A history of high civilization is not confined to the West but can also be found in Asia. William Theodore de Bary, who has taught at Columbia University since 1953, including several years as provost, helped create a public aware of this historical reality. He did so by urging the expansion of the idea that the great books include the ­Eastern classics, as well as through his ­inspiring participation in Columbia’s core courses on Asian humanities and through his many books making the cultural history of China and the rest of East Asia available to educated readers.

The Great Civilized Conversation is a kind of review of his lifework. Though it is a collection of previously published articles, it attains a coherence and concentration such collections seldom achieve.

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