Analects of Confucius

(ca. 479–249 BCE)

The Analects (Lunyu) is presented as a discourse between Confucius and his disciples, and it reflects the ideas associated with Confucianism. More of a collection of aphorisms than a philosophical treatise, the Analects offers a guide to ethical behavior centered on the concepts of virtue, ritual (also translated as “propriety”), and benevolence; additionally, it emphasizes self-cultivation and a careful study of the teachings of the ancient sages as the means by which to understand and practice these ideas. Although it is sometimes characterized as a religion, Confucianism is secular in nature, enabling it to coexist peacefully with other religions. To be sure, references to heaven and the spirits appear in the Analects, but they reflect Confucius’s acceptance of conventional beliefs rather than his proselytizing of a specific religious creed.

The belief that the ruler held the Mandate of Heaven, which had emerged during the Western Zhou Period (ca. 1027–771 BCE), greatly...

Image for: Analects of Confucius

Folding screen showing the twenty-four paragons of filial piety (Yale University Art Gallery)

View Full Size