The Huai Nan Tzu is a sprawling, encyclopedic work of Chinese thought that was compiled late in the second century B.C.E. under the auspices of Liu An, the prince of Huai Nan. Liu An was a great patron of the arts and philosophy and was the paternal uncle of the Han emperor, Wu. He had gathered many of the major lights of the Chinese literati of the time to his court and he presented the book to his nephew as a gift upon Wu's ascension to the imperial throne in the hopes that it would provide him with suitable instruction upon the proper rule of the empire. Liu An, however, and his book, were working against the swelling tide of imperial centralization, and he was eventually put to death for his pains.
This book, like most of the books labeled as 'Taoist', shows the great difficulty associated with that classification. It is actually one of the earlier examples that we have of the philosophy that became known as 'Huang-Lao', after Huang Ti, the mythical Yellow Emperor, and Lao Tzu, the great patron of all things Taoist. Huang-Lao philosophy is usually concerned with government and with exerting imperial control in an almost laissez-faire fashion. It is quite practical and unequivocally opposed to the concern with rites and 'traditions' that became known as Confucianism, the ideology that came to dominate the Han empire soon after Liu An's death. It is not at all quietistic, and the anarchical philosophy of Chuang Tzu has no place in this book. The Huai Nan Tzu also has no patience for what later became known as religious Taoism, the eclectic assortment of legends, rituals, alchemy, and physical and mental exercises aimed at conferring immortality upon its practicioners.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LAO TAN
THE TWO WORLDS
FREEDOM OF LIFE
PERSISTENCE AND CONTINUITY.
THE COSMIC SPIRIT
BEGINNING AND REALITY
LIFE AND SOUL
RESPONSE OF MATTER TO THE MOVEMENT OF THE COSMIC SPIRIT.
INFLUENCE OF THE COSMIC SPIRIT ON THE UNIVERSE
GENERALSHIP AND PREVENTION OF ANARCHY
ENDEAVOUR AND DUTY.
NOTES AND ANNOTATIONS.
ELUCIDATIONS AND ANALYSES
TITLES OF THE ESSAYS NOT TRANSLATED
Notes to the hypertext transcription: This book was in dire need of more thorough proofreading when it went to the printer. There are endnotes missing and references to endnotes missing. The spelling and punctuation is quite sketchy in many places, and I have taken the liberty of correcting it where the correction is obvious, matching quotation marks, changing periods to commas, replacing "d'ont" with "don't", etc. Still, the punctuation is atrocious. The diacritical marks on Chinese names are also very inconsistent. For example, Lao Tzu is spelled Tzû, Tzŭ, Tzu, and Tzü in different places, sometimes even in the same paragraph. These have been retained as they are in the book for lack of any apparent system to restore them to and because I do not speak or write Chinese and am reluctant to make the call on spelling. The apostrophes in Chinese words are also used inconsistently and they point both directions (i.e., ‘ and ’) indiscriminately. As the orientation of the apostrophe makes no difference in Chinese orthography (unlike Arabic), and because the OCR software does not pick up on the difference, all of them are rendered as ‛, the character used in Legge's works, which has the virtue of being distinguishable from quotation marks and apostrophes.