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The Han Synthesis

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 14 October 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Han Synthesis philosophies of China. In The Analects the Chinese sage Confucius says of statecraft: "He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn to it".

Confucianism had been all but outlawed under the Chin Emperor, but in 206 BC the Han dynasty came to power and held sway for over 400 years. They brought Confucian thought to the heart of government, his favourite books became set texts for the world's first civil service exam and in a grand intellectual project 'The Great Tao' was combined with 'The Five Phases' and with the Yin and the Yang.

Who were the Han? How did they bring these strands of thought together into the great founding moment of Chinese culture? And what drove them to their extraordinary intellectual task?

With Christopher Cullen, Director of the Needham Research Institute; Carol Michaelson, Assistant Keeper of Chinese Art in the Department of Asia at the British Museum; Roel Sterckx, Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge.

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