Confucian Texts

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A woman consulting the Yi Jing while performing divination with the aid of Chinese fortune sticks. Fortean Picture Library.

Confucian Texts

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Confucius wrote or edited a series of five works that formed the foundation of Confucianism. In the third century BCE they became formally known as the Wu Jing, or Five Classics. They consist of the Book of History, the Book of Poems, the Book of Change (Yi Jing or I Ching), the Spring and Autumn Annals, and the Book of Rites. Besides these texts, which form the basis for Confucian scholarship, a collection of his sayings was gathered shortly after his death. Called the Analects, they form the basis for the familiar Confucian stereotype:

Confucius says...

Is it not a pleasure to learn and to repeat or practice from time to time what has been learned? Is it not delightful to have friends come from afar? Is one not a superior man if he does not feel hurt even though he is not recognized?

When a man's father is alive, look at the bent of his will. When his father is dead, look at the bent of his conduct. If for three years he does not change from the way of his father, he may be called filial.

A ruler who governs his state by virtue is like the north polar star, which remains in place while all the other stars revolve around it.

A superior man in dealing with the world is not for anything or against anything. He follows righteousness as the standard.

Three other works, written shortly after Confucius' time, demonstrate his influence. The Book of Great Learning, the Book of Mean (the "Middle Way"), and the Book of Mencius have been elevated by many scholars to the rank of Confucian scripture. Mencius is second only to Confucius in the Confucian tradition, and he was a major commentator on the master.

Mencius said:

For a man to give full realization to his heart is for him to understand his own nature, and a man who knows his own nature will know Heaven.

Confucianism went through a period of revival with the spread of Buddhism in China. The Yi Jing became widely read, but it was interpreted in a metaphysical fashion quite different from the method of classical Confucianism. Chou Tun-I (1017-1073 CE) is considered by many to be the great interpreter of this movement. His Explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate marked the beginning of what is now called Neo-Confucianism. Together with his contemporary Chang Tsai's The Western Inscription, this reinterpretation transferred Confucian thought to a spiritual plane that protected and nourished people during the twentieth-century communist onslaught that destroyed the political, social, and economic base of traditional Confucianism.

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