The Spring and Autumn Annals / The Spring and Autumn Period
The Spring and Autumn Annals is one of the Confucian classics, believed to have been compiled by Confucius based on the chronicles of the State of Lu. The book covers a period of 242 years from the first year of the reign of Duke Yin of Lu (722 BC) to the 14th year of the reign of Duke Ai (481 BC). The book was China’s first chronological history, and its title has come to mean all chronological histories. Its records of events are brief and its style is concise. Later Confucian scholars regarded the book as having “subtle words with profound meanings,” and described its implied and indirect style of writing, which makes both positive and negative criticism, as “The Spring and Autumn Annals style.” Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals, Gongyang’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals, and Guliang’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals, together known as the “Three Commentaries,”are explications of this work. (Gongyang’s and Guliang’s commentaries explain the reasoning in the book, while Zuo’s commentary records historical events of this period but does not interpret The Spring and Autumn Annals. ) “Spring and Autumn” also refers to the Spring and Autumn Period, an era named after The Spring and Autumn Annals. There are two views about the period it spans: One is the period covered in the Annals, the other is the period from 770 BC, when King Ping of Zhou moved his capital from near present-day Xi’an in the west to present-day Luoyang in the east, until the year of 476 BC.
Therefore the noble man said, “The style of The Spring and Autumn Annals is implicit but the meaning of the book is clear; it records both events and their profound significance. It is subtle yet logical, thorough yet not verbose. It chastises evil deeds and urges people to do good deeds. Who but a sage could have compiled this?” (Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)
Social mores and moral conduct were in decline; evil theories and violent deeds kept emerging; some subjects killed their rulers and some sons killed their fathers. Deeply worried, Confucius compiled The Spring and Autumn Annals. (Mencius)