The Original Analects
E Bruce and A Taeko Brooks

Columbia 1998

This book was the first detailed presentation of a portion of Bruce and Taeko's larger theory of the dates and interrelations of the Warring States texts.

1. The Original Analects comes at the end of a long line of Chinese and Japanese as well as Western scholarly findings, all of which tend to show that the Analects is not a simple sayings collection of authentic Confucius sayings, but an accretional school text with a time depth of more than two centuries.

2. The first recognition of layers in the Analects is due to Hu Yin (Sung dynasty) and Itô Jinsai (Japanese; 1627-1705), who distinguished the first ten chapters from the last ten. An advanced position was reached by Tswei Shu (1760-1815), who established with detailed arguments the relative lateness of the final portion of the texts, LY 16-20, within the Hu/Itô late layer. Arthur Waley (British; 1889-1966) similarly isolated a very early layer, LY 3-9, within the Hu/Itô early layer. It remained for Timoteus Pokora (Czech; 1928-1985) to point out that all these theories were mutually compatible, and led to an accretion model of the text. The last step has been taken by ourselves: We find that each of the supposed "chapters" of the Analects is in fact a separate accretion layer, and using evidence in each chapter, we place the accretion model in real time. It spans 230 years, from the death of Confucius (some of whose sayings form the core of the work) to the conquest of Lu (which interrupted the composition of the still abortive chapter LY 20). In effect, the chapters isolated by Tswei Shu turn out to be simply the 03rd century portion of the Analects. (For a slightly more detailed explanation of the methodology employed, see Taeko's 1995 AAS/NE lecture).

3. The Analects, then, is not in its entirety a collection of Confucius sayings, though it has such a collection at its core. The rest of the text is an implicit history of the Confucian School of Lu, a fantastically valuable document who existence, right in front of our eyes, no one had previously suspected.

4. These and other arguments are contained in the Appendices, with which scholars should begin. In the first part of the book is a complete translation, closer to both the style and meaning of the text than any previous one, plus a commentary in which each passage is explained in terms that may be more familiar to modern readers. No attempt is made to adapt the text itself to modern sensibilities, or to impose a modern agenda on it. The Analects is left as far as possible just as it was on the day when the Chu army marched into the capital of Lu, and the then head of the Analects school hid the house text in a wall and plastered it over, before escaping out the window to another state, where in time he became a high minister.

Tests of a Theory

The ultimate test of a historical proposal is ihistorical plausibility. There are many ways in which this view of the Analects makes sense out of what we actually find in the text. Here are some of them.

1. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Analects as it is revealed in this work is the intimate way in which the text engages rival opinions. Some examples are given in Appendix 3; the rest are contained in the notes to individual passages. From the early Legalists of Chi (whose position is preserved in the oldest chapters of the Gwandz) to the escapist stance of the later Dauists (whose justifications will be found in the "Inner" chapters of the Jwangdz), or from the pragmatism of the sub-elite Micians to the intuitionism of the renegade followers of Mencius, the Analects people take it all in, and add to the Analects text itself new position papers for their side of these issues. No one has ever explained how the historical Confucius could have known of these later philosophies.

2. The Analects, read in chronological order as here proposed, also shows the early stages in the construction of the Confucian myth, by which Confucius became an ever more precocious child and an ever more consequential adult. It is not Confucius, but his increasingly bookish and increasingly influential followers over the centuries, who are reflected in these stories.

3. This view of the Analects also incorporates many isolated but cogent observations made by previous scholars, over the centuries. Those observations did not themselves lead to a solution of the text, but they did focus attention on problems which any proposed solution must explain. Among them are:

All these problems are solved by the layer theory of the text presented in this book. All the problems arise in the first place from the difficulty of harmonizing the "Confucius" of different layers as a single person. "Confucius," over the course of the Analects, is in fact several different people: the founder as repeatedly mythologized to meet the changing needs of his successor school.


The epochal nature of this book, in inaugurating a new and rigorous way of understanding early China, and a new way of approaching the early Chinese texts, has not been missed by reviewers; see a selection of such Comments, or a list of known Reviews.

Not everyone who is caught in the middle of a paradigm shift is comfortable with that shift, and there have been negative reactions as well as positive ones, chiefly from those who want to use a traditional view of the Analects Confucius as a basis for propagandizing in the modern world. To some of the complaints, we have put on record our Responses.


No book on the Analects can be a complete account of the Analects, and any new theory of the text will need to be fine-tuned as study of the text continues. We have therefore created a space at this site in which slips are corrected, interpretations are reconsidered, questions are answered, and new findings are accommodated. It is the Supplement to The Original Analects.

Original Text

For a complkete copy of teh book (with some typograhpical errors silently corrected), please see here. Appended is a recent interview with the authors.


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