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3 Representations of Confucius in the Huainanzi

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Chapter Summary

The Huainanzi is undoubtedly one of the most philosophically nuanced and aesthetically sophisticated texts of the Han period. At the time the Huainanzi was coalescing as a text, the cultic stature of Confucius and Laozi was yet to be achieved. Likewise, the 'Daoist' and 'Confucian' traditions associated with them were still quite fluid and open to debate, as the inventories of Sima Tan and Liu Xiang demonstrate. The multiple personalities ascribed to Confucius, along with his newfound prestige, are evident in the proliferation of Han collections that preserve narratives, dialogues, and sayings associated with him. The Confucians and Mohists thus began enumerating their Ways and debating, dividing up disciples, and reciting. The first noteworthy quality with which Confucius is associated is perspicacity. Though Confucius is sometimes described as possessing outstanding physical qualities, it is his mental acuity that typically set him apart from other men.

Keywords: Confucians; Confucius; Han period; Huainanzi; Laozi; Liu Xiang; Mohists; Sima Tan



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