About

抱樸

Scott Barnwell is a Canadian autodidact interested in ancient China, especially early Daoist philosophy. This is my blog for my research and writings on early Chinese philosophy, history, religion and language. Much of it will revolve around early Daoism (Taoism).

My first memorable experience with anything Asian was the made-for-television movie Shogun, which obviously took place in Japan. Many years later, in 1990, a friend gave me a translation of the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching) of Laozi (Lao Tzu). I found it amazing. There I found insightful words pointing both to things I had already experienced or observed in life, and to things which I had never considered before and yet made a lot of sense to me. I had found a kindred spirit in ancient China of all places. This was my first introduction to philosophy, to China, and perhaps even history. I quickly began buying not only every book I could find about the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi, but anything related. My choice has always been scholarly books, not the New-Agey fashionable perspective of Daoism. (You can see my book collection at a link below)

This ‘anything related’ that I began reading refers to all of the Warring States era philosophers, and Qin and Western Han Dynasties, (i.e., 500 BCE to CE). I found out that the more one understood the history and culture(s) of ancient China the better one could gain the perspective of those ancients and understand what they had to say. So, my study has taken me on many tangents into pre-Han history. The religious culture(s) of ancient China have also seemed relevant to me to fully appreciate the early “Daoists” and other philosophers. Sometimes my tangents have gone to areas of ancient China which have little to do with early Daoism, like the Shang Dynasty oracle bone inscriptions (and the culture surrounding them), Western Zhou-era history (1045-771 B.C.E.), the ancient script, the pronunciation of the ancient language and geography. But I must say, for reasons I cannot explain, I have loved every minute of my learning about ancient China. Along with music, my cats, my wife and enjoying the outdoors, learning about ancient China has been a love of my life. Many people who know me can attest to this, although they do find it odd that I am so interested in things Chinese, as opposed to something closer to home.

Other areas of interest are music, psychology, biology, anthropology, ethology, ecology, philosophy, religion, history, science-fiction, wilderness, physical fitness, photography and NHL hockey.

As for “Bao Pu” 抱樸 (抱朴), this is an idiom found in chapter 19 of the Laozi:

Eradicate knowledge, discard distinctions
And the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Eradicate artistic skills, discard profit
And there will be no thieves and robbers.
Eradicate benevolence and deliberation
And the people will return to filial piety and compassion.

But it is not enough to regard these three sayings as your task;
We should also supplement them with the following:

Display the unadorned and embrace the uncarved block,
Have little self-interest and reduce your desires.

(trans. Steven Hodge)

Pu, the so-called ‘uncarved block’ above, is a symbol of the naturalness and original simplicity of every living thing.

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All of my non-fiction and some of my fiction library can be seen at Library Thing. If you just want to see my books relating to ancient China you can filter my books by TAG.
Follow me on Academia.edu