Analects of Confucius Book 3: by numbers

As in Book 2, Confucius is featured in all the chapters of Book 3 of the Analects. The sage’s faithful followers Zixia and Zigong also appear in the book along with three new ones in the form of the rather dim-witted Lin Fang, the grasping Ran Qiu, and the clever but arrogant Zai Yu.

With the vast majority of the book given to a discussion of the importance of ritual, including a litany of complaints from Confucius about violations of it by his political foes, other common themes of the Analects such as leadership and learning barely get a mention.

In fact, nearly 40% of the chapters in the book explicitly mention the term ritual (禮/lǐ). In addition, many of the others deal with related matters such as the right number of rows of dancers that should be allowed to perform at an ancestral temple ceremony and the importance of being fully “present” at a sacrifice.

The only other primary or secondary value that gets a mention is goodness (仁/rén) — and even in that case just once.

Book 3 also features a number of contemporary and historical figures who Confucius either knew or had strong opinions about. The contemporary ones are Wangsun Jia (王孫賈), and two rulers of the state of Lu, Duke Ding (定公), and Duke Ai (哀公). In addition to the mythical sage king Shun (韶) and the legendary Zhou Dynasty founder King Wu (周武王), the book also features a mention of the brilliant statesman Guan Zhong (管仲), who made Qi (齊) one of the most powerful and wealthiest states in the Zhou Empire 150 years before Confucius’s birth.

In other words there is plenty of background reading to feast on if you’re a China history buff!

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I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

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Richard Brown

Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

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