Xinzhong Yao aims to give western students a more complete understanding of Confucianism. This is an excellent introduction to the Chinese sage and those who have continued to develop his ideas. Yao argues that a gap has emerged between Confucianism as it is understood in the West and the East.
Yao rejects the chronological approach of previous writers such as JamesLegge, Herrlee Creel and John Berthrong, and considers Confucian thought thematically. This method works well, and Yao deals with the complexities of the subject while maintaining a very readable and clear style.
At the beginning is a useful table illustrating how events in Chinese, Japanese and Korean history correspond to the development of Confucianism in these countries. There are also useful questions for further discussion at the end of each chapter.
Yao deals mainly with Confucianism as a philosophical and religious tradition. Although he discusses issues such as the tension between Confucianism and western culture and modernisation, these subjects are not dealt with in as much detail as the religious and philosophical aspects. There is no mention, for example, of how governments in Asia have used Confucianism to argue against the introduction of liberal democracy.
However, this should not diminish the usefulness of the book for students in many disciplines. Indeed, with the growing importance of China in the worlds of economics and international politics, and the re-emergence of Confucianism as an important force in Chinese society over the past 20 years, this book would be valuable for students of social sciences, politics, international relations, philosophy and religion, as well as general readers interested in China.
Susan Giblin is a PhD student in East Asian studies, University of Leeds.
An Introduction to Confucianism . First Edition
Author - Xinzhong Yao
ISBN - 0 521 64312 0 and 64430 5
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Price - £37.50 and £13.95
Pages - 344