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    To appreciate the beauty of the theories in mathematics or physics requires time, a strong background, and a good teacher. These theories are subject to change. In contrast, the appreciation of literary beauty is instant and instinctive. The beauty is timeless. If one compares great writing with other examples expressing the same idea, almost any educated person can point out that the first choice is the best. It seems that there is a common denominator in describing one's idea beautifully despite the variety of languages. It is God's blessing to see beauty reveal itself. I hate that human achievements in art are wasted simply because of language obstacles. Thus I translate these Chinese essays to show how the critical thinking and the positive attitude of various Chinese writers enrich human existence.

    In the rest of this preface, I simply write a few helpful notes.

1. The essays in these Anthology were originally written in concise ancient Chinese. Many versions have been translated into modern Chinese. I do not completely agree with their interpretations because literal translation may blur the essential meaning of a statement.

2. The authors in this Anthology are great writers. Chinese literature can not be separated from philosophy, so they are great philosophers as well. In olden times, the Chinese government offered people jobs based on their test scores. The exam topics came from six Bibles; the test was graded according to writing skills. The exam had four levels. The basic-level exam was held annually in local cities. Once one passed the basic-level exam, one became a "xiu-chai", a title equivalent to the bachelor's degree. A xiu-chai might get a job like a village official. One was entitled to take the middle-level exam only after passing the basic-level exam. The middle-level exam was held annually in state capitals. Once one passed the middle-level exam, one became a "ju-ren", a title equivalent to the master's degree. A ju-ren might get a job like a city official. One was entitled to take the advanced-level exam only after passing the middle-level exam. The advanced-level exam was held annually in the national capital. Once one passed the advanced-level exam, one became a "jin-shi", a title equivalent to the doctor's degree. A jin-shi might get a job like a state official. One was entitled to take the exam for admission to the Royal [Hanlin] Academy only after passing the advanced-level exam. This exam was held annually in the palace. Once one passed the palace exam, one became a member of the Hanlin Academy. The first place in the palace exam was called "zhuang-yuan"; the second place was called "Bang-yan" (the eye of the list); the third place was called "tan-hua" (Gazing at flowers). They were candidates to be the husbands of princesses. If one passed an exam, on the one hand, the government promised one significant income; on the other hand, it was widely regarded as a great honor for one's academic achievement.

3. Summary of Chinese Dynasties.

The Five Rulers                                                                          2600-2070 BCE
The Xia dynasty                                                                         2070-1600 BCE
The Shang dynasty                                                                     1600-1046 BCE
The Zhou dynasty                                                                        1046-256 BCE
    The Western Zhou dynasty                                                      1046-711 BCE
    The Eastern Zhou dynasty                                                         770-256 BCE
    The Spring and Fall Period                                                        779-403 BCE
    The Warring States Period                                                         403-221 BCE
The Qin dynasty                                                                             221-206 BCE
The Han dynasty                                                                            206 BCE-220 CE
    The Western Han dynasty                                                              206 BCE-8 CE
The Xin dynasty                                                                                  9-23 CE
    The Eastern Han dynasty                                                             25-220 CE
The Three Kingdoms                                                                      220-280 CE
    The Wei dynasty                                                                         220-265 CE
    The Shu Han dynasty                                                                  221-263 CE
    The Wu dynasty                                                                          222-280 CE
The Jin dynasty                                                                               265-420 CE
    The Western Jin dynasty                                                              265-316 CE
    The Eastern Jin dynasty                                                               317-420 CE
Northern and Southern Dynasties                                                    420-589 CE
    Southern dynasties
        The Song dynasty                                                                     420-479 CE
        The Qi dynasty                                                                         479-502 CE
        The Liang dynasty                                                                    502-557 CE
        The Chen dynasty                                                                     557-589 CE
    Northern dynasties
        The Northern Wei dynasty                                                        386-534 CE
        The Eastern Wei dynasty                                                           534-550 CE
        The Northern Qi dynasty                                                           550-577 CE
        The Western Wei dynasty                                                           535-556 CE
        The Northern Zhou dynasty                                                       557-581 CE
The Sui dynasty                                                                                  581-618 CE
The Tang dynasty                                                                               618-907 CE
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms                                                      907-979 CE
    Five dynasties                                                                                 907-960 CE
        The Posterior Liang dynasty                                                       907-923 CE
        The Posterior Tang dynasty                                                        923-936 CE
        The Posterior Jin dynasty                                                           936-946 CE
        The Posterior Han dynasty                                                         947-950 CE
        The Posterior Zhou dynasty                                                        951-960 CE
    The Ten Kingdoms                                                                          902-979 CE
The Song dynasty                                                                               960-1279 CE
    The Northern Song dynasty                                                            960-1127 CE
    The Southern Song dynasty                                                          1127-1279 CE
The Liao dynasty                                                                                907-1215 CE
The Western Xia dynasty                                                                   1038-1227 CE
The Jin dynasty                                                                                 1115-1234 CE
The Yuan dynasty                                                                              1279-1368 CE
The Ming dynasty                                                                              1368-1644 CE
The Qing dynasty                                                                               1644-1911 CE

Manhattan, Kansas, July, 2001                                                                 Li-Chung Wang