Written by the Han philosopher Xu Gan (A.D. 170-217), Balanced Discourses is an inquiry into the causes of political breakdown. It provides a unique contemporary account of the social, intellectual, and cosmological factors that Xu Gan identified as having precipitated the demise of the Han order. This edition of Zhonglun (or Balanced Discourses) contains the original Chinese text with annotations and, on facing pages, an English translation also accompanied by annotations.
This collection of essays spans a range of topics, from Confucian cultivation to calendrical calculation. Xu's perspectives are of not only historical but also philosophical interest, for they reveal his belief in a special correlative bond that should exist between names and actualities and his understanding of what happens when that bond is broken. The translator, John Makeham, argues in his introduction that the essays display the same quality of balance that Xu Gan sees as essential to social and political equilibrium.