Book Review: Transformations of the Confucian Way
Author: John Berthrong
Book Reviewer: Deborah Sommer, Gettysburg College
This book is part of Westview's series Explorations: Contemporary Perspectives on Religion. However, Transformations of the Confucian Way focuses not on the religious aspects of the literati tradition, but on "the intellectual development of the Confucian Way in East Asia." Transformations is a concise survey, based primarily on English language sources, of the main figures of literati intellectual history from Confucius to Okada Takehiko.
Berthrong first begins by trying to define what being "a Confucian" is, and places such attempts at definition within a comparative context. He states that being a Confucian means "being dedicated to the canon and its interpretation." but he does not explain what that canon is (he later confuses such canonical texts as Zhou li with Li ji), assuming perhaps that the reader is already familiar with it. Asserting that "the Confucian tradition does not see itself as actually beginning with Confucius," he nonetheless begins his description of major thinkers with Confucius, leaving aside the Zhou background of Confucius' thought. [excerpt]
Sommer, Deborah. Review of Transformations of the Confucian Way, by John Berthrong (Westview Press, 1998). Journal of Chinese Religions 27.1 (January 1999): 130-131.