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Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics$
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Wm. Theodore de Bary

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153973

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153973.001.0001

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Zhu Xi and the Four Books

Zhu Xi and the Four Books

(p.187) 14 Zhu Xi and the Four Books
Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics

Wm. Theodore de Bary

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the “Four Books,”, classic texts chosen by the great Neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Xi (1130–1200) as introductory readings for the core curriculum, which became standard for most education in thirteenth- through nineteenth-century East Asia. Zhu Xi's Four Books comprise the Analects of Confucius, the text of Mencius, the Great Learning (Daxue), and the Mean (Zhongyong). The latter two texts had been selected out of a much larger compilation, the classic Record of Rites. The chapter asks: What was it then that led Zhu Xi to single out these relatively brief texts, almost hidden among the wide variety of ritual material collected in the Record of Rites, for special attention? Even more of a question is why Zhu set the Great Learning as first among the Four Books, even ahead of the Analects and Mencius. What justified giving it such a high priority and seeming primacy among these classics?

Keywords:   Four Books, Confucian classics, Asian classics, classic texts, Zhu Xi, Analects, Mencius, Great Learning, Mean, Neo-Confucianism

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