The Analects: An Illustrated Edition

The Analects: An Illustrated Edition

By Confucius, Adapted and illustrated by C.C. Tsai, With a foreword by Michael Puett (Princeton University Press)
  • Non-fiction
  • Set in China

“For the first time in one volume, The Analects illustrated by bestselling cartoonist C. C. Tsai

C. C. Tsai is one of Asia’s most popular cartoonists, and his editions of the Chinese classics have sold more than 40 million copies in over twenty languages. This volume presents Tsai’s delightful graphic adaptation of The Analects, one of the most influential books of all time and a work that continues to inspire countless readers today.

Tsai’s expressive drawings bring Confucius and his students to life as no other edition of the Analects does. See Confucius engage his students over the question of how to become a leader worth following in a society of high culture, upward mobility, and vicious warfare. Which virtues should be cultivated, what makes for a harmonious society, and what are the important things in life? Unconcerned with religious belief but a staunch advocate of tradition, Confucius emphasizes the power of society to create sensitive, respectful, and moral individuals. In many ways, Confucius speaks directly to modern concerns–about how we can value those around us, educate the next generation, and create a world in which people are motivated to do the right thing.

A marvelous introduction to a timeless classic, this book also features an illuminating foreword by Michael Puett, coauthor of The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us about the Good Life. In addition, Confucius’s original Chinese text is artfully presented in narrow sidebars on each page, enriching the books for readers and students of Chinese without distracting from the self-contained English-language cartoons. The text is skillfully translated by Brian Bruya, who also provides an introduction. “

Culture Notes PDF

“The Analects is indeed a truly great philosophical work…It portrays Confucius as a figure striving to be good, trying to educate his disciples, and hoping to create a better world. It is a philosophy focused on the art of living.”
—–Michael Puett

  1. Historical background

The most essential historical context for understanding Confucius is the Spring & Autumn Period (770-481 BCE) and Warring States Period (481-221 BCE). What was changing socially that led to Confucius’s status as a teacher?

It is important for students and teachers to understand Confucius’ teaching in this historical and political context. This is an extended period of political conflict in China’s early history. Michael Puett and Brian Bruya both provide detailed explanations of this historical background in the introduction to the English edition. Bruya writes, “As social roles were changing during the Spring & Autumn Period and rulers were turning to talent outside the nobility, there arose a need for teachers to instruct aspiring leaders” (xii). The change enhanced the mobility of literate elite (shi 士  pronounced: she) who traditionally served Zhou court and regional rulers.

  • Zhou Dynasty (c. 1050-256 BCE)

The Zhou (pronounced: joe) Dynasty was the longest dynasty in China’s history, and was divided into the Western Zhou (c.1050-771 BCE) and the Eastern Zhou (770-221 BCE). The dynasty established a feudal-type system with semi-independent rulers in different regions. Towards the end of the Zhou these rulers began to fight among themselves, ultimately leading to its collapse.

  • Spring and Autumn Period (770-c.480 BCE)

The Eastern Zhou period (770-221 BCE) was one of political fragmentation with the breakdown of central authority power of the Zhou. It is divided by historians into two sub-periods: the Spring and Autumn Period (770-c.480 BCE), and the Warring States Period (c.480-221 BCE). During this time, as more power was distributed among the city-states in China, they began to fight for control, resulting in chronic warfare. The two most powerful city-states were the Qin (pronounced: chin) and the Chu (pronounced: chew).

  • China at the Time of Confucius (551-479 BCE)

Confucius lived at the end of the Spring and Autumn Period. Many philosophical schools of thought emerged during this period of political and social turmoil, a time known as the “100 Schools of Thought.” Several of these philosophical schools have had lasting impact on Chinese civilization and political order, among them, Confucianism, Daoism and Legalism.

2. Explanation of key terms

  • Confucianism

Confucianism is based on the writings of Confucius (551-479 BCE), a philosopher and teacher who developed a system of thought that explained an individual’s place in society and a ruler’s responsibility to his people. Confucianism defined the necessary hierarchy of duties and responsibilities between individuals to achieve harmony and stability in social and political relationships. Confucius maintained that when family relationships are in order, that is when each person performs his duties and responsibilities and shows proper respect, society will be in order and function smoothly.

For Confucius, this model of proper relationships within the family could be translated to the political sphere where a wise and virtuous ruler acts as a father. An individual could improve himself and become a superior person by cultivating five constant virtues: benevolence (ren  仁 pronounced: ren),righteousness (yi  义 pronounced: yee), propriety (li  礼 pronounced: lee), wisdom (zhi  智 pronounced: she), and trustworthiness (xin  信 pronounced: sheen), which are the fundamentaltraditional virtues of China. It also emphasizes filial piety (xiao  孝 pronounced: shaow) in family structure, the respect for one’s elders and ancestors.

  • Daoism

Confucianism is in contrast to other philosophical schools such as Daoism. Daoism developed in the 6th century BCE as a way of thinking about man’s relationship to nature and the universe. The Dao means “path” or “way” that leads a person to live a virtuous life in harmony with nature. Daoism celebrates the “oneness” of all nature and advocates a natural course of action, or in some cases, inaction. A person who acts this way has been compared to water, which flows everywhere and seems weak but is actually one of the strongest forces in nature.

3. Confucianism in Chinese History

  • Scholar’s Confucianism: Confucius (551-479 BCE) & disciples
  • Ruler’s Confucianism: Confucianism endorsed by the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE) as a nation-building ideology to sustain control of a diverse empire.
  • Cosmological Confucianism:
    • Yin-yang cosmology (“dark-bright,” “negative-positive”) is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world.
    • Wuxing (pronounced: woo-shing) cosmology refers to a fivefold concept including wood, fire, earth, metal, and water as dynamic, interdependent modes or aspects of the universe’s ongoing existence and development.
  • Neo-Confucianism
    • Fall of Han regime parallels the introduction of Buddhism and rise of Daoism.
    • Song 宋dynasty (960-1279 CE) embraces Neo-Confucianism as part of renewed ethnocentric social order.
    • Neo-Confucianism focuses on cosmic patterns in nature (qi 气  energy; pronounced: chee) and society (li  理  ritual propriety; pronounced: lee)
  • Persecuted Confucianism
    • Qing 清 (pronounced: ching) dynasty (1644-1911 CE) collapsed after Western incursions. Some intellectuals blamed the traditional values of Confucianism for China’s decline beginning in the late 19th century. This view among intellectuals began to gain political momentum in the early 20th century.
    • The May Fourth Movement (1919) was an anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement which grew out of student protests in Beijing. Prior to May 4, 1919, various radical teachers and students had been engaged in the New Culture Movement (1915-1923) which questioned and challenged tradition, including Confucianism. In fact, Mao Zedong was influenced by the New Culture Movement as a young man.
    • Cultural Revolution (1949-1976) led by Mao Zedong targets all pre-modern culture to “shatter the old world, build the new.”

4. Connection to culture today

The Analects addresses moral and civic education, as well as presenting some foundational values in East Asian culture. Contemporary Confucianism is still influential in East Asia,especially in Japan, Korea, and China. Jeffrey Richey’s publication, Confucius in East Asia: Confucianism’s History in China, Korea, Japan, and Viet Nam (Key Issues in Asian Studies, 2013) would be a good resource for teachers to use to expand their students’ cultural competency.

  • Post-Maoist Confucianism in China
      • Confucianism became popular again in the late 20th and early 21st centuries in the PRC. In his 2010 book China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know Jeffrey Wasserstrom suggests, “This is partly because it is in the regime’s interest for people of Chinese descent in Taiwan, Australia, the United States, and other parts of the world […] to identify with, travel to, and invest in the PRC” (12). In addition, recent Chinese leaders seem to value the emphasis that Confucius placed on social harmony. For example, President Hu Jintao promoted the slogan: “harmonious society” or héxié shèhuì (和谐社会) (pronounced: hu-shay | shu-way).
      • In addition, China’s Ministry of Education began establishing educational partnerships with foreign universities in 2004. These partnerships were named Confucius Institutes after the traditional Chinese philosopher. Furthermore, China established the “Confucius Peace Prize” in 2010 as an alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize after the Nobel committee recognized Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
      • Finally, Confucius been resurrected in education and popular culture for both children and adults. For example:
          • Elementary students recite Confucian texts in the local Confucian Temple.
          • Young Confucius is depicted in a cartoon series, 2009- present
          • Adult Confucius as portrayed in Confucius, a 2010 film.
      • Confucianism remains significant in East Asian societies. The success of the Tsai’s Chinese classics reflects the influence. “C.C.Tsai is one of Asia’s most popular cartoonists, and his editions of the Chinese classics have sold more than 40 million copies in over twenty languages. This volume presents Tsai’s delightful graphic adaptation of the Analects, one of the most influential books of all time and a work that continue to inspire countless readers today.” (Publisher’s Overview, 2018)

5. Selected quotes that you may want to use in the classroom

 As Michael Puett said, “This is a philosophy to be lived, a philosophical text to learn from and laugh with, and a version that captures such a sensibility delightfully.” The following quotes are among the most well-known because they are used in writing, conversation, textbooks, and examinations in China today.

  • Benevolence

P.96 (6:23) The Wise and the Benevolent

Wise people enjoy the water. They understand the happenings of the world and so take pleasure in the smooth flowing of the water. Benevolent people enjoy the Mountains. They are unwavering in their virtue and so take pleasure in the steadfastness of the mountains. Wise people enjoy being active; Benevolent people enjoy keeping still. Wise people find their own joys; Benevolent people live long in tranquility.

P.154 (15:10) Cultivating Benevolence

Zigong asked Confucius how to cultivate benevolence in oneself. Confucius said: Before an artisan does his job, he must grind his tools first. Here in the state, one should serve under a capable and virtuous minister, and make friends with benevolent young men.

P.158 (15:24) Be Thoughtful

Zigong asked Confucius: Is there one word that can act as a standard of conduct for one’s whole life? Confucius said: Perhaps it would be “thoughtfulness.” What you do not like, do not impose on others.

  • Learning

46 (1:1) Pleasure and Dignity

Isn’t it a pleasure to study and then put into practice what you learn? Isn’t it a delight to have friends come from far? Isn’t he a gentleman who remains dignified though he goes unrecognized?

P.61 (2:15) Study and Reflection

Confucius said: Study without refection is folly, reflection without study is risky.

P.109 (7:22)   Learning from Others

If there are three people walking along, there will certainly be one I can learn from. I notice their strong points and work to emulate them; I also notice their defects and try to change if I find them in myself as well.

  • Self-cultivation 

P.56 (2:4) Stages of Life

Confucius said: When I was fifteen, I set my mind on learning; by thirty I was well established; at forty I was imperturbable; at fifty I understood my mission in life; at sixty I could easily judge people by their words; at seventy I was able to act spontaneously, without ever crossing the line.

P.58 (2:11) Becoming a teacher

Confucius said: If you are well-versed in the ancient and understand the modern, you may become a teacher of others.

P.78 (4:17) Seeing Yourself in Others

When you see someone who is capable think about trying to be like him. When you see someone who is neither capable nor virtuous, look at yourself and see if you share any qualities with him.

P.138 (13:23) Harmonize

A Gentleman harmonizes with others but does not conform; A lesser man conforms with others but does not harmonize.

  • Filial piety

79 (4:19) Traveling

While your parents are still living, do not travel far away. If you have to no choice but to travel far away, let your parents know your whereabouts so that they won’t worry.

References

“Asia for Educators”, Central Themes and Key Points
http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/main_pop/kpct/kp_zhou.htm

Richey, Jeffrey. Confucius in East Asia: Confucianism’s History in China, Korea, Japan, and Viet Nam. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, Inc., 2013.

Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N. China in the 21st century: what everyone needs to know. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Authors:
Haixia Wang, Carnegie Mellon University & University of Pittsburgh
Matthew Sudnik, The Madeira School, Virginia
2020

Curriculum Connections PDF

“Isn’t it a pleasure to study and then put into practice what you learn?”  – Analects 1:1

C.C. Tsai’s graphic novel interpretation of Confucius’ The Analects is far from a mere reduction or simplification of this ancient philosophy. If I wanted to introduce high school students to Chinese philosophy, I would favor this edition of the text. According to the Forward by Harvard professor Michael Puett, C.C. Tsai’s illustrations add important context to the teaching. As an educator, I believe the illustrations will not only capture the attention of students but will also help them to remember the sayings and build important connections between this reading and their study of history, literature, philosophy, and language. While the text includes a variety of themes, The Analects fundamentally addresses moral and civic education as well as presenting some foundational values in East Asian culture. In his 2003 book The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why social psychologist Richard Nisbett suggests that Asian culture has an acute sense of social duty while Western culture devoutly uplifts the individual. This Western individualism is represented throughout Western literature from the rugged individualist of James Fennimore Cooper’s Hawkeye to Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark of The Fountainhead. In contrast, Confucian thought privileges propriety, appropriateness, ritual, and filial piety – virtues which are understood and practiced within the context of our relationships with others. While The Analects is not the last word on East Asian culture, it can help students to better understand the core values of Confucianism that remain significant in most East Asian societies.

While the philosophy is packaged as a graphic novel, the text is still philosophical and would be intellectually challenging to many young readers. I would recommend this book for upper high school grades 11-12. There are a variety of curricular entry points for this book including World History and World Literature as well as Philosophy and Civic Education.

If you are teaching Confucianism in the context of the Warring States Period and Ancient Chinese History, a common strategy is to present Confucianism in comparison with other contemporary schools of thought, especially Daoism and Legalism. For example, a lesson plan created by The Field Museum in Chicago compares Confucianism to Daoism and Buddhism. Students are asked to consider “how do these belief systems fit together?” and “who are the central figures?” Students will also identify common themes in all three traditions and those beliefs and practices that make each one unique. The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) also has a lesson plan on Confucianism that compares Confucian writings and Daoist writing, asking students to read for clues and identify which system the primary source represents. Finally, in a 2002 lesson plan on Ming China written by Marco deMartino, Ping Wang, and Jaye Zola, students identify principles of Confucianism and Legalism in a primary source, the proclamation of the Ming Dynasty’s Hongwu Emperor. In all of these cases, Confucianism is presented in contrast to another philosophical system, helping students to learn through comparison and contrast.

Considering the new AP World History curriculum unveiled in 2019-20, there is very little coverage of Ancient China or the time period in which Confucius and his school of thought emerges. However, to focus on the time period only misses the significance of Confucianism to East Asian culture and history. Confucianism plays a role in Chinese culture and politics up to the present. Along with C.C. Tsai’s book, teachers of World History could assign primary sources of later Confucian texts. Within the new timeline of AP World History, it would be appropriate to read selections from Confucian scholars Zhu Xi (1130-1200 CE) who is a founder of Neo-Confucianism, which addresses the competing philosophical system of Buddhism. Zhu Xi’s “Preface to the Great Learning by Chapter and Phrase” is available on the Asia for Educators site. For one’s coverage of the Ming Dynasty, read selections by Wang Yangming (1472-1529 CE) such as “On the Unity of Knowing and Acting,” also edited with questions by Asia for Educators. Finally, for the unit on China’s Revolution, consider reading Liu Shaoqi’s (1898-1969 CE) “How to Be a Good Communist.”. In short, Asia for Educators includes a full list of primary sources in pdf format along with document-based discussion questions – such as the 8th century “Analects for Women” by Song Ruozhao (761–828 CE) – to supplement the study of World History.

For both World History and Word Literature, classes that often emphasize breadth over depth, we must be cautious that we do not present a written work or source like Confucius as the only source of a culture’s literature. At the same time, The Analects presents certain foundational language and traditional moral teaching within foundational history context for China that may help students interpret other works of East Asian literature and film. For example, in World Literature one may assign Ba Jin’s The Family, a story of an extended family in 1920s China.

Another work of world literature dealing with Confucian hierarchy is Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong. There are also popular films about East Asian culture that also demonstrate the importance of relationships and filial piety in Confucian culture. Two of my favorites are the 2004 Korean film Tae Guk Gi about the filial love of two brothers drafted into the Korean War and the 2019 American film The Farewell, in which a Chinese American millennial travels to China to say farewell to her dying nǎi nai 奶奶(grandmother) (pronounced: nye nye). Both films emphasize the individual’s place in and duties to their family.

Like World Literature, a Philosophy or Religious Studies class may also appreciate reading this edition of The Analects. C.C. Tsai preserves the essential philosophical teachings so this text could be used as a source in an introductory philosophy class. However, beyond learning about the tradition of Confucianism, I would like to suggest that students may be asked to ponder some of Confucius’ teaching for their own lives. C.C. Tsai’s The Analects may also be used as a powerful source in the teaching of moral and civic education.

The following quotes are most well-known because they are used in writing, conversation, textbooks, and examinations for K-16 students in China today. Ask students to think about these quotes in contrast to selections from Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Pleasure and Dignity 

Isn’t it a pleasure to study and then put into practice what you learn? Isn’t it a delight to have friends come from far? Isn’t he a gentleman who remains dignified though he goes unrecognized?
-P. 46 (1:1) 

Benjamin Franklin:
“Well done is better than well said.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1737

“A true Friend is the best Possession.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1744

Seeing Yourself in Others 

“When you see someone who is capable and virtuous, think about trying to be like him. When you see someone who is neither capable nor virtuous, look at yourself and see if you share any qualities with him.”
-P.78 (4:17) Analects

Benjamin Franklin
“Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1738

The Wise and the Benevolent

Wise people enjoy the water. They understand the happenings of the world and so take pleasure in the smooth flowing of the water. Benevolent people enjoy the Mountains. They are unwavering in their virtue and so take pleasure in the steadfastness of the mountains. Wise people enjoy being active; Benevolent people enjoy keeping still. Wise people find their own joys; Benevolent people live long in tranquility.
-P.96 (6:23)

Ben Franklin: “What more valuable than Gold? Diamonds. Than Diamonds? Virtue.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1751

Harmonize

A Gentleman harmonizes with others but does not conform; A lesser man conforms with others but does not harmonize.
-P.138 (13:23)

Benjamin Franklin:
“A right Heart exceeds all.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1739

“He that lies down with Dogs, shall rise up with fleas.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1733

Thinking Ahead

Confucius said: “Failing to think far into the future, leads to trouble near at hand.”
-P.155 Analects (15:12)

Benjamin Franklin: “Look before, or you’ll find yourself behind.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1735

Be thoughtful

Zigong asked Confucius: Is there one word that can act as a standard of conduct for one’s whole life? Confucius said: Perhaps it would be “thoughtfulness.” What you do not like, do not impose on others.
-P.158 (15:24)

Benjamin Franklin: “When you’re good to others, you’re best to yourself.”
– Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1748

References

Nisbett, Richard E. The geography of thought: How Asians and Westerners think differently … and why. New York: Free Press, 2003.

Recommended Teaching Resources

Books and Films:

Ba Jin (Li Feigan). The Family. (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1953)
Kang, Je-gyu, dir. Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War. 2004; South Korea: Showbox, 2005. DVD.
Tong, Su. Raise the Red Lantern: Three Novellas. (W. Morrow and Company, 1993)
Wang, Lulu, dir. The Farewell. 2019; New York: A24, 2019. DVD

Online Resources:

Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism lesson from The Field Museum Learning Center: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/sites/default/files/lifeways.pdf

Confucianism and Daoism lesson from the Stanford History Education Group:
https://sheg.stanford.edu/history-lessons/confucianism-and-daoism

List of Chinese primary sources and document-based questions from Asia for Educators:
http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/main_pop/ps/ps_china.htm

Authors:
Haixia Wang, Carnegie Mellon University & University of Pittsburgh
Matthew Sudnik, History Department Chair, The Madeira School
2020