The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of the Later Confucian Tradition

The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of the Later Confucian Tradition

by Daniel K. Gardner

Selected passages in translation are accompanied by Gardner's comments, which incorporate selections from the commentary and interpretation of the renowned Neo-Confucian thinker, Zhu Xi (1130-1200).

This study provides an ideal introduction to the basic texts in the Confucian tradition from the twelfth through the twentieth centuries.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 3.69
  • Pages: 192
  • Publish Date: March 15th 2007 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Isbn10: 0872208265
  • Isbn13: 9780872208261

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The relative importance of these texts within the canon also changed over time, so that at the end of Song dynasty Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi) fervently lobbied for making four books central - the Analects, the Mencius, the Great Learning, and Maintaining Perfect Balance. Though I read the Analects and the Mencius long ago, Gardner makes the valid point that it is important also to have insight into how the Chinese themselves thought about the books. For, after the relative dominance of Buddhism during the T'ang dynasty (618907), there was a neo-Confucian reaction during the Song which was quite powerful. The neo-Confucians were cleaning up the "foreign" influences which "weakened" the Chinese state during the T'ang dynasty. And Zhu, a leading neo-Confucian, was cleaning up Chinese thought. With time, however, Zhu and the Four Books became central(*) and Buddhism waned in Chinese society until a revival during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). (*) Some two centuries later, the Chinese state officially adopted Zhu's views, prioritizing the Four Books and making his commentary required reading for the Imperial exams.

An odd volume: Gardner translates passages from the four books, then comments on them.

Der Kanon des Konfuzianers Da lese ich schon seit Jahren chinesische Literatur, in der die "Vier Bücher", neben den "Fünf Klassikern" die wichtigste Quelle der chinesischen Philosophie, Ethik und Sozialkunde, immer wieder erwähnt werden, und dieses Buch hier über diese Werke musste dann so lange auf meinem SuB ausharren. Ich hatte in meiner Rezension zu den Lunyu, den Analekten des Konfuzius, bemerkt, dass eine Übersetzung allein nicht ausreicht, um den Inhalt dieser Bücher wirklich zu verstehen, und Gardner bestätigt mich mit seinem Buch in meiner These - der Kommentar ist erstens historisch genauso wichtig wie der Text selbst, und zweitens schon seit dem 12. Dabei geht es mir nicht darum, dass ich heutige Leser für zu dumm halte, konfuzianische Vorstellungen selbst aus dem Text ableiten zu können; doch Zhu Xis Interpretationen des meist sehr reduktionstischen Originaltexts sind eben die kanonisierte Lesart, die für fast ein Jahrtausend die war, auf denen jede Auseinandersetzung mit den Vier Büchern fußte.

The four books mentioned in the title of The Four Books: The Basic Teachings of the Later Confucian Tradition refer to Chinese classic texts, Great Learning, Analects, Mencius, and Maintaining Perfect Balance. And I say sad, because even though for two thousand years we have people like Confucius teaching us perfectly decent ways of living, we still cant. Mencius seems to have come two or three generations after Confucius, and I find his teachings more thought-provoking. He is the kind of philosopher who was against the idea of another philosopher who claimed that to be a good person one has to love and treat every creature equally. The superior man loves creatures but does not treat them with true goodness which is due people alone; he treats people with true goodness but is not intimate with them which is due only ones relative.