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An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism 1st Edition

4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1405129503
ISBN-10: 1405129506
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This kind of work is long overdue... This book will undoubtedly make classical Chinese thought more relevant to contemporary philosophical discourse and more accessible to analytically-minded readers." Shirong Luo, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“Combining firm control of original sources and contemporary scholarship with sophisticated philosophical analysis, this book is clearly the best introduction to Chinese philosophy. It will be interesting to specialists, and enlightening to lay readers.” Ying-shih Yu, Princeton University


“JeeLoo Liu has written a wonderful introduction to Chinese philosophy. Her book is introductory without being superficial, full of sure-handed scholarship, and at once analytical and sensitive to the cultural setting in which these great philosophies developed.” John Perry, Stanford University

From the Back Cover

An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy is the most comprehensive book of its kind. Highly accessible, the text takes an analytical approach to successfully demystify the themes of ancient Chinese philosophy and unravel the complexities of early Chinese Buddhism.

Beginning with the philosophy of Yijing, Part I covers seven additional major philosophers from the ancient period: Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Mozi, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Hanfeizi. Part II introduces the reader to the four major schools in Chinese Buddhism: the Consciousness-Only, the Hua-yan, the Tian-tai, and the Chan. Mutual themes connect chapters, highlighting the continuity of thought, while an unbiased analysis helps to define their differences. Contemporary commentaries and debates on the central issues in Chinese philosophy round out the book, presenting an incisive introduction to the field.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (April 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405129506
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405129503
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
As a novice, I found Jeeloo Liu's "An introduction to Chinese Philosophy" an illuminating book. A survey of ancient Chinese philosophy and Buddhism, I found the narrative built upon is own history, so that the themes and emphasizes of Chinese philosophy fell into place. Her technique of using the Western argument form of premises and conclusion was helpful in making a first approach to a way of thinking that was initially very alien to me. I can readily see that using such an argument form has its limitation in the context of Chinese philosophy, but to the extent that it is possible, the analyzed arguments of the philosophers did help me to grasp something of what is at stake in the arguments presented. So as an introduction to Chinese philosophy for a relative beginner, the book succeeds very well.
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This work fills a genuine need for a modern text of traditional Chinese philosophy that goes beyond the coverage of ancient (pre-220 BCE) philosophy but does not overwhelm the reader by attempting to cover the entire sweep of Chinese philosophy to the present in a single volume. Liu has chosen to cover the ancient period as well as the major systems of Chinese Buddhist philosophy. I regret that it does not include another chapter on neo-Confucianism, say limited to Chu Hsi's synthesis thereof, but the choice of coverage is, overall, an excellent one. My experience is that students are most interested in Buddhism, and that if one covers Chinese philosophy alone (as opposed to an overall superficial coverage of Asian philosophy, including Indian systems and Japanese Zen) then this coverage is an ideal one. Fung yu Lan's monumental two volume survey of all Chinese philosophy is too comprehensive, while his shorter version of it is dated in its interpretations. Graham, Hansen, and Schwartz limit themselves to ancient, pre-Han, Chinese philosophy. Liu's emphasis is on ethics, rather than on metaphysics or philosophy of nature, and this is a limitation. However, she does, in contrast to Hansen for instance, include an opening treatment of the I Ching. Liu used analytical methods and distinctions between metaphysical and semantic conceptions of truth, and between metaphysical and internal realism. One infelicity I noticed is that Liu makes some comparisons with Tian Tai Buddhism in her chapter on Hua Yan Buddhism, before she has given any exposition of Tian Tai. However, over all, if one wishes a single volume introduction to Chinese philosophy with an emphasis on ethics, it is the best thing available.
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Format: Paperback
This is a review of JeeLoo Liu's An Introduction fo Chinese Philosophy.

As the subtitle of this book suggests, it covers Chinese philosophy in the ancient period (around 500 to 221 BC) and then skips ahead to Chinese Buddhism in the Tang and later dynasties (after AD 618). Liu announces that her approach is "analytic" (ix). This may require some explanation: philosophical styles in the West may broadly be divided into "analytic" and "continental." The former puts greater emphasis on conceptual clarity, giving definitions, and analyzing arguments. (I know it is tempting to say that we should simply use "the Chinese style" in explaining Chinese philosophy, but we have to "translate" pre-modern Chinese thought into some vocabulary that we understand today. And even contemporary Chinese thinkers are influenced by one or another Western school of thought.)

So Liu's approach is legitimate. In addition, there are some good insights in this book. Overall, though, there are too many errors in historical details and too many problems with her philosophical analysis for this book to be successful.

Here's an example of a historical error. One key concept in Chinese philosophy is QI ("vital energy"). In explaining the etymology of this character, she announces that it "referred to the steam or vapor coming from boiling rice" and that it "contains the character for rice as a component" (p. 6). This is true of the modern form of the character, but not of the original ancient forms. Indeed, rice cultivation was not common in ancient China.

In conducting her philosophical analysis, Liu often rephrases the original Chinese texts into premise and conclusion form. (In other words, she takes the original prose and converts it into the form "Premise 1....
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An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism
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