Intellectual genealogy, teaching, criticism
Zisi was the son of Boyu 伯鱼 (zh:孔鲤) and the only grandson of Confucius. He is traditionally accredited with transmitting Confucian teaching to Mencius and writing the Doctrine of the Mean, Biaoji 表記, "Ziyi" (The Black Robes") 緇衣, and "Fangji" (The Record of the Dikes) 坊記, presently chapters of the Liji. (Since Zisi's dates of life do not overlap with those of Mengzi, it has been suggested that the intermediary role in the transmission was played by Shi Shuo 世碩.)
Where his grandfather began to distinguish between true and supposed knowledge, Zisi proceeded upon meditations on the relativity in human knowledge of the universe. He attempted to analyze as many types of action as possible, and believed that wise people who are conscious of their moral and intellectual duties can copy the reality of the universe into themselves.
On par with Mencius, Zisi is attacked by Xunzi in his famous "Against Twelve Masters" chapter. The target of Xunzi's attack is the Wuxing teaching. According to Zhang Binglin (1868-1936), Zisi attempted combining Confucian teaching with the principles of numerology. Li Xueqin suggests that it was done under influence of the text presently constituting the "Great Plan" (Hongfan) chapter of the Shangshu.
The extant version of the book of the same name is ascribed to Zisi. It was compiled by Wang Zhuosuo (汪晫 Wāng Zhuó) of the Song dynasty, but not recognized as authentic. The more reliable edition was made by Huang Yizhou zh:黃以周 (1828-1899), drawing the references from Shen Yue (441-513). According to Huang Yizhou, some aspects of Zisi' thinking are paralleled by Huainanzi.
- Wuxing (text), a recent archeological discovery providing new insight into Zisi's teaching.
- Duke Mu of Lu Asks Zisi 《魯穆公問子思》, a Guodian text relating about the concept of the "loyal minister" 忠臣 through the dialogue between Zisi and the young Duke Mu (d. 377 BCE).
- Zengzi, the purported author of the Great Learning. Great Learning and Zisi's Doctrine of the Mean, included into the Four Books, constituted the foundation of the Confucian orthodoxy.