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The CHINESE CLASSICS, as translated and edited by Dr. Legge, will probably make about Ten Volumes, royal 8vo. Two of these will make one of this reprint of the translation, so that it will not exceed five, and one more for such special notices of authors and text as may be necessary to a proper understanding of each work.
The Confucius here printed, and Mencius soon to follow, will make the first volume. It has been judged best to retain the very full indexes, as they not only help to find the subject, but afford explanation also; especially is this the case with the proper names.
The reader will inquire, Who was Confucius, and where did he live ? Chambers' Encyclopædia gives so brief and clear an account, I choose to copy.
CONFUCIUS, a celebrated Chinese sage, was born 19th June 551 B. C., at Shang-ping, near the town of Tseuse, in the petty kingdom of Lu. His own name was Kong, but his disciples called him Kong-fu-tse (i. e., 'Kong, the Master or Teacher,), which the Jesuit missionaries Latinized into Confucius. His mother used to call him Kieu ( little hillock'), because he had an unusual elevation on the top of his forehead, with which he is often represented. Various prodigies, as in other instances, were, we are told, the forerunners of his birth. An illustrious pedigree has also been invented for him by his fond disciples, who derive his origin from Hoang-ti, a mythological monarch of China who flourished more than 2000 years B. C. His father, Shuh-leang-ho, died when Confucius was only three years of age, but he was very carefully brought up by his mother, Yan-she, and from his earliest years, displayed an extraordinary love of learning and veneration for the ancient laws of his country. The prudence, rectituds, and philosophic gravity of his conduct while a boy, are also highly extolled by Chinese writers. At the age of 17, he was made an inspector of the corn-marts, and distinguished himself by his industry and energy in repressing fraud, and introducing order and integrity into the whole business. When only 19, Confucius married, but divorced his wife four years after marriage,* that he might have more time for study and the performance of his public duties. Confucius was next appointed inspectorgeneral of pastures and flocks, and the result of his judicious measures, we are told, was a general improvement in the cultivation of the country and the condition of the people. The death of his mother, which happened in his 23d year, interrupted for a time his administrative functions, and gave occasion to the first solemn and important act of Confucius as a moral reformer. According to the ancient, but then almost forgotten laws of China, children were obliged to resign all public employments on the death of either of their parents ; and Confucius, desirous of renewing the observance in his native land of all the practices of venerable antiquity, did not fail to conform to this long neglected enactment. The solemnity and splendour of the burial ceremony with which he honoured the remains of his mother (another old custom which had fallen into disuse), struck his fellow citizens with astonishment, and they determined, for the future, to bury their dead with the ancient honours. Their example was followed by the neighboring states, and the whole nation, except the poorest class, has continued the practice to the present day. Confucius now came to be looked upon as an authority in regard to the past, and ventured to speak as such. He inculcated the necessity of stated acts of homage and respect towards the dead, either at the grave, or in a part of the dwelling-house conse
crated for the purpose. Hence, the hall of ancestors,' and anniversary feasts of the dead, which now distinguish China as a nation. Confucius did not end here. He shut himself up in his house to pass in solitude the three years of mourning for his mother, the whole of which time he dedicated to philosophical study. We are told that he reflected deeply on the eternal laws of morality, traced them to their source, imbued his mind with a sense of the duties which they impose indiscriminately on all men, and determined to make them the immutable rules of all his actions. Henceforth, his career is only an illustration of his ethical system. He commenced to instruct his countrymen in the precepts of morality, exhibiting in his own person all the virtues he inculcated on others. Gradually his disciples increased, as the practical character of his philosophy became more apparent. After his years of mourning and meditation were over, Confucius travelled through various states, in some of which he was employed as a public reformer. On his return to Lu, his reputation was very great, not less than 500 mandarins being among his followers. In fact, it is to be observed, that generally Confucius' disciples were not the young and enthusiastic, but men of middle age, sober, grave, respectable, and occupying important public situations. This fact throws light both on the character and design of his philosophy. It was ethical, not religious, and aimed exclusively at fitting men for conducting themselves honourably and prudently in this life. Confucius now divided his scholars into four classes; to the first, he taught morals; to the seccond, rhetoric; to the third, politics ; and to the fourth, the perfection of their style in written compositions. While residing at Lu, Confucius worked industriously in the revision and abridgment of those works which constituted the principal monuments of that ancient literature about which he was always speaking in the language of unbounded reverence.
An unworthy change of magistrates, however, in the king
dom of Lu induced Confucius to recommence his travels. He first proceeded to Chen, where he was not much appreciated; and afterwards to Tze, where he became one of the king's ministers, but was dismissed after a short time through the intrigues of cunning courtiers. On his return to Lu, he was appointed governor of the people.' For a time his inflexible virtue awed them into morality, and the delighted monarch conferred the highest dignities on the philosopher; but the arrival of a bevy of beautiful syrens from a neighbouring state, which hated the increasing purity of Lu, suddenly overturned the edifice of morality which Confucius was constructing; and in despair, he again went abroad in search of less vacillating disciples. His later wanderings were very unpropitious; state after state refused to be improved. He was in some instances persecuted ; once he was imprisoned, and nearly starved ; and finally, seeing no hope of securing the favourable attention of the mass of his countrymen while alive, he returned in extreme poverty to his native state, and spent his last years in the composition of literary works, by which posterity at least might be instructed. He died 479 B. C., in the 70th year of his age. Immediately after his death, and notwithstanding the general demoralization of his contemporaries, Confucius began to be venerated, and succeeding ages adorned his name with golden epithets. His family, which has continued to the present day, through 67 or 68 generations, in the very place where their ancestor lived, is distinguished by various honours and privileges, being the only example of hereditary aristocracy in China, while in every city down to those of the third order there is a temple to his honour. The 18th day of the second moon is kept sacred by the Chinese as the anniversary of his death.
Dr. Legge dates the birth of Confucius 21st of 10th month 551 B. C., and his death the 11th day of the 4th month 478 B. C.