Analects of Confucius

(ca. 479–249 BCE)


The significance of Confucianism is indisputable, as its continuing influence in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam attest. As a purported record of Confucius’s words, the Analects enjoys a privileged place in the Confucian canon. A return to the original core of Confucian writings during the Southern Song Dynasty in the twelfth century led to the creation of Neo-Confucianism and renewed scholarly interest in the Analects. While the political and philosophical ideas discussed in Confucian texts like the Analects legitimized dynastic rule and directed intellectual activiity, their ethical precepts shaped family and social relations. By the early twentieth century, however, the widespread appeal of Western notions of freedom, equality, and individualism challenged the Confucian emphasis on obedience, hierarchy, and community. During the New Culture Movement (also referred to as the May Fourth Movement), reform-minded intellectuals attacked Confucianism, identifying it...

Image for: Analects of Confucius

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

View Full Size