Sep 18, 2013

Four Books and Five classics


The Four Books (sì shū 四书) refer to The Analects of Confucius (lún yǔ 论语), The Mencius(mèng zǐ 孟子), The Great Learning (dà xué 大学) and The Doctrine of the Golden Mean (zhōng yōng 中庸). The former two are collections of sayings and teachings of Confucius (kǒng zǐ 孔子) and Mencius (mèng zǐ 孟子) as well as sayings of their disciples while the latter two are chapters inThe Classic of Rites (lǐ jì 礼记). Chu His (zhū xī 朱熹), a famous scholar of the Southern Song Dynasty (nán sòng 南宋), held that The Four Books together outlined the basic system ofConfucian thoughts (rú jiā sī xiǎng 儒家思想) and constituted a better introduction to the complicated materials in the Classics (jīng diǎn 经典), thus selecting these four texts from Classics and put them together as the Four Books.

The Four Books is an abbreviation for 'The Books of the Four Philosophers’ because The Analects of Confucius, The Mencius, The Doctrine of the Golden Mean and The Great Learning are respectively attributed to four great Confucian philosophers, namely Confucius, Mencius, Zisi (zǐ sī 子思 the grandson of Confucius), Tsang Shan ( zēng shēn 曾参 a disciple of Confucius). In the Ming and Qing Dynasties the Four Books were made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations (kē jǔ kǎo shì 科举考试), which endowed them with the superior status in China.
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