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The Most Venerable Book
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A wonderfully enjoyable storehouse of ancient Chinese history and legends, which also has an important role in understanding 21st-century China 'And remember: Heaven's blessing will cease forever if there's despair and poverty in your lands' The Most Venerable Book (also known as The Book of History) is one of the Five Classics, a key work of Chinese literature which preserves some of the most ancient and dramatic chronicles of the history, both real and mythological, of the Chinese state. For many centuries it was a central work for anyone wishing to work for the Imperial administration, preserving as it does a fascinating mixture of key Confucian concepts as well as page after page of heroes, benevolent rulers, sagacious ministers, and struggles against flood, corruption and vicious, despotic rulers. The First Emperor tried in 213 BC to have all copies of the book destroyed because of its subversive implication that 'the Mandate of Heaven' could be withdrawn from rulers who failed their people. For similar reasons it was also banned by Chairman Mao. Extraordinarily, the values of The Most Venerable Book have been revived by the Chinese government of the 2010s.
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About the Author

The various authors of The Most Venerable Book (Shang Shu) are anonymous. There are many arguments about the age and authenticity of the different sections. Parts of the text were never recovered after The First Emperor's attempts to eradicate it, other parts are clearly later. Some sections have been retrieved from tombs dating to the 3rd century BC and the last additions were made in the 4th century AD. Martin Palmer (who translated the book with Victoria Finlay and Jay Ramsay) is Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture (ICOREC) and Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC). His previous translations include The Book of Chuang Tzu (Penguin Classics), The Dao de Jing and The I Ching.

Reviews

The text is alive with the deeds and misdeeds of Chinese rulers, some told in graphic and gory detail . . . Palmer's introduction is witty and eschews any sign of academic-speak . . . There has been a revival in interest in China in Confucian ethics in recent years as people search for moral points of reference . . . The Shang Shu is part of this, and Martin Palmer has presented the English reading audience with an excellent route to an understanding of these ideas * China Daily - European Weekly *

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