Chinese classic texts

From Academic Kids

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)

  1. 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.
  2. The Classic of Poetry or The Book of Odes (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 traditionally credited as a compilation from Confucius.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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) (Yueh Ching) is sometime referred to as the sixth classic, but is lost by the time of the Han dynasty.

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

  • Mozi, attributed to the philosopher of the same name, Mozi.

Classics of Legalism

Classics of military science

Classics of the history of China

Other classics

Related topics

External links


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