Wed

25

Apr

2012

Wm. Theodore de Bary's List

Today, I saw de Bary's book Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics in a bookstore. (The Amazon's link is here.) In compiling my East Asian list, I have consulted his Sources of the Japanese Tradition I found in my local library. He is an old Columbia University professor who clearly believed in Great Books education, and in the Finding Wisdom book's first chapter, he gave a list:

 

  "Having come to this point, it may be in order for me to suggest what are the classics I would consider essential to a basic reading program-- a list that could be defined as what might be appropriate for an introductory, one-year course. A more generous selection is found in what follows, which gives the teacher or discussion leader more to choose from in meeting the needs of particular groups or to draw upon for somewhat more leisurely reading and a less pressured learning situation. In this light, what I propose here is not necessarily ideal, nor on the other hand does it represent the bare minimum, but rather something more like a Mean. As an introduction to the major Asian traditions, one could hope that it would not misrepresent them but rather provide enough pleasure in the reading and enough stimulus for discussion that most participants would emerge from the experience with an appetite for more and the wherewithal to pursue its satisfaction.

  "Here then is my list , with a brief comment on each work for the benefit of those to whom the title alone might be meaningless:"

 

Then the list starts with The Islamic Tradition (Quran, al-Hariri, al-Ghazali, Rumi, Attar, Ibn Khaldun, with Muallaqat, Thousand and One Nights, other Arab philosophers including Averroes and Ibn Arabi, other Sufi poets such as Hafiz, etc. as optional, followed by the South Asian (or Indian? from this point on Amazon does not show the three pages, and I forgot the exact label) and the Chinese tradition, with the Japanese tradition at the end.

 

"The foregoing lists give, I hope, a fair representation of the different preferences and shared values among the great traditions of Asia. They include works that have withstood the test of time not only in their own traditions but in at least sixty years of reading and discussion with American students of all ages. ..."

 

As the Islamic list shows, it has 6 main texts selected, with 5 more names mentioned. Compared his Islamic list with my CWANA list, he included Attar, Thousand and One Nights, and Averroes that my list of 24 does not include. 

 

The only real criticism I have with his list is that his Japanese tradition list is longer than the Islamic list, which is hardly "balanced" if you consider the relative importance of the Islamic vs. Japanese tradition, both historically and currently. I may also add that what was taught in the last sixty years to American students, really should not matter that much.

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