Unit 3

English 203: 
Literature of the NonWestern World 

Introduction .Explication Questions Review


Confucius, 545-57
Chuang Tzu, 557-65
Confucius: selections from   The Analects
The Book of Songs   Book of Songs
Disputers of the Tao   A. C. Graham

Confucius: The influence of Confucius in East Asia cannot be over estimated.  Consider the game question, "who was the most influential person who every lived?"  Jesus probably comes to our minds.  I might nominate Plato.  Muslims often identify Muhammad.  Because the question implies sheer numbers of people, probably the best answer is Confucius, in large part because the population of China was so large compared to Europe.  From 200 bce until 1905 ce, the way to obtain prestigious jobs & power required one to pass examinations on so-called Confucian classics.  This may be the longest lasting institution anywhere in the world.

In addition to the links above, here are a few selections from an interesting book that talks about medieval Chinese culture:

Ancestors: 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family.
Frank Ching, 1988.

34:    [Corroborating Walter Ong's work.]
        An alphabet was never developed. The result is that Chinese characters have

        to be learned by rote. At least 2,000 to 3,000 of a total of about 50,000 characters
        have to be memorized before a person is considered literate, making Chinese
        one of the hardest languages to learn.

        Calligraphy was then, as it is now, much more than the equivalent of good
        penmanship. It was an art form, more highly esteemed than painting.

        The boy began a course of study that included composition, calligraphy &
        the recitation & memorization of the classics, histories & poetry.

35:    The scholar was at the apex of an extremely class-conscious society, in
         which the bulk of the population was illiterate.

40:    A wife was chosen not by her husband but by his parents. Only concubines
        were chosen by the husband. The precedence of the parents over the husband
        is reflected in the common Chinese expression that a family is “taking a
        daughter-in-law” rather than a husband “taking a bride.”  [Corroborating Ruth 
        Benedict's work.]

47:    Buddhist monks, who spurned worldly honors . . . were barred from taking part
        in the examinations.

55:    Because poetic skills were necessary for passing the civil-service examinations
        – virtually the only route to advancement – all the intelligentsia were, in a sense, poets.

91:    The Chinese have traditionally viewed each individual as but a link in a chain,
        connected with both his ancestors before him & his descendants. Thus, emperors
        frequently posthumously honored the parents, grandparents & even great-parents
        of an official who had rendered signal service.

113:  As recently as my parents’ generation, filial piety was the virtue most extolled in
        China.  Book of Filial Piety, an important Chinese classic, cites Confucius as saying
        that “filial piety is the root of all virtue, & that from which all teaching comes."

130-1: Of the thousands of candidates competing [in the civil-service Confucian exams]
          less than 1 percent would pass.. . . [Passing the district exam] entitled [one] to compete
          in the capital in the highest-level examination, held once every three years.
          Qin Jin [placed] 32nd among the 90 graduates, while 205 men graduated in the third
          grade. [300 men passed the exam given only once in 3 years from all the aspirants
          throughout China!]

481:  The odds against success at the examinations were almost astronomical as quotas
        were set for successful candidates at all levels. In addition, the cost of hiring teachers,
        travel to & from examination centers in various cities, & lost earning power was such
        that families became impoverished by sending their sons to the examinations time
        after time.

133:  [There were] auspicious & inauspicious burial dates & sites, so that many students left their parents
        unburied, sometimes for years, while the coffins were kept at home or in temples. Funerals
        were also expensive affairs, & many families spent years raising funds.

205:  A [Buddhist] monk in Chinese is chu-jia-ren, or “someone who has left his family,”
        because such an act [becoming a monk] implies repudiation of his relatives [not to
        mention hsiao]. For that reason, Weihang’s name is omitted from some of our family
        records. Just as he rejected his family, so they responded likewise.

325: [from a letter written by a father to his student son]

        Your essays do not lack force
        But they require more depth.

        You are already 15 years old
        But know no history or literature.
        Study now or regret in old age.
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