China Beat Archive


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March 5, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright 2010. Used by permission.


In this well written and organized book, Karyn L. Lai lays out the founding personalities, texts, and interventions in the early history of Chinese philosophy. What could easily have been a tortuous path through centuries’ worth of extant materials and a plenitude of voices devoted to their understanding is, rather, a brisk and focused guided tour that covers major developments in Chinese philosophy without eschewing its lesser known – but still important – aspects. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy does exactly what it promises to do: provide a clear introduction, neither too truncated nor too bogged down in detail, that is accessible to the lay reader or student just beginning his or her journey. The book is organized thematically, with each chapter devoted to a particular philosophical tradition. For readers amenable to meandering, notes at the end of each chapter provide detailed information and suggestions for further reading on the topics discussed. Finally, after clearly explaining the main concepts of various aspects of Chinese philosophy, and providing useful summaries of the scholarly debates around them, a postscript addresses the ways in which organizing Chinese philosophy in this manner can de-emphasize the degree of differences and diversity found even within such “traditions.”