Key Passages in
the Analects of Confucius

The title of the Analects, Lun-yü, , of Confucius, we can translate as something like "Discourses and Dialogues" -- Analects, , would be "Digest" or "Collection" from Greek, a title apparently introduced by James Legge himself. Here we have sayings and stories from or about Confucius, or sometimes just about his students. It was clearly not written by Confucius or during his lifetime.

This page is not a commentary on the Analects. It merely identifies passages that are famous, often quoted, discussed in books about Chinese Philosophy, or that I consider to be especially expressive for the principles of the thought of Confucius. The translation originally used here was that of Arthur Waley, and there were occasional criticisms [The Analects of Confucius, 1938, Vintage Books, 1989]. Other translations consulted have been those of James Legge [Confucius, Confucian Analects, The Great Learning & The Doctrine of the Mean, from Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1893, Dover, 1971], D.C. Lau [Confucius, The Analects (Lun yü), Penguin, 1979, 1988], and Joanna C. Lee & Ken Smith [The Pocket Confucius, Museworks, Hong Kong, 2010]. The Chinese text used is that of Legge. Dictionary references are mainly to the classic Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary [R.H. Mathews, 1931, Harvard U. Press, 1943, 1972], with occasional help, for modern usage, from the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, by John DeFrancis [U. of Hawai'i Press, 2003].

Originally, passages in the Analects were often referred to here without being quoted because this page was compiled for use in my Ethics or Asian Philosophy classes, where students had the text (Waley's) at hand. Full quotations, with the text in Chinese, are gradually being added, with that task now far advanced. The translations of Lee & Smith, which, as here, do not include the whole Analects, are modern, accurate, and succinct, with Chinese text and, uniquely, a valuable transcription in Pinyin. However, the Lee & Smith quotes seem to have been selected mainly for their brief and aphoristic character (not even including, surprisingly, the famous II:4), and the (politically correct) scold might complain that this reduces Confucius to fortune cookie size, or to a script reference for a Charlie Chan movie. Nevertheless, their work is useful and the translations often seem very well informed. Also, the transcriptions of Lee & Smith take into account euphonic changes in tone that occur because of phonetic context. Cases of this are discussed where appropriate, especially with the extended discussion at XVII:25. Otherwise tones are used as given in dictionary entries. My recent work of updating this page was set in motion by the delightful and useful nature of Lee & Smith's treatment.

Wade-Giles and Pinyin writings are both used here a little carelessly, which may be a confusing -- the way to identify each is discussed elsewhere. The pronunciation given with the characters themselves is always in Pinyin, and the use of images to supply both character and reading is the reason why unicode characters are not used here. The ability to read transcriptions in Wade-Giles should be learned for the sake of using older sources. Also, readers should be aware that the Pinyin system, despite its elegance and cleverness, is phonetically redundant (the retroflex and palatal series are allophones) and is thus less impressive than the ancient Devanâgarî syllabary for Sanskrit.

A full exposition of the Chinese terminology of Confucius may be found at the main Confucius page. It is hard to know the proper term for the subdivisions of the Books of the Analects. "Chapters" seems like too much for passages that may be only a sentence long, while "verses" implies too little for those that are substantial paragraphs, while "aphorisms" does not always apply to what is given. Perhaps "paragraph" itself would be the right word, although it does not seem like enough for such a text.

Book I

Book II

Book III

Book IV

Book V

Book VI

Book VII


Book IX

Book XI

Book XII


Book XIV

Book XV

Book XVI


Psychological Types, Typology of Chinese Virtues

Confucius [K'ung-fu-tzu or Kongfuzi]

The Six Relationships and the Mandate of Heaven

Chinese Virtues

The Confucian Chinese Classics

Sangoku Index

History of Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy

History of Philosophy

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