Cover of Sarah Allan: Heir and the Sage, Revised and Expanded Edition

Sarah Allan Heir and the Sage, Revised and Expanded Edition

Dynastic Legend in Early China

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State University of New York Press


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This book presents a comprehensive analysis of the accounts of change of rule in Chinese texts from 600 to 100 BC, including the core philosophical works of the Chinese tradition attributed to Confucius, Mozi, Mencius, Xunzi, Hanfeizi, and Zhuangzi. Drawing from the early structuralism of Claude Levi-Strauss, Sarah Allan demonstrates that similar motifs repeat in every period, and argues that they serve, like myth, to mediate the inherent social conflict between kinship relations and that of the larger community. This conflict is embodied in the idea of a dynastic cycle, founded by a virtuous sage king and passed down hereditarily until a last evil ruler is again replaced, and played out at regular intervals in legends of kings and ministers, heirs and sages, ministers and recluses, regents and rebels. Each philosophical text transforms the legends in a systematic manner to reflect its own understanding of the patterns of history that inform the present.In this revised and expanded edition, Allan has added translations and original Chinese texts, as well as a new introduction further analyzing structuralism and discussing how the book remains relevant to ongoing sinological arguments. An earlier article by Allan, with supporting evidence for this book's thesis, is included as an appendix.

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