Exemplary Figures / Fayan

Yang Xiong
Translated by Michael Nylan
Introduction by Michael Nylan

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  • Published: 2013
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 368 pp., 2 text in Chinese and English, 2 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Classics of Chinese Thought
  • Contents

Winner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature

Exemplary Figures (sometimes translated as Model Sayings) is an unabridged, annotated translation of Fayan, one of three major works by the Chinese court poet-philosopher Yang Xiong (53 BCE-18 CE). Yang sought to "renew the old" by patterning these works on earlier classics, drawing inspiration from the Confucian Analects for Exemplary Figures. In this philosophical masterwork, constructed as a dialogue, Yang poses and then answers questions on philosophical, political, ethical, and literary matters. Michael Nylan's rendering of this text, which is laden with word play and is extraordinarily difficult to translate, is a joy to read-at turns wise, cautionary, and playful.

Exemplary Figures is a core text that will be relied upon by scholars of Chinese history and philosophy and will be of interest to comparativists as well.
Michael Nylan is professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Five "Confucian" Classics and Yang Xiong and The Pleasures of Reading and Classical Learning, coauthor of Lives of Confucius, and translator of The Canon of Supreme Mystery by Yang Xiong.

"Fayan is one of the most important early Chinese texts. Carefully wrought and rich with historical insights and philosophical ruminations, it provides an invaluable window to the extraordinary mind of its creator, Yang Xiong, and the cross currents of his cultural moment. Nylan's masterful translation is a great stylistic and philological achievement. She renders Yang Xiong's prose with wit, fluency, and accuracy and provides the necessary contexts for understanding the text in her copious and helpful notes."
-Wai-Yee Li, Harvard University
Chronology of Dynasties

Exemplary Figures / Fayan

1. Learning and Practicing
2. Our Masters
3. Cultivating One's Person
4. Asking about the Way
5. Asking about Divine Insight
6. Asking about Illumination
7. Things Rarely Seen
8. Every Five Hundred Years
9. Foresight
10. Chong and Li
11. Yan Yuan and Min Ziqian
12. The Noble Man
13. Honoring the Ancestors, the Ultimate Duty

Glossary of Names, Legendary and Historical