One of the primary early Daoist texts, Huai Nan Zi (139 B.C.E.) follows in the tradition of Dao De Jing and Zhuangzi using the language and philosophy of these works, in some sections borrowing parts of the texts themselves. This text provides a view of what Ames refers to as “Han thinking” - a syncretic way of thinking and living that came, and continues, to be characteristically “Chinese.”
The Huainanzi comes from the central court of Emperor Wu (141-87 B.C.E.) and was thought to be given to him by his paternal uncle, Liu An, the king of Huainan, as a gift. Liu An was a respected scholar who gathered all ranking philosophies of his own court and recorded his reflections in a famous collection. Liu An’s court was a center of Daoist culture and a hold out against the powerful growing influence of Confucianism.
“The central message of Tracing Dao to Its Source, and the Huainanzi broadly, is philosophical. It advocates inclusivity - an appreciation of the contribution that each and everything can make to the well-bring of the whole when orchestrated by able leadership into a productive harmony… a compelling Daoistic argument against political centralism, expansionism, and zero-sum consolidation of power that was driving the imperial court during the first century of the Han dynasty.” (p.5)