Response to
Liu Xiaogan (4)

Liu. Munro's book, having stood the test of three decades, serves us well on many levels. It is not only a good introduction to early Chinese thought, it is also a fine working model for graduate students and young researchers learning how to organize and present arguments, how to analyze philosophical concepts and theories, how to make comparisons between East and West, and how to base philosophical discussion on solid Sinological research. It is a crucial stepping-stone to further research on classical Chinese thought and on cross-cultural philosophical comparisons. The Concept of Man in Early China is a model of sophistication in scholarship and the craft of research.

Brooks. Possibly. But if so, students in search of those virtues may do best to seek them out in the original 1969 edition of Don's work. The Foreword to this 2001 reprint turns out to be full of non sequitur arguments and invalid associations, cursory readings and postmodernist suppositions, confusion about the interpretation of archaeological results and a rather low opinion of the mentality of the early Chinese people.

None of which can be lightly recommended to the young and impressionable.

On the other hand, the Foreword does have the merit of bringing two other works (Lionel Jensen's and our own) to the attention of adult readers, which will give them an idea of what "further research" on early Chinese thought has achieved since Don's own book was written, thirty years ago.

This perhaps riskily exposes the original work to the question of whether it is not merely a classic, as few would deny, but an analysis which will bear modern scrutiny. But the modern authors referred to can only be grateful. We here acknowledge our share of that gratitude. And we end with the hope that others in their turn will carry the search still further, in years to come.

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25 January 2002 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page