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Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Francis Wade, during the mid-19th ...
in 221 BC, particularly the "
Four Books and Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...
" of the
Neo-Confucian Neo-Confucianism (, often shortened to ''lixue'' 理學, literally "School of Principle") is a moral, ethical, and metaphysical Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring ...
tradition, themselves a customary abridgment of the "
Thirteen ClassicsThe Thirteen Classics () is a term for the group of thirteen classics Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity, and in the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, ...
". All of these pre-
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
texts were written in
classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the classic literature from the end ...
. All three canons are collectively known as the classics ( t , s , ''jīng'', lit. " warp"). The term Chinese classic texts may be broadly used in reference to texts which were written in
vernacular Chinese Written vernacular Chinese (), also known as Baihua, is the forms of written Chinese Written Chinese () comprises Chinese characters used to represent the Chinese language. Chinese characters do not constitute an alphabet or a compact syllabar ...
or it may be narrowly used in reference to texts which were written in the classical Chinese which was current until the
fall Autumn, also known as fall in American English and Canadian English, is one of the four temperate seasons. Outside the tropics, autumn marks the transition from summer to winter, in September (Northern Hemisphere) or March (Southern Hemisphe ...
of the last imperial dynasty, the
Qing The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n.''" Oxford University Press Oxford Univers ...
, in 1912. These texts can include ''shi'' (, historical works), ''zi'' (, philosophical works belonging to schools of thought other than the
Confucian , Shanxi Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a ...
but also including works on agriculture,
medicine Medicine is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations ...
, mathematics,
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, physi ...
, divination, art criticism, and other miscellaneous writings) and ''ji'' (, literary works) as well as ''
jing (Chinese medicine) Jīng (; Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Francis Wade, during the mid-19th century, and was given completed fo ...
''. In the
Ming#REDIRECT Ming dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...

Ming
and Qing dynasties, the Four Books and Five Classics were the subjects of mandatory study by those
Confucian , Shanxi Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a ...
scholars who wished to take the
imperial exams Chinese imperial examinations, or ''keju'' (lit. "subject recommendation"), were a civil service examination system in Imperial China for selecting candidates for the state bureaucracy. The concept of choosing bureaucrats by merit rather tha ...
and needed to pass them in order to become
government officials An official is someone who holds an office (function or mandate, regardless whether it carries an actual working space with it) in an organization An organization, or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an ...
. Any political discussion was full of references to this background, and one could not be one of the literati (or, in some periods, even a military officer) without having memorized them. Generally, children first memorized the
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system The modern Jap ...
of the "
Three Character Classic The ''Three Character Classic'' (), commonly known as ''San Zi Jing'', also translated as ''Trimetric Classic'', is one of the Chinese classic texts Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts ...
" and the "
Hundred Family Surnames The ''Hundred Family Surnames'' (), commonly known as ''Bai Jia Xing'', also translated as ''Hundreds of Chinese Surnames'', is a classic Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republ ...
" and they then went on to memorize the other classics. The literate elite therefore shared a common culture and set of values.


Qin Dynasty


Loss of texts at the end of the Qin Dynasty

According to
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the H ...

Sima Qian
's ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' (Shiji), after
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huang (, ; 18 February 25910 September 210) was the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. From 247 to 221 BC he was Zheng, King of Qin (, ''Qín Wáng Zhèng'', personal name 嬴政 ''Y ...
, the first
emperor of China Emperor of China, or ''Huángdì'' (), was the Chinese sovereign, monarch of China during the History of China#Imperial China, imperial period of Chinese history. In traditional Chinese political theory, the emperor was considered the Son of Hea ...
, unified China in 221 BCE, his
chancellor Chancellor ( la, links=no, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the ''cancellarii Cancelli are lattice-work, placed before a window, a door-way, the tribunal of ...
Li Si Li Si (; 280 BCSeptember or October 208 BC) was a Chinese calligrapher, philosopher, politician, and writer of the Qin dynasty. He served as Chancellor (or Prime Minister) from 246 to 208 BC under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huan ...

Li Si
suggested suppressing intellectual discourse to unify thought and political opinion. This was alleged to have destroyed philosophical treatises of the
Hundred Schools of Thought The Hundred Schools of Thought () were philosophies and schools that flourished from the 6th century to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period of ancient China. An era of great cultural and intellectual expansion ...
, with the goal of strengthening the official Qin governing philosophy of Legalism. Three categories of books were viewed by Li Si to be most dangerous politically. These were poetry, history (especially historical records of other states than Qin), and philosophy. The ancient collection of poetry and historical records contained many stories concerning the ancient virtuous rulers. Li Si believed that if the people were to read these works they were likely to invoke the past and become dissatisfied with the present. The reason for opposing various schools of philosophy was that they advocated political ideas often incompatible with the totalitarian regime. Modern historians doubt the details of the story, which first appeared more than a century later in the
Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han Dynasty
official
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the H ...

Sima Qian
's ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father ...

Records of the Grand Historian
.'' Michael Nylan observes that despite its mythic significance, the Burning of the Books legend does not bear close scrutiny. Nylan suggests that the reason Han dynasty scholars charged the Qin with destroying the Confucian
Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...
was partly to "slander" the state they defeated and partly because Han scholars misunderstood the nature of the texts, for it was only after the founding of the Han that Sima Qian labeled the Five Classics as "Confucian". Nylan also points out that the Qin court appointed classical scholars who were specialists on the ''
Classic of Poetry The ''Classic of Poetry'', also ''Shijing'' or ''Shih-ching'' (), translated variously as the ''Book of Songs'', ''Book of Odes'' or simply known as the ''Odes'' or ''Poetry'' (), is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising ...
'' and the ''
Book of Documents The ''Book of Documents'' (''Shūjīng'', earlier ''Shu King'') or ''Classic of History'', also known as the ''Shangshu'' ("Esteemed Documents"), is one of the Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of ...
'', which meant that these texts would have been exempted, and that the ''
Book of Rites The ''Book of Rites'', also known as the ''Liji'', is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty ...
'' and the '' Zuozhuan'' did not contain the glorification of defeated feudal states which the First Emperor gave as his reason for destroying them. Nylan further suggests that the story might be based on the fact that the Qin palace was razed in 207 BCE and many books were undoubtedly lost at that time. Martin Kern adds that Qin and early Han writings frequently cite the Classics, especially the ''Documents'' and the ''Classic of Poetry'', which would not have been possible if they had been burned, as reported.


Western Han Dynasty


Five Classics

The Five Classics () are five pre-
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
Chinese books that became part of the state-sponsored curriculum during the
Western Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Western Han dynasty
, which adopted Confucianism as its official ideology. It was during this period that the texts first began to be considered together as a set collection, and to be called collectively the "Five Classics".Several of the texts were already prominent by the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period i ...
.
Mencius Mencius ( ); born Mèng Kē (); or Mengzi (; 372–289 BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who has often been described as the "second Sage", that is, after only Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or ...

Mencius
, the leading Confucian scholar of the time, regarded the ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' as being equally important as the semi-legendary chronicles of earlier periods. ;''
Classic of Poetry The ''Classic of Poetry'', also ''Shijing'' or ''Shih-ching'' (), translated variously as the ''Book of Songs'', ''Book of Odes'' or simply known as the ''Odes'' or ''Poetry'' (), is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising ...
'' :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 heroes and ancestral spirits of the royal house. ;''
Book of Documents The ''Book of Documents'' (''Shūjīng'', earlier ''Shu King'') or ''Classic of History'', also known as the ''Shangshu'' ("Esteemed Documents"), is one of the Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of ...
'' :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 BC. It includes examples of early Chinese prose. ;''
Book of Rites The ''Book of Rites'', also known as the ''Liji'', is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty ...
'' :Describes ancient rites, social forms and court ceremonies. The version studied today is a re-worked version compiled by scholars in the third century BC rather than the original text, which is said to have been edited by Confucius himself. ;''
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination text and among the oldest of the Chinese classics. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou ...
'' (''Book of Changes'') :The book contains a
divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy', related to ''divinus'', ' divine'), or "to be inspired by a god," is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standa ...

divination
system comparable to Western
geomancy Geomancy (Greek language, Greek: γεωμαντεία, "earth divination") is a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or the patterns formed by tossed handfuls of soil, rocks, or sand. The most prevalent form of divinator ...
or the West African
Ifá Ifá is a Yoruba religion and system of divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy', related to ''divinus'', ' divine'), or "to be inspired by a god," is the attempt to gain insight into ...
system. In
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...

Western
cultures and modern East Asia, it is still widely used for this purpose. ;''
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated ...
'' :A historical record of the
State of Lu Lu (, c. 1042–249 BC) was a vassal state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a ...

State of Lu
, Confucius's native state, 722–481 BC. Up to the Western Han, authors would typically list the Classics in the order Poems-Documents-Rituals-Changes-Spring and Autumn. However, from the Eastern Han the default order instead became Changes-Documents-Poems-Rituals-Spring and Autumn.


Han Imperial Library

In 26 BCE, at the command of the emperor, Liu Xiang (77–6BCE ) compiled the first catalogue of the imperial library, the ''Abstracts'' ''Bielu''), and is the first known editor of the ''
Classic of Mountains and Seas The ''Classic of Mountains and Seas'' (), also known as ''Shan Hai Jing'', formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every ...
'' (''Shanhaijing''), which was finished by his son. Liu also edited collections of stories and biographies, the ''
Biographies of Exemplary Women The ''Biographies of Exemplary Women'' () is a book compiled by the Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and rule ...
'' (''Lienüzhuan''). He has long erroneously been credited with compiling the ''
Biographies of the Immortals The ''Liexian Zhuan'', sometimes translated as ''Biographies of Immortals'', is the oldest extant literature, extant Chinese hagiography of Taoism, Daoist ''Xian (Taoism), xian'' "transcendents; immortals; saints; alchemists". The text, which comp ...
'' (''Liexian Zhuan''), a collection of Taoist hagiographies and hymns.. Liu Xiang was also a poet - he is credited with the "
Nine Laments"Nine Laments" () is one of the 17 major sections of the ancient Chinese poetry collection ''Chu ci'', also known as ''The Songs of the South'' or ''The Songs of Chu''. The "Nine Laments" consists of nine verses, each with an individual name, and eac ...
" (''"Jiu Tan"'') that appears in the anthology
Chu Ci The ''Chu Ci'', variously translated as ''Verses of Chu'' or ''Songs of Chu'', is an anthology of Chinese poetry Chinese poetry is poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature tha ...
'. The works edited and compiled by Liu Xiang include: This work was continued by his son,
Liu Xin (scholar) Liu Xin (; c. 50 BCE – 23 CE), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan ...
, who finally completed the task after his father's death.


Song Dynasty


Four Books

The Four Books () are
Chinese classic texts Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the Qin dynasty in 221 BC, particularly the "Four Books and Five Classics" of the Neo-Confucianis ...
illustrating the core value and belief systems in
Confucianism , Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of th ...
. They were selected by
Zhu Xi Zhu Xi (; ; October 18, 1130 – April 23, 1200), W-G Chu Hsi, also known by his courtesy name Yuanhui (or Zhonghui), and self-titled Hui'an, was a Chinese Confucian , Shanxi Shanxi (; Postal romanization, formerly romanised as Sh ...

Zhu Xi
in the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kuan ...
to serve as general introduction to Confucian thought, and they were, in the
Ming#REDIRECT Ming dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...

Ming and
Qing The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n.''" Oxford University Press Oxford Univers ...
dynasties, made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations.Daniel K. Gardner. ''The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of the Later Confucian Tradition''. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2007. . They are: ; ''
Great Learning The ''Great Learning'' or ''Daxue'' was one of the " Four Books" in Confucianism. The ''Great Learning'' had come from a chapter in the '' Book of Rites'' which formed one of the Five Classics. It consists of a short main text attributed to th ...
'' : Originally one chapter in the ''
Book of Rites The ''Book of Rites'', also known as the ''Liji'', is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty ...
''. It consists of a short main text attributed to
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
and nine commentary chapters by
Zengzi Zeng Shen (505–435 BC), better known as Zengzi (Master Zeng), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphe ...
, one of the
disciples of Confucius According to Sima Qian, Confucius said: "The disciples who received my instructions, and could themselves comprehend them, were seventy-seven individuals. They were all scholars of extraordinary ability." It was traditionally believed that Confuciu ...
. Its importance is illustrated by Zengzi'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 The ''Doctrine of the Mean'' or ''Zhongyong'' is both a doctrine of Confucianism , Shanxi Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy ...
'' : Another chapter in ''
Book of Rites The ''Book of Rites'', also known as the ''Liji'', is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty ...
'', attributed to
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
' grandson
Zisi Zisi (; c. 481–402 BCE), born Kong Ji (孔伋), was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought" ...
. 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
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 The ''Analects'' (; ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscript ...

Analects
'' : A compilation of speeches by
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

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 China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6& ...

China
and later other
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

East Asia
n countries as well. The
Imperial examinations Chinese imperial examinations, or ''keju'' (lit. "subject recommendation"), were a civil service examination system in Imperial China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Sha ...
, started in the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earli ...
and eventually abolished with the founding of the
Republic of China Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and No ...
, emphasized Confucian studies and expected candidates to quote and apply the words of Confucius in their essays. ; ''
Mencius Mencius ( ); born Mèng Kē (); or Mengzi (; 372–289 BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who has often been described as the "second Sage", that is, after only Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or ...
'' : A collection of conversations of the scholar
Mencius Mencius ( ); born Mèng Kē (); or Mengzi (; 372–289 BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who has often been described as the "second Sage", that is, after only Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or ...

Mencius
with kings of his time. In contrast to the sayings of
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
, which are short and self-contained, the ''Mencius'' consists of long dialogues with extensive prose.


Ming Dynasty


Thirteen Classics

The official curriculum of the imperial examination system from the Song dynasty onward are the
Thirteen ClassicsThe Thirteen Classics () is a term for the group of thirteen classics Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity, and in the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various regions, ...
. In total, these works total to more than 600,000 characters that must be memorized in order to pass the examination. Moreover, these works are accompanied by extensive commentary and annotation, containing approximately 300 million characters by some estimates. * '' Classic of Changes'' or ''I Ching'' (易經 ''Yìjīng'') * ''
Book of Documents The ''Book of Documents'' (''Shūjīng'', earlier ''Shu King'') or ''Classic of History'', also known as the ''Shangshu'' ("Esteemed Documents"), is one of the Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of ...
'' (書經 ''Shūjīng'') * ''
Classic of Poetry The ''Classic of Poetry'', also ''Shijing'' or ''Shih-ching'' (), translated variously as the ''Book of Songs'', ''Book of Odes'' or simply known as the ''Odes'' or ''Poetry'' (), is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising ...
'' (詩經 ''Shījīng'') * The Three Ritual Classics (三禮 ''Sānlǐ'') ** ''
Rites of Zhou The ''Rites of Zhou'' (), originally known as "Officers of Zhou" () is a work on bureaucracy and organizational theory. It was renamed by Liu Xin (scholar), Liu Xin to differentiate it from a chapter in the ''Book of History'' by the same name. T ...
'' (周禮 ''Zhōulǐ'') ** '' Ceremonies and Rites'' (儀禮 ''Yílǐ'') ** ''
Book of Rites The ''Book of Rites'', also known as the ''Liji'', is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty ...
'' (禮記 ''Lǐjì'') *** "
Great Learning The ''Great Learning'' or ''Daxue'' was one of the " Four Books" in Confucianism. The ''Great Learning'' had come from a chapter in the '' Book of Rites'' which formed one of the Five Classics. It consists of a short main text attributed to th ...
" chapter (大學 "Dà Xué") *** "
Doctrine of the Mean The ''Doctrine of the Mean'' or ''Zhongyong'' is both a doctrine of Confucianism , Shanxi Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy ...
" chapter (中庸 "Zhōng Yōng") * The Three Commentaries on the ''
Spring and Autumn Annals The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated ...
'' ** ''
The Commentary of Zuo
The Commentary of Zuo
'' (左傳 ''Zuǒzhuàn'') ** '' The Commentary of Gongyang'' (公羊傳 ''Gōngyáng Zhuàn'') ** '' The Commentary of Guliang'' (穀梁傳 ''Gǔliáng Zhuàn'') * ''
The Analects The ''Analects'' (; ; Old Chinese: '' ŋ(r)aʔ''; meaning "Selected Sayings"), also known as the ''Analects of Confucius'', is an ancient Chinese book composed of a large collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosophe ...

The Analects
'' (論語 ''Lúnyǔ'') * ''
Classic of Filial Piety The ''Classic of Filial Piety'', also known by its Chinese name as the ''Xiaojing'', is a Confucian classic treatise giving advice on filial piety In Confucian, Chinese Buddhist ethics, Buddhist and Taoism, Taoist ethics, filial piety (, ...
'' (孝經 ''Xiàojīng'') * ''
Erya The ''Erya'' or ''Erh-ya'' is the first surviving Chinese dictionary Chinese dictionaries date back over two millennia to the Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – ...
'' (爾雅 ''Ěryǎ'') * ''
Mencius Mencius ( ); born Mèng Kē (); or Mengzi (; 372–289 BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who has often been described as the "second Sage", that is, after only Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or ...
'' (孟子 ''Mèngzǐ'')


List of Classics


Before 221 BC

It is often difficult or impossible to precisely date pre-Qin works beyond their being "pre-Qin", a period of 1000 years. Information in ancient China was often orally passed down for generations before it was written down, so the order of the composition of the texts may not be in the same order as that which was arranged by their attributed "authors".Cambridge History of Ancient China chapter 11 The below list is therefore organized in the order which is found in the
Siku Quanshu The ''Siku Quanshu'', variously translated as the ''Complete Library in Four Sections'', ''Imperial Collection of Four'', ''Emperor's Four Treasuries'', ''Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature'', or ''Complete Library of the Four Treas ...
, the imperial library of the Qing dynasty. The Siku classifies all works into 4 top-level branches: the Confucian Classics and their secondary literature; history; philosophy; and poetry. There are sub-categories within each branch, but due to the small number of pre-Qin works in the Classics, History and Poetry branches, the sub-categories are only reproduced for the Philosophy branch.


Classics branch


History branch


Philosophy branch


Poetry


After 206 BC

* The ''
Twenty-Four Histories The ''Twenty-Four Histories'' (), also known as the ''Orthodox Histories'' (), are the Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is th ...
'', a collection of authoritative histories of China for various dynasties: ** The ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'' by
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the H ...

Sima Qian
** The ''
Book of Han The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China finished in 111, covering the Western, or Former Han dynasty from the first emperor in 206 BCE to the fall of Wang Mang Wang Mang (Chinese: 王莽) (c. 45 – 6 O ...
'' by
Ban Gu Ban Gu (AD32–92) was a Chinese historian, politician, and poet best known for his part in compiling the ''Book of Han'', the second of China's Ershisi shi, 24 dynastic histories. He also wrote a number of ''fu (literature), fu'', a major ...

Ban Gu
. ** The ''
Book of Later Han The ''Book of the Later Han'', also known as the ''History of the Later Han'' and by its Chinese name ''Hòu Hànshū'' (), is one of the Twenty-Four Histories The ''Twenty-Four Histories'' (), also known as the ''Orthodox Histories'' (), are ...
'' by Fan Ye ** The ''
Records of Three Kingdoms A record, recording or records may refer to: An item or collection of data Computing * Record (computer science) In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of ...
'' by
Chen Shou Chen Shou (; 233–297), courtesy name Chengzuo (), was a Chinese historian, politician, and writer who lived during the Three Kingdoms period and Jin dynasty (265–420), Jin dynasty of China. Chen Shou is most known for his most celebrated wor ...
** The ''
Book of Jin The ''Book of Jin'' is an official Chinese historical text covering the history of the Jin dynasty from 265 to 420. It was compiled in 648 by a number of officials commissioned by the imperial court of the Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty ( ...
'' by
Fang Xuanling Fang Qiao (; 579–648), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and ...

Fang Xuanling
** The ''
Book of Song The ''Book of Song'' (''Sòng Shū'') is a historical text of the Liu Song Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties of history of China, China. It covers history from 420 to 479, and is one of the Twenty-Four Histories, a traditional collection of histo ...
'' by
Shen Yue Shen Yue (; 441–513), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and ...
** The ''
Book of Southern Qi The ''Book of Qi'' (''Qí Shū'') or ''Book of Southern Qi'' (''Nán Qí Shū'') is a history of the Chinese dynasty Southern Qi covering the period from 479 to 502, and is one of the Twenty-Four Histories of Chinese history. It was written by X ...
'' by
Xiao Zixian Image:齊書11.jpg, upA page from a Ming Dynasty edition of the ''Book of Qi'' by Xiao Zixian. Xiao Zixian (, 489–537), courtesy name Jingyang (景陽), formally Viscount Jiao of Ningdu (寧都驕子), was a historian and author,Book of Liang The ''Book of Liang'' (''Liáng Shū''), was compiled under Yao SilianYao Silian (姚思廉; died 637), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. Thi ...
'' by
Yao SilianYao Silian (姚思廉; died 637), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere The Ea ...
** The ''
Book of Chen The ''Book of Chen'' or ''Chen Shu'' (''Chén Shū'') was the official history of the Chen dynasty The Chen dynasty (; 557–589), also known as the Southern Chen (南陳 / 南朝陈), was the fourth and last of the Southern Dynasties in China. ...
'' by
Yao SilianYao Silian (姚思廉; died 637), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere The Ea ...
** The ''
History of the Southern Dynasties The ''History of the Southern Dynasties'' () is one of the official Chinese historical works in the ''Twenty-Four Histories The ''Twenty-Four Histories'' (), also known as the ''Orthodox Histories'' (), are the Chinese official historical bo ...
'' by
Li Yanshou Li, li, or LI may refer to: Businesses and organizations * Landscape Institute The Landscape Institute (LI) is a UK based professional body for the landscape profession. Its membership includes landscape architects, urban designers, landscape ...
** The ''
Book of Wei The ''Book of Wei'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by populat ...
'' by
Wei ShouWei Shou () (506–572), born in Xingtai, Hebei, was a Chinese author. He wrote the ''Book of Wei The ''Book of Wei'', also known by its Chinese language, Chinese name as the ''Wei Shu'', is a classic Chinese historical text compiled by Wei Shou ...
** The ''
Book of Zhou The ''Book of Zhou'' (''Zhōu Shū'') records the official history of the History of China, Chinese/Xianbei ruled Western Wei and Northern Zhou dynasties, and ranks among the official Twenty-Four Histories of imperial China. Compiled by the Tang ...
'' by
Linghu Defen Linghu Defen () (582–666), formally Duke Xian of Pengyang (), was Chinese historian and politician. He was an official of the History of China, Chinese dynasties Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty. During Tang, he was a major proponent for the compilat ...
** The ''
Book of Northern Qi The ''Book of Northern Qi'' (Chinese language, Chinese: 北齊書, pinyin Běi Qí Shū), was the official history of the History of China, Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. It was written by the Tang Dynasty historian Li Baiyao (李百藥) and was com ...
'' by
Li Baiyao Li Baiyao () (564–647), courtesy name Zhonggui (重規), formally Viscount Kang of Anping (安平康子), was a List of Chinese writers, Chinese historian and an official during the History of China, Chinese dynasties Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty. ...
** The ''
History of the Northern Dynasties History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 millio ...
'' by
Li Yanshou Li, li, or LI may refer to: Businesses and organizations * Landscape Institute The Landscape Institute (LI) is a UK based professional body for the landscape profession. Its membership includes landscape architects, urban designers, landscape ...
** The ''Book of Sui'' by Wei Zheng ** The ''Old Book of Tang'' by Liu Xu ** The ''New Book of Tang'' by Ouyang Xiu ** The ''Old History of the Five Dynasties, Old History of Five Dynasties'' by Xue Juzheng ** The ''New History of the Five Dynasties, New History of Five Dynasties'' by Ouyang Xiu ** The ''History of Song (Yuan dynasty), History of Song'' by Toqto'a (Yuan dynasty), Toqto'a ** The Liao Shi, ''History of Liao'' by Toqto'a (Yuan dynasty), Toqto'a ** The ''History of Jin'' by Toqto'a (Yuan dynasty), Toqto'a ** The ''History of Yuan'' by Song Lian ** The ''History of Ming'' by Zhang Tingyu ** The ''Draft History of Qing'' by Zhao Erxun is usually referred as the 25th classic of history records ** The ''New History of Yuan'' by Ke Shaomin is sometimes referred as the 26th classic of history records * The ''Chronicles of Huayang'', an old record of ancient history and tales of southwestern China, attributed to Chang Qu. *The ''
Biographies of Exemplary Women The ''Biographies of Exemplary Women'' () is a book compiled by the Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and rule ...
'', a biographical collection of exemplary women in ancient China, compiled by Liu Xiang. * The ''Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms'', a historical record of the Sixteen Kingdoms, attributed to Cui Hong, is lost. * The ''Shiming'', is a dictionary compiled by Liu Xi by the end of 2nd century. * ''A New Account of the Tales of the World'', a collection of historical anecdotes and character sketches of some 600 literati, musicians, and painters. * Thirty-Six Strategies, The ''Thirty-Six Strategies'', a military strategy book attributed to Tan Daoji. *The ''The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons'' (''Wen Xin Diao Long''), a review book on ancient Chinese literature and writings by Liu Xie. * The ''Commentary on the Water Classic'', a book on hydrology of rivers in China attributed to the great geographer Li Daoyuan. * The ''Dialogues between Li Jing and Tang Taizong'', a military strategy book attributed to Li Jing (Tang dynasty), Li Jing * The ''Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government (Zizhi Tongjian)'', with Sima Guang as its main editor. * The ''Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue'', a historical record of the states of State of Wu, Wu and State of Yue, Yue during the Spring and Autumn period, attributed to Zhao Ye. * The ''Zhenguan Zhengyao'', a record of governance strategies and leadership of Emperor Taizong of Tang, attributed to Wu Jing. * The ''Jiaoshi Yilin'', a work modelled after the ''
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination text and among the oldest of the Chinese classics. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou ...
'', composed during the Western Han Dynasty and attributed to Jiao Yanshou. * ''The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art'', a mathematics Chinese book composed by several generations scholars of Han Dynasty. * The ''Thousand Character Classic'', attributed to Zhou Xingsi. * The ''Treatise on Astrology of the Kaiyuan Era'', compiled by Gautama Siddha, is a Chinese encyclopedia on astrology and divination. * The ''Shitong'', written by Liu Zhiji, a work on historiography. * The ''Tongdian'', written by Du You, a contemporary text focused on the Tang dynasty. * The ''Tang Huiyao'', compiled by Wang Pu (Song dynasty), Wang Pu, a text based on the institutional history of the Tang dynasty. * The ''Great Tang Records on the Western Regions'', compiled by Bianji; a recount of Xuanzang's journey. * The ''Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang'', written by Duan Chengshi, records fantastic stories, anecdotes, and exotic customs. * The ''Four Great Books of Song'', a term referring to the four large compilations during the beginning of
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kuan ...
: ** The ''Taiping Yulan,'' a ''leishu'' encyclopedia. ** The ''Taiping Guangji'' , a collection of folk tales and theology. ** The ''Wenyuan Yinghua'', an anthology of poetry, odes, songs and other writings. ** The ''Cefu Yuangui'', a ''leishu'' encyclopedia of political essays, autobiographies, memorials and decrees. * The ''Dream Pool Essays, Dream Pool Essay'', a collection of essays on science, technology, military strategies, history, politics, music and arts, written by Shen Kuo. * The ''Tiangong Kaiwu, Exploitation of the Works of Nature'', an encyclopedia compiled by Song Yingxing. * The ''Compendium of Materia Medica'', a classic book of medicine written by Li Shizhen. * The ''
Siku Quanshu The ''Siku Quanshu'', variously translated as the ''Complete Library in Four Sections'', ''Imperial Collection of Four'', ''Emperor's Four Treasuries'', ''Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature'', or ''Complete Library of the Four Treas ...
'', the largest compilation of literature in Chinese history. * The ''New Songs from the Jade Terrace, a poetry collection from the Six Dynasties period. * The Quan Tangshi, or ''Collected Tang Poems'', compiled during the Qing dynasty, published AD 1705. * The ''Xiaolin Guangji'', a collection of jokes compiled during the Qing dynasty.


See also

*Chinese literature *Imperial examination *List of early Chinese texts *Kaicheng Stone Classics *Seven Military Classics *Old Texts *Sinology *Thomas Francis Wade *Herbert Giles *Lionel Giles *Frederic H. Balfour


Notes


Bibliography


Primary Sources

* **


References

* * * * * ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** * * *
Online
* * * Endymion Wilkinson. ''Chinese History: A New Manual.'' (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series. New Edition; Second, Revised printing March 2013). . See esp. pp. 365– 377, Ch. 28, "The Confucian Classics."


External links


Chinese Text ProjectEnglishChinese
(Chinese philosophy texts in classical Chinese with English and modern Chinese translations)

David K. Jordan


Traditional Chinese


Scripta Sinica
Big classic texts database by Academia Sinica
Palace Museum Chinese Text Database中國電子古籍世界
Classics database
Research Center for Chinese Ancient Texts
include
CHANT (CHinese ANcient Texts) Database


Simplified Chinese


凌云小筑
In Chinese, with articles and discussions on literature, history, and philosophy.
国学导航


Japanese



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