Review by
Nathan Sivin
H-Asia (20 Sept 1998)

This, as far as we know, is the first signed review of The Original Analects. It was solicited by the manager of the H-Asia E-mail network, and posted on 20 September 1998, five months after the book's appearance. The first portion of it is reposted here by permission.

Two books have appeared recently that will transform our understanding of the early Chinese classics:

Brooks, E Bruce; A Taeko Brooks. 1998. The Original Analects: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors, Translations From the Asian Classics, Columbia University Press. . .

The Brookses have shown, largely through relating historical data in the text to its background in events and in other datable records, that the Analects were written over 200 years, and that parts are later than the earlier (yes!) parts of the Mencius.

Pre-Han and Han texts have been broadly redated over the past decade (see Loewe, Early Chinese Texts for up-to-date views) as Sinologists have realized that early books came together very gradually and have to be dated chapter by chapter. The Brookses go much further with their critical technique, which they use much more systematically and skeptically than their Chinese and Japanese predecessors who pioneered it. Many of their judgements are explicitly speculative, but I do not believe that anyone alive could have done this large task with fewer educated guesses. Scholars learned enough to take issue with some of their assumptions or conclusions will have to acknowledge the importance of their overall approach and of the questions they raise. With further application, work like this will further transform our views of when early books appeared and how they influenced each other.

This is not just a treatise on dating. Just as important, it is a sensitive and pungent translation, with commentary, based on newly discovered relations between individual chapters and between them and events.

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