Original Analects Supplement
LY 17

Passages: 8a 16 18

Prefatory Note. Many of the notes to this and the surrounding chapters point out that this part of the Analects is in dialogue with, or aware of, several main tendencies of 03c thought. In LY 17, the most obvious of those tendencies are the viewpoints of Sywndz and the Mencian school. These connections not only validate Tswei Shu's conclusion that all of LY 16-20 are relatively late (which is widely conceded), they help to establish an idea of just how late they are (a thing which Tswei Shu never did). The contacts with Sywndz alone decisively put LY 17 in the 03rd century.

17:8a. As noted in our original comment, justifying the study of the Shr by pointing out that in the course of it you learn the names of a lot of birds and animals always gets a laugh among modern students of the Shr. May this passage not have been a little bit wry even in the original? We reason as follows: The great champion of the Shr in the 03rd century was Sywndz, and the Han glossaries on hard words in the Shr (including the names of birds and animals) go back, as Karlgren has shown, to the school of Sywndz. In Sywndz, as also in the post-Mencian school, there is a strong preference for civilization, symbolized by men, and a horror of wild nature, symbolized by animals. Might the 17:8a comment be meant to suggest that in studying the Shr, with its sometimes lewd human behavior (represented in discourse on the Shr by the "songs of Jvng"), one is opening the door to animal instincts and thus, paradoxically, to a loss of civilized values? In favor of this suggestion is the more open denunciation of precisely the "songs of Jvng" in 17:16, later in this chapter. More generally, we may note that citation of lines from the Shr as moral lessons, though we meet it in the 04c Analects, is not a feature of the 03c Analects. That use of the Shr was being pushed elsewhere in the contemporary Confucian scene. For the Analects people, the negative moral examples in the Shr seem to have been a permanent problem that could not be solved within the limits of practical hermeneutics.

17:16. Here perhaps is the disapproving statement about the "Jvng songs" that puts 17:8a in perspective, on the issue of the safety and desirability of the Shr as a textbook of popular morals. Note that it is overt, and not (as we now suggest for 17:8a itself) understated and sardonic. In light of this suggestion, we may now wish to recall that Confucius's question to his son in 16:13 does not imply that, as of that date, the Shr any longer formed a very vital or central part of the Lu school curriculum. They, and for that matter the Rituals, figure rather as extras which are valuable in the practical arena of court life, but were no longer regarded as a basis for moral self-cultivation. See also our Note on the Shr.

We should add that the term bang-jya in this passage, which we translated as "states and families," is better read as a variant of the recent political term gwojya, not in the sense of "states and [great] families" but rather as "the State," in the sense of the modern nation-state. The term gwojya was not used by Mencius, whose political vocabulary was fully formed by 0320. It is first found in the latest layers of the Dzwo Jwan (c0312), and was subsequently picked up by the southern or statecraft wing of the posthumous Mencian movement (but not its northern or philosophical wing, with which the Analects people were more closely in touch). Probably the use of bangjya for gwojya is meant to give a more archaic flavor to the concept, and so avoid a feeling of anachronism. See also 19:25.

17:18. The playing of personal music figures in LY *11:24, which we have tentatively dated to c0294, as an anti-office statement. If 17:18 is aware of, and alluding to, this earlier passage, then the message of Confucius's music is not merely that he is after all well, and that the excuse of "sickness" is really a refusal to see the messenger, but more specifically that what is rejected is after all an offer of official position (as is more explicitly the case in 17:1). The linkage to 17:17 remains the common element of nonverbal reply, but on this interpretation 17:18 fits more completely into the anti-office position of the chapter generally. We now prefer this interpretation to the one given in TOA.

Reflections. On the Mencius 6 / Sywndz 23 debate on human nature, see now Robins Debate (2001), which shows in detail that the Sywndz essay is not monolothic, as had always been supposed, but was instead composed in steps; it is in fact the Sywndz half of a debate in real time with the Mencians, in which both sides continually emended their position in response to the arguments of the other.


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

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