While Confucius failed in his lifetime to rescue a crumbling civilization with his teachings, he was to become the most influential sage in human history. His thought, still remarkably current and even innovative after 2500 years, survives here in The Analects — a collection of brief aphoristic sayings that has had a deeper impact on more people’s lives over a longer period of time than any other book in human history.Formulated in the ruins of a society that had been founded on untenable spiritualistic concepts of governance, Confucius’ philosophy postulated a humanistic social order that has survived as China’s social ideal ever since. Beginning with the realization that society is a structure of human relationships, Confucius saw that in a healthy society this structure must be a selfless weave of caring relationships. Those caring relationships are a system of “ritual” that people enact in their daily lives, thus infusing the secular with scared dimensions. Highly regarded for the poetic fluency he brings to his award-winning work, David Hinton is the first twentieth-century translator to render the four central masterworks of ancient Chinese thought: Chuang Tzu, Mencius, The Analects, and Tao te Ching (forthcoming). HIs new versions are not only inviting and immensely readable, but they also apply a much-needed consistency to key terms in these texts, lending structural links and philosophical rigor heretofore unavailable in English. Breathing new life into these originary classics, Hinton’s translations will stand as the definitive series for our era.
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David Hinton has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, numerous fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States: the Landon Translation Award, and the PEN Translation Award. His recent book of essays, Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape, was on the Best-Books-of-the-Year list at The Guardian in England.