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Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics$
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Wm. Theodore de Bary

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153973

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153973.001.0001

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Asian Classics as the Great Books of the East

Asian Classics as the Great Books of the East

(p.1) 1 Asian Classics as the Great Books of the East
Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics

Wm. Theodore de Bary

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses the importance of reading the ‘Asian classics.’ The reading and understanding of a text should work, as much as possible, from the inside out rather than from the outside in. This means making the effort to put ourselves in the position or situation of the author and his audience. No reading of an Eastern text should be undertaken that is so removed from its original context as to be discussable only in direct juxtaposition to something Western. Such a reading leads almost inevitably to one-sided comparisons and does not serve genuine dialogue. Party to this new dialogue must be enough of the original discourse so that the issues can be defined in their own terms and not simply in opposition to, or agreement with, the West. The chapter then presents a list of classics that could be argued to be essential to a basic reading program. These texts can serve as an introduction the Islamic, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese traditions. They include works that have withstood the tests of time not only in their own traditions but in at least sixty years of reading and discussion with American students of all ages.

Keywords:   Asian classics, classic texts, Islamic tradition, Indian tradition, Chinese tradition, Japanese tradition

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