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With Selections from Traditional Commentaries

Translated, with Introduction, by Bryan W. Van Norden

2008 - 272 pp.

Format ISBN Price Qty
Cloth 978-0-87220-914-5
Paper 978-0-87220-913-8
Examination 978-0-87220-913-8


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Click HERE to download a PDF of textual notes to this title.


Bryan Van Norden's new translation of the Mengzi (Mencius) is accurate, philosophically nuanced, and fluent.  Accompanied by selected passages from the classic commentary of Zhu Xi—one of the most influential and insightful interpreters of Confucianism—this edition provides readers with a parallel to the Chinese practice of reading a classic text alongside traditional commentaries.  Also included are an Introduction that situates Mengzi and Zhu Xi in their intellectual and social contexts; a glossary of names, places and important terms; a selected bibliography; and an index.



"The Mengzi is one of the richest philosophical texts in classical Chinese philosophy, and Van Norden's translation is among the few that do it justice.  His translation is further distinguished by its accessibility and is unique in including substantial selections from later commentaries.  As such it is both an essential scholarly resource and a great introduction to Confucian thought."
     —Justin Tiwald, San Francisco State University



"Bryan W. Van Norden accomplishes two impressive feats in this important new translation of Mengzi (Mencius).  First, he presents the text in a traditional fashion, with indispensable commentary interwoven into—yet always clearly distinct from—the text. This opens up the text to modern readers as never before in a translation.  Second, he both lets us hear the voice of the text's greatest commentator (Zhu Xi from the twelfth century) and gives us a translation faithful to the text's original time and philosophy.  The supple balance with which Van Norden pulls this off makes this translation perfect for students, general readers, and scholars alike."
     —Stephen Angle, Wesleyan University



"This is the most accurate, readable, and philosophically revealing version of the Mengzi available.  It has the added virtue of a running commentary that weaves together Zhu Xi's explanation of Mengzi's thought with Van Norden's exposition and insights and his selected bibliographies.  The inclusion of Zhu Xi's comments allows readers to appreciate more fully not only the depth of Mengzi's original vision but also its power to inspire creative interpretation by one of the greatest minds of the neo-Confucian period.  The result is a magnificent work that brings the study and understanding of Mengzi's philosophy to an unprecedented and most impressive level of rigor, sophistication, and interest."
     —Philip J. Ivanhoe, City University of Hong Kong



"Hackett strikes again with an enormously useful book for undergraduate instruction in Chinese philosophy.  This is the first reliable translation of the entire Mencius in many years.  Van Norden is an insightful student of philosophy and provides many valuable comments on the text and its controversies; in addition, he furnishes the reader with judiciously chosen examples of traditional commentary.  This translation will be used and appreciated for decades."
     —Paul R. Goldin, University of Pennsylvania



"In his translation of the fourth century BCE Confucian classic better known as Mencius, Van Norden aims to improve upon the less idiomatic, contextualized, and philosophically-informed work of his predecessors.  Both context and philosophical import are provided by Van Norden's selection of influential commentaries by Zhu Xi (1130-1200 CE) and other Confucian luminaries, while his crisply readable English renderings supply the idiomatic quality missing from previous translations.  His detailed introduction situates the Mengzi in Chinese cultural and intellectual history and highlights points of connection between Mencian thought and Western philosophy, religion, and science.  Each section of the text is preceded by a brief synopsis, including an indication of the section's "most interesting and often-discussed passages," and nearly every passage is punctuated by an excerpt from commentarial literature as well as Van Norden's own insightful comments.  This edition not only illuminates the Mengzi's milieu, but also that of Zhu Xi and the "Neo-Confucian" orthodoxy that Zhu helped to create in medieval China.  Moreover, Van Norden demonstrates how, despite the fact that Zhu's interpretation (itself designated canonical in the fourteenth century CE) elevated the Mengzi to canonical status as one of the so-called "Four Books" of the Confucian curriculum, his "metaphysics derails his otherwise keen textual insight" by often reading this early pre-Buddhist text in terms of categories inherited from a millennium of Chinese contact with Buddhist thought.  Those who seek to encounter "the most cogent, coherent, and comprehensible" of Confucian classics in an inexpensive, idiomatic, and accurate edition with an ample yet unobtrusive textual apparatus can do no better than to seek out this translation."
     —Jeffrey L. Richey, Berea College 



“Van Norden’s new English translation of the Mengzi should be received with great delight. It has the added value of including parts of the insightful commentary of the Neo-Confucianism master Zhu Xi, which was required reading for the civil service examination in China from 1313 to 1905. Van Norden also interweaves his own comments throughout the translation, sometimes illuminating both Zhu Xi’s insights and the text of the Mengzi at once; altogether, he proves himself to be a reliable guide.
     “Van Norden’s work is lucid, readable, and easily accessible to the layperson. The Introduction, in particular, was clearly written with a general audience in mind. In addition, the translation comes with a convenient English-Chinese glossary that explains the basic meaning of key terms in the Mengzi and gives references to where a particular term is used in the text. . . . He discusses virtually every important aspect, historical and philosophical, that is indispensable for the lay reader to understand Mengzi’s philosophy.”
     —Yuet Keung Lo, National University of Singapore, in Philosophy East & West



Bryan W. Van Norden is Professor in the Philosophy Department and in the Department of Chinese and Japanese at Vassar College.

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