Guanzi (text)

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This article is about the early Chinese book. For other uses, see Guanzi.

The Guanzi (Chinese: 管子; pinyin: Guǎnzi; Wade–Giles: Kuan-tzu; literally: "[Writings of] Master Guan") is an encyclopedic compilation of Chinese philosophical materials named after the 7th century BCE philosopher Guan Zhong, Prime Minister to Duke Huan of Qi. The Han Dynasty scholar Liu Xiang edited the received Guanzi text circa 26 BCE, largely from sources associated with the 4th century BCE Jixia Academy in the Qi capital of Linzi.


Although most Guanzi chapters philosophically characterize Legalism, other sections blend doctrines from Confucianism and Taoism. For example, the Nèiyè (內業 "Inner Enterprise/Training") chapter has some of the oldest recorded descriptions of Daoist meditation techniques. There are also essays on a wide variety of other subjects, ranging from detailed economic discussions to overviews of local soil topography.

When you enlarge your mind and let go of it,

When you relax your [qi 氣] vital breath and expand it,
When your body is calm and unmoving:
And you can maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances.
You will see profit and not be enticed by it,
You will see harm and not be frightened by it.
Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive,
In solitude you delight in your own person.
This is called "revolving the vital breath":

Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly. (24, tr. Roth 1999:92)

Such divergence resulted in the changing affiliation of the text in the ancient library lists: it has been characterised as Legalist since Sui dynasty (581-617), while before that it was listed as Taoist.


As typical of an ancient Chinese text, structure of Guanzi should have changed over time. Presently it contains 72 pian 篇 (chapters), arranged in 24 juan 卷 (books). It is also subdivided into 8 sections of varying length. The significance and chronology of the division are not clear.

See also[edit]


  • Graham, A.C. (1993). Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China. Open Court, p. 100. ISBN 0-8126-9087-7.
  • Rickett, W. Allyn. "Kuan tzu 管子." In Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, edited by Michael Loewe. Berkeley: University of California, Institute of East Asian Studies. 1993. pp. 244–251.
  • Rickett, W. Allyn, tr. Guanzi. Princeton University Press. 1998.
  • Roth, Harold. Original Tao: inward training (nei-yeh) and the foundations of Taoist mysticism. Columbia University Press. 1999.

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