Great Thinkers of the Eastern World
McGreal (Ian P.), Ed.
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Editor’s Preface

  1. Great Thinkers of the Eastern World presents informative essays on over 100 of the outstanding philosophical and religious thinkers of China, India, Japan, Korea, and the world of Islam. Each article in this book summarizes and discusses the central ideas of an outstanding Eastern thinker (or, in some cases, the ideas of a classic work of great influence whose authorship is unknown). The essays are designed to serve as introductions for the general reader to the distinctive philosophical perspectives of the authors or books discussed.
  2. Each essay begins with pertinent biographical information, a listing of the thinker’s major works, and a summary statement of the thinker’s major ideas. The body of the essay provides a brief biographical account (where information is available) and a careful account and discussion of the thinker’s principal works and intellectual contributions. In most cases the work of a particular author is related to the cultural context in which he or she wrote and the ideas are seen to come out of and to lead into the ideas of other great seminal thinkers. The essay is followed by a Further Reading section that cites translations and studies relating to the subject of the essay.
  3. As an aid to appreciating the development of Eastern thought, the essays are arranged chronologically (insofar as temporal order can be determined or, in some cases, guessed at). Although few readers will begin at page one and proceed to the index at the end of the book, anyone who did so would see the development of Eastern thought as a great creative growth, beginning hundreds of years before the Christian era and coming into modem times.
  4. The staff of forty-one scholars was drawn from leading colleges and universities in the United States and abroad, and they come from departments of philosophy, religion, Asian studies, theology, literature, foreign languages, humanities, political science, and history. Most of them are published authors in the areas of their specialties.
  5. This book is a companion volume to Great Thinkers of the Western World1, edited by Ian P. McGreal, and published by HarperCollins in the fall of 1992. Together the Western and Eastern volumes constitute an authoritative guide to the world’s great philosophers and to the philosophical and religious classics.
  6. The Western intellectual tradition has been most successful in its study and use of scientific and pragmatic thinking, but for centuries it preoccupied itself excessively with theological and metaphysical speculations (unfortunately with little or no empirical or logical warrant), and it repeatedly made intuitive and logical attempts (in my opinion, bound to be unsuccessful) to discover the foundations of ethics. However, with all its faults, the Western philosophical tradition has been helpful in illuminating the relations between the uses of language and the world in which we presume to find ourselves; it has often been demanding in its examination of the pretenders to wisdom; and it has valiantly defended the systematic search for knowledge, the exercise of benevolence, and the ideal of moderation in the pursuit of happiness.
  7. The Eastern tradition is refreshing in that it is predominantly and forthrightly ethical without purporting to prove what is a matter of commitment and tested cultural practice, and its fundamental message — often appropriately expressed in poetic language — is that one will manage best in this life if one disciplines oneself to go with the Dao (Tao), that is, to be in harmony with the universe as it is and, accordingly, in harmony with one’s fellow human beings.
  8. Of course, to more fully appreciate the depth and worth of the philosophical literature of the Eastern world, one must actually read, at least in translation, the Eastern classics and great modern works. We hope that this book will encourage interested readers, if they have not already done so, to venture out and explore for themselves the intriguing literature of the Eastern mind and spirit.
  9. In the Chinese section we have used both Pinyin (the current system of romanization of the Chinese language) and, in parentheses afterwards whenever a term or name is first used in an essay, the Wade-Giles version. A few names of the great philosophical masters have been latinized — such as Confucius and Mencius — and in such cases we give not only that familiar form but also the Pinyin and the Wade-Giles. (Most published books about the Eastern philosophers — and, accordingly, most library catalogs — use the Wade-Giles method, but newspapers, contemporary books, and contemporary encyclopedias are now employing the Pinyin.)
  10. Most of the essays on Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Islamic thinkers and classics involve the use of diacritical marks (bars, dots, and so forth) to indicate the principal phonetic values for terms and proper names in those languages. For the Indian section we have used a simplified system of romanization of the Sanskrit and Pali terms, as illustrated by the very valuable Sources of Indian Tradition, edited by Ainslie T. Embree (Vol. 1) and Stephen Hay (Vol. 2), published by the Columbia University Press, 1988. The Japanese. Korean, and Islamic sections employ diacritical marks as indicated by the authors of the articles, although sometimes reverting to unaccented terms and names once the full notation has been given. Because of space limitations, we have not attempted to explain the use of the marks, but librarians or scholars in Asian studies can help the inquirer to find relevant information about the various systems.
  11. An attempt to standardize the romanization of names and terms from the various languages involved in this book was seriously considered, but two major considerations counted against the making of any such effort. The first consideration is that for each of the several languages involved there are a number of systems of romanization, some preferred by some scholars, some others preferred by others — and sometimes the loyalty to a system results in a resistance to the changes that would be required by standardization. And then there is the further consideration that some scholars like to use a full-blown system of romanization, others like a simpler system. Some are unhappy if diacriticals are not used; others are disturbed if diacriticals are used at all in a book for the general reader who has no knowledge of the languages and no inclination to pronounce the words. Some like to use diacriticals throughout an article; others like to use the diacriticals for a term once and then proceed to use the name or term free of its markings. As editor I have attempted to give the contributors free rein and yet to insure consistency within the articles themselves.
  12. A few remarks about the order of the names of the Eastern thinkers. In Chinese the family name (surname) comes first, as in the Chinese name Kong Fuzi (Pinyin), K’ung Fu-tzu (Wade-Giles), or Confucius (familiar latinized form): the family name was Kong (K'ung). When referring to the Chinese thinkers, usually more than the family name is used; we do not refer to Confucius as simply Kong (K'ung). However, there are exceptions, of course, as with Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung), often referred to as simply “Mao,” but this is a twentieth-century tendency. Incidentally, the zi (tzu) element in a proper name, as in Laozi (Lao Tzu), Mozi (Mo Tzu), and Mencius (Mengzi / Meng Tzu) is an honorific term, often translated as “Master”; hence, Master Lao, Master Mo, and Master Meng — and, of course, for Confucius, Master Kong (K’ung). (A further complication is that Chinese proper names sometimes include not only family names and personal names, but also newly adopted names, official names, honorific names, and posthumous names, but we will not elaborate on these practices.)
  13. The practice in the use of Japanese names is like the Chinese: the surname comes first. But there is also the tradition among scholars (not universally followed) of using the personal name of a Japanese thinker in discussing his or her work, and this is sometimes a cause of confusion for those unfamiliar with the tradition.
  14. As to the selection of thinkers and works discussed in this book: we do not presume that this list of great Eastern thinkers is the definitive and final word. We have attempted to focus on the philosophers about whose greatness there is no question, but to represent the various lines of thought and faith exhibited in the countries concerned, we have included some thinkers who are little known to the general public but who, for one reason or another, deserve to be included. Each is worthy of attention and further study.
  15. Of course, it is inevitable that some philosophers regarded by some scholars and critics as clearly being of more importance than those included have been left out; this omission may be deliberate, since judgments of worth differ, but it may be inadvertent because of the difficulty of composing balanced lists that fairly represent the diversity of thought within the various cultures with which we are concerned. Independent study of the thinkers discussed here will surely lead the interested lay reader to discover other thinkers not included in this book, of equal or even greater value to the reader.
  16. The distinguished faculty, independent scholars, and editors contributing to this book have been generously cooperative throughout the laborious process of putting it together; … [snip]
    → Ian P. McGreal


  1. PART ONE: China
    1. Confucius (Kongfuzi / K’ung Fu-tzu) (551-479 B.C.)
    2. Laozi (Lao Tzu) (c. sixth century B.C.)
    3. Mozi (Mo Tzu) (c. 470-c. 391 B.C.)
    4. Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) (Fourth-third century B.C.)
    5. Mencius (Mengzi / Meng Tzu) (371-289 B.C.)
    6. Gongsun Long (Kung-sun Lung) (c. 320-c. 250 B.C.)
    7. The Spring and Autumn Annals of Master Lu (Third century B.C.)
    8. Han Fei (c. 280-c. 233 B.C.)
    9. The Great Learning (Da Xue / Ta-hsueh) (Between third and second centuries B.C.)
    10. The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong/Chung Yung) (Between third and second centuries B.C.)
    11. Yi Jing (I Ching): Book of Changes (Tenth century B.C. - second century B.C.)
    12. Dong Zhongshu (Tung Chung-shu) (c. 195-c. 115 B.C.)
    13. Wang Chong (Wang Ch’ung) (c. A.D. 27-97)
    14. Liezi (Lieh Tzu) (c. A.D. 3
    15. Guo Xiang (Kuo Hsiang) (Third century A.D-312)
    16. Jizang (Chi-Tsang) (A.D. 549-623)
    17. Xuanzang (Hsuan-tsang) (A.D. 600-664)
    18. Huineng (A.D. 638-713)
    19. Fazang (Fa-tsang) (A.D. 643-712)
    20. Zhou Dunyi (Chou Tun-i) (1017-1073)
    21. Zhang Zai (Chang Tsai) (1020-1077)
    22. Cheng Hao (Ch’eng Hao) (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi (Ch’eng I) (1033-1107)
    23. Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi) (1130-1200)
    24. Wang Yangming (Wang Yang-ming) (1472-1529)
    25. Dai Zhen (Tai Chen) (1724-1777)
    26. Kang Youwei (K’ang Yu-wei) (1858-1927)
    27. Tan Sitong (T’an Ssu-t’ung) (1865-1898)
    28. Sun Yat-sen (Sun Yixian / Sun I-hsien) (1866-1925)
    29. Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) (1893-1976)
    30. Fung Yu-lan (1895-1990)
  2. PART TWO: India
    1. Upanishads (c. 600-c. 400 B.c.)
    2. Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) (c. 563-c. 483 B.C.)
    3. Mahavira (c. 540-c. 468 B.C.)
    4. Badaravana (Fifth century B.C.)
    5. Bhagavad Gita (Between fifth and first centuries B.C.)
    6. Patanjali (Between 200 B.C. and A.D. 450)
    7. Nagarjuna (First to second centuries A.D.)
    8. Vasubandhu (c. fourth century A.D.)
    9. Ishvarakrishna (c. A.D. 350-425)
    10. Kumarila Bhatta (Fl. A.D. 690)
    11. Javarasi Bhatta (Seventh century' A.D.)
    12. Gaudapada (Eighth century' A.D.)
    13. Haribhadra (c. A.D. 700-C. 770)
    14. Shankara (A.D. 788-822)
    15. Vacaspati Mishra (A.D. 842-?)
    16. Sureshvara (Ninth century A.D.)
    17. Ramanuja (1017-1137)
    18. Madhva (1197-1276)
    19. JayatTrtha (c. 1365-c. 1388)
    20. Nanak (1469-1539)
    21. Jiva Gosvamin (c. 1511-c. 1596)
    22. Vijnanabhikshu (Fl. 1550-1600)
    23. Madhusudana Sarasvati (Seventeenth century)
    24. Dharmaraja Adhvarin (Seventeenth century)
    25. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
    26. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)
    27. Aurobindo (1892-1950)
    28. K. C. Bhattacharyya (1875-1949)
    29. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975)
    30. Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
  3. PART THREE: Japan
    1. Shotoku Taishi (A.D. 574-622) – 291
    2. Kukai (A.D. 774-835) – 295
    3. Genshin (Eshin Sozu) (942-1017) – 299
    4. Honcn (1133-1212) – 303
    5. Jien (Jichin) (1155-1225) – 307
    6. Myde (1173-1232) – 311
    7. Shinran (1173-1263) – 315
    8. Dogen (1200-1253) – 322
    9. Nichiren (1222-1282) – 327
    10. Ippen (1239-1289) – 330
    11. Kitabatake Chikafusa (1293-1354) – 335
    12. Fujiwara Seika (1561-1619) – 338
    13. Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655) – 343
    14. Hayashi Razan (1583-1657) – 347
    15. Nakae Toju (1608-1648) – 351
    16. Yamazaki Ansai (1618-1682) – 355
    17. Yamaga Soko (1622-1685) – 359
    18. Ito Jinsai (1627-1705) – 363
    19. Kaibara Ekken (1630-1713) – 367
    20. Ogyu Sorai (1666-1728) – 371
    21. Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) – 375
    22. Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843) – 380
    23. Nishida Kitard (1870-1945) – 384
    24. Tanabe Hajime (1885-1962) – 388
    25. Uehara Senroku (1899-1975) – 391
    26. Nishitani Keiji (1900-1990) – 395
  4. PART FOUR: Korea
    1. Wonhyo (617-686) – 401
    2. Chinul (1158-1210) – 407
    3. Yi T’oegye(1501-1570) – 413
    4. Hyujdng (1520-1604) – 418
    5. Yi Yulgok (Yi I) (1536-1584) – 422
    6. Han Yongun (1879-1944) – 427
  5. PART FIVE: The World of Islam
    1. Rabi'a al-Adawiyya (717-801) – 435
    2. Al-Kindi (c. 801-c. 866) – 439
    3. Abu Bakr al-Razi (865-925) – 443
    4. Al-Farabi (870-950) – 446
    5. Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037) – 449
    6. Quashayri (986-1074) – 453
    7. Al-Ghazali (1058-1 111) – 457
    8. Shahrastani (1076-1153) – 461
    9. Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198) – 465
    10. Suhrawardi (1153-1208) – 469
    11. Ibn ‘Arabi (1165-1240) – 475
    12. Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624) – 480
    13. Mulla Sadra (Sadr al-Din Shirazi) (1571-1640) – 484
    14. Shah Wah Allah (1703-1762) – 489
    15. Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938) – 493
    16. Sayyid Muhammad Husain Tabataba’i (1903-1981) – 498
  6. Thinker Index

In-Page Footnotes ("McGreal (Ian P.), Ed. - Great Thinkers of the Eastern World")

Footnote 1:
  • Sub-title: The major thinkers and the philosophical and religious classics of China, India, Japan, Korea and the world of Islam
  • HarperCollinsPublishers, 1995

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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