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Huai Nan Zi 淮南子 – Top 100 Books in China

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Philosophical classics based on Taoism


Chinese Name: 淮南子

English Name: Huai Nan Zi

Other Names: Huai Nan Honglie淮南鸿烈, Liu An Zi刘安子

Author: Liu An刘安 (King of Huai Nan淮南王)

Originally Published: the Western Han Dynasty西汉时期

Genre: Philosophy

Huai Nan Zi淮南子
Huai Nan Zi淮南子

Brief Introduction of Huai Nan Zi

According to legend, Huai Nan Zi was written by Liu An, King of Huai Nan, the royal family of the Western Han Dynasty, so it got its name. This book, which inherited the spirit of Taoism in the pre-Qin period, integrated the essence of all classes of authors, and played an irreplaceable role in studying the culture of Qin and Han Dynasties.


On the basis of inheriting the pre-Qin Taoism, Huainanzi combines Yin and Yang, ink, law and some Confucianism, but the main purpose belongs to Taoism.

book of huai nan zi

The author believes that this book includes broad and bright general principles like Tao.

The original book of Huainanzi has 21 volumes of inner chapters, 8 volumes of middle chapters and 33 volumes of outer chapters. Only the inner chapters survive. Most of the published versions are published after deleting the inner chapters.

When expounding the philosophy of Huainanzi, it involves strange things, ghosts, gods and ghosts, and preserves some mythological materials, such as ancient myths such as “Nu Wa mending the sky女娲补天”, “Hou Yi shooting the sun后羿射日”, “Chang’e running to the moon嫦娥奔月” and “Sai Weng losing his horse塞翁失马”, which are mainly spread by this book.

Author of Huai Nan Zi

Liu An (179-122 BC) was born in Shouchun County, Huainan (now Shouxian County, Huainan City, Anhui Province). He was a writer and thinker in the Western Han Dynasty and the grandson of Liu Bang. Liu An was crowned king of Huainan in 164 BC.

King of Huai Nan淮南王刘安
King of Huai Nan淮南王刘安

Liu An likes reading, playing drums and harps. He is good at debating and speaking. He doesn’t like playing and hunting. He pays great attention to comforting the people and is famous all over the world. It has attracted thousands of guests and alchemists, Later, he committed suicide because of the rebellion.

Liu An left a valuable spiritual wealth for future generations — Huainanzi, a masterpiece praised by modern scholar Liang Qichao as “the first-class works of Han people”.

Liu An is said to be the founder of Chinese tofu and soybean milk.


Excerpts of Huai Nan Zi


Although a good thing was once humiliated, the world will not lower its value; Although an ugly thing becomes famous for a while, the world will not raise its value.


A man who is chasing a wild deer will not be distracted by the sudden appearance of a hare; People who deal in gold goods will not argue over the price of a penny.


Thousands of miles of dikes may collapse and burst because of small ants; A hundred foot tall building may be burned down by a fire caused by sparks from the gap of the chimney.


Tao is just and fair. It will not approach anyone because of subjective preference, nor will it stay away from anyone because of subjective preference.

Evaluation of Huai Nan Zi

His books are broad and coherent, and are the first-class works of the Han nationality.

Liang Qichao梁启超

Taoism is the great achievement of ancient thought, and Huainanzi is the great achievement of Taoism.

Hu Shih胡适

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