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[Sanzi Jing]

Three-Character Classic: A Confucian Roadmap for Kids

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Paragraph 2: The Confucian Classics

Original Translation Commentary

When teaching the ignorant,
there should be explanation and investigation.
Carefully teach the old [texts],
clearly identify sentence and paragraphs.
Old Chinese text (as recent as those written in the early 1900s) did not bother with any form of punctuation so properly parsing out the sentences and paragraphs was difficult.


Those who would learn,
must have a beginning.
The basic schooling finished,
they go on to the Four Books.

There is The Analects,
in twenty chapters.
In this, the various disciples
have recorded the wise sayings [of Confucius]
The Analects are a compilation of sayings and teachings of Confucius (551-479 BCE).

The works of Mencius, 
in seven chapters.
speak of the road to virtue, 
talk about benevolence and righteousness.
Mencius is a compilation of anecdotes by Mencius (371-289 BCE). He was a fourth-generation Confucian scholar and second only to Confucius in stature in the eyes of Confucianists.

The Doctrine (Way) of the Mean,
by the pen of Kong Ji;
the mean does not slant to one side,
the way does not change.
Kong Ji (also called Zi Si) was a grandson of Confucius. Discusses the importance of living according to the Tao.

He who wrote The Great Learning
was the philosopher Zeng, [its teachings]
ranging from developing as an individual
to governing in peace.

The "Classic of Filial Piety" mastered,
and the "Four books" done,
the "Six Classics",
can be started.
Filial piety was the underpinning for Confucian society. Every person was expected to behave according to their position in the family and society. Failure to do so would result in chaos.

The Book of Poetry, the Book of Documents, the Book of Changes, the Rites of the Zhou, the Book of Rites, and the Spring and Autumn Annals are the Six Classics
which should be explained and analyzed.

There is the Lian Shan,
there is the Gui Cang
there is the Duke of Zhou,
such are the three systems which elucidate the Book of Changes.
The Book of Changes (or I Ching) is an ancient classic of Mysticism written in the 8-10th century BCE.

There are standards,
there are instructions, mandates,
there are oaths, orders,
such are the mysteries explained in the Book of Documents.
The Book of Documents (History) records events reaching back to the time of the Yellow Emperor through the Xia and Shang dynasties.

Our Duke of Zhou,
wrote the Rites of the Zhou,
in which he established the six classes of officials
thus giving form to the government.
The six classes were: Heavenly Ministry (Prime Minister), Earthly Ministry (Public Affairs), Spring Ministry (Rites), Summer Ministry (Military), Autumn Ministry (Penal), Winter Ministry (Public Works).

The Elder and the Younger Dai,
wrote commentaries on the Book of Rites.
They published the sages' words,
and set in order ceremonies and music.

We speak of the Airs of the States (Guo Feng),
we speak of the Minor and Major Odes (Ya) and the Songs.
These are the four sections of the Book of Poetry,
which should be chanted over and over.
The Book of Poetry (Songs, Odes) contains approximately 300 songs and poems.

When the age of the Book of Poetry ended,
the Spring and Autumn Annals were produced.
These Annals contain praise and blame,
and distinguish the good from the bad.
The Annals recorded events in the state of Lu, one of several that comprised China as the Zhou dynasty disintegrated.

The Three Commentaries:
there is that of Gong Yang,
there is that of Zuo
there is that of Gou Liang.
Commentaries on the Annals.

When the classics are clear,
read the philosophers.
Pick out the essentials,
and remember their facts.

The five philosophers:
there is Xun, Yang,
Wen Zhongzi
Lao Zi (Lao Tzu), and Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu).
Lao Tzu (5th century BCE) wrote the Tao Te Ching. Chuang Tzu (4th century BCE) wrote the Chuang Tzu.
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See also: Classic Non-fiction Chinese Literature