Zhu Xi's Reading of the Analects

Zhu Xi's Reading of the Analects: Canon, Commentary and the Classical Tradition

Daniel K. Gardner
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 184
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    Zhu Xi's Reading of the Analects
    Book Description:

    The Analects is a compendium of the sayings of Confucius (551--479 b.c.e.), transcribed and passed down by his disciples. How it came to be transformed by Zhu Xi (1130--1200) into one of the most philosophically significant texts in the Confucian tradition is the subject of this book.

    Scholarly attention in China had long been devoted to the Analects. By the time of Zhu Xi, a rich history of commentary had grown up around it. But Zhu, claiming that the Analects was one of the authoritative texts in the canon and should be read before all others, gave it a still more privileged status in the tradition. He spent decades preparing an extended interlinear commentary on it. Sustained by a newer, more elaborate language of metaphysics, Zhu's commentary on the Analects marked a significant shift in the philosophical orientation of Confucianism -- a shift that redefined the Confucian tradition for the next eight centuries, not only in China, but in Japan and Korea well.

    Gardner's translations and analysis of Zhu Xi's commentary on the Analects show one of China's great thinkers in an interesting and complex act of philosophical negotiation. Through an interlinear, line-by-line "dialogue" with Confucius, Zhu effected a reconciliation of the teachings of the Master, commentary by later exegetes, and contemporary philosophical concerns of Song-dynasty scholars. By comparing Zhu's reading of the Analects with the earlier standard reading by He Yan (190--249), Gardner illuminates what is dramatically new in Zhu Xi's interpretation of the Analects.

    A pioneering study of Zhu Xi's reading of the Analects, this book demonstrates how commentary is both informed by a text and informs future readings, and highlights the importance of interlinear commentary as a genre in Chinese philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50280-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    When the Song dynasty (960–1279) was established in the tenth century, the so-called Five Classics—the Book of Changes, the Book of History, the Book of Poetry, the Book of Rites, and the Spring and Autumn Annals—had long been regarded as the authoritative texts in the Confucian tradition, to be read before all others in the canon. By the end of the dynasty, the Five Classics had been displaced by the Four Books. It was these four texts—the Greater Learning, the Analects, the Mencius, and the Mean—that were now to be read first, that were thought...

  5. 1 Learning
    (pp. 29-51)

    The first substantive character of the Analects is xue, “to learn.” It is perhaps fitting therefore to begin our exploration into commentary on the Analects with a discussion of some of the passages on learning. Still more to the point is the fact that learning is a refrain for Confucius throughout the Analects. Disciples are exhorted repeatedly to take learning seriously as a means of refining and improving themselves. Confucius frequently describes himself to others as one who, more than anything, loves learning, suggesting that it is this love of learning that distinguishes him from others—and the superior man...

  6. 2 True Goodness
    (pp. 52-76)

    For Confucius, learning, as we saw in chapter 1, is learning to be a moral individual. To be moral is to embody virtues like sincerity, loyalty, filial piety, and trustworthiness. But the virtue that subsumes all others, the one that preoccupies the Master and his disciples throughout the Analects, is ren, translated here as “true goodness.” Never does the Master provide an exhaustive definition of the term, nor does he readily describe people—including himself—as men of true goodness.¹ To be sure, there is a somewhat ineffable, indefinable quality to this supreme virtue. Still, the engaged reader of the...

  7. 3 Ritual
    (pp. 77-105)

    If the achievement of true goodness is an unquestionable aim of Confucius’s teachings, the relationship of li, translated here as “ritual,” to true goodness is more problematic. For some early followers of the Confucian school, it was the practice of ritual that channeled the behavior of the individual, teaching him over time to become truly good. Ritual action is a slow but steady process of acculturation, a process premised on a faith in the ability of culture to help shape a person’s moral impulses and activities. Other early followers read Confucius’s message somewhat differently, understanding ritual activity to be a...

  8. 4 Ruling
    (pp. 106-126)

    When Confucius remarks in analect 12.13, “In hearing lawsuits, I am just like others. What is necessary is to see that there are no lawsuits,” he is expressing both a reality and an ideal. It would appear that in the China of his day, recourse to law as a means of maintaining social order was not uncommon. And although Confucius may have been troubled by the increasingly prominent role of law, he seems to have viewed it—and the penal sanctions associated with it—as a normal part of the apparatus of government.¹ At the same time, however, his remark...

  9. 5 The Superior Man and the Way
    (pp. 127-161)

    In the text of the Analects, as we have it, Confucius presents an ideal of good government based on virtue and the practice of ritual. Such a government, of course, needs ideal men who themselves embrace virtue and know ritual. Indeed, the aim of the Master’s teachings is largely to lead his disciples toward self-realization, enabling them to assume official positions and bring about the sort of government by moral force that he envisaged.

    With this chapter’s discussion of Confucius’s ideal man, we have, in a sense, come full circle. Learning, the subject of chapter 1, has a clearly stated...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 162-180)

    Reading the Analects with commentary by Zhu Xi is a different intellectual experience from reading the Analects with commentary by He Yan and, in turn, produces a rather different understanding of both the classic itself and the larger Confucian tradition of which it is a part. What makes the experience different—for us today as well as the typical Chinese reader through the early twentieth century—is that Zhu brings to the commentarial task a different set of intellectual assumptions and beliefs that color his reading of the text and, by extension, the reader’s. Equally important, Zhu brings to the...

  11. Appendix
    (pp. 181-200)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 201-208)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 209-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-226)