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Chinese Text Project

All resources -> Confucianism -> Yangzi Fayan

Exemplary Figures / Fayan

Michael Nylan, 2013

Book description

Exemplary Figures (sometimes translated as Model Sayings) is an unabridged, annotated translation of Fayan, one of three major works by the Chinese court poet-philosopher Yang Xiong (53 BCE-18 CE). Yang sought to "renew the old" by patterning these works on earlier classics, drawing inspiration from the Confucian Analects for Exemplary Figures. In this philosophical masterwork, constructed as a dialogue, Yang poses and then answers questions on philosophical, political, ethical, and literary matters. Michael Nylan's rendering of this text, which is laden with word play and is extraordinarily difficult to translate, is a joy to read-at turns wise, cautionary, and playful. Exemplary Figures is a core text that will be relied upon by scholars of Chinese history and philosophy and will be of interest to comparativists as well. Michael Nylan is professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Five "Confucian" Classics and Yang Xiong and The Pleasures of Reading and Classical Learning, coauthor of Lives of Confucius, and translator of The Canon of Supreme Mystery by Yang Xiong. "Fayan is one of the most important early Chinese texts. Carefully wrought and rich with historical insights and philosophical ruminations, it provides an invaluable window to the extraordinary mind of its creator, Yang Xiong, and the cross currents of his cultural moment. Nylan's masterful translation is a great stylistic and philological achievement. She renders Yang Xiong's prose with wit, fluency, and accuracy and provides the necessary contexts for understanding the text in her copious and helpful notes." -Wai-Yee Li, Harvard University

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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