The Info List - Confucian Classics

--- Advertisement ---

Chinese classic texts or canonical texts (simplified Chinese: 中国古典典籍; traditional Chinese: 中國古典典籍; pinyin: Zhōngguó gǔdiǎn diǎnjí) refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the Qin dynasty
Qin dynasty
in 221 BC, particularly the "Four Books and Five Classics" of the Neo-Confucian tradition, themselves a customary abridgment of the "Thirteen Classics". All of these pre-Qin texts were written in classical Chinese. All three canons are collectively known as the classics (t 經, s 经, jīng, lit. "warp").[1] Chinese classic texts may more broadly refer to texts written either in vernacular Chinese or in the classical Chinese that was current until the fall of the last imperial dynasty, the Qing, in 1912. These can include shi (史, historical works), zi (子, philosophical works belonging to schools of thought other than the Confucian but also including works on agriculture, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, divination, art criticism, and other miscellaneous writings) and ji (集, literary works) as well as jing (Chinese medicine). In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Four Books and Five Classics were the subject of mandatory study by those Confucian scholars who wished to take the imperial exams to become government officials. 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
of the "Three Character Classic" and the "Hundred Family Surnames" and then went on to memorize the other classics. The literate elite therefore shared a common culture and set of values. Scholarship on these texts naturally divides itself into two periods, before and after the burning of the books during the fall of the Qin dynasty, when many of the original pre-Qin texts were lost.[1]


1 Before 221 BC 2 Classics branch 3 History branch 4 Philosophy branch 5 Poetry 6 After 206 BC 7 Further reference 8 See also 9 Notes 10 External links

10.1 Traditional Chinese 10.2 Simplified Chinese 10.3 Japanese

Before 221 BC[edit] It is often difficult or impossible to precisely date pre-Qin works beyond them being "pre-Qin", a period of 1000 years. Information in ancient China was often passed down orally for generations before being written down, so the order of composition of the texts need not be the same as that of their attributed "authors".[2] The below list is therefore organized in the order found in the Siku Quanshu, 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[edit]

Title Description

The I Ching
I Ching
(or Book of Changes) A manual of divination based on the eight trigrams attributed to the mythical figure Fuxi
(by at least the time of the early Eastern Zhou these eight trigrams had been multiplied to sixty-four hexagrams). The I Ching
I Ching
is still used by modern adherents of folk religion.

The Classic of History
Classic of History
or Book of Documents
Book of Documents
(Shu Jing) A collection of documents and speeches allegedly from the Xia, Shang and Western Zhou
Western Zhou
periods, and even earlier. It contains some of the earliest examples of Chinese prose.

The Classic of Poetry
Classic of Poetry
(Shi Jing) Made up of 305 poems divided into 160 folk songs, 74 minor festal songs, traditionally sung at court festivities, 31 major festal songs, sung at more solemn court ceremonies, and 40 hymns and eulogies, sung at sacrifices to gods and ancestral spirits of the royal house. This book is traditionally credited as a compilation from Confucius. A standard version, named Maoshi Zhengyi, was compiled in the mid-7th century under the leadership of Kong Yingda.[3]

The Three Rites

The Rites of Zhou Conferred the status of a classic in the 12th century (in place of the lost Classic of Music).

The Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial (Yi Li) Describes ancient rites, social forms and court ceremonies.

The Classic of Rites
Classic of Rites
(Li Chi) Describes social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites.

The Spring and Autumn
Spring and Autumn
Annals Chronologically the earliest of the annals; comprising about 16,000 characters, it records the events of the State of Lu
State of Lu
from 722 BC to 481 BC, with implied condemnation of usurpations, murder, incest, etc.

The Zuo Zhuan
Zuo Zhuan
(Commentary of Zuo) A different report of the same events as the Spring and Autumn
Spring and Autumn
Annals with a few significant differences. It covers a longer period than the Spring and Autumn
Spring and Autumn

The Commentary of Gongyang Another surviving commentary on the same events (see Spring and Autumn Annals).

The Commentary of Guliang Another surviving commentary on the same events (see Spring and Autumn Annals).

The Classic of Filial Piety
Classic of Filial Piety
(Xiao Jing) A small book giving advice on filial piety; how to behave towards a senior (such as a father, an elder brother, or ruler).

The Four Books

The Mencius
(Mengzi) A book of anecdotes and conversations of Mencius.

The Analects of Confucius
Analects of Confucius
(Lun Yu) A twenty-chapter work of dialogues attributed to Confucius and his disciples; traditionally believed to have been written by Confucius's own circle it is thought to have been set down by later Confucian scholars.

Doctrine of the Mean
Doctrine of the Mean
(Zhong Yong) A chapter from the Book of Rites made into an independent work by Zhu Xi

The Great Learning A chapter from the Book of Rites made into an independent work by Zhu Xi


The Erya A dictionary explaining the meaning and interpretation of words in the context of the Confucian Canon.

History branch[edit]

Title Description

Bamboo Annals History of Zhou dynasty excavated from a Wei tomb in the Jin dynasty.

Yi Zhou Shu Similar in style to the Book of Documents

Discourses of the States (Guoyu) A collection of historical records of numerous states recorded the period from Western Zhou
Western Zhou
to 453 BC.

The Strategies of the Warring States Edited by Liu Xiang.

Yanzi chunqiu Attributed to the statesman Yan Ying, a contemporary of Confucius

Philosophy branch[edit]

Title Description

(excl. Classics branch)

Kongzi Jiayu Collection of stories about Confucius and his disciples. Authenticity disputed.

Xunzi Attributed to Xun Kuang, an ancient Chinese collection of philosophical writings that makes the distinction between what is born in man and what must be learned through rigorous education.


Main article: Seven Military Classics

Six Secret Teachings (六韜) Attributed to Jiang Ziya
Jiang Ziya

The Art of War
The Art of War
(孫子兵法) Attributed to Sunzi.

Wuzi (吳子) Attributed to Wu Qi.

The Methods of the Sima (司馬法) (Sima Fa) Attributed to Sima Rangju.

Wei Liaozi (尉繚子) Attributed to Wei Liao.

The Three Strategies of Huang Shigong (黃石公三略) Attributed to Jiang Ziya.

The Thirty-Six Stratagems Recently recovered.


Guanzi Attributed to Guan Zhong.

Deng Xizi Fragment

The Book of Lord Shang Attributed to Shang Yang.

Hanfeizi Attributed to Han Fei.

Shenzi Attributed to Shen Buhai; all but one chapter is lost.

The Canon of Laws Attributed to Li Kui.


Huangdi Neijing

Nan Jing


Yuzi Fragment

Mozi Attributed to the philosopher of the same name, Mozi.

Yinwenzi Fragment

Shenzi Attributed to Shen Dao. It originally consisted of ten volumes and forty-two chapters, of which all but seven chapters have been lost.


Gongsun longzi


The Lüshi Chunqiu An encyclopedic of ancient classics edited by Lü Buwei.

Shizi Attributed to Shi Jiao


The Classic of Mountains and Seas
Classic of Mountains and Seas
(Shan Hai Jing) A compilation of early geography and myths from various locations[citation needed].

Tale of King Mu, Son of Heaven


Dao De Jing Attributed to Laozi.

Guan Yinzi Fragment

The Liezi (or Classic of the Perfect Emptiness) Attributed to Lie Yukou.

Zhuangzi Attributed to the philosopher of the same name, Zhuangzi.



Title Description

Chu Ci Aside from the Shi Jing
Shi Jing
(see Classics branch) the only surviving pre-Qin poetry collection. Attributed to the southern state of Chu, and especially Qu Yuan.

After 206 BC[edit]

The Twenty-Four Histories, a collection of authoritative histories of China for various dynasties:

The Records of the Grand Historian
Records of the Grand Historian
by Sima Qian The Book of Han
Book of Han
by Ban Gu. The Book of Later Han
Book of Later Han
by Fan Ye The Records of Three Kingdoms by Chen Shou The Book of Jin by Fang Xuanling The Book of Song by Shen Yue The Book of Southern Qi
Book of Southern Qi
by Xiao Zixian The Book of Liang by Yao Silian The Book of Chen by Yao Silian The History of the Southern Dynasties by Li Yanshou The Book of Wei by Wei Shou The Book of Zhou by Linghu Defen The Book of Northern Qi by Li Baiyao The History of the Northern Dynasties by Li Yanshou The Book of Sui by Wei Zheng The Old Book of Tang
Old Book of Tang
by Liu Xu The New Book of Tang by Ouyang Xiu The Old History of Five Dynasties by Xue Juzheng The New History of Five Dynasties by Ouyang Xiu The History of Song by Toqto'a The History of Liao by Toqto'a The History of Jin by Toqto'a The History of Yuan by Song Lian The History of Ming by Zhang Tingyu The Draft History of Qing by Zhao Erxun
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 Spring and Autumn Annals
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. The Thirty-Six Strategies, a military strategy book attributed to Tan Daoji. 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 The Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government
Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government
(Zizhi Tongjian), with Sima Guang
Sima Guang
as its main editor. The Spring and Autumn Annals
Spring and Autumn Annals
of Wu and Yue, a historical record of the states of Wu and Yue during the period of Spring and Autumn, 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, composed during the Western Han Dynasty
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, 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 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 Essay, a collection of essays on science, technology, military strategies, history, politics, music and arts, written by Shen Kuo. The 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 largest compilation of literature in Chinese history. The New Songs from the Jade Terrace, a poetry collection from the Six Dynasties period. The Quantangshi, or Collected Tang Poems, compiled during the Qing Dynasty, published AD 1705. The Xiaolin Guangji, a collection of jokes compiled during the Qing dynasty.

Further reference[edit]

Yong, Rong (2016) Siku Quanshu
Siku Quanshu
Jianming Mulu' 四庫全書簡明目錄. Shanghai Kexue Jishu Wenxian Chubanshe. Endymion Wilkinson. Chinese History: A New Manual. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series. New Edition; Second, Revised printing March 2013). ISBN 9780674067158 ISBN 0674067150. See esp. pp. 365– 377, Ch. 28, "The Confucian Classics."

See also[edit]

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


^ a b Voorst, Robert E. Van (2007). Anthology of World Scriptures. Cengage Learning. p. 140. ISBN 0-495-50387-8.  ^ Cambridge History of Ancient China chapter 11 ^ "Detailed List 19-24 - lawpark's JimdoPage!". Lawpark.jimdo.com. 2014-01-27. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 

External links[edit]

Chinese Text Project (English Chinese) ( Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy
texts in classical Chinese with English and modern Chinese translations) Chinese Classics (James Legge's translations of the Analects of Confucius, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Works of Mencius
and the Tao Te Ching) The Canonical Books of Confucianism, David K. Jordan Relevant Electronic Resources for Chinese Classical Studies

Traditional Chinese[edit]

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 includes CHANT (CHinese ANcient Texts) Database Chinese classic text online

Simplified Chinese[edit]

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



Literature p