The Analects

 

While Confucius failed in his lifetime to rescue a crumbling civilization with his teachings, he was to become the most influential sage in human history. His thought, still remarkably current and even innovative after 2500 years, survives here in The Analects— a collection of brief aphoristic sayings that has had a deeper impact on more people's lives over a longer period of time than any other book in human history.

 

Formulated in the ruins of a society that had been founded on untenable spiritualistic concepts of governance, Confucius' philosophy postulated a humanistic social order that has survived as China's social ideal ever since. Beginning with the realization that society is a structure of human relationships, Confucius saw that in a healthy society this structure must be a selfless weave of caring relationships. He spoke of those caring relationships as a system of "ritual" that people enact in their daily lives, thus infusing the secular with sacred dimensions.

 

Confucius' teachings are very literary in nature. The Analects is made up of dialogues, stories and anecdotes, always aphoristic and full of poetic turns of thought. And it is this literary dimension that makes Confucius so engaging and compelling as he builds his majestic vision of human community as an integral part of a self-generating and harmonious cosmos.

 

This is one in a series of translations presenting the four central masterworks of ancient Chinese thought. Highly regarded for the poetic fluency he brings to his work, David Hinton is the only twentieth-century translator to render these four masterworks: Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, Mencius. These new versions are not only inviting and immensely readable, they also apply much-needed consistency to key terms in these texts, lending structural links and philosophical rigor heretofore unavailable in English. Breathing fresh life into these classics, Hinton's new translations will stand as the definitive series for our era.

 

                       — from the book jacket

 

Counterpoint