Ancient China in Context
Finding the Way:
The Dau/Dv Jing and Chinese Statecraft
E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks

cover: finding the wayThe Dau/Dv Jing is the most widely popular of all classical Chinese texts. It is here read consecutively, in parallel with the work of rival statecraft groups in Warring States times. The influence of the DDJ in later years is also condered.

This is a new translation of the Dau/Dv Jing, set for the first time in its intellectual context.

The text on which the translation is based is that of the Gwodyen (03c) and Mawangdwei (02c) versions, where these exist, using the traditional Wang Bi (3c) text only where nothing earlier is available. This is the most nearly original text of the DDJ which can be recovered from presently available resources. The commentary takes full account of the give and take between the DDJ and its contemporaries, and acknowledges both its mystical and its practical side. Anecdotal and other information about the text and its author is carefully weighed, and considered against the evidence of the text itself. The result is a fresh look at a much looked-at text and the world out of which it took shape.

The DDJ is the text of a meditation school founded in Chi about the year 0360. The supposed author, Lau Dan, was the second of the three heads of that school; he succeeded the founder in c0328, and was responsible for it until his death at an advanced age in c0284. At that point, Chi having been overrun by Yen, the school moved south to Lu, where it was headed by a third person until the school, and the state of Lu, was extinguished by Chu in 0249. The three masters had noticeably different ideas and emphases, and distinguishing their contributions within the work helps to make individual passages much more intelligible. As a whole, the text evolved from a meditation-based theory of how to rule (its Chi phase) into a secular statecraft manual for a weak state among strong states. The final phase was all too appropriate for Lu, a medium state of no military distinction, which had no realistic hope of playing an important part in the great events of the time.

In such comments as "What others teach, I too will teach," the DDJ has always advertised its connection to contemporary thought. Those hints are developed in this book by the inclusion of excerpts from those texts: the Mwodz, statecraft thinkers like Shvn Bu-hai and Shvn Dau, the Chi group whose text was the Gwandz, and the Confucians: Mencius, Sywndz, and, least of all the Analects. The close relation between the DDJ and the parallel series of Gwandz meditation texts is traced, and the long relation between the DDJ and the classical military texts is explored. The influence of events is noted, above all the disastrous Chi military defeats in 0314 and 0284, which frame the contribution of Lau Dan.

Lau Dan's own son had a military career. Anecdotal hints about that career, and the inferences that may be drawn about Lau Dan from his writings, are chronologically consistent and philosophically illuminating. The DDJ is not as strongly antimilitary a text as many have thought, since the strongest antimilitary statements were added in early Han, to a text which had previously advised caution, rather than compete abstention, in military matters.

The first commentary on the DDJ was the teaching version produced in c0284 by the tutor to the Chu Heir Apparent. It shows a fascinating mixture of cultural adaptation and pedagogical subtlety. Everything demeaning to the ruler, or at odds with Chu religious beliefs, duplications are pruned, and the rest is arranged in ascending order of subtlety. This teaching version is presented in its own right, with its own brief commentary. That it was successful may be seen in the fact that the tutor's pupil, when he came to the throne of Chu as Kau-lye Wang, avoided the military mistakes of Chi and made carefully considered conquests which proved more stable than the ill-considered ventures of its northern rival.

To complete the story, the Appendices take brief notice of the reception and influence of the DDJ in Imperial times.

Extracts from Finding the Way:

Reading the familiar DDJ together with other mystical works of the classical period, and against the viewpoints with which the DDJ contended and from which it learned, permits a deeper understanding of the problems facing the text's proprietors over the years, and a fuller appreciation of how those problems were met. The parallels between Indian meditation traditions and their faint Chinese echoes are also briefly noted. The result is not only to clarify the position of the sometimes enigmatic DDJ, but to sharpen our awareness of the agreements and differences among the major High Warring States advocacy groups.

For an overview of the entire classical period, which puts both meditation and statecraft in the larger context of state modernization and the philosophical responses to it, see the survey volume in this series, The Emergence of China.

E Bruce Brooks

E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese, and A TAEKO BROOKS is Research Associate, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Finding the Way: The Dau/Dv Jing and Chinese Statecraft

Approximately 256 pages
Tentative $47.95 cloth. ISBN 978-936166-30-5
Tentative $24.95 paper. ISBN 978-936166-70-1
Tentative Release Date: August 2013

When announced, this book may be ordered from the University of Massachusetts Press

 

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