“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 15

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | July 5, 2011


Unit 15


論(lún) 語(yǔ) 者(zhě),二(èr) 十(shí) 篇(piān),
群(qún) 弟(dì) 子(zǐ),記(jì) 善(shàn) 言(yán)。
孟(mèng) 子(zǐ) 者(zhě),七(qī) 篇(piān) 止(zhǐ),
講(jiǎng) 道(dào) 德(dé),說(shuō) 仁(rén) 義(yì)。

(1) 論語(lún yǔ):The Analects of Confucius, a book that records Confucius’s sayings and moral teachings to his disciples, as compiled and expanded by his followers
(2) 者(zhě):referring to The Analects of Confucius
(3) 篇(piān):a quantifier, used to count literary works or poetry
(4) 群(qún):a group or a crowd, used to count people or objects
(5) 弟子(dì zǐ):disciple(s), student(s)
(6) 記(jì):record
(7) 善(shàn):good
(8) 言(yán):language
(9) 孟子(mèng zǐ):The Mencius, a book of Mencius’s conversations with kings of the time
(10) 止(zhǐ):only
(11) 道德(dào dé):a term from Tao Te Ching (or Daodejing), a book written by Laozi. Dao is a godly principle, the road for a human being to return to one's true self, and the universe’s reality. De means a human being’s intention of conforming to god’s decree, behavior following Dao, that is, sincere morality and the manifestation of good deeds.
(12) 仁義(rén yì):Benevolence and righteousness

Text Explanation

The Analects of Confucius has twenty chapters and records Confucius’s remarks to his disciples. The Mencius has only seven chapters and discusses moral justice and humanity.

Discussion Questions

(1) What is the Analects of Confucius? Have you read it before? If yes, please share with others one of its sayings. The Analects of Confucius is an important work of Confucianism, one of the Four Books. It records words and acts of Confucius, discusses thoughts about benevolence and righteousness, and provides guidelines for getting along with others and handling matters.
(2) Which saying impacted you the most? Whose saying is it? How did it inspire you?



Confucius, also known as Zhong Ni, lived in Lu during the Chun Qiu Dynasty. At the age of three, his father passed away; afterwards, he lived with his mother. Although he was as poor as a church mouse, Confucius loved to read and learn etiquettes.

Confucius began to teach after he turned thirty. Due to the lack of education back then, only nobility and royalty had the opportunity to obtain education, while commoners did not. Therefore, Confucius first established the concept of “teaching all comers without discrimination” and “teaching students according to their aptitude.” He accepted students widely, became the forerunner of private education, and guaranteed that everybody had the chance to learn. Under Confucius’s diligent teaching, all of his students were able to work hard, and the nation’s culture was able to be passed down and carried forward.

Confucius saw many issues of injustice at that time, one of which was an absence of morality in politics. In order to serve the society and help people, he decided to influence and reform people by benevolence and etiquette. As a result, the Lu Nation was restored with prosperity. People no longer had to lock their doors or worry about their possessions being stolen. Lu began to grow stronger everyday.

However, when the rule was passed down to the lustful Lu Ding Gong, Lu became more and more corrupt day by day. Disappointed and frustrated, Confucius resigned from his official position and took his students to countries such as Wei, Jin, Song, Chen, and Chu to carry out his teaching and belief in benevolent administration. However, he was not valued wherever he went.

Fourteen years later, Confucius came back to Lu. He was no longer involved in politics, but instead, devoted himself completely to teaching. Seventy-two of his three thousand students became prestigious sages, and they were known as the “Confucians” for spreading Confucius’s thoughts. The Analects was a book that his students wrote to record Confucius’s sayings and moral teachings to his students. The content was short but succinct, and had many profound meanings.

Confucius was considered the founder of Confucianism, a great philosopher and educator. He was honored as “the head teacher for ten thousand years” and “the teacher of all teachers.”

Writing Reflection

1. How many disciples did Confucius have? How many became well-known later? How did he teach his students?
2. Why did Confucius teach all comers without discrimination?
3. In your school life, which teacher do you remember most? Why?

Simplified Chinese: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/3/14/42588.html


Add new comment