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Lunyu 論語 "The Analects of Confucius"

The Lunyu 論語 (pronounced Lúnyǔ!), commonly translated as "The Confucian Analects", is a collection of sayings by Confucius 孔子 and dialogs with his disciples. It is the authoritative source for the philosophical theories of Confucius, although of lot of his sayings are also to be found in other books compiled during the Warring States 戰國 (5th. cent-221 BCE) and the Former Han 前漢 (206 BC- 8 AD) periods. The time of the compilation of the Lunyu can be found out in the following way: For some persons mentioned in the Lunyu which died after Confucius, the posthumous title is used, like that of Duke Ai of Lu 魯哀公 (r. 494-467), or the nobleman Ji Kangzi 季康子. There are also some sayings included in the Lunyu that are attributed to Confucius' disciple Zeng Shen 曾參, who died half a century after Confucius. The compilation must thus have been taken place in the early 4th century. The Lunyu was only elevated to the status of a Confucian Classic during the Song period 宋 (960-1279) when it was made part of the canon of the Sishu 四書 "Four Books".
During the Former Han period three versions of the Lunyu were available: A 20-chapter version from the region of Lu 魯 (the Lu version 魯本); a 22-chapter version from the region of Qi 齊 (the Qi version 齊本), which has two more chapters, namely Wen Yu (wang) 聞玉(王) "Asking about rulership", and Zhi dao 知道 "Knowing the way"; and the old Gu Lunyu 古論語, which is an old text version and is said to have survived the literary inquisition under the First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇 (r. 246/221-210 BCE) hidden in the wall of Confucius' mansion in Qufu 曲阜. This version had 21 chapters, of which the chapter Zizhang 子張 "[Disciple] Zizhang" is divided in two parts and partially mixed with the chapter Yao yue 堯曰 "Emperor Yao said". In all three versions the sequence of the chapters was not identical, and there were many sentences which were not identical, and consequently interpreted in a different way. During the reign of Emperor Cheng 漢成帝 (r. 33-7 BCE) of the Han dynasty, Zhang Yu 張禹, Marquis of Anchang 安昌侯, was professor (boshi 博士 "erudite") for the Lu version, later for the Qi version. The version he preferred was therefore also called the Zhang hou Lun 張侯論 "Marquis Zhang's Lunyu". The chapter titles of the Lunyu are in almost all cases consisting of two characters that correspond to the beginning of the first sentence.
During the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220) the scholar Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 wrote a comparative commentary to all three versions. The Three Kingdoms period 三國 (220-280) scholar He Yan 何晏 collected all commentaries written up to date to a compilation called Lunyu jijie 論語集解. The basic text of the Lunyu he selected is that which is transmitted until today, while the other versions are lost. Huang Kan 皇侃 from the Liang period 梁 (502-557) has collected commentaries to He Yan's compilation, which he presented in his Lunyu jijie yishu 論語集解義疏. The Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126) scholar Xing Bing 邢昺 wrote another commentary to He Yan's book, and he contributed the Lunyu zhushu 論語注疏 to the canon of the Thirteen Classics. The collection of commentaries most reprentative for Song period Confucianism is Zhu Xi's 朱熹 Lunyu jizhu 論語集注, for which Zhao Shunsun 趙順孫 wrote a commentary called Lunyu zuanshu 論語纂疏. All commentary traditions were unified in the 24 juan "scrolls" long commentary Lunyu zhengyi 論語正義 by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Liu Baonan 劉寳楠. The modern scholar Cheng Shude 程樹德 has written a 40 juan "scrolls" long commentary called Lunyu jishi 論語集釋. In 1980 Yang Bojun 楊伯峻 published his commentary Lunyu yizhu 論語譯注.
In the "Analects" Confucius' thoughts about society, politics, philosophy and human relationships are explained. There are also some few historical accounts of Confucius' life and his travels to the courts of the various feudal lords. Confucius talked about offerings, but refused to say anything about souls and spirits of the ancestors. He even declined to define or describe Heaven, which became under Mengzi an important part of the Confucian worldview, especially in the concept of the Heavenly mandate (tianming 天命), which is only bestowed to rulers of virtuous conduct. The lifespan, Confucius said, is defined by fate, but wealth and statues were influenced by Heaven. Confucius made some statements about cognition, especially about a kind of innate knowledge that is given to man without having learnt it. Yet Confucius preferred to hear and select what is good and to follow it because he rated himself as not one who was born in the possession of knowledge. He said that he was one who is fond of antiquity and earnest in seeking knowledge there. Confucius instructed his disciple Zizhang 子張 in the method of learning: "Hear much and put aside the points of which you stand in doubt, while you speak cautiously at the same time of the others; then you will afford few occasions for blame." He is described as a man who had no forgone conclusions, no arbitrary predeterminations, no obstinancy, and no egoism. From these statements it can be seen that constant learning and objective rationality was of greatest importance for Confucius. "Learning without thought", he ascertained, "is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous." Confucius' most famous statement is that he understood himself as a "transmitter and not a maker". There were many ways of learning, for instance, silently treasuring up knowledge, to learn without satiety, or, as Confucius did, instructing others without being wearied. Confucius was also willing to learn from other, as he said in another famous statement: "When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers."
Very enlightening indeed is Confucius' attempt to adapt definitions always to the situation and the context. Important terms like filial piety (xiao 孝), kindheartedness (ren 仁), or the art of ruling (zheng 政) are in the Lunyu differently explained to questioners of various backgrounds. Confucius explains this approach in the following way: "When a man may be spoken with, not to speak to him is to err in reference to the man. When a man may not be spoken with, to speak to him is to err in reference to our words."
Behaviour in human society was Confucius' most important content of teaching. He said that the practical expressions of kindheartedness (ren) are truthfulness (zhong 忠) and benevolence (shu 恕). Rituals are the instrument to express kindheartedness in a ritual context. This doctrine was, in Confucius' words, of an all-pervading unity. Asked about kindheartedness, Confucius replied that it means "to subdue one's self and return to propriety (li)". This means not looking at what is not propriety, listening not at what is contrary to propriety, speaking not at what is contrary to propriety, and making no movement which is contrary to propriety. In the field of government, propriety is fulfilled when the ruler is a ruler, the minister a minister, the father a father, and a son like a son. In this way state and society will be stable. The people will trust that ruler who feeds it and defends it. Concerning one’s own kindheartedness, Confucius said that every man has to consider virtue as what devolves of himself; he may not yield the performance of it even to his teacher. This strong will to perform well is also stressed in another statement where the Master said that the commander of an army might be carried off, but the will of even a common man cannot be taken from him.
Compared to older classical texts like the Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents", the language in the Lunyu is much more vivid. It is characterised by the intensive use of modal particles, reiterative sentences, parallelisms, antithetic sentences, and a language of affects and moods. In one instance, Confucius even said angrily: "He (Ran Qiu 冉求) is no disciple of mine (because he collected imposts from the usurpatorious family Jisun 季孫). My little children, beat the drum and assail him." On another occasion, the disappointed Master sighed desperately: "It passes on just like the waters of a river, not ceasing day or night." He did not refrain from calling his disciple Zilu 子路 as uncultivated. Yan Hui 顏回, his most beloved disciple, enthusiastically said that as long as the Master lives, how would he dare dying!
Yet in many places, the Lunyu is only very sparing in describing the historical context of the situation in which the Master and his disciples found themselves.

Ma Zhenduo 馬振鐸, Li Xi 李曦 (1987). "Lunyu 論語", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhexue 哲學, vol. 1, pp. 521-522. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Zhong Zhaopeng 鍾肇鵬 (1992). "Lunyu 論語", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 2, p. 633. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Zhou Benchun 周本淳 (1986). "Lunyu 論語", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, vol. 1, pp. 495-495. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

1. 學而 Xue er "Learning"
2. 為政 Wei zheng "Exercising government"
3. 八佾 Ba yi "Eight pantomimes"
4. 里仁 Li ren "Virtuous manners in neighborhood"
5. 公冶長 Gongye Zhang [name of a person]
6. 雍也 Yong ye "There is Yong"
7. 述而 Shu er "Transmitting"
8. 泰伯 Taibo [name of a person]
9. 子罕 Zi han "[What the] Master seldom [speaks of]"
10. 鄉黨 Xiangdang "In the village"
11. 先進 Xian jin "Men of former times"
12. 顏淵 Yan Yuan [a disciple of Confucius]
13. 子路 Zilu
14. 憲問 Xian wen Xian asked"
15. 衛靈公 Wei Linggong [name of a ruler]
16. 季氏 Ji shi "[The head of] the Ji clan"
17. 陽貨 Yang Huo [name of a person]
18. 衛子 Wei zi "The viscount of Wei"
19. 子張 Zizhang [a disciple of Confucius]
20. 堯曰 Yao yue "Yao said"
Exemplarious translation:

1.1.子曰:「學而時習之,不亦說乎﹖有朋自遠方來,不亦樂乎﹖人不知而不 慍,不亦君子乎﹖」
The Master said, "Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?"

3.9.子曰:「夏禮,吾能言之,杞不足徵也;殷禮,吾能言之,宋不足徵也。文 獻不足故也,足則吾能徵之矣。」
The Master said, "I could describe the ceremonies of the Xia dynasty, but Qi [the town where the descendants of the Xia rulers lived] cannot sufficiently attest my words. I could describe the ceremonies of the Yin [Shang] dynasty, but Song [the town where the descendants of the Shang dynasty lived] cannot sufficiently attest my words. They cannot do so because of the insufficiency of their records and wise men. If those were sufficient, I could adduce them in support of my words."

The Master said, "A transmitter and not a maker, believing in and loving the ancients, I venture to compare myself with our of Peng [Laozi? another Taoist teacher names Pengzu? or Peng Xian, a mythical scribe of the Shang dynasty?]."

The Master's frequent themes of discourse were the Odes, the History, and the maintenance of the Rules of Propriety. On all these he frequently discoursed.

The Master said, "When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them."

Confucius, in his village, looked simple and sincere, and as if he were not able to speak. When he was in the prince's ancestral temple, or in the court, he spoke minutely on every point, but cautiously. When he was waiting at court, in speaking with the great officers of the lower grade, he spoke freely, but in a straightforward manner; in speaking with those of the higher grade, he did so blandly, but precisely. When the ruler was present, his manner displayed respectful uneasiness; it was grave, but self-possessed.

The superior man did not use a deep purple, or a puce color, in the ornaments of his dress. Even in his undress, he did not wear anything of a red or reddish color. In warm weather, he had a single garment either of coarse or fine texture, but he wore it displayed over an inner garment. Over lamb's fur he wore a garment of black; over fawn's fur one of white; and over fox's fur one of yellow. The fur robe of his undress was long, with the right sleeve short. He required his sleeping dress to be half as long again as his body. When staying at home, he used thick furs of the fox or the badger. When he put off mourning, he wore all the appendages of the girdle. His undergarment, except when it was required to be of the curtain shape, was made of silk cut narrow above and wide below. He did not wear lamb's fur or a black cap on a visit of condolence.

He did not dislike to have his rice finely cleaned, nor to have his mince meat cut quite small. He did not eat rice which had been injured by heat or damp and turned sour, nor fish or flesh which was gone. He did not eat what was discolored, or what was of a bad flavor, nor anything which was ill-cooked, or was not in season. He did not eat meat which was not cut properly, nor what was served without its proper sauce. Though there might be a large quantity of meat, he would not allow what he took to exceed the due proportion for the rice. It was only in wine that he laid down no limit for himself, but he did not allow himself to be confused by it.

12.1.顏淵問仁。子曰:「克己復禮為仁。一日克己復禮,天下歸仁焉。為仁由 己,而由人乎哉﹖」顏淵曰:「請問其目。」子曰:「非禮勿視,非禮勿聽,非 禮勿言,非禮勿動。」顏淵曰:「回雖不敏,請事斯語矣!」
Yan Yuan asked about perfect virtue. The Master said, "To subdue one's self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue. If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him. Is the practice of perfect virtue from a man himself, or is it from others?" Yan Yuan said, "I beg to ask the steps of that process." The Master replied, "Look not at what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety." Yan Yuan then said, "Though I am deficient in intelligence and vigour, I will make it my business to practise this lesson."

Duke Jing of Qi asked Confucius about government. Confucius replied, "THere is government, when prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son." "Good", said the duke, "if indeed; the prince be not prince, the minister not minister, the father not father, and the son not son, although I have my revenue, can I enjoy it [in spite of insubordinate officers]?"

13.3.子路曰:「衛君待子而蚌,子將奚先﹖」子曰:「必也正名乎!」子路曰 :「有是哉,子之迂也!奚其正﹖」子曰:「野哉,由也!君子於其所不知,蓋 闕如也。名不正,則言不;言不,則事不成;事不成,則禮樂不興;禮樂不興, 則刑罰不中;刑罰不中,則民無所措手足。故君子名之必可言也,言之必可行也 。君子於其言,無所苟而已矣!」
Zilu said, "The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consicer the first thing to be done?" The Master replied, "What is necessary is to rectify names." "So, indeed!" said Zilu. "You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?" The Master said, "How uncultivated are you, You! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know now to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires, is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."

The Master said, "My children, why do you not study the Book of Poetry? The Odes serve to stimulate the mind. They may be used for purposes of self-contemplation. They teach the art of sociability. They show how to regulate feelings of resentment. From them you learn the more immediate duty of serving one's father, and the remoter one of serving one's prince. From them we become largely acquainted with the names of birds, beasts, and plants."

Translated by James Legge (1960). The Chinese Classics in Five Volumes. 1. Confucian Analects, The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

July 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail