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Chinese Text Project

All resources -> Confucianism -> Yangzi Fayan

Yang Xiong: Philosophy of the Fa yan: A Confucian Hermit in the Han Imperial Court

Jeffrey S. Bullock - Mountain Mind Press, 2011

Book description

"Yang Xiong is the most useless of all. He was truly a rotten Confucian."Zhu Xi (11301200 A.D.)With this comment from Song Dynasty Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi, the work of Han Dynasty philosopher Yang Xiong (53 B.C.18 A.D.) was effectively relegated to the dustbin of Chinese intellectual history. While influential in the Later Han as the clearest expression of the Old Text Confucian school, Yang's Fa yan has received little attention from Western scholars and appears here in a rare annotated English translation.Written during the transition between the Former and Later Han Dynasties, the Fa yan is a notoriously elusive text that was stylistically modeled on the Analects of Confucius. Denigrated by later Neo-Confucians for his association with Han usurper Wang Mang, Yang Xiong served both the Former Han and Xin imperial courts as a court poet and scholar, and was well known for being a reclusive personality, earning him a reputation as a "hermit at court." Most famous for his position that human nature is a mixture of good and evil, Yang Xiong's philosophy stands in clear contrast to the syncretic Confucianism of his day as a reformer's vision of proper self-cultivation and statecraft.This volume presents an annotated translation of the entire text, focusing on the passages that elucidate Yang's discussion of the core concepts of the Confucian school. The translator's commentary traces the text's major philosophical concepts to their roots in Warring States era philosophy, noting stylistic and conceptual allusions to the Analects and Mencius, among other texts. Also included are a discussion of Yang's biography and the influence of the eremitic ideal on his life and thought.

Reviews and discussion

Translations of Fayan / 法言


Does anyone have an view on the two recent translations of Yang Xiong's Fayan, namely those of Michael Nylan and Jeffrey Bullock, respectively?

Michael Nylan is obviously probably the greatest authority in Western academia on Yang Xiong, excluding David Knechtges.

Jeffrey Bullock is a young independent scholar. Although his book is published by a non-academic press, it seems to have been done at a high scholarly standard.

Does anyone have a view on the two translations? There is a significant price tag difference between the two editions (Nylan's is almost three times the price of Bullock's) which is one reason I ask.

[1 replies]

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