The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Chinese classic texts

China has a wealth of classical literature, both poetry and prose, dating from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC - 256 BC) and including the Chinese classics texts, or Chinese canonical texts. Some of them are attributed to Confucius but he might only be the editor of them. One of the aspects of the culture that allows its continuity is the importance given to those ancient texts, that shape the philosophies of the culture.

S shū wǔ jīng (四書五經), the Four Books and the Five Classics, were mandated study of those Confucian scholars who wished to become government officials. Any political discussion was full of references to this background and one couldn't be one of the literati, or even a military officer, without knowing them perfectly.

Chinese children first studied the Chinese characters with the Hundred Family Surnames (Bai Jia Xing) and the Three Character Classic (三字經 San Zi Jing). Then, they studied the following Classics, in order to climb the social hierarchy.


List of Chinese classic texts

The Four Books (四書 S shū)

The Five Classics (五經 Wǔ jīng)

  • The Classic of Poetry (詩經 Shī Jīng), 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 probably a compilation from Confucius.
  • The Classic of History (書經 Shū Jīng) 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 Changes or I Ching (易經 Y Jīng), a manual of divination based on the eight trigrams attributed to the mythical emperor Fu Xi. (By Confucius' time these eight trigrams had been multiplied to sixty-four hexagrams.) The I Ching is still used by adherents of folk religion.
  • The Classic of Rites (禮記 Lǐ J), social forms and ceremonies (also spelled Liki), a restoration of the original Lijing, lost in the third century B.C., describes ancient rites and court ceremonies.
  • The Spring and Autumn Annals (春秋 Chūn Qiū, also known as 麟經 Ln Jīng), a historical record of the state of Lu , Confucius' native state, from 722 B.C. to 479 B.C. written (or edited) by Confucius, with implied condemnation of usurpations, murder, incest, etc.
  • The Classic of Music (樂經) is sometime referred to as the sixth classic, but is lost.

Classics of Taoism

  • The Classic of The Way and its Virtue or Tao Te Ching (道德經 Dao De Jing), attributed to Lao Zi.
  • Zhuang Zi, attributed to the philosopher of the same name, Zhuang Zi.
  • The True Classic of Perfect Emptiness, attributed to Lie Zi.

Classics of Mohism

  • Mo Zi, attributed to the philosopher of the same name, Mo Zi.

Classics of Legalism

  • Guan Zi , attributed to Guan Zhong .
  • Han Fei Zi, attributed to Han Fei .
  • Shen Zi , attributed to Shen Buhai, is lost.
  • Shen Zi , attributed to Shen Dao, is presumably lost.
  • The Book of Law or Fa Jing , attributed to Li Kui .

Classics of Military science

Classics of the History of China

  • Twenty-Four Histories, a dynastic format collection of authoritative references of the History of China.
  • The Spring and Autumn Annals of Zuo, Annals of Zuo or Zuo Zhuan , attributed to Zuo Qiuming .
  • The Discourses of the states or Guoyu, a collection of historical records of numerous states during the Spring and Autumn Period.
  • The Strategies of the Warring States or Zhan Guo Ce, attributed to Liu Xiang.
  • The Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue or Wuyue Chunqiu , a historical record of the states of Wu and Yue during the Spring and Autumn Period, attributed to Zhao Ye .
  • The Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms or Shiliuguo Chunqiu , a historical record of the Sixteen Kingdoms, attributed to Cui Hong , is lost.
  • The Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government or Zizhi Tongjian, attributed to Sima Guang.
  • The Annals Of L Buwei or Lshi Chunqiu (呂氏春秋), attributed to L Buwei.

Other Classics

Related Topics

External links

  • Wengu text database with Classic of Poetry, Analects of Confucius, Tao Te Ching and I Ching, in Chinese and translations.
  • Legge's translations of the Analects of Confucius, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Works of Mencius and the Tao Te Ching.
  • Chinese classic text online (in Big5 Chinese encoding)

Last updated: 02-10-2005 17:56:12
Last updated: 04-29-2005 16:53:25