A History of Classical Chinese Thought  book cover
1st Edition

A History of Classical Chinese Thought

ISBN 9780367230128
Published August 20, 2019 by Routledge
382 Pages

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Book Description

Li Zehou is widely regarded as one of China’s most influential contemporary thinkers. He has produced influential theories of the development of Chinese thought and the place of aesthetics in Chinese ethics and value theory. This book is the first English-language translation of Li Zehou’s work on classical Chinese thought. It includes chapters on the classical Chinese thinkers, including Confucius, Mozi, Laozi, Sunzi, Xunzi and Zhuangzi, and also on later eras and thinkers such as Dong Zhongshu in the Han Dynasty and the Song-Ming Neo-Confucians.

The essays in this book not only discuss these historical figures and their ideas, but also consider their historical significance, and how key themes from these early schools reappeared in and shaped later periods and thinkers. Taken together, they highlight the breadth of Li Zehou’s scholarship and his syncretic approach—his explanations of prominent thinkers and key periods in Chinese intellectual history blend ideas from both the Chinese and Western canons, while also drawing on contemporary thinkers in both traditions. The book also includes an introduction written by the translator that helpfully explains the significance of Li Zehou’s work and its prospects for fostering cross-cultural dialogue with Western philosophy.

A History of Chinese Classical Thought will be of interest to advanced students and scholars interested in Chinese philosophy, comparative philosophy, and Chinese intellectual and social history.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Translator’s Introduction

Chapter 1. Re-evaluating Confucius

Chapter 2. A Preliminary Exploration of the Mohists

Chapter 3. Sunzi, Laozi and Han Fei

Chapter 4. Key Features of the Xunzi, Yizhuan and the Doctrine of the Mean

Chapter 5. Qin and Han Dynasty Thought

Chapter 6. Zhuangzi and Chan Buddhism

Chapter 7. Some Thoughts on Neo-Confucianism

Chapter 8. Engagement in Practical Affairs and Statecraft

Chapter 9. Some Thoughts on Chinese Wisdom


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Li Zehou is widely regarded as China’s leading scholar of traditional and modern intellectual history and philosophy. In philosophy, his specialization is aesthetics and ethics, but he has also written on Kant, ancient thought, and modern political thought. He is the author of The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics (1995), and Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View (with Jane Cauvel, 2006), and The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition (2010).

Andrew Lambert is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy Department at College of Staten Island, City University of New York. His research focuses on ethics and Chinese thought, and he has published various translations and articles concerning Chinese and Comparative Philosophy.


"We now have a new, very well-crafted and well-translated general history of classical Chinese thought, which is truly exciting!"Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Li Zehou is arguably China’s most important contemporary philosopher. In a generation in which we have experienced a precipitous rise of Chinese influence on the world order, we are from a contemporary philosophical vantage point offered this sustained reflection on the evolution of this antique Chinese philosophical tradition that brings its most prominent figures and themes into the present philosophical discourse. Li Zehou reinterprets and re-conceptualizes major ideas and concepts within the broad compass of this tradition, and replete with his own philosophical speculations, makes them available as a resource for a changing world cultural order."Roger T. Ames, Peking University, China

"Presented here in English for the first time, Li Zehou’s A History of Classical Chinese Thought stands as a major work in twentieth-century Chinese philosophy, one that remains highly relevant to contemporary East-West dialogue. Lambert’s studious translation captures both the delicacy and breadth of the author’s mind, affording readers a new appreciation of what it means to ‘do’ Chinese philosophy." Jim Behuniak, Colby College, USA

"Li Zehou is the most outstanding but controversial philosopher in contemporary China. He was the youngest protagonist of the ‘aesthetic debate’ in the new born socialist China in 1950s. He came back after the Cultural Revolution with his idiosyncratic elucidation on Marxism and Kantian philosophy to become the flag bearer leading the ‘aesthetic fever’ and the ‘cultural fever’ throughout the ‘New Enlightenment’ period of 1980s. A History of Classical Chinese Thought, a major work in 1980s, exhibits Li’s unique interpretation on Chinese traditional thoughts, in particular, Confucian philosophy, which ushered the Confucian turn in China today, eventually makes Chinese philosophy resonate with Western philosophy." Tsuyoshi Ishii, University of Tokyo, Japan