(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Among the dozen or so great books that have exercised a significant influence on the Chinese mind since ancient times is the Li Ji (sixth to fifth century b.c.e.; Book of Rites, 1885), said to have been compiled originally by Confucius himself. In the first century b.c.e., Ta Dai (elder Dai) and his cousin Xiao Dai (younger Dai) revised the chapters in the Book of Rites. Most of the chapters in the work deal with the various types of rites--from the arrangement of the most important imperial shrine to the funeral of a plain citizen--and their philosophical import. A few of these chapters, however, treat fundamental philosophical problems not at all connected with any ritual.

One of these chapters is The Great Learning, which was removed from the Book of Rites, annotated, and installed as one of the Four Books, the most important Confucian classics, in the twelfth century by Zhu Xi. The other three classics included in the Four Books are Confucius's Lunyu (late sixth or early fifth century b.c.e.; Analects, 1861), Mengzi (early third century b.c.e.; The Works of Mencius, 1861; commonly known as Mengzi), and Zhong Yong (fifth to fourth century b.c.e.; The Doctrine of the Mean, 1861). The last work is also a chapter of the Book of Rites. After Zhu Xi, four books became the primers given to every young student, as well as the principal texts on which the candidates for civil service were examined. The ideas in these books as interpreted by Zhu Xi constituted a durable intellectual orthodoxy that curtailed effectively the Buddhist influence on the Chinese mind and maintained a dominance in Chinese thought until modern times.