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              Home History and Culture The Four Books and Five Classics
              The Four Books and Five Classics
              Learn Chinese - History and Culture

              ConfucianismThe Four Books (sì shū 四書) refer to The Analects of Confucius (lún yǔ 論語), The Mencius (mèng zǐ 孟子), The Great Learning (dà xué 大學) 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 in The Classic of Rites (lǐ jì 禮記). 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 of Confucian thoughts (rú jiā sī xiǎng 儒家思想) and constituted a better introduction to the complicated materials in the Classics (jīng diǎn 經典), 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 曾參 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 科舉考試), which endowed them with the superior status in China.

              The Great Learning

              The Great LearningThe Great Learning was originally one chapter in Li Ji (the Records of Rites). It consists of a short main text attributed to Confucius and nine commentary chapters by Zeng Zi (zēng zǐ 曾子), one of Confucius' 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. It links together individual action in the form of self-cultivation with higher goals such as ultimate world peace as well as linking together the spiritual and the material. In addition, by defining the path of learning (Dao) in governmental and social terms, the Great Learning both links the spiritual with the practical, and creates a vision of Dao that is radically different from that presented by Daoism (dào jiào 道教). In particular, the Great Learning sets Confucianism (rú jiào 儒教) as being this-worldly rather than other-worldly. Finally, the Great Learning also creates a conservative political discourse. Instead of basing its authority on an external deity, the Great Learning bases its authority on the practices of ancient kings.

              The Doctrine of the Mean

              The Doctrine of the Mean was also one chapter in Li Ji. By tradition, the Doctrine of the Mean is attributed to Confucius' grandson Zisi (zǐ sī 子思). 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" 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 the right way is.

              ConfuciusThe Analects of Confucius

              The Analects of Confucius are a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions they held. The Chinese title literally means "discussion over Confucius' words." Written during the Spring and Autumn Period (chūn qiū shí qī 春秋時期) through the Warring States Period (zhàn guó shí qī 戰國時期 ca. 479 BC - 221 BC), the Analects is the representative work of Confucianism and continues to have a tremendous influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.

              The Mencius

              The Mencius is 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. Mencius argued that human beings are born with an innate moral sense, but that society corrupted it through lack of a positive cultivating influence. Therefore, the goal of moral cultivation is to return to the people's innate morality. Consistent with his belief in the individual, Mencius contended that it was permissible for people to overthrow or kill a ruler who ignored the public's needs or ruled harshly.

              The Five Classics

              The Five Classics (wǔ jīng 五經) is a corpus of five ancient Chinese books used by Confucianism as the basis of studies. The Five Classics refer to The Book of Songs (shī jīng 詩經), The Classic of History (shū jīng 書經), The Classic of Rites, The Book of Changes (a.k.a I Ching zhōu yì 周易), and The Spring and Autumn Annals (chūn qiū 春秋), all of which are said to be compiled or revised by Confucius.

              The Book of Songs
              The Book of Songs
              The Book of Songs (a.k.a The Classic of Poetry or The Book of Odes), 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. It is the earliest collection of Chinese poems and it is the source of Chinese verse and the starting point of the Chinese realistic epic. Therefore, The Book of Songs serves as the most valuable and important material in the study of the Chinese language from the 11th century to the 6th century B.C.

              The Classic of History

              The Classic of History is a collection of documents and speeches alleged to have been written by rulers and officials of the early Zhou period and before. It contains examples of early Chinese prose.

              The Classic of Rites

              The Classic of Rites, the earliest and most complete record of social hierarchies and ceremonies in ancient China, lost in the third century B.C., describes ancient rites and court ceremonies.

              The Book of ChangesGua

              The Book of Changes, also referred to as Zhou Yi (Book of Changes of the Zhou Dynasty) or the I Ching, is regarded as the most preeminent among all Classics in ancient China.

              The spring and Autumn Annals

              The spring and Autumn Annals were the official chronicles of the states during the Pre-Qin Period (xiān qín shí qī 先秦時期), however, only that of the State of Lu covering the period from 722 BC to 481 BC survived. This book was also compiled by Confucius thereby gaining extra significance and becoming a Confucian Classic. It is also the forerunner of the "chronological style" (biān nián tǐ 編年體) of historiography.

              The Four Books and Five Classics (sì shū wǔ jīng 四書五經) have far-reaching influence on Chinese culture and also exert profound influence on the mentalities of Chinese people.

              The Four Books and Five Classics
              ???? 《四書五經》是中國傳統文化的重要組成部分,是儒家思想的核心載體,更是中國歷史文化古籍中的寶典。儒家經典《四書五經》包含內容極其廣泛、深刻,她在世界文化史、思想史上具有極高的地位?!端臅褰洝废鑼嵉挠涊d了中華民族思想文化發展史上最活躍時期的政治、軍事、外交、文化等各方面的史實資料及影響中國 文化幾千年的孔孟重要哲學思想。歷代科興選仕,試卷命題無他,必出自《四書五經》足見其對為官從政之道、為人處世之道的重要程度。時至今日,《四書五經》 所載內容及哲學思想仍對我們現代人具有積極的意義和極強的參考價值?!端臅褰洝吩谏鐣幏?、人際交流,社會文化等產生不可估量的影響,其影響播于海內 外,福蔭子孫萬代?!端臅褰洝费永m中華文化的千古名篇,人類文明的共同遺產。


              ????? 《四書五經》中的《四書》是《大學》、《中庸》、《論語》、《孟子》這四部著作的總稱。據稱它們分別出于早期儒家的四位代表性人物曾參、子思、孔子、孟子,所以稱為《四子書》(也稱《四子》),簡稱為《四書》。南宋光宗紹熙遠年(1190年),當時著名朱熹理學家在福建漳州將《大學》、《論語》、《孟 子》、《中庸》匯集到一起,作為一套經書刊刻問世。這位儒家大學者認為“先讀《大學》,以定其規模;次讀《論語》,以定其根本;次讀《孟子》,以觀其發 越;次讀《中庸》,以求古人之微妙處”并曾說“《四子》,《六經》之階梯”(《朱子語類》)朱熹著《四書章句集注》,具有劃時代意義。


              ????? 《大學》原本是《禮記》中一篇,在南宋前從未單獨刊印。傳為孔子弟子曾參(前505—前434)作。自唐代韓愈、李翱維護道統而推崇《大學》(與《中庸》),至北宋二程百般褒獎宣揚,甚至稱“《大學》,孔氏之遺書而初學入德之門也”,再到南宋朱熹繼承二程思想,便把《大學》從《禮記》中抽出來,與《論語》、《孟子》、《中庸》并列,到朱熹撰《四書章句集注》時,便成了《四書》之一。按朱熹和宋代另一位著名學者程頤的看法,《大學》是孔子及其門徒留下來 的遺書,是儒學的人門讀物。所以,朱熹把它列為"四書"之首。


              ????? 《中庸》原來也是《禮記》中一篇,在南宋前從未單獨刊印。一般認為它出于孔子的孫子子思(前483-前402)之手,《史記·孔子世家》稱“子思作《中 庸》”。自唐代韓愈、李翱維護道統而推崇《中庸》(與《大學》),至北宋二程百般褒獎宣揚,甚至認為《中庸》是“孔門傳收授心法”,再到南宋朱熹繼承二程 思想,便把《中庸》從《禮記》中抽出來,與《論語》、《孟子》、《大學》并列,到朱熹撰《四書章句集注》時,便成了《四書》之一。


              ????? 《論語》是記載孔子及其學生言行的一部書??鬃樱ㄇ?51--前479),名丘,字仲尼,春秋時魯國陬邑(今山東曲阜)人。儒家學派創始人,中國古代最著 名的思想家、政治家、教育家,對中國思想文化的發展有極其深遠的影響?!墩撜Z》成書于春秋戰國之際,是孔子的學生及其再傳學生所記錄整理?!墩撜Z》涉及哲 學、政治、經濟,教育、文藝等諸多方面,內容非常豐富,是儒學最主要的經典。在表達上,《論語》語言精煉而形象生動,是語錄體散文的典范。在編排上,《論 語》沒有嚴格的編纂體例,每一條就是一章,集章為篇,篇、章之間并無緊密聯系,只是大致歸類,并有重復章節出現。

              ???? 《孟子》是記載孟子及其學生言行的一部書。孟子(約前372-前289),名軻,字子輿,戰國中期鄒國(今山東鄒縣東南人),離孔子的故鄉曲阜不遠。是著名的思想家、政治家、教育家,孔子學說的繼承者。到南宋孝宗時,朱熹編《四書》列入了《孟子》,正式把《孟子》提到了非常高的地位。元、明以后又成為科舉 考試的內容,更是讀書人的必讀書了。和孔子一樣,孟子也曾帶領學生游歷魏、齊、宋、魯、滕、薛等國,并一度擔任過齊宣王的客卿。由于他的政治主張也與孔子 的一樣不被重用,所以便回到家鄉聚徒講學,與學生萬章等人著書立說,“序《詩》《書》,述仲尼之意,作《孟子》七篇。”(《史記·孟子荀卿列傳》)


              ????? 《四書五經》中的《五經》是指:《周易》、《尚書》、《詩經》、《禮記》、《左傳》。

              Story from The Book of Songs


              ????? 《詩經》在先秦稱《詩》,或《詩三百》,是中國第一本詩歌總集。匯集了從西周初年到春秋中期五百多年的詩歌三百零五篇(原三百十一篇),是西周初至春秋中期的詩歌總集。“古者《詩》三千余篇,及于孔子,去其重……”(《史記·孔子世家》),據傳為孔子編定?!对姟贩?ldquo;風”、“雅”、“頌”三部分,“風”為土風歌謠,“雅”為西周王畿的正聲雅樂,“頌”為上層社會宗廟祭祀的舞曲歌辭。此書廣泛地反映了當時社會生活各方面,被譽為古代社會的人生百科全書,對后世影響深遠。


              ????? 《尚書》古時稱《書》、《書經》,至漢稱《尚書》。“尚”便是指“上”,“上古”,該書是古代最早的一部歷史文獻匯編。記載上起傳說中的堯舜時代,下至東 周(春秋中期),約1500多年?;緝热菔枪糯弁醯奈母婧途颊勗拑热莸挠涗??!妒酚洝た鬃邮兰摇贩Q孔子“序《書傳》,上紀唐虞之際,下至秦繆,編次 其事”,相傳為孔子編定。古時稱贊人“飽讀詩書”,“詩書”便是分別指《詩經》、《尚書》。


              ????? 《禮記》戰國到秦漢年間儒家學者解釋說明經書《儀禮》的文章選集,“《禮記》只是解《儀禮》”(《朱子語類·卷八十七》),是一部儒家思想的資料匯編?!抖Y記》雖只是解說《儀禮》之書,但由于涉及面廣,其影響乃超出了《周禮》、《儀禮》。


              ????? 《左傳》也稱《左氏春秋》、《春秋古文》、《春秋左氏傳》,古代編年體歷史著作?!妒酚洝贩Q為春秋時左丘明所作。它的取材范圍包括了王室檔案,魯史策書, 諸侯國史等。記事基本以《春秋》魯十二公為次序,內容包括諸侯國之間的聘問、會盟、征伐、婚喪、篡弒等,對后世史學文學都有重要影響。


              ????? 《周易》,也稱《易》、《易經》,是占卜之書,其外層神秘,而內蘊的哲理至深至弘。作者應是筮官,經多人完成。內容廣泛記錄了西周社會各方面,包含史料價值、思想價值和文學價值。以前的人們對自然與人圣變幻規律的認識模式,從沒有超越陰陽八卦的思維框架。相傳龍馬馱“河圖”出現在黃河,上古圣人伏羲始作八 卦;《史記》又稱“蓋文王拘,而演《周易》”(一說伏羲重卦,有說神農),并作爻辭(或謂周公);后至春秋,又有孔圣作“十翼”之說,世稱“人更三圣,世歷三古”(《漢書·藝文志》)。


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