Classical Chinese Scriptures

"Kung fu tzu"

1. Yijing (I Ching) (The Book of Changes) - a book of divination containing some material as early as the Zhou (Chou) period. (The Zhou period was c. 1050 - 250 BCE.) According to Deborah Sommer (Chinese Religion: An Anthology of Sources, 3) The Yijing "is perhaps the earliest text of Chinese antiquity." However, it did not achieve its final form until perhaps the beginning of the Christian Era.

2. Shujing (Shu Ching-The Book of History [or of documents]) - history/chronicles /speeches etc. from the early Zhou Period.

3. Shijing (Shih Ching-The Book of Odes [songs/poetry]) - 305 songs or poems from 10 - 7th centuries BCE.

4. Ch'un Ch'iu (The Spring and Autumn Annals) - accounts of important events in the state of Lu, the birthplace of Confucius (=K'ung fu tzu) from 722 - 481 BCE. Supposedly compiled, or at least edited, by Confucius himself. The Tso Chuan is a commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals by Master Tso.

5. Lijing (Li Ching-The Book of Rites) - key ceremonies of the Confucian social order from about the 2nd century BCE. This title is applied to three works on Li (rites or ritual), the Yi Li, the Li Chi, and the Zhou/Chou Li, or Rites of Zhou/Chou.

Collectively, these are known as the Wujing (Wu Ching) or Five Classics, sometimes referred to as the Confucian Bible. According to some sources there were as many as 13 classical scriptures (jing/ching) but these are the best known and were the focus of attention for Confucian scholars. Also important later additions to Confucian scripture are the "Four Books":

The Great Learning (Da Xue). Originally one chapter of #5 above, the Great Larning starts: "The ancients who wished to manifest their clear character to the world would first bring order to their states. Those who wished to bring order to their states would first regulate their families. Those who wished to regulate their families would first cultivate their personal lives."

The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong) is attributed to Zisi or Kong Ji, the only grandson of Kongzi.

The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu) - supposedly sayings of Confucius (Kongzi, c. 551 - 479 BCE) but the text was not collected and edited until some 400 years after his death. There are numerous versions of the Lun Yu online and some differ in the numbering of verses by 2 verses. For example, the Lun Yu 6:11 here, is the Lun Yu 6:13 here.

The Mencius (Mengzi).

Of greater importance to Daoists was

The Dao de jing (Tao Te Ching) - supposedly the composition of Laozi (Lao Tzu), a contemporary of Confucius. There is significant doubt as to the existence of this Laozi as a historical person, however.

Some key concepts from the Classics

Confucius or Kung fu tzu Tian (T'ien) (Heaven) this refers literally to the sky but also to the transcendental scheme of things, fate, destiny, or even God. It has certain similarities to James's "unseen order."

Tian (T'ien) Ming the "mandate of heaven." Most often used to mean something like the divine right of kings, Tian Ming indicates that ineffable and irresistible power of being "in the right place at the right time," of being "hot," when someone "can't do wrong for doing right." Certainly it is consistent with "having God on your side."

Dao (Tao) (the Way) this is even more consistent with James's "unseen order;" it is ultimate reality, that which gives rise to all other things, to follow the Dao is to find perfection (see Smith, 126).

Wu-wei literally "inaction," "doing nothing." Wu-wei indicates the effortless state which is achieved when one follows the Dao perfectly. All resistance to one's activity ceases, thus action is performed without effort and action and inaction become indistinguishable. This can perhaps be seen as a non-theistic alternative to Tian Ming.

Yin/Yang All things were supposed by the philosophy of these ancient texts to be composed of the opposing principles, yin and yang. Yin is (amongst other things) passive, feminine, dark. Yang is active, masculine, and light.

Key concepts of Confucianism

Confucius (551 - 479 BCE.) was a scholarly politician, an aspiring advisor to the royal dynasties which ruled China. Although not particularly successful in his own lifetime he established a school which flourished after his death and eventually dominated all of Chinese education until the People's Revolution of 1949. He sought to establish rules of behavior which would cultivate the best possible human society. Among his key concepts were the following virtues:-

Li propriety and/or ritual, doing right and doing rites. The words are obviously connected in English, in Chinese Li means both things. Religious rituals are those things which ought to be done, as are manners and correct social behavior, the respect due to parents from children, to the husband from the wife, to the elder sibling from the younger sibling, to the elder friend from the younger friend, and to the ruler from the subject. These are the "five constant relationships" which involve the virtue of Hsiao, filial piety, which can be compared to the 4th commandment of "honor your father and your mother."

Jen is humaneness, humanity, the sense of duty to the human community, perhaps it could be called altruism.

Shu is reciprocity: "Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you" (The Analects of Confucius XII:2, see also XV:23). Cf. The Gospel of Matthew 7:12)

Chih is knowledge or wisdom, both factual knowledge and the understanding of human destiny, which includes knowledge of . . .

Wen, the arts, the sum total of aesthetic culture which Confucius recognized as having enormous importance for social well-being.

Finally Junzi (Chun tzu) is the "noble-man," the cultivated or advanced person in whom all these virtues were fully developed.

These concepts operated between and maitained the Five Constant Relationships:

Parent/Child (filial piety = Hsiao)
Husband/Wife (NB Huston Smith translates this into Spouse/Spouse but note the inherent dominant/subject nature of the relationships)
Elder brother/younger brother
Elder friend/younger friend