The Art of Rulership: A Study of Ancient Chinese Political by Roger T. Ames

By Roger T. Ames

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The process of attaining and consummating this Way in government and society must begin at the top with the ruler's commitment to self-realization. That is, Confucius advances a notion of education through emulation which is tied closely to his belief in the efficacy of the ruler's "moral potency" (te). It is because of the ruler's essential position in the chain of influence that Confucius as a trustee of the Way directs his efforts at winning over the ruler to the notion of administration by moral edification and transformation.

The fit is so close, one wonders if Ssu-ma T'an had this text in mind when he wrote his epitome of Taoism. Although he may not agree completely with this position, it is because of Roger Ames' careful study of the The Art of Rulership and its intellectual background that we are able to get a particularly clear glimpse of the unique syncretic genius of the Huang-Lao philosophical lineage in its most fully developed form. His pioneering work initiated a decade of new scholarship on the Huai-nan Tzu that has included significant translations of the following essays: 6, "Peering into the Mysterious" by Charles LeBlanc (Hong Kong University Press, 1985); 3-5, "The Patterns of Heaven," "The Forms of Earth," and "The Seasonal Ordinances" by John Major (SUNY Press, 1993); and 7, "The Numinous Essence," 13, "Discourse on Uncertainties," 18, "Human Affairs," as well as 1 and 11, by Claude Larre, Isabelle Robinet, and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée (Éditions du Cerf, 1993).

Is a later accretion. Second, there have been many attempts at political theory which, while brilliantly devised and appealing to man's higher nature, are simply unworkable. The anarchism proffered by the early philosophical Taoists is perhaps one of these systems. This treatise presents a political theory which attempts to temper lofty ideals with a functional practicability. While the spirit of the work is strongly Taoist and Confucian, this spirit is provided with a political framework in which it can be implemented, nurtured, and cultivated.

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