Page:A history of Chinese literature - Giles.djvu/44

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


CHAPTER III

THE FOUR BOOKS—MENCIUS

No Chinaman thinks of entering upon a study of the Five Classics until he has mastered and committed to memory a shorter and simpler course known as The Four Books.

The first of these, as generally arranged for students, is the Lun Yü or Analects, a work in twenty short chapters or books, retailing the views of Confucius on a variety of subjects, and expressed so far as possible in the very words of the Master. It tells us nearly all we really know about the Sage, and may possibly have been put together within a hundred years of his death. From its pages we seem to gather some idea, a mere silhouette perhaps, of the great moralist whose mission on earth was to teach duty towards one's neighbour to his fellow- men, and who formulated the Golden Rule: "What you would not others should do unto you, do not unto them!"

It has been urged by many, who should know better, that the negative form of this maxim is unfit to rank with the positive form as given to us by Christ. But of course the two are logically identical, as may be shown by the simple insertion of the word "abstain;" that is, you would not that others should abstain from certain actions in regard to yourself, which practically conveys the positive injunction.

32