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If people want to learn more about Chinese nation, its history, and its traditions, one of the best sources to use is the book Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1 written by William Theodore de Bary, Irene Bloom, and Joseph Adler. It is one of the most comprehensive sources of information about Chinese nation, which have been ever published in an English language to help Western people learn more about China. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1 is the second edition, published by Columbia University Press in March 15, 2000.
William Theodore de Bary is an East Asian expert cooperating with Irene Bloom and Joseph Adler at the Columbia University. Their collaborative work, this collection of readings about Chinese social and religious traditions, has already gained recognition in many countries of the West and East. People who are interested in the development of Chinese traditions from different perspectives will certainly find this book rather captivating and educative.
General Information about the Book
This second edition presents lots of innovative translations of the works, which were described in the first edition: education of Chinese women, social roles, and religion issues in comparison to the social ones. One of the peculiar features of Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1 is its organization.
The chronological order, chosen by the authors, allows the reader to analyze the history of China from the Shang dynasty (also known as Yin Dynasty) until the ruling of the Ming dynasty, and the beginning of the Jiang Zemin era. In fact, the Shang dynasty was not the first but just the second dynasty in the Ancient China.
The Xia dynasty is considered to be the first Chinese dynasty ever. However, “because no written records of the Xia have yet been discovered, the Shang, with its inscriptions on oracle bones and bronze vessels, may currently be regarded as China’s first historical dynasty.” (Bary and Bloom 4)
In order the reader can understand the essence of the reading, the authors start each chapter with a kind of introduction that points out the major historical facts. These introductions are not too long, so the reader needs not much time to get a clear idea of what this or that article will be about.
Almost all information presented in Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1 is direct translation of original texts. This is why such historical anthology will be rather interesting to students, ordinary readers, and experts in the Chinese history.
This book is divided into four major parts, which are dedicated to different spheres of life of different period, lasted from the ancient times till the modern China. The first chapter tells about the early civilizations in the Chinese culture. It also presents some pieces from the Confucius’s texts and other works of the Daoist schools. “The Legalists obviously learned something from both the Mohists and the Daoists.” (Bary and Bloom 191)
The second part of Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1 deals with a Classical Culture of China. Mostly, the authors dwell upon the Han dynasty, their readings and syntheses, and representatives. The peculiar feature of the Han dynasty is its “aid to the study of ancient China and its literature.” (Bary and Bloom 315) The Han empire helped to broaden out the intellectual interests of people.
The third chapter is all about Buddhism, its development, and its influence to Chinese people and other nations. In this part, the authors concentrate on the ideas of Wang Bi and Daoist religion. Bary uses the writings of Buddhist doctrines to underline how crucially important Buddhism was for numerous dynasties. “The coming of Buddhism to China was an event of far-reaching importance.” (Bary and Bloom 415).
Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism, their revival and the reasons during three periods (Tang, Song, and Ming) – this is all about the final chapter of Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1. The authors find it rather correct to finish their travel to the history of China at the rising of Confucianism and its unbelievable impact to the Chinese nation.
People have to believe in something. The idea of human morality and the correctness of actions this is what Confucianism is about. “Practice and the understanding of the purpose and significance of ritual also evolved over time along with the evolution of Confucianism itself.” (Bary and Bloom 344)
Each chapter is a unique collection of the ideas, which present a clear picture of the China during a long period of time. It is impossible to tell the whole history of this really great nation in even one large book. However, Bary and Bloom choose a wonderful way to introduce the general historical facts and then describe certain concrete issues grounding on the historical documents.
Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1 is not a simple book that teaches people about the Chinese history. This book allows the reader to look at the historical facts and analyze then from a personal perspective. The authors do not ask to hold their own opinion; they translate the ideas of Chinese people, which were saved somehow. It is a splendid anthology of primary sources with clear explanations provided by the Chinese scholars of different levels.
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This book is not only about Chinese philosophies. It is also about religion and cultural preferences, which made a strong impact on the development of philosophy of China. For every nation, it is not that easy to achieve those heights, which are already achieved by the Chinese nation. However, China passed lots of tests and solved many problems to become the country it is now. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1 by William Theodore de Bary, Irene Bloom, and Joseph Adler is a good example of China’s way to success and greatness.
Bary, William, T., Bloom, Irene, and Adler, Joseph. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1. Ney York: Columbia University Press, 2000.