What are the Confucian Holy Books?

It's possible to view Confucianism as a religion or a philosophy. Scholars debate its nature to this day. With that said, there is no one "holy book" of Confucianism. There are nine books, but whether or not they are holy is questionable -- since holiness implies divinities. There are: The Confucian Classics (5 books) and The Four Books (4 books).

Confucius (551-479 B.C.E) was a well educated man who enjoyed the archery and music. When he realized he couldn't make a living enjoying his hobbies, he tried to sell himself as a moral philosopher. After being turned down for government service, Confucius became China's first professional teacher. It was in Confucius' school that the Confucian Classics were compiled and edited by Confucius and his students.

Later, during Song Dynasty (960-1260 C.E), a scholar named Zhu Xi embraced and reinterpreted the teachings of Confucianism as a political philosophy. Zhu combined elements of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism to create Neo-Confucianism, a broader more encompassing form of Confucianism. With the creation of Neo-Confucianism, Zhu Xi promoted texts that became canonical to Confucianism. These four texts were called simply The Four Books.

The Confucian Classics

  • The Book of Changes, or Yi Jing
  • The Book of History, or Shu Jing
  • The Book of Odes, or Shi Jing
  • The Book of Rites, or Li Jing
  • Annals of Spring and Autumn, or Qunqiu

The Four Books

  • Analects of Confucius1, or Lunyu
  • Book of Mencius, or Mengzi
  • Great Learning, or Daxue
  • Doctrine of the Mean, or Zhongyong

1. If one book must be the "holy book" of Confucianism it would be Analects of Confucius.

The 'Four Books and Five Classics' were the authoritative books of Confucianism in China, written before 300 BC.

The Four Books are Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, Analects of Confucius, and Mencius. The Five Classics are Classic of Poetry, Classic of History, Classic of Rites, Classic of Changes, and finally, Spring and Autumn Annals.

The analects and the 5 classics

also the 4 books

Analects of Confucius.

Analects of Mencius.

Doctrine of Mean.

Classic of Rites.

Classic of Poetry.

I Ching is sacred to Confucianists too.

The Analects

Confucius was a philosopher, not a religious figure.

There are many writings that set forth his philosophy, his views on ethics and politics and society in general.

As Confucianism is not properly speaking a religion, it does not have sacred texts as such. However there are books which have a high profile within Confucianism and which are important to Confucianists.

They are:

The Confucian Analects (Lun Yü)

The writings of Mencius, (who along with Confucius (properly known as K'ung-tzu, 551-479 B.C.E.) ), 'founded' Confucianism.

The Great Learning (Ta Hsüeh)

The Doctrine Of The Mean (Chung Yung)

The Shu Ching or 'The Book of Historical Records.'

The Shih Ching or 'The Book of Odes.'

The I Ching or 'The Book of Changes.'

The Li Ki Part I ; The Li Ki Part II or 'The Book of Rites.'

The Hsiao Ching or ' The Book of Filial Piety.'

Analects of Confucius.