The Huainanzi and Liu An's Claim to Moral Authority
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An innovative analysis both of the Huainanzi, a text from China's Han period, and of the events that surrounded this work.
This innovative study explores both the Huainanzi, the text written at the court of Liu An, king of Huainan, and presented to Emperor Wu in 139 B.C.E., and the events that led up to the death of Liu An in 122 B.C.E. Author Griet Vankeerberghen provides a fresh treatment of the Huainanzi, which she establishes as a unified work with a coherent moral philosophy. She shows that rather than defending any particular school of thought, as is often claimed, the Huainanzi was the primary means by which Liu An displayed his vision of the good and advertised his readiness to be a ruler. By 123 B.C.E. Liu An was accused of plotting rebellion and was forced to commit suicide a year later, but the disloyalty he was accused of may have had more to do with his independent intellectual stance than with a military plot. The book goes on to explore the relationship of moral, intellectual, and political authority in the first century of the Han dynasty, a period when the regime sought to monopolize all moral and intellectual authority.
Griet Vankeerberghen is Assistant Professor in the History Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
"The topic is significant and central to the continuing debate over the nature of Han texts and the geopolitical context of their creation. Vankeerberghen's unpacking of Liu An's moral philosophy and the symbolism used in its structure will be helpful in further understanding the nature of the Huainanzi. Vankeerberghen's analysis of Liu An's relationship to the Han emperor is particularly interesting in the context of the changing structure of Han government." — Constance A. Cook, coeditor of Defining Chu: Image and Reality in Ancient China