The Analects of Confucius

The Analects of Confucius Glossary


"Son of a ruler"; this term was applied to descendants of a ruling house and came to mean "gentleman". Such a person was expected to behave according to a set of certain moral codes to help them develop te.


This term refers to the virtue of filial piety.


Generally translated as "truth" or "good faith", this term tends to refer to keeping promises and fulfilling obligations. Some scholars feel it should not be mistaken for "telling the truth" but rather as not telling lies that can lead to harm.

I Ching

Also known as The Book of Changes, it is mentioned at several points in The Analects. The core text is believed to be a collection of Western Chou (Zhou) divine concepts. Confucius is sometimes credited with authoring a commentary on it, although modern textual analysis calls this into question.


Difficult to translate accurately, this term is most often presented as "good" or "goodness". It is important to make the distinction that this is not necessarily meant in a descriptive way, but rather as a goal toward which all moral persons should strive.


A word of uncertain meaning, it is most often translated as meaning "un-warlikeness" or a "preference for peace or moral force (te)".


A school of political thought that came to suppress much of Confucius's teachings during the Qin or Ch'in Dynasty. Legalism demanded obedience from subjects and any objection to law was met with punishment. Maintenance of power was seen as largely connected to the obedience of those being ruled.


Translated as "ritual" this term is of particular importance in The Analects. Li can also refer to something akin to "tradition". Confucian ideals placed great importance on the preservation of old customs and much of the text deals with this concept directly.


The name of a state in the southeastern region of China and the place of Confucius's birth.


This term is usually contrasted with Wang. It translates simply as "elder" or "senior". However, during the Chou dynasty, the term was applied to the senior most feudal lords and later to any ruler who ascended to re-establish the authority of the Chou monarch. A Po was said to be motivated by political gain rather than by moral directive.


This word is most often translated as "scholar", though it can also be translated as "knight". Confucius referred to the defenders of the way as "knights", though this was not meant in the warrior or military sense.

Shu Ching

The Book of History or The Book of Documents; this work includes an Old Text and a New Text and was generally accepted by most scholars until the 17th century, when it was shown that much of the Old Text was forged in the 3rd or 4th centuries. The New Text is generally accepted as being legitimate. Each chapter contains a brief preface, which is generally attributed to Confucius. The chapters chronicle various speeches and prose from the early years of the Chou (or Zhou) Dynasty.


Generally translated as "to think" or "thinking", this term's meaning is a bit difficult to grasp. While Ssu can translate directly as "think", it can also mean "to direct one's attention to" or "observation". In this sense, the term does not refer to an interior cognitive process as much as an external event or impression, which is then replicated in action.


Literally translated as "the sky", most scholars agree that the true equivalent in English would be "Heaven".


The "Way" or "path"; this term is a metaphysical concept that would eventually give rise to a religion and philosophy. In Confucianism, spiritual practice is concerned with becoming aligned with the Tao through moral or meditative practices. The concept of te, or de, is essential to this realization.


Sometimes translated as "virtue", this term most appropriately means something akin to "character" or "moral force".

The Mencius

Sometimes known as the Menghzi, this work is a collection of sayings and observations by the Confucian philosopher Mencius. This work is sometimes consulted by scholars in the study of Confucian thought and dogma.

The Odes/The Book of Songs

A collection of three hundred and five songs and poems dating from the 10th to the 7th Centuries BC. The songs were used in the performance of rituals and rites.


This term translates as "king" but is used in The Analects in a more specific sense. In the text Wang refers to something of a Savior King or True King, one who rules with te.


The name of a state in what is the modern Henan province of China. Duke Ling of Wei ruled this state.


A complex term with a variety of meanings, wen was originally translated as "markings" or "pattern". The term can also refer to a written character, or to what is decorous, as opposed to plain. In The Analects, the term often refers to matters of culture, specifically literature, and its association with civilization.