how Chinese Philosophy emerged. This books shows a clear line of how historic events effected (sponsored) the various schools of thought and how they threaded and departed over time.
It is written without point of view and the writer writes well and is smart. Needless to say I really like the book
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent survey of Chinese philosophy. Extremely thought provoking and informative.
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Format: Paperback
I did not understand everything in this book; but for someone who, like myself, had only a sketchy knowledge of Confucianism and Taoism it did give a reasonably workable account of Chinese Philosophy.

Some things stood out for me:

Almost the whole of Chinese philosophy seems to be, as A.N.Whitehead might have said, a footnote to Confucius and Lao Tzu, who lived a little more than a century before Plato. Even Chinese Buddhism seemed to have got a foothold in Chinese philosophy because so much of it chimed in with Taoism. I have never gone along with Whitehead’s aphorism that “all Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato”: it seems to me that Western philosophy has many other sources and is all the richer for it. If Fun Yu-Lang’s account is right, there was not that richness of sources in Chinese philosophy.

It is also interesting that, according to this book, almost the last contribution to Chinese philosophy was in the 16th century with the Neo-Confucianism of Wang Shou-Jen (1472 to 1528). Anything that followed is dealt with in a mere 23 pages of a 342-page text. It is as if there was nothing much new in western philosophy after the time of Machiavelli (1469 to 1527).

The bulk of Chinese philosophy and its most valuable part seems to me to be devoted to how we should live. Chinese metaphysics seems to me mainly concerned with giving a metaphysical basis for ethics.

The most distinctive note in Chinese philosophy seems to me to be the frequent insistence in Taoism on wu-wei, which means non-action or, to use a metaphor “going with the flow” and so being in harmony with the Tao.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Smith on January 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed Fung's perspective on Classical Chinese Authors. Maybe not a good read for fun but great when studied with a scholar or if the reader has had previously studied the topic.
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A Short History of Chinese Philosophy
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