Sarah Allan, The Heir and the Sage: Dynastic Legend in Early China (revised and expanded edition) is now in print with SUNY Press (2016).
This book presents a comprehensive analysis of the accounts of change of rule in Chinese texts from 600 to 100 BC, including the core philosophical works of the Chinese tradition attributed to Confucius, Mozi, Mencius, Xunzi, Hanfeizi, and Zhuangzi. Drawing from the early structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss, Sarah Allan demonstrates that similar motifs repeat in every period, and argues that they serve, like myth, to mediate the inherent social conflict between kinship relations and that of the larger community. This conflict is embodied in the idea of a dynastic cycle, founded by a virtuous sage king and passed down hereditarily until a last evil ruler is again replaced, and played out at regular intervals in legends of kings and ministers, heirs and sages, ministers and recluses, regents and rebels. Each philosophical text transforms the legends in a systematic manner to reflect its own understanding of the patterns of history that inform the present.
The original edition of The Heir and the Sage was published in 1981 by CMC. This book provides a theoretical framework for Sarah Allan, Buried Ideas: Legends of Abdication and Ideal Government in Early Chinese Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts, also recently published by SUNY (2015). The new edition includes a new introduction that places The Heir and the Sage within the context of contemporary scholarship. The full Chinese text and English translation of some passages that were simply cited in the original book have been added, as has an appendix, originally published as: “The Identities of Taigong Wang in Zhou and Han Literature” has also been added as an appendix.