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Book of Documents 尚书 – Top 100 Books in China

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The earliest extant collection of Chinese prose

Overview

Chinese Name: 尚书

English Name: Book of Documents, The Book of History, Shangshu

Other Name: Books, Ancient Books

Author: Anonymous 佚名, Compiled by Confucius 孔子

Originally Published: 1066 BC (Zhou Dynasty 周代)

Genre: Literature, Prose

Brief Introduction of Book of Documents

The Book of Documents, also known as Books or The Book of History, is the earliest collection of essays in existence in China. It is a collection of works tracing ancient deeds and serves as a “political textbook” and theoretical basis for China’s rulers to govern their country. Together with the Classic of Poetry 诗经, the Book of Rites 礼记, the Book of Changes 周易 and the Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋, they are called the Five Classics of Confucianism. It has preserved some important historical materials of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties 商代和周代, especially the early Western Zhou Dynasties 西周. Due to war and historical factors, Book of Documents was seriously lost. After finishing, Book of Documents has 58 chapters in total. Book of Documents mainly records the words and deeds of a part of the emperors of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties 夏商周各朝代. Its most striking ideological tendency is to explain the rise and fall of history with the concept of destiny and provide reference for the reality. This concept of destiny has a rational core: one is to respect morality, the other is to respect the people.

The ideas of “rule by virtue 德治” and “rule by the people 民治” in The Book of Documents have deeply influenced later generations. Han Confucianism summed up the experience and lessons of history and advocated equal emphasis on virtue and strength. We should attach importance to morality as well as national strength. China, with a civilization of 5,000 years, should inherit and carry forward the fine tradition of “all nations live in harmony 协和万邦” and build up the image of a moral power in international relations. At the same time, in order to maintain its own dignity and defend national sovereignty, China should also pay attention to the development of corresponding economic and military strength. The people rule advocates attaching importance to and respecting the masses, relying on the masses and being united.

 

A passage written in the Book of Documents

Author of Book of Documents

The Book of Documents is written by anonymous. Anonymous, is the author did not sign, or due to the long time and other reasons. the author’s real name is no basis, or simply can not know who the author is. Others are written by groups or by working people who have been handed down from a long time ago, and the author of such works is identified as anonymous.

Arranged by Confucius and handed down by Fu Sheng 伏生.

Confucius

Confucius (September 28, 551 BC — April 11, 479 BC) was born in Qufu 曲阜 of Shandong province 山东省, his ancestral home in Shangqiu 商丘, Henan Province 河南省.and arranged ancient books such as Book of Documents. Confucius used Book of Documents as a teaching material for his students. In Confucianism, Book of Documents plays an extremely important role.

Fu Sheng 伏生

Fu Sheng is a native of Binzhou City 滨州市, Shandong Province. He is very familiar with the Book of Documents and is a Doctor of Confucianism. In 215 BC, Emperor Qin Shihuang 秦始皇 banned private collection of scriptures, and Fu Sheng hid the Book of Documents in the wall. Later, there were a lot of losses, and only 28 were left, which were transcribed and sorted out and taught between Qi Dynasties 齐国 and Lu Dynasties 鲁国. During the reign of Emperor Wen of the Han Dynasty, the emperor invited Fu Sheng to teach Book of Documents, and scholars praised Fu Sheng for “Rebuilding Book of Documents”.

 

Excerpts From Book of Documents

满招损,谦受益。

COMPLACENCY ABOUT ONE’s ACHIEVEMENTS IS A RECIPE FOR LOSS AND DISASTER.BE MODEST AND ALWAYS CHANGE YOUR SHORTCOMINGS,YOU WILL BENEFIT FROM THIS.

爱人者兼其屋上之乌,不爱人者及其胥余。

LOVE A MAN THAT EVEN THE CROWS ABOVE HIS HOUSE ARE FOND OF.HATE THAT MAN,EVEN THE WALLS OF HIS VILLAGE ARE DISGUSTING.

天道酬勤,厚德载物。

GOD WILL REWARD THE INDUSTRIOUS ACCORDING TO YOUR EFFORTS.LIKE THE EARTH, TI CAN SUSTAIN ALL LIVING THINGS.

Evaluation of Book of Documents

The Book of Documents is one of the most important classics in ancient China. In the history of classical studies, it has become the beginning of debates in modern and ancient literature.

Chen Mengjia 陈梦家

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