Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Engraving of Confucius. The Chinese characters read "Portrait of the First Teacher, Confucius, Giving a Lecture".

The Analects, or Lunyu (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Lún Yǔ; literally "Classified/Ordered Sayings[1]"), also known as the Analects of Confucius, are considered a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions they held. Written during the Spring and Autumn Period through the Warring States Period (ca. 475 BC - 221 BC), the Analects is the representative work of Confucianism and continues to have a substantial influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.[1]


History and versions

A commentary on the Analects, printed book published in Ming Dynasty
A page from the Analects
Analects, by Confucius, from Östasiatiska Museet, Stockholm

The Analects was traditionally attributed to Confucius and was written approximately around 500 BC.[2] Most of the text however were written by Confucius' pupils during the period 30 to 50 years after his death. Begun some time during the Spring and Autumn Period, the work was probably finished during the Warring States Period, though the exact publication date of the first complete Analects cannot be pinpointed. Much as the Republic purports to be a collection of Socrates' discussions but actually contains original material from his disciple Plato, the Analects were almost certainly penned and compiled by disciples and second-generation disciples of Confucius, albeit being mostly about Confucius himself and his thought.

Chapters in the Analects are grouped by individual themes. However, the chapters are not arranged in any sort of way so as to carry a continuous stream of thought or idea. In fact, the sequence of the chapters could be said to be completely random, with the themes of adjacent chapters completely unrelated to each other.

Moreover, central themes recur repeatedly in different chapters, sometimes in exactly the same wording and sometimes with small variations. This has led some to believe that the book was not written by a single individual, but was the collective effort of many. However, the final editors of the Analects were likely disciples of Zengzi, who was one of the most established students of Confucius.

A version of the analects, written on bamboo strips from before 55 BC, was discovered in a tomb at Dingzhou/Dingxian in Hebei province in 1973 and published in 1997. Although fragmentary, the version could shed considerable light on the textual tradition of the Analects if its readings were ever fully employed in a critical edition.

Towards the late Western Han Dynasty, Zhang Yu, a teacher of Emperor Cheng, combined the Lu and Qi versions of Analects but kept to the number of chapters in the Lu Analects. Zhang's version then came to be known as the Marquis Zhang Analects, which is largely the version we know today.

E. Bruce Brooks and Taeko Brooks, in their work The Original Analects, suggest an alternative interpretation of the chapters' organization, based on language usage patterns within the text. This work suggests that the text of the Analects as we have received them is heavily accreted, and represents the additions of many generations of school heads. Due to the changing political, social, and cultural environments, different heads of the Confucian school chose to praise or denigrate different of their predecessors, and even described very different social practices and ritual environments. Brooks and Brooks view a subset of Analects 4 as representing the ideas of the original Confucius, who lived during a time when the traditional bonds of a warrior-based, personality-based society were breaking down to change to a more mediated society with a broader nobility from the old military elite and with less direct access to the king: these early chapters represent the old military ethic of extreme faithfulness to superiors and paternal care for inferiors, with almost no emphasis on mannered ritual, as chronologically later chapters might suggest.

Influence and significance

Since Confucius' time, the Analects has heavily influenced the philosophy and moral values of China and later other East Asian countries as well. Together with the other three volumes of the Four Books, it taught the basic Confucian values including social and ritual propriety (禮/礼), righteousness, loyalty, and filial piety, all centered about the central thought of Confucius – humanity and the "proper man" or "gentleman" (君子).

For almost two thousand years, the Analects had also been the fundamental course of study for any Chinese scholar, for a man was not considered morally upright or enlightened if he did not study Confucius' works. The imperial examination, started in the Jin Dynasty and eventually abolished in late Qing Dynasty (early 20th century), emphasized Confucian studies and expected candidates to quote and apply the words of Confucius in their essays.

Portions were translated into Latin by Western Christian missionaries in the late 16th century. The Analects has also been translated into many languages, most notably into English by James Legge, Arthur Waley, Charles Muller, and William Edward Soothill.

A particular point of interest lies in Chapter 10 of the book, which contains detailed descriptions of Confucius' behaviors in various daily activities. This has been pointed to by Voltaire and Ezra Pound to show how much Confucius was a mere human. Simon Leys, who recently translated the Analects into English and French, said that the book may have been the first in human history to describe the life of an individual, historic personage. Similarly, Elias Canetti writes: "Confucius' Conversations are the oldest complete intellectual and spiritual portrait of a man. It strikes one as a modern book; everything it contains and indeed everything it lacks is important." (Conscience of Words, p. 173.)


The traditional titles given to each chapter are mostly the initial two or three characters (incipits). For instance, the first chapter of Book 1, "Xue er," started with a Confucian teaching "The Master said, Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? (子曰:“學而時習之,不亦說乎? Zǐ yuē: Xué ér shí xí zhī, bù yì yuè hū?)." In some cases, they may indicate, as the Brooks propose, a central theme of the chapter. However, it is inappropriate to regard the title as a capture or a generalization of the content of the chapter.

Bk Title Translation Notes
1. Xue Er 學而 Studying
2. Wei Zheng 為政 The practice of government
3. Ba Yi 八佾 Eight lines of eight dancers apiece Ba Yi is a kind of ritual dance practiced in the court of Zhou Dynasty.
4. Li Ren 里仁 Living in brotherliness
5. Gongye Chang 公冶長 Gongye Chang A student of Confucius.
6. Yong Ye 雍也 There is Yong Yong is Ran Yong (冉雍), called Zhou Gong (仲弓), a student of Confucius.
7. Shu Er 述而 Transmission Transmission, not invention [of learning]
8. Taibo 泰伯 Taibo (“Count Tai”) Wu Taibo, the oldest son of King Tai (周太王), the great-grandfather of Wu (周武王) of the Zhou Dynasty.
9. Zi Han 子罕 The Master shunned Confucius spoke seldom of advantage
10. Xiang Dang 鄉黨 Among the Xiang and the Dang 'Xiang' was a group of 12,500 families; a 'dang' of 500 families.
11. Xian Jin 先進 Those of former eras The former generations
12. Yan Yuan 顏淵 Yan Yuan Yan Hui (顏回), common name Zi Yuan (子淵), was a favorite among the Disciples of Confucius.
13. Zilu 子路 Zilu A student of Confucius.
14. Xian Wen 憲問 Xian asked Yuan Xian (原憲), also called Yuan Si (原思), common name Zisi (子思), was a student of Confucius.
15. Wei Linggong 衛靈公 Duke Ling of Wei Ruled 534–493 BCE in Wei.
16. Ji Shi 季氏 Chief of the Ji Clan Ji Sun (季孫), an official from one of the most important families in Lu.
17. Yang Huo 陽貨 Yang Huo An official of the Ji (季) clan, an important family in Lu.
18. Wei Zi 微子 The “viscount” of Wei Wei Zi was the older half-brother, son of a concubine, of Zhou (紂), the last king of the Shang Dynasty.
19. Zizhang 子張 Zizhang Student of Confucius.
20. Yao Yue 堯曰 Yao spoke Yao was one of the traditional Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of ancient China.

See also


  1. ^ a b The British Museum, Classical Chinese PhilosophyPDF (2 pages, ≈ 500 words, a very basic intro)
  2. ^ Translation by Arthur Waley, original by Confucius. "The Analects, attrib. to Confucius". (New York: Macmillan, 1938; repr. Vintage, 1989, pb.). 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • analects — [an΄ə lek′təan′ə lekts΄] pl.n. [L analecta < Gr analekta < analegein, to collect < ana , up + legein, to gather] collected literary excerpts or passages: also analecta [an΄ə lek′tə] the Analects a collection of Confucius teachings …   English World dictionary

  • Analects — An a*lects ([a^]n [.a]*l[e^]kts), ||Analecta An a*lec ta ([a^]n [.a]*l[e^]k t[.a]), n. pl. [Gr. ana lekta fr. anale gein to collect; ana + le gein to gather.] A collection of literary fragments. [1913 Webster] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • analects — (n.) 1650s, literary gleanings, from Gk. analekta, lit. things chosen, neuter plural of analektos select, choice, verbal adj. of analegein to gather up, collect, from ana up (see ANA (Cf. ana )) + legein to gather, also to choose words, hence …   Etymology dictionary

  • analects — also analecta noun plural Etymology: New Latin analecta, from Greek analekta, neuter plural of analektos, verbal of analegein to collect, from ana + legein to gather more at legend Date: 1652 selected miscellaneous written passages …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • analects — analectic, adj. /an l ekts /, selected passages from the writings of an author or of different authors. Also, analecta /an l ek teuh/. [1615 25; < L analecta < Gk análekta, neut. pl. of análektos (verbal adj. of analégein to pick up, gather …   Universalium

  • analects — noun A collection of excerpts or quotes. Syn: analecta …   Wiktionary

  • Analects — Литературный сборник …   Краткий толковый словарь по полиграфии

  • analects — Synonyms and related words: Festschrift, adage, album, ana, anthology, aphorism, apothegm, axiom, beauties, byword, canon, catchword, chrestomathy, clippings, collectanea, collected sayings, collected works, collection, compilation, complete… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • analects — an·a·lects || ænÉ™lekts n. extracts from a literary work or from a collection of literary works …   English contemporary dictionary

  • analects — [ anəlɛkts] (also analecta ˌanə lɛktə) plural noun a collection of short literary or philosophical extracts. Origin ME: via L. from Gk analekta things gathered up , from ana up + legein gather …   English new terms dictionary

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