Confucian classics – The Book of Rites

The Book of Rites or Lǐjì is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty as they were understood in the Warring States and the early Han periods. The Book of Rites, along with the Rites of Zhou (Zhōulǐ) and the Book of Etiquette and Rites (Yílǐ), which are together known as the “Three Li (Sānlǐ),” constitute the ritual (li) section of the Five Classics which lay at the core of the traditional Confucian canon (Each of the “five” classics is a group of works rather than a single text). As a core text of the Confucian canon, it is also known as the Classic of Rites or Lijing, which some scholars believe was the original title before it was changed by Dai Sheng.


The Book of Rites is a diverse collection of texts of varied but uncertain origin and date, lacking the overall structure found in the other “rites” texts (the Rites of Zhou) and the Etiquette and Ceremonial. Some sections consist of definitions of ritual terms, particularly those found in the Etiquette and Ceremonial, while others contain details of the life and teachings of Confucius. Parts of the text have been traced to such pre-Han works as the Xunzi and Lushi Chunqiu, while others are believed to date from the Former Han period.[3]

During the reign of Qin Shihuang, many of the Confucian classics were destroyed during the 213 BC “Burning of the Books.” However, the Qin dynasty collapsed within the decade: Confucian scholars who had memorized the classics or hid written copies recompiled them in the early Han dynasty. The Book of Rites was said to have been fully reconstructed, but the Classic of Music could not be recompiled and fragments principally survive in the “Record of Music” (Yueji) chapter of the Book of Rites.

Since then, other scholars have attempted to redact these first drafts. According to the Book of Sui, Dai De reworked the text in the 1st century BC, reducing the original 214 books to 85, and his nephew Dai Sheng reduced this to 46 books. To this three were added towards the end of the Han dynasty, bringing the total to 49.

In 1993, a copy of the “Black Robes” chapter was found in Tomb 1 of the Guodian Tombs in Jingmen, Hubei. Since the tomb was sealed around 300 BCE, the find reactivated academic arguments about the possible dating of the other Liji chapters by the Warring States period.


Confucius described Li as all traditional forms that provided a standard of conduct. Li literally means “rites” but it can also be used to refer to “ceremonial” or “rules of conduct”. The term has come to generally be associated with “good form”, “decorum” or “politeness”. Confucius felt that li should emphasize the spirit of piety and respect for others through rules of conduct and ceremonies. As outlined in the Book of Rites, li is meant to restore the significance of traditional forms by looking at the simplicity of the past. Confucius insisted that a standard of conduct that focused on traditional forms would be a way to ease the turmoil of collapsing Zhou state. The absolute power of li is displayed in the Book of Rites: “Of all things to which the people owe their lives the rites are the most important…” The ideas of li were thought to become closely associated with human nature, ethics, and social order as the population integrated li into their lives. Li is beneficial to society because it guides people to recognize and fulfill their responsibilities toward others.


As a result of the Book of Rites’ chapters, using a syncretic system and combining Taoist and Mohist beliefs, later scholars formed both the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean. These two books were both believed to be written by two of Confucius’ disciples one specifically being his grandson. The great Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi and his edited versions of the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean influenced the Chinese society to place much more attention on these and two other books creating the Four Books. Following the decision of the Yuan dynasty, (followed by the Ming and Qing) to make the Five Classics and the Four Books the orthodox texts of the Confucian traditions, they were the standard textbooks for the state civil examination, from 1313 to 1905, which every educated person had to study intensively.

Consequently, the Book of Rites and two of its by-products were large integral parts of the Chinese beliefs and industry for many centuries.


Table of Contents
## Chinese Pinyin Translation
01-02 曲禮上下 Qūlǐ Summary of the Rules of Propriety Part 1 & 2
03-04 檀弓上下 Tángōng Tangong Part 1 & 2
05 王制 Wángzhì Royal Regulations
06 月令 Yuèlìng Proceedings of Government in the Different Months
07 曾子問 Zēngzǐ Wèn Questions of Zengzi
08 文王世子 Wénwáng Shìzǐ King Wen as Son and Heir
09 禮運 Lǐyùn The Conveyance of Rites
10 禮器 Lǐqì Implements of Rites
11 郊特牲 Jiāotèshēng Single Victim At The Border Sacrifices
12 內則 Nèizé Pattern of the Family
13 玉藻 Yùzǎo Jade-Bead Pendants of the Royal Cap
14 明堂位 Míngtángwèi Places in the Hall of Distinction
15 喪服小記 Sàngfú Xiǎojì Record of Smaller Matters in the Dress of Mourning
16 大傳 Dàzhuàn Great Treatise
17 少儀 Shǎoyí Smaller Rules of Demeanour
18 學記 Xuéjì Record on the Subject of Education
19 樂記 Yuèjì Record on the Subject of Music
20-21 雜記上下 Zájì Miscellaneous Records Part 1 & 2
22 喪大記 Sàng Dàjì Greater Record of Mourning Rites
23 祭法 Jìfǎ Law of Sacrifices
24 祭義 Jìyì Meaning of Sacrifices
25 祭統 Jìtǒng A Summary Account of Sacrifices
26 經解 Jīngjiě Different Teaching of the Different Kings
27 哀公問 Āigōng Wèn Questions of Duke Ai
28 仲尼燕居 Zhòngní Yànjū Zhongni at Home at Ease
29 孔子閒居 Kǒngzǐ Xiánjū Confucius at Home at Leisure
30 坊記 Fāngjì Record of the Dykes
31 中庸 Zhōngyōng Doctrine of the Mean
32 表記 Biǎojì Record on Example
33 緇衣 Zīyī Black Robes
34 奔喪 Běnsàng Rules on Hurrying to Mourning Rites
35 問喪 Wènsàng Questions About Mourning Rites
36 服問 Fúwèn Subjects For Questioning About the Mourning Dress
37 間傳 Jiānzhuàn Treatise on Subsidiary Points in Mourning Usages
38 三年問 Sānnián Wèn Questions About the Mourning for Three Years
39 深衣 Shēnyī Long Dress in One Piece
40 投壺 Tóuhú Game of Pitch-Pot
41 儒行 Rúxíng Conduct of the Scholar
42 大學 Dàxué Great Learning
43 冠義 Guānyì Meaning of the Ceremony of Capping
44 昏義 Hūnyì Meaning of the Marriage Ceremony
45 鄉飲酒義 Xiāngyǐn Jiǔyì Meaning of the Drinking Festivity in the Districts
46 射義 Shèyì Meaning of the Ceremony of Archery
47 燕義 Yànyì Meaning of the Banquet
48 聘義 Pìnyì Meaning of Interchange of Missions twixt Different Courts
49 喪服四制 Sàngfú Sìzhì Four Principles Underlying the Dress of Mourning


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