Compiled in the second century B.C.E, the Huainanzi clarifies a crucial period in the development of Chinese conceptions of the cosmos, human nature, and the social order. Outlining “all that a modern monarch needs to know,” the text emphasizes rigorous self-cultivation and mental discipline, attributing successful rule to a balance of broad knowledge, diligent application, and penetrating wisdom.
In 2010, the editors of this volume completed the first complete English-language translation of the Huainanzi, opening exciting new pathways in the study of philosophy, Asian studies, political science, and Asian literature. This abridgement contains essential selections from each of the Huainanzi‘s twenty-one chapters and adds a new introduction and chapter descriptions. The text represents a remarkable synthesis of Daoist classics, such as the Laozi and the Zhuangzi; works associated with the Confucian tradition, such as the Changes, the Odes, and the Documents; and a range of other foundational philosophical and literary works, from the Mozi to the Hanfeizi. The abridgement preserves the Huainanzi‘s special rhetorical features, such as its parallel prose, verse, and unique compositional techniques. For decades, Western scholars overlooked the Huainanzi’s sophisticated structure, creative content, and rich historical value, yet all that changed with the translation of the full text. Designed for classroom use and general readers, The Essential Huainanzi continues to increase awareness of this brilliant work and change our understanding of early Chinese history.