Chinese classic texts

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Chinese classic texts or Chinese canonical texts (Chinese: 典籍; pinyin: diǎnjí) refer to the pre-Qin Chinese texts, especially the Confucian Four Books and Five Classics (四書五經). All of these pre-Qin text were written in classical Chinese. They can be referred to as jing (經).

More broadly speaking, Chinese classic texts may refer to texts, be they written in vernacular Chinese or in classical Chinese, that existed before 1912, when the last imperial Chinese dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, fell. These can include shi (史, historical works), zi (子, philosophical works belonging to schools of thought other than the Confucian, but also works of agriculture, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, divination, art criticism, and all sorts of miscellaneous writings) and ji (集, literary works) as well as jing.

In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Four Books and Five Classics, Chinese classic texts chosen by Song dynasty Neo-Confucianist Zhu Xi, were the subject of mandatory study by those Confucian scholars who wished to become government officials. Any political discussion was full of references to this background, and one could not be one of the literati, or even a military officer, without knowing them. Generally, children first studied the Chinese characters with rote memorization of the Three Character Classic and Hundred Family Surnames, then went on to memorize the other classics, in order to ascend in the social hierarchy.

Scholarship on these texts naturally divides itself into two periods, before and after the "Qin Fire",[1] when many of the original texts, especially those of Confucianism, were burned in a political purge.


Before 221 BCE

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