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Compiled by disciples of Confucius in the fourth century B.C.E., The Analects of Confuciusis a collection of aphorisms and historical anecdotes embodying the basic values of the Confucian tradition: learning, morality, ritual decorum, and filial piety. Reflecting the model eras of Chinese antiquity, the book is valued for its insights into the successful governance of the empire and its ideal organization of society. It has also been used for many centuries as a beginning text in the learning of classical Chinese. Filled with humor and sarcasm, the Analectsreads like a casual conversation between teacher and student, emphasizing the role of the individual in the attainment of knowledge and the value of using historical events and people to illuminate complex moral and political concepts. Confucius's teachings focus on cultural and peaceful pursuits and the characteristics of benevolent and culturally distinguished government. He also discusses ancestor worship and other rites performed for the spirits of the dead and the importance of filial piety in cultivating one's moral and ethical development. The single most influential philosophical work in all of Chinese history, The Analects of Confuciushas shaped the thought and customs of China for centuries and has played a key role in the development of nearby countries, such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Burton Watson's concise translation uses the pinyin system of romanization and keeps explanatory notes to a minimum, yet his intimate knowledge of the Confucian tradition and precise attention to linguistic detail capture all the elegance, cogency, and wit of the original text, which continues to exert tremendous influence.
Read the introduction to The Analects of Confucius.