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Chinese Literature
Confusian Literature - The Four Books and The Five Classics
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. They are:

Title (English) Title (Chinese) Brief Description
Great Learning 大學 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 linked.
Doctrine of the Mean 中庸 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 right way.
Analects of Confucius 論語 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.
Mencius 孟子 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. They are:

Title (English) Title (Chinese) Brief Description
Classic of Poetry 詩經 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 書經 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 Chinese prose.
Classic of Rites 禮記 Describes ancient rites, social forms and court ceremonies, a restoration of the original Lijing lost in the third century B.C.
Classic of Changes 易經 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 春秋 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, incest, etc.

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.

This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.

We wish to thank Wikipedia for the bulk of the information above, which we have edited and added to, courtesy of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
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