Economic Dialogues in Ancient China; Selections from the Kuan-Tzu, A Book Written Probably Three Centuries before Christ. Translated by T'AN PO-FU and WEN KUNG-WEN; directed, edited, and published by LEWIS MAVERICK. pp. x + 470. Maps, annotated bibliography, index. Carbondale, Illinois: distributed by FAR EASTERN PUBLICATIONS, YALE UNIVERSITY, 1954.

Professor Richard Wilhelm once wrote, "Chinese society is psychologically built up, then, on the basis of its economic life: from individual to family, from family to state, from state to mankind." These selections from the famous, if shadowy, Kuan-tzu are welcome additions to insights into Chinese economic life, either from the point of view of economic history or of the origins and development of economic thought.

Kuan Chung (or Kuan I-wu) was born about 710 B. C. and died, according to tradition, in 645 B. C. About 685 B. C., he became minister to Duke Huan of his native state of Ch'i, which then occupied the northern part of the Shantung Peninsula. Beyond doubt, Kuang Chung for years administered affairs of state with marked success. Equally beyond doubt, the Kuan-tzu was much later spuriously attributed to him. At least its dialogues are a monument to his fame as an administrator and adviser; and its contents symbolize the important body of thinking which lies somewhere between the Confucians and the Legalists. The influence of Confucian and Mencian thought may be present, as may be the hand of Hsün-tzu, whose tenets are certainly consistent with the Kuan-tzu.

A rendition of the Kuan-tzu in English may now be added to the growing Western literature on the philosophy of classical China, wherein quite naturally major attention has gone to the Confucian School. Less adequate is the coverage of economic aspects of this philosophy, and more specifically, the practical thought and policies of the Legalists. Professor Kirby has reported that another English translation, by Professor F. S. Drake of the University of Hongkong, is in preparation.

This translation of dialogues from the Kuan-tzu is the product of a joint and courageous enterprise, undertaken by the American economist, Professor Lewis A. Maverick, whose previous work on Chinese influences upon the European Enlightenment is well known; and two of his students at Southern Illinois University, T'an Po-fu and Wen Kung-wen. Professor Hsiao Kung-ch'uan of the University of Washington served as expert critic.

The volume also contains commentaries (translated from the Chinese) by two modern writers: Huang Han, "Economic Thought in the Kuan-tzu" (Shanghai, Commercial Press, 1936); and Fan Ping-t'ung, "Physiocratic Doctrine in Ancient China" (Chinese Economics, Vol. II, No. 11, November, 1934). The commentary by Huang is perhaps one of the two best available, so far as the economic content of the Kuan-tzu is concerned. His selections are presented according to topics, thus offering a more thorough and systematic discussion of the economic content than does the excised translation of the original. Huang cites a passage and then restates the contents, partly to achieve emphasis, and partly to put the statement into twentieth century vernacular. Fan's commentary, in contrast, is merely a sketchy treatment of physiocracy, derived from classics including the Kuan-tzu.

A real gem is the Introduction, contributed by the editor, who reviews briefly the historical evidence on Kuan Chung; on the Kuan-tzu, which he concludes was probably written about 300 B. C.; and presents a topical index, by essays; a survey of Chinese economic history and of the social content of the Chinese classics; and an evaluation of the reception of Chinese thought, both in Japan and in the West.

It is no accident, of course, that legalistic thought found an even more sympathetic audience in Japan than in China. Indeed, the structure, techniques of rule, and moral precepts of the later Japanese Shogunate resemble somewhat the confederation of princes constructed by Duke Huan and his minister. Among Japanese writers, Ogyu Sorai (1666-1728) for example, admired the Chinese classics and wrote skillful commentaries on the Kuan-tzu, as well as the Han Fei-tzu. In modern times Professor Miyazaki Ichisada of Kyoto (then Imperial) University wrote of Kuan Tzu, "Kanshi [in Japanese] has been numbered among the Legalists [in Japanese, Ho-ka], yet he did not simply order people about by means of strict laws. In the application of law he found the prerequisite for putting into convenient shape the economic life of the people."

The sinologist will be interested in the editor's speculation as to the actual date of the Kuan-tzu (Introduction, pp. 2-5), and in Huang's carefully marshalled evidence, placing it in the Era of Warring States (Chapter II, pp. 226-262). He may, however, find fault in the fact that many passages in the translation are arbitrarily omitted because the meaning is obscure, and yet an equal number are allowed to stand with little more than an informed guess as to meaning. Again, there is necessarily a great deal of repetition and quite a few discrepancies between the rendering in the translation and illustrative passages in the commentaries. Yet we are told the same team developed both translations. Nevertheless, this reviewer was not bothered by lively differences of opinion, revealed in the notes, between the translators and critic, on the one hand, and the project editor, on the other.

One can only agree with the editor in his aim and laud his courage in producing the volume. It has been argued that even the part should await the definitive translation of the whole of the Kuan-tzu by sinologists and classical scholars. In that case, many of us-students of the social sciences and, more particularly, of Chinese and Japanese economic history and economic thought-would never read it in translation. It is for such a group the book is designed.

In which case, and on that ground too, the translation should still be used with some caution. The topics spread before us-state controls, the doctrine of "the light and the heavy," media of exchange, emphasis on agriculture, control of handicrafts and commerce, state control of salt and iron, and legalist thought in general-are all of significant and lasting interest. It is stretching a point and unnecessarily so, however, constantly to fit these fascinating essays into the modern discipline and jargon of economics. The same fault can be found with Chen Huan-chang's earlier work. Nor is this done solely in the title of the present translation, under the rubric "Economic Dialogues." The footnotes to the main translation, mostly by the editor, and especially the neat organization of topics in Huang's commentary, which is almost Russian-like in its claims for "first inventions" of economic laws, might lead one to believe the ancient Chinese had already formulated a systematic economic theory. It would have been better to borrow the terminology of (Western) classical economics, at the very least. After all, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and David Hume-much like their earlier Oriental counterparts-were, first, MORAL PHILOSOPHERS; second, masters of POLITICAL ECONOMY; and last, ECONOMISTS in any modern sense. Furthermore, there are advantages in recognizing, for example, a distinction between political thought and political theory. The Kuan-tzu is not, perhaps fortunately, a clue to modern, abstract ECONOMIC THEORY in China; it is rather, superb evidence of early and persistent Chinese SOCIO-ECONOMIC THOUGHT. Indeed, even the modern economist can find much of value in the Kuan-tzu, if he wishes to measure his universal principles against the less well-known Chinese culture complex, unfamiliar Chinese economic history, and independent Chinese economic thought.

Ardath W. Burks, Rutgers University, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Jul.-Sep., 1956