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which is an insult to human nature. The time for such theories has happily gone by. We now know that nothing can come of nothing, that a fire of straw may make a bright blaze, but must necessarily soon go out. A light which illuminates centuries must be more than an ignis fatuus. Accordingly we should approach Confucius with respect, and expect to find something good and wise in his writings. It is only a loving spirit which will enable us to penetrate the difficulties which surround the study, and to apprehend something of the true genius of the man and his teachings. As there is no immediate danger of becoming his followers, we can see no objections to such a course, which also appears to be a species of mental hospitality, eminently in accordance with the spirit of our own Master.
Confucius belongs to that small company of select ones whose lives have been devoted to the moral elevation of their fellow-men. Among them he stands high, for le sought to implant the purest principles of religion and morals in the character of the whole people, and succeeded in doing it. To show that this was his purpose it will be necessary to give a brief sketch of his life.
His ancestors were eminent statesmen and soldiers in the small country of Loo, then an independent kingdom, now a Chinese province. The year of his birth was that in which Cyrus became king of Persia. His father, one of the highest officers of the kingdom, and a brave soldier, died when Confucius was three years old. He was a studious boy, and when fifteen years old had studied the five sacred books called Kings. He was married at the age of nineteen, and had only one son by his only wife. This son died before Confucius, leaving as his posterity a single grandchild, from whom the great multitudes of his descendants now in China were derived. This grandson was second only to Confucius in wisdom, and was the teacher of the illustrious Mencius.
The first part of the life of Confucius was spent in attempting to reform the abuses of society by means of the official stations which he held, by his influence with princes, and by travelling and intercourse with men. The second period was that in which he was recalled from his travels to become a minister in his native country, the kingdom of Loo. Here he applied his theories of government, and tested their practicability. He was then fifty years old. His success was soon apparent in the growing prosperity of the whole people. Instead of the tyranny which before prevailed, they were now ruled according to his idea of good government, - that of the father of a family. Confidence was restored to the public mind, and all good influences followed. But the tree was not yet deeply enough rooted to resist accidents, and all his wise arrangements were suddenly overthrown by the caprice of the monarch, who, tired of the austere virtue of Confucius, suddenly plunged into a career of dissipation. Confucius resigned his office, and again became a wanderer, but now with a new motive. He had before travelled to learn, now he travelled to teach. He collected disciples around him, and, no longer seeking to gain the ear of princes, le diffused his ideas among the common people by means of his disciples, whom he sent out everywhere to communicate his doctrines. So, amid many vicissitudes of outward fortune, he lived till he was seventy-three years old. In the last years of his life he occupied himself in publishing his works, and in editing the Sacred Books. His disciples had become very numerous, historians estimating them at three thousand, of whom five hundred had attained to official station, seventy-two had penetrated deeply into his system, and ten, of the highest class of mind and character, were continually near his person. Of these Hwuy was especially valued by him, as having early attained superior virtue. He frequently referred to him in his conversations. "I saw him continually advance," said he, “but I never saw him stop in the path of knowledge.” Again he says: “The wisest of my disciples, having one idea, understands two. Hwuy, having one understands ten.” One of the select ten disciples, Tszee-loo, was rash and impetuous like the Apostle Peter. Another, Tszee-Kung, was loving and tender like the Apostle John; he built a house near the grave of Confucius, wherein te mourn for him after his death.
The last years of the life of Confucius were devoted to editing the Sacred Books, or Kings. As we now have them they come from him. Authentic records of Chinese history extend back to 2357 B. C., while the Chinese philosophy originated with Fuh-he, who lived about 3327 B. C. He it was who substituted writing for the knotted strings which before formed the only means of record. He was also the author of the Eight Diagrams, each consisting of three lines, half of which are whole and half broken in two, - which by their various combinations are supposed to represent the active and passive principles of the universe in all their essential forms. Confucius edited the Yih-King, the Shoo-King, the She-King, and the Le-Ke, which constitute the whole of the ancient literature of China which has come down to posterity.* The Four Books, which contain the doctrines of Confucius, and of his school, were not written by himself, but composed by others after his death.
One of these is called the “Immutable Mean," and its object is to show that virtue consists in avoiding extremes. Another the Lun-Yu, or Analects contains the conversation or table-talk of Confucius, and somewhat resembles the Memorabilia of Xenophon and Boswell's Life of Johnson.*
* Dr. Legge thus arranges the Sacred Books of China, or the Chinese Classics : A. The Five King. [King means a web of cloth, or the warp which
keeps the threads in their place.] (a) Yih-King. (Changes.) (b) Shoo-King. (History.) (c) She-King. (Odes.) (d) Le-Ke-King. (Rites.) (e) Ch'un-Ts'eu. (Spring and Autumn. Annals from B. c. 721 to
(a) Lun-Yu. (Analects, or Table-Talk of Confucius.)
the grandson of Confucius. (d) Works of Mencius. After the death of Confucius there was a period in which the Sacred Bocks were much corrupted, down to the Han dynasty (B. C. 201 to
The life of Corfucius was thus devoted to communicating to the Chinese nation a few great moral and religious principles, which he believed would insure the happiness of the people. His devotion to this aim appears in his writings. Thus he says :
“At fifteen years I longed for wisdom. At thirty my mind was fixed in the pursuit of it. At forty I saw clearly certain principles. At fifty I understood the rule given by heaven. At sixty everything I heard I easily understood. At seventy the desires of my heart no longer transgressed the law."
If in the morning I hear about the right way, and in the evening I die, I can be happy.”
He says of himself: “He is a man who through his earnestness in seeking knowledge forgets his food, and in his joy for having found it loses all sense of his toil, and thus occupied is unconscious that he has almost reached
Again : “ Coarse rice for food, water to drink, the bended arm for a pillow, - happiness may be enjoyed even with these; but without virtue both riches and honor seem to me like the passing cloud.”
Grieve not that men know not you ; grieve that you know not men.”
A. D. 24), which collected, edited, and revised them : since which time they have been watched with the greatest care.
* The evidence is complete that the Classical Books of China have come down from at least a century before our era, substantially the same as we have them at present.” – Leage, Vol. 1. Chap. I. § 2.
The Four Books have been translated into French, German, and English. Dr. Marshman translated the Lun-Yu. Mr. Collie afterward published at Calcutta the Four Books. But within a few years the labors of previous sinologues have been almost superseded by Dr. Legge's splendid work, still in process of publication. We have, as yet, only the volumes containing the Four Books of Confucius and his successors, and a portion of the Kings. Dr. Legge's work is in Chinese and English, witii copious notes and extracts from many Chinese commentators. In his notes, and his preliminary dissertations, he endeavors to do justice to Confucius and his doc. trines. Perhaps he does not fully succeed in this, but it is evident that he respects the Chinese sage, and is never willingly unfair to him. If to the books above mentioned be added the works of Pauthier, Stanislas Julien, Mohl, and other French sinologues, and the German works on the same subject, we have a sufficient apparatus for the study of Chinese thought.
“ To rule with equity is like the North Star, ' fixed, and all the rest go round it."
The essence of knowledge is, having it, to årrey -v, not having it, to confess your ignorance.'
Worship as though the Deity were present.” “ "If my mind is not engaged in my worship, it is as though I worshipped not.”
"Formerly, in hearing men, I heard their words, and gave them credit for their conduct; now I hear their words, and observe their conduct."
“A man's life depends on virtue; if a bad man lives, it is only by good fortune.”
“Some proceed blindly to action, without knowledge; I hear much, and select the best course.”
He was once found fault with, when in office, for not opposing the marriage of a ruler with a distant relation, which was an offence against Chinese propriety. He said : “I am a happy man; if I have a fault, men observe it.”
Confucius was humble. He said : “I cannot bear to hear myself called equal to the sages and the good. All that can be said of me is, that I study with delight the conduct of the sages, and instruct men without weariness therein."
“The good man is serene,” said he, “the bad always in fear.”
A good man regards the ROOT; he fixes the root, and all else flows out of it. The root is filial piety; the fruit brotherly love."
“There may be fair words and an humble countenance when there is little real virtue.”
“I daily examine myself in a threefold manner: in my transactions with men, if I am upright; in my intercourse with friends, if I am faithful; and whether I illustrate the teachings of my master in my conduct."
“Faithfulness and sincerity are the highest things.
The great principles which he taught were chiefly based on family affection and duty. He taught kings that they