Guanzi (text)

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This article is about the ancient Chinese text. For its traditional author, see Guan Zhong.
Chinese 管子
Literal meaning "[Writings of] Master Guan"

The Guanzi (Chinese: 管子) is an ancient Chinese political and philosophical text that is named for and traditionally attributed to the 7th century BCE philosopher Guan Zhong, who served as Prime Minister to Duke Huan of Qi.[1] At over 135,000 characters long, the Guanzi is one of the longest early Chinese philosophical texts. The Han Dynasty scholar Liu Xiang edited the received Guanzi text circa 26 BCE, containing a wide variety of material from many different authors over several successive centuries, largely associated with the 4th century BCE Jixia Academy in the Qi capital of Linzi.[1][2]

Most Guanzi chapters deal with government and the art of rulership. Considering their tone generally less strident than in the classic Legalist work, the Book of Lord Shang (Shang jun shu 商君書), translator Allyn Rickett dissents from the traditional Confucian view of the texts as Legalist, judging them to "present a point of view much closer to that of the realistic Confucian, Xunzi than either the highly idealistic Confucianism of Mencius or the Draconian Legalism advocated by Shang Yang."[3] Many include Confucian values as a necessity for the state.[4] A number of chapters also express what may be considered a blend of Legalistic, Confucian, and Daoistic philosophy that has been termed "Huang-Lao".[1][5] The first reference to the collection appears in another such text, the more Taoistic Huainanzi of the early Han dynasty.[6]


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]


  1. ^ a b c Rickett (1993), p. 244.
  2. ^ Ricket, Guanzi (1985) p.3
  3. ^ Rickett, Guanzi.(1985) p3
  4. ^ Rickett (1933), p. 244.
  5. ^ Ricket, Guanzi (1985) p.3
  6. ^ Ricket, Guanzi (1985) p.3
Works cited
  • Rickett, W. Allyn (1993). "Kuan tzu 管子". In Loewe, Michael. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide. Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California Berkeley. pp. 244–51. ISBN 1-55729-043-1. 
  • Roth, Harold. Original Tao: inward training (nei-yeh) and the foundations of Taoist mysticism. Columbia University Press. 1999.

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