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The Literary Category of Confucian Classics

The section of Confucian Classics (jingbu 經部) is the first of the four traditional categories (sibu 四部) into which Chinese literature was divided. The term jing 經 "warp" designates a book with canonical claim, often written by representants of philosophical traditions or religious groups, like the Mojing 墨經 "Mohist canon”, Daodejing 道德經 "Classic of the way and the virtue". Some other books with the title "classic" were called so in order to underline its importance and to attract a wider readership, like the Shanhaijing 山海經 "Book on mountains and seas", or the Chajing 茶經 "Book of tea".

A small group of books already obtained the status of a common classic during the late Western Zhou period 西周 (11th cent.- 770 BCE; Shangshu 尚書, Shijing 詩經, Yijing 易經). The Confucians as experts on history and rituals "occupied" these classics and compiled a canon of Six Classics (liujing 六經: Yi 易 "Changes", i.e. divination, Shu 書 "Documents", Shi 詩 "Songs", Li 禮 "Rituals", Yue 樂 "Music", and Chunqiu 春秋 "Historiography"), each representing a style of literature and a field of ritual activity. Later on, other Confucian writings were included in this canon, resulting in the corpus of 13 Classics (shisanjing 十三經) from the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) on.

The Daoists also called their important writings jing, and the Buddhists used the word jing to translate the Sanskrit word sūtra "teaching" (literally: chain, thread [of sermons]). In Chinese literature the word jing is contrasted with the word wei 緯 "weft", which designates a writing of less paramount status but useable as an explanation to the classics or an alternative interpretation of ideas.

Apart from the Five Classics (wujing 五經) Yijing, Shangshu, Shijing, Liji and Chunqiu the category of Confucian Classics in traditional book catalogues includes the "Confucian Analects" Lunyu 論語, a collection of sayings by Confucius, the classic on filial piety Xiaojing 孝經, three books on rituals and etiquette (Liji 禮記, Yili 儀禮, Zhouli 周禮), three canonized commentaries to the Chunqiu (Zuozhuan 左傳, Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳, Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳), and the book Mengzi 孟子. The canonized gloss book Erya 爾雅 is included in the section on lexicography. The books Lunyu, Mengzi, Zhongyong and Daxue have been assembled to the corpus of the "Four Books" (sishu 四書). The section of the ritual books includes six parts, one for each of the three books, books commenting all three of them (sanli zongyi 三禮總義), books on all kinds of rituals (tongli 通禮) and miscellaneous books on rites (za lishu 雜禮書). The sequence of the classics has practically never changed over time.

Because there was probably never a physical classic on music, books on music were, barring a few exceptions, from the Song period on distributed over other literary categories. The compilers of the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書 added a vast amount of commentaries and interpretations to the classics in this sections, as well as several sub-classics, the most important of which are Shangshu dazhuan 尚書大傳, Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳, Da Dai liji 大戴禮記 and Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露.

The Yijing section in the Siku quanshu includes 169 books, the Shangshu section 57, the Shijing section 62, the whole section on ritual books 83 books, the section on the Chunqiu 114 books, that on the Xiaojing 11 books, books commenting all the Five Classics 32, and those on the Four Books 62.

The category of the Confucian Classics also includes the books of the so-called "lesser learning" (xiaoxue 小學) which mainly includes lexicographic books and dictionaries. Virtually no traditional catalogue includes books on primary education (mengxue 蒙學). These are therefore added here.

Confucian Classics
易經 (周易) Yijing (Zhouyi) "The Book of Changes"
尚書 (書經) Shangshu (Shujing) "The Book of Dokuments"
詩經 (毛詩) Shijing (Maoshi) "The Book of Songs"
周禮 Zhouli "Rites of the Zhou"
儀禮 Yili "Rites and Ceremonies"
禮記 Liji "Records of Rites"
春秋左傳 Chunqiu-Zuozhuan "The Spring and Autumn Annals" and Zuo's Commentary
公羊傳 Gongyangzhuan (Zhou) 公羊高 Gongyang Gao
穀梁傳 Guliangzhuan (Zhou) 穀梁淑 Guliang Shu
孝經 Xiaojing "The Book of Filial Piety"
爾雅 Erya The Erya Glossary
孟子 Mengzi "Master Meng"
論語 Lunyu "The Confucian Analects"
中庸 Zhongyong "The Doctrine of the Mean"
大學 Daxue "The Great Learning"
Sub-Classics
易緯 Yiwei (Han) 鄭玄 Zheng Xuan (comm.)
尚書大傳 Shangshu dazhuan (Han) 伏勝 Fu Sheng
大戴禮記 Da Dai Liji (Han) 戴德 Dai De
韓詩外傳 Hanshi waizhuan (Han) 韓嬰 Han Ying
春秋繁露 Chunqiu fanlu (Han) 董仲舒 Dong Zhongshu
Comprehensive Commentaries
經解 Jingjie Commentaries on the Classics
Books on Music
Yue Books on Music
Lexicography ("Lesser Learning")
小學 Xiaoxue Lexicography
[蒙學] [Mengxue] [Elementary Learning]
See also writings of "Confucians" (rujia 儒家), part of the category of "Masters and Philosophers