|The Four Books and
The Five Classics (四书五经)
The Four Books
and The Five Classics were the canonical works of
the Confucian culture in the feudal society in ancient
China. The Four Books refers to The Great Learning,
The Doctrine of the Mean, Confucian Analects and The
Works of Mencius. And The Five Classics includes The
Book of Poetry (also known as The Book of Songs, The
Book of Odes), The Book of History, The Book of Rites,
The Book of Changes, and The Spring and Autumn Annals,
The Five Classics got its name during the reign of
Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty, and there emerged
a group of scholars responsible for the interpretation
of these classics. The Four Books are short for The
Texts and Annotations of the Four Books, which were
compiled and annotated by Zhu Xi, a Neo-Confucian
scholar of the Southern Song Dynasty to establish
his own theoretical system of li or Principles.
Collectively called The Four Books and The Five Classics,
they cover such a wide range of subjects as literature,
history, philosophy, politics, economics, education,
moral ethics, geology, arts, science and technology,
etc. and are the most important textbooks for the
Confucian scholars to disseminate the educational
thoughts of the Confucian School and a must for ancient
scholars who had to pass the imperial competitive
examination to become government officials. In short,
they have a far-reaching influence on the way of existence,
intellectual quality, moral ethics and esthetic values
of the Chinese nation.
The Four Books of Confucianism (simplified Chinese:
四书; traditional Chinese: 四書; pinyin: Sì Shū) are Chinese
classic texts that Zhu Xi selected, in the Song dynasty,
as an introduction to Confucianism. They were, in
the Ming and Qing Dynasties, made the core of the
official curriculum for the civil service examinations.
||Originally one chapter in the Classic of Rites.
It consists of a short main text attributed to
Confucius and nine commentary chapters by Zeng
Zi, one of Confucius's disciples. Its importance
is illustrated by Zeng Zi's foreword that this
is the gateway of learning.
It is significant because it expresses many themes
of Chinese philosophy and political thinking,
and has therefore been extremely influential both
in classical and modern Chinese thought. Government,
self cultivation and investigation of things are
|Doctrine of the Mean
||Another chapter in Classic of Rites, attributed
to Confucius' grandson Zisi. The purpose of this
small, 33-chapter book is to demonstrate the usefulness
of a golden way to gain perfect virtue. It focuses
on the "way" (道) that is prescribed
by a heavenly mandate not only to the ruler but
to everyone. To follow these heavenly instructions
by learning and teaching will automatically result
in a Confucian virtue. Because Heaven has laid
down what is the way to perfect virtue, it is
not that difficult to follow the steps of the
holy rulers of old if one only knows what is the
|Analects of Confucius
||A compilation of speeches by Confucius and his
disciples, as well as the discussions they held.
Since Confucius's time, the Analects has heavily
influenced the philosophy and moral values of
China and later other East Asian countries as
well. The Imperial examinations, started in the
Jin Dynasty and eventually abolished with the
founding of the Republic of China, emphasized
Confucian studies and expected candidates to quote
and apply the words of Confucius in their essays.
||A collection of conversations of the scholar
Mencius with kings of his time. In contrast to
the sayings of Confucius, which are short and
self-contained, the Mencius consists of long dialogues
with extensive prose.
The Five Classics (simplified Chinese: 五经; traditional
Chinese: 五經; pinyin: Wu Jīng) are five ancient Chinese
books used by Confucianism as the basis of studies.
These books were compiled or edited by Confucius himself.
|Classic of Poetry
||A collection of 305 poems divided into 160 folk
songs, 105 festal songs sung at court ceremonies,
and 40 hymns and eulogies sung at sacrifices to
gods and ancestral spirits of the royal house
|Classic of History
||A collection of documents and speeches alleged
to have been written by rulers and officials of
the early Zhou period and before. It is possibly
the oldest Chinese narrative, and may date from
the 6th century B.C. It includes examples of early
|Classic of Rites
||Describes ancient rites, social forms and court
ceremonies, a restoration of the original Lijing
lost in the third century B.C.
|Classic of Changes
||Also known as I Ching or Book of Changes. The
book contains a divination system comparable to
Western geomancy or the West African Ifá system.
In Western cultures and modern East Asia, it is
still widely used for this purpose.
|Spring and Autumn Annals
||Also known as Līn Jīng (麟經), a historical record
of the state of Lu, Confucius's native state,
from 722 B.C. to 481 B.C. compiled by Confucius,
with implied condemnation of usurpations, murder,
The Classic of Music (樂經) is sometimes considered
as the sixth classic. Since most parts of it are destroyed
during the Burning of the Books, the remaining sections
are collected as two books in the Classic of Rites.