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The Sayings of Confucius.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Introductory Note

THE NAME Confucius is the latinized form of the Chinese characters, K´ung Foo-tsze, meaning, “The master, K´ung.” The bearer of this name was born of an ancient and distinguished family in the district of Tsow, in the present province of Shen-tung, China, B. C. 551. His father was a soldier of reputation and governor of Tsow, but not a man of wealth. Confucius married at nineteen, and in his early manhood held a minor office; but within a few years he became a public teacher, and soon attracted numerous disciples. Rising in reputation, he was invited to the court of Chow, where he investigated the traditional ceremonies and maxims of the ruling dynasty; and in the following year visited another state where he studied the ancient music. When he was nearly fifty, in the year 500 B. C., he again took office, becoming in turn chief magistrate of the town of Chung-too, Assistant-Superintendent of Works to the Ruler of Loo, and finally Minister of Crime. In spite of almost miraculous efficiency, he lost the support of his ruler in 496 B. C.; and until his death in 478 B. C., he wandered from state to state, sometimes well-treated, sometimes enduring severe hardships, always saddened by the refusal of the turbulent potentates to be guided by his beneficent counsels. No sooner was he dead, however, than his wisdom was recognized by peasant and emperor alike; admiration rose to veneration, veneration to worship. Sacrifices were offered to him, temples built in his honor, and a cult established which has lasted almost two thousand years.

Confucius did not regard himself as an innovator, but as the conservator of ancient truth and ceremonial propriety. He dealt with neither theology nor metaphysics, but with moral and political conduct.

The Lun Yu, Analects or Sayings of Confucius, were probably compiled, says Legge, “by the disciples of the disciples of the sage, making free use of the written memorials concerning him which they had received, and the oral statements which they had heard, from their several masters. And we shall not be far wrong, if we determine its date as about the beginning of the third, or the end of the fourth century before Christ.”