The Six Confucian "Classics" or Key Texts


1. Yì Jīng 易经 (易經) "Book of Changes" (Divination).
Probably the oldest work in the canon, this work consists of permutations of six lines, each of which can be solid or broken, to a total of 64 "hexagrams." These are construed to represent features of the natural and social worlds, and various methods are used to select one for interpretation as the answer to a question. Translations: Müller v. 16, Blofeld, Wilhelm.
2. Shū Jīng 书经 (書經) "Book of History," "Book of Classics," "Book of Documents" (Historical documents).
Also called Shàng Shū 尚书 (尚書) "Honored Book" or official history. Contains documents from the 3rd millennium BC to 630 BC. Scholars suspect many forgeries in this material. Translation: Legge v. 3.
3. Shī Jīng 诗经 (詩經) "Book of Odes," "Book of Songs" (Poetry, folklore).
Traditionally considered to have been compiled by Confucius, this collection of 305 songs is today valued for its glimpses into ordinary life of the Zhōu period. The text as we have it is divided into three parts: fēng 风 (風) ("wind") or folksongs, yǎ 雅 ("elegance") or songs intended to be sung at official banquets, and sòng 颂 (頌) ("praise") used in elite sacrifices. Translations: Legge v. 4, Waley 1973.
4. Chūn-Qiū 春 秋 "Spring & Autumn Annals" (History).
Deals with events between 722 and 481 BC in the ancient state of Lǔ 鲁 (魯). Mostly a chronolocically arranged fact list, and traditionally accompanied by at least one of the following commentaries. The work is attributed to Confucius. Translation (with commentaries): Legge v. 5.
5. Lǐ Jì 礼记 (禮記) "Book of Rites," "Ritual Records" (Ritual and ceremonies).
In addition to prescriptions for rituals, this item contains commentary (including much philosophical material). It is traditionally ascribed to Confucius.
6. Yuè Jīng 乐经 (樂經) "Book of Music" (Music).
Apparently occasionally included with the Lǐ Jì (item 5, above). Now lost.



From Song Times, the "Four Books" became popular versions of the classics:

Lunyu 論語-- The Analects
Mengzi 孟子-- Mencius
Daxue 大學-- The Great Learning
Zhongyong 中庸 -- The Doctrine of the Mean