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The Five "Confucian" Classics

The Five "Confucian" Classics

Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 416
  • Book Info
    The Five "Confucian" Classics
    Book Description:

    The Five Classics associated with Confucius formed the core curriculum in the education of Chinese literati throughout most of the imperial period. In this book Michael Nylan offers a sweeping assessment of these ancient texts and shows how their influence spread across East Asia.Nylan begins by tracing the formation of the Five Classics canon in the pre-Han and Han periods, 206 B.C.-A.D. 220, revising standard views on the topic. She assesses the impact on this canon of the invention of a rival corpus, the Four Books, in the twelfth century. She then analyzes each of the Five Classics, discussing when they were written, how they were transmitted and edited in later periods, and what political, historical, and ethical themes were associated with them through the ages. Finally she deliberates on the intertwined fates of Confucius and the Five Classics over the course of the twentieth century and shows how the contents of the Five Classics are relevant to much newer concerns.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13033-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-71)

    FOR MOST OF THE TIME FROM 136 BC TO 1905, the study of the Five Classics of the “Confucian” canon—theOdes, theDocuments, theRites, theChanges, and theSpring and Autumn Annals—formed at least part of the curriculum tested by the government examinations required of nearly all candidates for the Chinese imperial bureaucracy. Thus the more cultured members of society in premodern China, even those who had failed the examinations or had passed but never held office, enjoyed a familiarity with the Classics that afforded them a common store of knowledge. As successive governments throughout East Asia...

  6. Chapter Two THE ODES (SHI 詩)
    (pp. 72-119)

    THE ODES (SHI 詩), * A COLLECTION OF what appear to be polished folk songs, sophisticated occasional pieces, and solemn dynastic hymns, is the most uniformly old compilation of texts included in the Five Classics—and the first to be recognized as canon. Some of the odes now included in this collection of 305 verse pieces may have been in existence as oral performance texts by the fifth century BC—in time for Confucius himself to have used them in his teaching—though a fixed anthology of these particular lyrics may not have existed in written form before unification...

  7. Chapter Three THE DOCUMENTS (SHU 書)
    (pp. 120-167)

    A PART FROM THEODES, THE THREE MAIN literary sources for ancient China are oracle bone inscriptions, bronze inscriptions, and a compilation entitled theDocuments. Although the veneration accorded all three sources reflects a prevailing impulse to reach back to an ancestral past for guidance, the sources differ markedly in the kinds of information they provide. The bone inscriptions, known mainly through twentieth-century archaeology, record pious injunctions, forecasts, and statements of intent, often posed as sets of alternative charges, that were put to the divine ancestors in Heaven by the late Shang (ca. 1300–ca. 1050 BC) kings or their...

    (pp. 168-201)

    IN THE PERIOD PRIOR TO UNIFICATION in 221 BC, the classical masters inspired by Confucius were identified above all as masters of the rites. Words attributed to Confucius justified this identification: in theAnalectsthe Master equated supreme virtue with “overcoming selfcenteredness, so as to return to ritual.” Ritual was of inestimable importance to premodern society in China, for the single term “rites” or “ritual” (li 澧) denoted the full panoply of appropriate and thus mutually satisfying behaviors built upon emotional insights. These behaviors, expressed in dress, countenance, bodily posture, and verbal phrasing, were designed to strengthen communal bonds among...

  9. Chapter Five THE CHANGES (YI 易)
    (pp. 202-252)

    FROM AT LEAST THE HAN PERIOD, MOST Chinese have traced the origin and transmission of theChangesdivination manual, theYi,* far back into the archaic past. In contrast to the other Classics more dependent upon the single figure of Confucius as author-editor, theChangesboasted no fewer than four culture-heroes contributing to its completion in four discrete stages. During the formative period of civilization, the Eight Trigrams were devised by the primeval ruler Fu Xi 伏羲 (also known as Bao Xi 包犧), who THE CORE TEXT consists of

    the 64 Hexagrams or graphic symbols 卦

    the 64 Hexagram titles...

    (pp. 253-306)

    THESPRING AND AUTUMN ANNALS(Chunqiu) chronicles major political events affecting the small state of Lu, the home state of both the Duke of Zhou and Confucius, and its neighbors over the course of twelve ducal reigns extending some 250 years, from 722 to 481 BC. The term “Spring and Autumn” in the title is a standard synecdoche in which the two seasons stand for an entire calendar year; hence, the use of the term for a record of events arranged by year. Most scholars agree that theChunqiuis based upon (perhaps is synonymous with) theAnnals of Lu...

  11. Chapter Seven CLAIMING THE CANON
    (pp. 307-362)

    IN 1850, THE CASUAL OBSERVER MIGHT well have concluded—wrongly—that certain values and institutions long associated with the figure of Confucius would continue to be widely honored. After all, states employing the rhetoric of Confucian morality to organize and catalyze their populations were to be found all over East Asia: the Manchu Qing dynasty in China (1644–1911), the Tokugawa government in Japan (1600–1867), the Chosŏn dynasty in Korea (1392–1910), and the Nguyen in Vietnam (1802–1884), the Heterogeneous as their official theories and practices were, never before had so many classicizing bureaucracies in so many neighboring states launched such...

  12. Appendix I. KEY TERMS
    (pp. 363-371)
    (pp. 372-374)
    (pp. 375-382)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 383-402)