Confucius Criticism - Essay

Kong Qiu

James Legge (essay date 1893)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Confucius and His Immediate Disciples," in The Chinese Classics, Vol. I, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1893, pp. 90-111.

[In the following excerpt, Legge remarks on the veneration of Confucius and discusses the philosopher's views on government.]

1. Confucius died … complaining that of all the princes of the kingdom there was not one who would adopt his principles and obey his lessons. He had hardly passed from the stage of life, when his merit began to be acknowledged. When the duke Âi heard of his death, he pronounced his eulogy in the words, 'Heaven has not left to me the aged man. There is none now to assist me on the throne. Woe is me! Alas! O...

(The entire section is 9281 words.)

Ernst Faber (essay date 1896)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Missionary View of Confucianism," in A Systematical Digest of the Doctrines of Confucius, The General Evangelical Protestant Missionary Society of Germany, 1902, pp. 89-99.

[In the excerpt below, Faber compares Confucianism and Christianity.]

This subject is still but little known. As I have an exhaustive work in preparation I will take the liberty of stating here its programme:—

  1. The Thirteen Sacred Books of Confucianism. The origin of every portion of them. A history of the text. Remnants of ancient texts; various readings, quotations, etc. History of the Confucian Canon.
  2. The other Ancient Literature of China,...

(The entire section is 4759 words.)

Arthur Waley (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to and "Terms," in The Analects of Confucius, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1938, pp. 13-26, 27-50.

[In the following excerpt, Waley comments on Confucius's life, his disciples, and the origins of the Analects. The critic also defines several key terms used in the Analects.]


Thought grows out of environment. Ideally speaking the translator of such a book as the Analects ought to furnish a complete analysis of early Chinese society, of the processes which were at work within it and of the outside forces to which it reacted. Unfortunately our knowledge of the period is far too incomplete for any such...

(The entire section is 6667 words.)

Lin Yutang (essay date 1942)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Wisdom of China and India, Random House, 1942, pp. 3-52.

[In the following excerpt, Yutang outlines the basic tenets of Confucianism, which he describes as a system of ideas that sought a rationalized social and political order "by laying the basis for it in a moral order. "]


Can one be enthusiastic about Confucianism nowadays? I wonder. The answer seems to depend on whether one can be enthusiastic about sheer good sense, a thing which people usually cannot work up very much enthusiasm for. The more important question seems to be whether one can believe in Confucianism nowadays....

(The entire section is 11958 words.)

Fung Yu-lan (essay date 1948)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Confucius, the First Teacher," in A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, The Macmillan Company, 1948, pp. 38-48.

[In the excerpt below, Fung remarks on Confucius 's life, discusses the concept of righteousness in Confucian thought, and assesses Confucius's ever-changing stature in Chinese history.]

Confucius is the latinized name of the person who has been known in China as K'ung Tzu or Master K'ung. [The word "Tzu" or "Master" is a polite suffix added to names of most philosophers of the Chou Dynasty, such as Chuang Tzu, Hsün Tzu, etc., and meaning "Master Chuang," "Master Hsün," etc.] His family name was K'ung and his personal name Ch'iu. He was born in...

(The entire section is 4426 words.)

Liu Wu-chi (essay date 1955)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "K'ung Ch'iu, Founder of the Ju School," in A Short History of Confucian Philolosophy, 1955. Reprint by Hyperion Press, Inc., 1979, pp. 13-25.

[In the following excerpt, Wu-chi focuses on the life and thought of Confucius and contends that Confucius's "greatness lies in his transforming the feudal code of rites and etiquette into a universal system of ethics."]

Chapter One: K'ung Ch'iu, Founder of the Ju School

1. On the Greatness of Ju Philosophy—A Prelude

The Ju philosophy that has dominated Chinese thought for the last twenty-five centuries had its beginning in the teachings of K'ung Ch'iu (551-479...

(The entire section is 5259 words.)

Wing-tsit Chan (essay date 1963)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Humanism of Confucius," in A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1963, pp. 14-48.

[In the following excerpt, Chan argues that Confucius's ideas on humanism greatly influenced the development of Chinese philosophy and that Confucius's belief in "the perfectibility of all men" radically altered the traditional concept of the "superior man."]

Confucius (551-479 B.C.) can truly be said to have molded Chinese civilization in general. It may seem far-fetched, however, to say that he molded Chinese philosophy in particular—that he determined the direction or established the pattern of later Chinese philosophical developments—yet...

(The entire section is 14927 words.)

Wing-tsit Chan (essay date 1975)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Chinese and Western Interpretations of Jen (Humanity)," in Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 2, No. 2, March, 1975, pp. 107-128.

[In the following essay, Chan compares Chinese and Western interpretations of jen, the idea of humanity or humaneness, which is a central concept in Confucian thought.]

The concept of jen (humanity, love, humaneness; pronounced ren) is a central concept of Confucian thought and has gone through a long evolution of more than 2000 years. The story of that evolution has been told elsewhere.1 The purpose here is to see how the Chinese have understood the concept and how the West has interpreted it. We...

(The entire section is 9547 words.)

Jeffrey K. Riegel (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Poetry and the Legend of Confucius's Exile," in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 106, No. 1, January-March, 1986, pp. 13-22.

[In the essay below, Riegel analyzes three poems about Confucius's time of exile.]

Among the many stories and tales which constitute the legends of Confucius's life, the most well-known and dramatic involve the Master's suffering and hardships during his exile from Lu.… According to the account set forth in the Tso chuan … and Shih chi …, Confucius departed, or perhaps was banished, from his homeland in 497 B.C., after a failed attempt, supported by him, to dismantle the defensive walls around the cities...

(The entire section is 8400 words.)

David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Some Uncommon Assumptions," in Thinking Through Confucius, State University of New York Press, 1987, pp. 11-25.

[In the following excerpt, Hall and Ames comment on distinctions between Confucius's original teachings and later interpretations of them.]

In this essay we have been bold enough to challenge both the principal understandings of Confucian thought and the traditional methods of articulating them. It behooves us, therefore, to begin by discussing certain of the fundamental background assumptions which characterize what we consider to be an appropriate interpretive context within which Confucius' thought may be clarified. The primary defect of the...

(The entire section is 5696 words.)

Philip J. Ivanhoe (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Reweaving the 'One Thread' of the Analects," in Philosophy East and West, Vol. XL, No. 1, January, 1990, pp. 17-33.

[In the following excerpt, Ivanhoe discusses the Golden Rule, which, in Confucian thought, is described in the notions of chung and shu.]


The Golden Rule—the notion that one's own desires can serve, by analogy, as a guide for how one should treat others—is found in various forms, in cultures throughout the world.1 It seems that something like it must exist if there is to be any kind of society at all. One cannot have a friend, a tribe, or a civilization without the fundamental...

(The entire section is 8588 words.)