I’m currently reading Ban Gu’s “Qian Han Shu” (History of the Former Han), and just finished writing an article I sent off to JCP on Wang Chong, a Han dynasty philosopher. So I’ve been thinking a bit about the Han lately. One thing I find fairly suprising is that there does not seem to be much interest in Han within Chinese philosophy here in the US. What work is done in Han philosophy is mainly within History or East Asian departments (for example Michael Nylan at Berkeley, Anne Behnke Kinney at UVA). I can’t think of any philosophy department with Chinese philosophy scholars interested in Han.
Why is this? I’ve found the Han dynasty philosophy very engaging–although certainly Feng Youlan (and others) were right when they said that by the Han, the main strains of the Chinese philosophical tradition were already in place, the Han was a period of incredible development, and exciting philosophy. You have the Huainanzi, Dong Zhongshu, Yang Xiong, Wang Chong, Wang Fu–many great philosophers and texts, all of whom played key roles in the development of Chinese philosophy. I think there are issues of philosophical method in the Han philosophers that are often ignored, and need to be explored further. But if none of us work on Han, we’ll never be able to fish this stuff out. Historians are working on Han, but they’re not philosophers, and sometimes, I find, they miss certain philosophical points we philosophers would not likely miss.
I guess this is simply my entreaty for more focus by philosophers on Han dynasty philosophy.