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ANCIENT CHINESE THOUGHT

EALL 212/512, PHIL 203


(last edited 8/14/17)

Instructor: Mick Hunter (mick.hunter@yale.edu)


When/where: T/Th 11:35–12:50
Office: HGS 309
Office hours: Tuesdays 2–3:00 or by appointment

Course description/goals: This course is an introduction to the foundational works of ancient


Chinese thought, from the ruling ideologies of the earliest historical dynasties through the
writings of the Warring States masters and including intellectual developments in the early
imperial period. We will approach our subject from a variety of perspectives, beginning with
the “philosophical”—itself a problematic term whose appropriateness for the ancient Chinese
context is somewhat controversial. What were the problems that ancient Chinese thinkers
grappled with, and what were their solutions? The second perspective is the cultural or
sociological: what can we glean from these texts about the role of the intellectual in ancient
Chinese society? What was the nature of wisdom, and what do we learn from the Chinese
sages about the performance of wisdom? Finally, we will also be concerned with what I call
“the poetics of wisdom,” the rhetorical and literary strategies whereby ancient Chinese
authors engaged audiences’ intellect and invested their texts with profundity.
The core intellectual work of the course is the critical analysis of primary sources
together with the articulation of those analyses both in class and in writing. Students with a
background in non-Chinese intellectual traditions are especially encouraged to pursue cross-
cultural comparisons in their written work.

Assignments:
• Weekly readings, due before class. As you read each primary source, I want you to ask
yourself several questions:
○ Do I understand the surface level of the text? If not, use whatever resources
available to you (wikipedia, dictionaries, etc.) to look up problematic terms,
references, proper names, etc. before class. Keep a running list of the questions you
can’t answer for yourself.
○ Do I understand its message? What are its main ideas? If there is an argument,
how does it work? If there is a narrative, how does it develop? Is there a subtext?
○ Can I summarize the text? Can I describe it in one or two or three sentences?
How would I explain it to a non-expert?
○ What are the text’s formal characteristics? Can you say something about the
language/imagery/style/format of the text? What is its genre? Was its author
working under any formal constraints? To what extent does the form constrain the
message?
○ Who is behind the text? Do I have a sense of the author(s)? The audience? The
context and setting? What is the author trying to accomplish? Was he successful?

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By this stage I would like you to have identified at least three key passages that
strike you as particularly illuminating or suggestive.
○ What don’t I understand about the text? And is that my problem or does it say
something interesting about the text itself?
○ Can I relate the text to other texts and to the larger themes of the course? Here
I would like you to come up with at least three discussion questions for your
classmates and think about how you would go about answering them.
• Classroom participation (15% of your grade). I expect you to contribute actively to the
classroom discussion, including asking discussion questions and volunteering your own
interpretations and analyses of the readings.
• Five short response papers (2–3 pages; 25%), assigned throughout the semester.
• Midterm exam (25%)
• Final written exam or paper (35%).

Required texts:
• Philip Ivanhoe & Bryan Van Norden, eds., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy
(Hackett, 2006; $24 through amazon

Online resources:
• Chinese Text Project (http://ctext.org)

Academic integrity:
• All written work must be your own. If you borrow someone else’s words and/or ideas
you must explicitly acknowledge their source, whether you are directly quoting or
loosely paraphrasing. Failure to do so amounts to plagiarism, which is a severe
violation of the university’s policy on academic integrity. For additional information,
see http://yalecollege.yale.edu/content/academic-honesty.

Grading rubric:
• An “A” student is a valuable contributor to classroom discussions with his/her
questions and comments. In his/her written work, the student will have conducted close and
critical reading of texts, grappled with the issues raised in the course, synthesized the
readings, discussions, and lectures, and formulated a perceptive, compelling, independent
argument. The argument shows some originality and creativity, is sensitive to historical
context, is supported by a well-chosen variety of specific examples, and is built on a critical
reading of primary material.
• A “B” student demonstrates many aspects of A-level work. S/he participates
enthusiastically but in a way that does not advance the discussion. Papers or exams in this
category are solid works containing flashes of insight into many of the issues raised in the
course. Others give evidence of independent thought, but the argument is not presented
clearly or convincingly.
• A “C” student attends class without necessarily participating in it. His/her essays and
exams narrate the facts without offering any interpretation or analysis and contain little
historical context or engagement with primary sources. They also misunderstand essay or

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exam questions and make basic factual errors. Papers in this category also suffer from unclear
writing and poor organization, or inadequate primary research.
• A “D” student attends class infrequently and contributes less. Written work reveals
an inadequate grasp of the basic course material.
• An “F” student demonstrates no competence in the course due to neglect or a lack of
effort.

UNIT 1: Beginnings

Week 1: Orientations
8/31: Course guidelines • defining “ancient” “Chinese” “thought”

Week 2–3: The Western Zhou classics


9/5: The Odes (Shi ) classic
• “Classic of Odes, Part 1” (includes a “Foreword” by Stephen Owen and the “Major
Odes,” trans. Arthur Waley); focus especially on #235 & #245
9/7: The Odes (Shi ) classic, continued
• “Classic of Odes, Part 2” (includes selections from the “Airs of the States” and “Minor
Odes,” trans. Waley)
9/12: The Documents (Shu ) classic
• The Classic of Documents: “Speech at Mu,” “Successful Completion of the War,”
“Numerous Officers,” “Numerous Regions,” “Announcement to the Prince of Kang,”
“Announcement about Drunkenness,” “Against Luxurious Ease,” and “Metal-bound
Coffer” (trans. James Legge and available from Canvas and at http://ctext.org/shang-shu)

Week 3-4: The First Master


9/14: Kongzi (Confucius) and The Analects
• The Analects of Confucius, trans. Robert Eno , introduction & chapter 1–10 (through p.
51).
9/19: The Analects, continued
• Robert Eno, The Analects of Confucius, pp. 134–144

Week 4-5: Mengzi & Xunzi


9/21: Mengzi
• First response paper due • Readings pp. 111–156
9/26: Xunzi
• Readings pp. 247–294 • Roel Sterckx, “The Economics of Religion in Warring States and
Early Imperial China”

Week 5-6: Laozi & Zhuangzi


9/28: Laozi
• Readings pp. 157–202

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10/3: Zhuangzi
• Readings pp. 203–245
10/5: Zhuangzi continued
• Second response paper due • Additional Zhuangzi readings (available in Canvas)

Week 6: Han Feizi


10/10: Han Feizi
• Selections from the Han Feizi (Readings pp. 295–344
10/12: Han Feizi, “The Forest of Persuasions”
• “The Forest of Persuasions,” trans. Wenkui Liao

Week 7: Mozi & midterm


10/17: Mozi
• Readings pp. 55–109
10/19: OCTOBER BREAK

Week 8: The Classic of Changes


10/24: Classic of Changes, part I
• A good place to start is the wikipedia page on the “I Ching” (http://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Yijing, also accessible via pdf in Canvas) • next read Richard Lynn’s introduction
(pp. 1–5, 19–22) and translations of “Explaining the Trigrams” (pp. 119–126) and the first
two hexagrams (pp. 129–150) (this is the “Classic of Changes” file on Canvas)
10/26: Classic of Changes, part II
• The “Commentary to the Appended Phrases,” trans. Lynn • Willard Peterson, “Making
Connections” (59 pp., but focus on pp. 69ff)

Week 9: The Annals of Lü Buwei


10/31: Annals of Lü Buwei, part I
The Annals of Lü Buwei (trans. John Knoblock & Jeffrey Riegel): read the “Lüshi chunqiu
introduction” and “Lüshi chunqiu calendar” files available on Canvas. In the first file, focus
your attention on the table of contents (pp. xiii–xviii) and the “Major points” (pp. 46–55);
the second file contains the first sections of the first 12 chapters of the text (also known as
the “Monthly Ordinances”) together with an excerpt from chapter 13 that contextualizes
chapters 1–12.
11/2: Annals of Lü Buwei, part II
• additional selections from the Annals of Lü Buwei

Week 10: The advent of empire


11/7: The Qin conquest

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• The “Basic Annals of the First Emperor of the Qin” & “Reflections on the Rise of the
Qin” (52 pp., trans. Burton Watson) • the “Canon of Yao” & “Canon of Shun” (5 pp.)
from the Classic of Documents (trans. James Legge)
11/9: Mei Sheng’s “Seven Stimuli for the Prince” • the Huainanzi
• “Seven Stimuli for the Prince” (trans. Knechtges & Swanson) • Huainanzi book 21
(trans. Major et al.)

Week 11:
11/14: Two texts for emperors • selections from various Han sources
• Fourth response paper due • Readings in Han Chinese Thought (selections TBD) • The
Classic of Filial Piety (available at http://ctext.org/xiao-jing)
11/16: more selections from various Han sources
• Readings in Han Chinese Thought (selections TBD)

Week 12: Flex week


11/28: TBD, in accordance with student interests
11/30: TBD

Week 13: Two Han voices


12/5: Yang Xiong’s classicism
• Fifth response paper due • Selections from Yang Xiong’s Model Sayings, trans. Michael
Nylan
12/7: Wang Chong’s criticism
• Wang Chong’s Balanced Discourses (trans. Alfred Forke): “All about ghosts” (pp. 766–
777), “A definition of worthies” (pp. 917–942), & additional selections TBD