Four books and five classics
Four Books and Five Classics of the Ancient China | Short history websiteThey were selected by Zhu Xi in the Song dynasty to serve as general introduction to Confucian thought, and they were, in the Ming and Qing dynasties, made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations. Several of the texts were already prominent by the Warring States period. Mencius , the leading Confucian scholar of the time, regarded the Spring and Autumn Annals as being equally important as the semi-legendary chronicles of earlier periods. During the Western Han dynasty , which adopted Confucianism as its official ideology, these texts became part of the state-sponsored curriculum. It was during this period that the texts first began to be considered together as a set collection, and to be called collectively the "Five Classics".
If it ever existed as a separated classic is not sure. Other interpretations say that the term Liujing has to be understood as the "Six Arts" like the middle-age artes liberales : the Shangshu representing royal speeches, the Chunqiu representing historiography, the Shijing representing poetry, the Yijing divining, the Liji or Yili representing rituals, and finally the Yueji as the ars musica. Not counting the "Doctrine of the Mean" and the "Great Learning", because they are both part of the Liji , the canon of thirteen classics is full. This catalogue lists many different versions of one single classic and thus shows how complicate it was to find out the orthodox version of a text and to what quarrels it eventually led. The books that were written on bamboo slips have been partially destroyed by war and other catastrophs.
At the heart of Chinese thought stand the five great classics, the traditional, time-honored works that define and originate Chinese culture and history. Chinese history, as the Chinese narrate it, blazes into existence with the great, partly divine heroes who teach the early Chinese all the arts of civilization: writing, law, architecture, art, and so on. The latter stands as the foundation of the Xia dynasty. During the various cycles of dynastic change, from the Xia to the Shang to the Zhou , the Five Classics, or the Confucian Classics even though they are not written by Confucius , were written down, or supposedly written down. These Five Classics constituted the program of learning for anyone in the upper classes, the ruling classes, or the educated classes. The Classics not only recorded early Chinese history infallibly, they also completely contained all the ethics and wisdom of China.