Ways of Heaven: An Introduction to Chinese Thought

Roel Sterckx. Basic, $35 (512p) ISBN 978-1-5416-1844-2
Sterckx (The Animal and the Daemon in Early China), professor of Chinese history at Cambridge University, masterfully guides readers through the foundations of classical Chinese philosophical and spiritual thought in this splendid work. He focuses primarily on Confucian, Daoist, and legalist thought as the three main philosophical strands with origins in ancient China that are still identifiable in modern times. Sterckx begins with a historical summary and introduction to the concept of Dao, before dividing the rest of the work into thematic chapters—including government, ritual behavior, the relation of individuals to one another and their ancestors, the natural world, and economic behavior. Sterckx is at his best explicating the philosophy of Confucius, clearly showing how the philosopher “argued that human relationships thrive better when human conduct is regimented and shielded by a phalanx of rituals, ceremonies, courtesies and conventions.” Sterckx grounds the book in the buildup to China’s Warring States period, which reinforces his idea that Chinese philosophies arose from political and social events—which strikes a contrast to Greek philosophies of a similar era which strove for an ideal of thought outside of the bounds of everyday human interaction. The firm historical grounding and Sterckx’s clear, concise writing make this an excellent volume. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/10/2019
Release date: 09/17/2019
Genre: Religion
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