Thirteen Classics

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The Thirteen Classics (simplified Chinese: 十三经; traditional Chinese: 十三經; pinyin: Shísān jīng) is a term for the group of thirteen classics of Confucian tradition that became the basis for the Imperial Examinations during the Song Dynasty and have shaped much of East Asian culture and thought.[1] It includes all of the Four Books and Five Classics but organizes them differently and includes the Classic of Filial Piety and Erya. They are, in approximate order of composition:

History[edit]

The tradition of a defined group of "classics" in Chinese culture dates at least to the Warring States period, when the Zhuangzi has Confucius telling Laozi "I have studied the six classics—the Odes, the Documents, the Rites, the Music, the Changes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals".[2] These six works were thus already considered classics by at least the 3rd century BC, although the Classic of Music did not survive the chaos of the Qin unification of China and was deemed lost during the Han Dynasty. The remaining Five Classics were traditionally considered to have been edited by Confucius. Records from the late Han and Three Kingdoms Period reference "seven classics", though they do not name them individually. By the Tang Dynasty references to "nine classics" were common, though the nine works themselves vary depending on the source. The Kaicheng Stone Classics (833–837) comprise twelve works (all the above except the Mencius). By the Southern Song Dynasty, the number and specific books in the "thirteen classics" were universally established. The Thirteen Classics formed the texts used on the Imperial Examinations, and their 600,000+ characters (words) were generally required to be memorized in order to pass.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilkinson, Endymion (2000). Chinese history: a manual (2nd ed.). Harvard Univ Asia Center. pp. 475–476. ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4. 
  2. ^ Zhuangzi, chapter 14, quoted in Lewis, Mark Edward (1999). Writing and authority in early China. SUNY Press. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-7914-4114-5.