The Confucian Shi, official service, and the Confucian Analects

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The Confucian "Lunyu" ("The Analects") is perhaps the most important text in the Confucian canon. Scholars have studied it and written about it for two millennia but little careful historical analysis has been done on the text, especially from the perspective of a particular social group. In this work the Lunyu is interpreted from the perspective of the social group known as shi (officers or potential officers). Confucius and his disciples, all living between the late Chunqiu or Spring and Autumn period (770--481 B.C.) and the Zhanguo or Warring States period (481-221 B.C.), were members of the shi class and the Lunyu records anecdotes about them as well as their conversations and statements said to have originated with them. The contribution of this study to the field of scholarship is two-fold. It clarifies the meaning of the term shi (variously translated as 'scholar,' 'man of service,' 'man of excellence,' and 'officer') that has been rendered ambiguous in Chinese classical literature because its terms of reference have changed over time. More importantly, the study increases our understanding of this Confucian text by providing a historical context from the perspective of the shi as a social group and allows us to explain some of the inconsistencies in the text. This work also addresses some controversial claims presented in the work of Robert Eno and Bruce and Taeko Brooks. Given the central canonical status of the Lunyu, this new analysis of the text will be of interest to scholars concerned with the history of Chinese thought.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLewiston, New York
PublisherThe Edwin Mellen Press
ISBN (Print)0773462155
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Publication series

NameChinese studies
PublisherThe Edwin Mellen Press

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    Chan, S. (2004). The Confucian Shi, official service, and the Confucian Analects. (Chinese studies; Vol. 38). Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press.