The chapter “Objections 4” (“Nan 4”) occupies a peculiar position in Han Feizi. It comprises four historical anecdotes, each of which is centered on a speech or a short utterance that summarizes its moralizing message. Then an objector refutes this message by confronting it with a broader historical perspective, and a second debater refutes his predecessor’s views. In my essay I argue that not only are the first three anecdotes evidently borrowed from Zuozhuan, but, more significantly, the ensuing debate is based on surprisingly deep knowledge of Zuozhuan in general rather than of the specific anecdotes. The authors skillfully utilize the Zuozhuan narrative’s multivalence to undermine the moralizing message which transpires in the individual anecdotes. This reading of “Objections 4” chapter as an early ideological exegesis of Zuozhuan sheds a new light both on the early circulation of Zuozhuan and on the role of historical arguments in Han Feizi.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 568/19) and by the Michael William Lipson Chair in Chinese Studies. It was presented at the conference “Intertextual Dialogue in Early Chinese Writings,” Singapore Yale-NUS college, May 5–7, 2022. I am grateful to Paul R. Goldin, Martin Kern, Jens O. Petersen, the MS anonymous reviewers, and the Singapore conference participants for their comments on the earlier submitted version of this article.
© Monumenta Serica Institute 2022.
- Han Feizi