Harman Patil (Editor)


Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
9/101 Votes Alchetron
1 Ratings
Rate This

Rate This

Chinese  淮南子
Gwoyeu Romatzyh  Hwainantzyy
IPA  [xwǎinǎntsɨ̀]
4.5/5 Goodreads

Hanyu Pinyin  Huáinánzǐ
Wade–Giles  Huai-nan tzu
Huainanzi t2gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcRzyjPIu4lH7Y9GG
Literal meaning  "[Writings of the] Masters of Huainan"
Similar  Lüshi Chunqiu, Guanzi, Shuowen Jiezi, Han Feizi, Book of Han

The Huainanzi (Chinese: 淮南子) is an ancient Chinese text that consists of a collection of essays that resulted from a series of scholarly debates held at the court of Liu An, King of Huainan, sometime before 139 BC. The Huainanzi blends Daoist, Confucianist, and Legalist concepts, including theories such as Yin-Yang and the Five Phases.


The Huainanzi's essays are all connected to one primary goal: attempting to define the necessary conditions for perfect socio-political order. It concludes that perfect societal order derives mainly from a perfect ruler, and the essays are compiled in such a way as to serve as a handbook for an enlightened sovereign and his court.

The book

The date of composition for the Huainanzi is more certain than for most early Chinese texts. Both the Book of Han and Records of the Grand Historian record that when Liu An paid a state visit to his nephew the Emperor Wu of Han in 139 BC, he presented a copy of his "recently completed" book in twenty-one chapters.

The Huainanzi is an eclectic compilation of chapters or essays that range across topics of mythology, history, astronomy, geography, philosophy, science, metaphysics, nature, and politics. It discusses many pre-Han schools of thought (especially Huang-Lao Daoism), and contains more than 800 quotations from Chinese classics. The textual diversity is apparent from the chapter titles (tr. Le Blanc, 1985, 15-16):

Some Huainanzi passages are philosophically significant, for instance, this combination of Five Phases and Daoist themes.  

When the lute-tuner strikes the kung note [on one instrument], the kung note [on the other instrument] responds: when he plucks the chiao note [on one instrument], the chiao note [on the other instrument] vibrates. This results from having corresponding musical notes in mutual harmony. Now, [let us assume that] someone changes the tuning of one string in such a way that it does not match any of the five notes, and by striking it sets all twenty-five strings resonating. In this case there has as yet been no differentiation as regards sound; it just happens that that [sound] which governs all musical notes has been evoked.

Notable translations

Most Huainanzi translations deal with only one chapter, and no complete Huainanzi translation in a Western language existed prior to 2010.

  • Balfour, Frederic H. (1884). Taoist Texts, Ethical, Political, and Speculative. London: Trübner, and Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh.
  • Morgan, Evan (1933). Tao, the Great Luminant: Essays from the Huai-nan-tzu. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.
  • Wallacker, Benjamin (1962). The Huai-nan-tzu, Book Eleven: Behavior Culture and the Cosmos. New Haven: American Oriental Society.
  • (Japanese) Kusuyama, Haruki 楠山春樹 (1979–88). E-nan-ji 淮南子 [Huainanzi]. Shinshaku kanbun taikei 54, 55, 62.
  • (French) Larre, Claude (1982). "Le Traité VIIe du Houai nan tseu: Les esprits légers et subtils animateurs de l'essence" ["Huainanzi Chapter 7 Translation: Light Spirits and Subtle Animators of Essence"]. Variétés sinologiques 67.
  • Ames, Roger T. (1983). The Art of Rulership: A Study in Ancient Chinese Political Thought. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • Le Blanc, Charles (1985). Huai nan tzu; Philosophical Synthesis in Early Han Thought: The Idea of Resonance (Kan-ying) With a Translation and Analysis of Chapter Six. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
  • Major, John S. (1993). Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought: Chapters Three, Four and Five of the Huainanzi. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • ———; Queen, Sarah; Meyer, Andrew; Roth, Harold (2010). The Huainanzi: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Government in Early Han China, by Liu An, King of Huainan. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • References

    Huainanzi Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Book of Han
    Han Feizi
    Lüshi Chunqiu