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“For more than two millennia, the teachings of Confucius have served as a guide for a substantial portion of humanity. English-language readers seeking to understand this remarkable body of thought are fortunate to have Annping Chin’s highly readable and judiciously annotated edition of The Analects.” —Henry A. Kissinger
“An astonishingly lucid exposition of The Analects. A kind of serene insight pervades the commentaries.” —Harold Bloom
“An incomparable new volume that combines a fresh and sympathetic translation with a wonderfully readable annotation. It is a joy to use and will unlock a whole new level of meaning for English-language readers.” —Orville Schell, Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations and co-author of Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Text: English (translation) Original Language: Chinese
This is not the translation by Arthur Waley (which is very good) but the one by D.C. Lau. Since Lau's translation was first published, a number of advances have been made in the field of Warring States Period scholarship which render a fair amount of the supporting material obsolete (see "The Original Analects" by Brooks and Brooks for the latest). As for the translation itself, it's rife with awkward and mystifying word choices -- for instance, in a passage in chapter 11 in which the disciple Zilu (Tzu-lu, in Wade-Giles romanization, which Lau uses) gets the better of Confucius in an argument, Waley translates the Master's retort, "It is remarks of that kind that make me hate glib people," and the Brookses and Huang Chichung make similar choices; but Lau renders it, "It is for this reason that I dislike men who are plausible." Similar mishandlings of connotation appear throughout the book. For an old-fashioned translation, Waley's is a hundred times better.
Filled with totally obfuscated phrases like, "The Kuan-chu Ode is lively but not licentious, plaintive but not harrowing," are gems like, "Po I and Shu Ch'i never remembered old injuries, and therefore their enemies were few." The thing about it, is that I read it cover to cover. Clearly, this deep and old wisdom is best taken in small bits for not many words are wasted. Also, the Lionel Giles translation I read was weak on supplemental commentary so I really felt like I needed a more knowledgeable guide as I was reading. Perhaps the Norton version would have better annotations then the beautiful Easton Press version from my library. It is clearly a five star book, but I think I only got about three stars out of it. Most certainly a book to read again, and again and again.
I guess, there is not much point in buying this book for the text of Lunyu itself: it is available in full on the Internet (for example at Wengu: [...] - in the Chinese original, two English - including Lau's - and one French translation) but it is the introduction and adjoining commentaries that are of value. In this respect, I found D.C.Lau's work quite pleasing. He explains the main terms and how they hang together, illustrates his arguments with quotations from the actual Analects and tries his best to relate Confucius' philosophy to suitable analogues in the Western tradition. I am no China-expert, so this helped a lot. The book also has a post-script outlining Kong-zi's life and a short piece on the individual disciples and friends that Confucius converses with in the book. I think there is $9 of value (or whatever the price) in this book.
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I have actually read The Analects before, as a student. Then, as now, I was attracted to a philosophy that did not hold out a reward of eternal salvation as the basis for establishing common morality. You should be a good person because it is effective and desirable. Nothing more. At one point in the Analects, Confucius mocks someone who wants to know about death when in his opinion the person knows nothing at all about life. I like that.
It is always interesting (at least to me) rereading something that I initially read many years ago and which has meant something serious to me on both readings. I am certainly better equipped to understand this now then I was 19 years ago. I am emotionally and intellectually better suited to appreciate the ideas. On the other hand, reading it as part of a class and as a student gave me what I am sure was a much better framework for placing the work against history and context. This was one of those books where I longed to take a class to go with the reading/digesting of the text. I am frustratingly sure that I have missed quite a bit, and that both background and discussion would have been useful.
The Introduction was actually rather helpful, in this case. D.C. Lau did a really able job of setting the stage for the reading. I had read Mencius two years ago and distinctly remember being frustrated by the introduction. I found it absolutely useless as a non-expert reader. I recognize that writing an introduction is rather a thankless job-- you either bore the experts or lose the newbies.
I am not certain whether the Lau introduction to the Penguin edition of The Analects would bore an expert, but this (relative) newbie certainly appreciated its assistance.
In the end, I appreciated this book in an almost physical way.Read more ›
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I was surprised to find that I was often very interested in the topics within this book and Confucius' handling of said themes. Having read Plato only a short time ago, Confucius seemed like a breath of fresh air. His concerns are how to live a virtuous life and achieve benevolence. Unlike much ancient philosphy, many of the sayings have their impact undimished by time. In each book (consisting usually of about 3 pages) there would generally be at least two or three sayings that struck me as truly meaningful and pertinent. Naturally, there were also some that seemed out of place or irrational, but that is to be expected in any text which is so old. If one is able to mine the gold from the rocks, Analects of Confucius can be quite a rewarding experience. However, I found the introduction and essays in the back of the book to be superfluous and felt that they did not shed much additional light on who Confucius was or what his teachings meant, choosing instead to focus mostly on minutue that was mostly uninteresting to me. This book is not a long read, and almost certainly worth a curious person's time.
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