Original Analects Supplement
LY 12

Passages: 1

Prefatory Note. Let's assume we know nothing about the Analects, and are examining it for the first time. On casual inspection, we notice that this chapter and the next are similar in being much concerned with statecraft, and that they stand out within the Analects as concentrating on that subject. It is obvious that they are close to each other in spirit, and thus presumably also in date. But what is the date? We may reformulate the question in this way: Are LY 12-13 closer to LY 4-9 (considered to represent the 05th century) or to the chapters of the Gwandz which Rickett has identified as the earliest in that statecraft collection, and dated to the 04th century? Never mind the decade: just the century would be nice to know for sure. The verbal overlaps and thematic continuities between LY 12-13 and the Gwandz chapters in question (TOA p226-229) would seem to decide this question in favor of an 04c date. A similar question arises, this time for the 03rd century, with the contacts between the Tswei Shu chapters of the Analects and the writings of Sywndz; see several of our notes to LY 17. Those who like to think of the Analects as entirely reflecting the time of Confucius have never confronted these arguments.

12:1. This very important passage is discussed at some length in our Word Philology paper (2001). One term on which the meaning of the crucial first line turns is fu, usually translated as "return," but rendered by us in this passage as "turn." We note additionally that the word fu does not always imply a return from a destination reached. In the Spring and Autumn chronicle (whose entries cover the 08th through early 05th centuries), it is several times used of a journey which is abandoned short of its intended destination. That is also its sense in Hexagram 24 of the Yi ("Book of Changes"), where the successive images show the protagonist abandoning a traveling party at various stages in its journey. No stigma attaches to this, in the Yi text; on the contrary, it usually brings success. The sense of fu in LY 12:1 is of turning to a place you may have never been, but in which you are most properly at home; a conversion, but a conversion to a view or a pattern of action which is ultimately more right for you than the one you were previously pursuing.

The synonym gwei, used in the second line of 12:1 (and also translated "turn") also has the meaning "return," but it sometimes simply means "go." It is frequently used in the Shr ("Book of Songs") of a girl going as a bride to her new home, the place she has never yet been, but the place in which she can most completely fulfil herself, to which she will thereafter always belong, to whose ancestors she will sacrifice, and where she will in turn receive the sacrifices of her descendants. The philosophical phrase gwei yi ("come to the same thing; are at bottom the same") has the same nuance. In DDJ 16, cited in our original note, we have both words: fu/gwei chi gvn "return to its root." According to our separate study of the DDJ, that DDJ passage was written at about the same time as LY 12. The idea of returning to basics, or of discovering basics for the first time, was very much in the air in this period.

Finally, the argument over sying "nature" in the Mencius has a similar paradox. Nature is what you most deeply are, but it also needs to be cultivated in order to arrive at its full realization, and an individual may require something like an act of conversion in order to take up that cultivation. The root of that Mencian doctrine of the self is to be found here in LY 12:1. We have remarked in the headnote to LY 12 that Mencius himself was probably still associated with the Analects school at the time this chapter was written, and may have had a hand in writing it. The connection is thus not fortuitous, but in all probability historical.


This Supplement is Copyright © 2001- by E Bruce and A Taeko Brooks

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