Slingerland Reviews Hunter, Confucius Beyond the Analects

The latest issue of Early China contains a review by Edward Slingerland of Michael Hunter, Confucius Beyond the Analects (Leiden: Brill, 2017). Slingerland’s concluding paragraph:

“Hunter’s convincing demonstration that before Emperor Wu’s reign “no source of Kongzi material was felt to be uniquely trustworthy or authoritative” (p. 314) has important implications for how we think about and teach early Chinese thought. The fact that thinkers such as Mengzi and Xunzi were probably working with a much broader and diverse Kongzi literature than is reflected in our received Lun yu should alter our sense of the Kongzi they thought they were defending. More attention should be paid to non-Lun yu sources of Confucius material, which tend to be ignored in the standard AnalectsDaodejingMoziMengziZhuangziXunziHanfeizi narrative that dominates the teaching of the history of early Chinese thought (including my own). Even if our received Lun yu does consist mostly of genuinely early Warring States material, before the conceptual innovations evident in the Mengzi, Xunzi and Guodian and Shanghai Museum texts, we need to be aware of the possibility that the selection and arrangement of this material was shaped by Western Han concerns. Even if it fails to support its most radical conclusions, this book performs a valuable service to the field in undermining the “inevitability” (p. 1) of beginning our treatment of early Chinese thought with the received Lun yu and forcing us to realize that the history of early Chinese thought is more messily tangled than we typically acknowledge.” (Early China 41 (2018), p. 475)

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