Four Books and Five Classics of the Ancient China | Short history websiteCollectively 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. In short, they have a far-reaching influence on the way of existence, intellectual quality, moral ethics and esthetic values of the Chinese nation. They were, in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations. They are:. These books were compiled or edited by Confucius himself. 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.
Four Books and Five Classics
The Five Classics and Four Books were the basis of the civil examination in imperial China and can be considered the Confucian canon. From the Han to the early Song, the Five Classics grew into thirteen classics. In the early Song, however, scholars focused on the original Five Classics again. By the mid-Song, however, the Analects, Mencius, Great Learning, and Doctrine of the Mean began gaining importance and by the early fourteenth century, the Four Book were the texts for the civil examinations. The Four Books were to be read before the Five Classics, and were to be read this way:. Throughout imperial China, the Confucian canon changed dramatically see Versions of the Canon but the following is a brief description of the various writings.
If it ever existed as a separated classic is not sure. Other interpretations say that the term Liujing has to be understood as the "Six Arts" like the middle-age artes liberales : the Shangshu representing royal speeches, the Chunqiu representing historiography, the Shijing representing poetry, the Yijing divining, the Liji or Yili representing rituals, and finally the Yueji as the ars musica. Not counting the "Doctrine of the Mean" and the "Great Learning", because they are both part of the Liji , the canon of thirteen classics is full. This catalogue lists many different versions of one single classic and thus shows how complicate it was to find out the orthodox version of a text and to what quarrels it eventually led. The books that were written on bamboo slips have been partially destroyed by war and other catastrophs. On the Zhengshi stone slabs, the text of the classics was incised in three different forms of characters. The Confucian Classics had a position among Chinese literature like the bible has in the West.
The Nine Classics
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They were selected by Zhu Xi in the Song dynasty to serve as general introduction to Confucian thought, and they were, in the Ming and Qing dynasties, made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations. Several of the texts were already prominent by the Warring States period. 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. During the Western Han dynasty , which adopted Confucianism as its official ideology, these texts became part of the state-sponsored curriculum. 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". The Classic of Music is sometimes considered the sixth classic but was lost in the Burning of the Books.