Confucius, From Analects (A1334-1344), "The Classical Tamil Lyric"
Confucius, From Analects (A1334-1344), “The Classical Tamil Lyric”
Read Session 6 Lecture, Confucius (A1330-1334), Confucius, From Analects (A1334-1344), “The Classical Tamil Lyric” (B855-58), Akam Poems (B859-869), and Puram Poems
Answer the question:
The poetry and philosophy of Confucius may remind you of a favorite passage from Proverbs or Song of Solomon. Choose one verse from Proverbs or Song of Solomon similar
in theme or structure to one of the passages of the Analects. How are they similar or different in worldview? How does the scripture speak to you personally?
The passage that stood out to me the most was found in book five and stated, “There was a time when I used to listen to what people said and trusted that they would
act accordingly, but now I listen to what they say and watch what they do” (p. 1336). I think this is a great parallel to Proverbs 21:2 “We justify our actions by our
appearances; God examines our motives” from the message translation of the Bible. This is relevant to everyone, because actions do speak louder than words, but it is
especially relevant to followers of Christ. The Lord has called us to walk in love through deed and truth, not only word or talk according to 1 john 3:18. This speaks
to me personally because the Lord used me, as well as others, to show my husband the love of the Lord through our actions, which eventually led him to accept Jesus.
Session 6 – Chinese and Indian LiteratureLecture: “Introduction to Confucius”
Significance of Confucius
We will shift our focus from European/Western Literature for the moment to study two ancient Eastern cultures: China and India. We will look first at the excerpts from
the Analects. The word Analects means “sayings,” and the Analects are sayings attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.C.).
Confucius Statue (2011). See information below about the establishment, and removal, of this enormous statue.
Confucius is considered the most influential philosopher in Chinese history. To see portions of a biography on Confucius, check out this link. His influence continues
to this day as Confucius is venerated in many parts of the world. Ceremonies are often held all over the world to mark his birthday… 2,550 and counting!
In his native China, however, recent controversy has surrounded the fate of a 17 ton statue of Confucius, installed in Tiananmen Square in early 2011 (see above). See
this video (http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/160134.html) about the erection of this statue and this news article about its abrupt removal
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/world/asia/23confucius.html. These actions symbolize Confucius’s continued significance, controversial though it may be, in
Main Goals of Confucianism
As your introduction indicates, Confucius’s ideas have profoundly influenced many cultures, especially China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Below are some of the
principal goals expressed through his philosophy.
• Self-cultivation. As your introduction states, Confucius believed, “it is possible to harmonized one’s natural impulses with social norms and thus become an
efficient, harmonious agent in society”(1333).
• Never cease learning. Confucius taught that vice springs from ignorance and that knowledge inevitably leads to virtue.
• Respect hierarchy in both the family and in government. See Analects 12.11: “Let the lord be a lord; the subject a subject; the father a father; the son a
• Practice “proper ritual behavior” (1333). Confucius believed every aspect of our life is filled with ritual, and that rituals “make social life meaningful”
Confucius’s interest in honorable living involved a particular focus on these four virtues:
• Sincerity?people should practice faithfulness and honesty in their interactions with others. Their actions should reflect their pursuit of virtue. From
Analects 1.4: “I examine myself three times a day. When dealing on behalf of others, have I been trustworthy? In intercourse with my friends, have I been faithful?”
• Benevolence?people should show kindness to one another. See Analects 12.2:
Ran Yong asked about humanity. The Master said: “When abroad, behave as if in front of an important guest…What you do not wish for yourself, do not impose upon
others. Let no resentment enter public affairs; let no resentment enter private affairs.”
The sentence above, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not impose upon others,” is sometimes referred to as the “Confucian Golden Rule.” Compare the “Confucian
Golden Rule” to the Golden Rule of the Bible: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). How are these rules similar? How are they different?
• Filial piety?the demonstration of respect for parents and ancestors. Confucius emphasized a man’s role as he relates to others. A man is bound to others
through five key relationships:
1. sovereign and subject
2. parent and child
3. elder and younger brother
4. husband and wife
5. friend and friend
Of these relationships, the filial relationship (that between parent and child) was stressed as being most important. The Analects states, “Nowadays people think they
are dutiful sons when they feed their parents. Yet they also feed their dogs and horses. Unless there is respect, what is the difference?” (2.7).
A young man, in particular, was obligated to show great devotion to his father. Following his father’s death, a son was expected to wear mourning sackcloth for
twenty-seven months and live on very little food, until his body was emaciated. He was also expected to live in a primitive hut near the grave of his father. Confucius
strenuously objected to the suggestion that this mourning period be shortened. This series of rituals might remind you of other texts we have read that similarly
emphasize burial rites (as well as the father/son relationship).
• Propriety?appropriate behavior in all circumstances. See Confucius’ instructions for proper decorum for his male followers in Book X. Notice Confucius’
reprimand of a slovenly student in Analects 14.43:
Yuan Rang sat waiting, with his legs spread wide. The Master said: “A youth who does not respect his elders will achieve nothing when he grows up, and will even try to
shirk death when he reaches old age: he is a parasite.” And he struck him across the shin with his stick.
Do you believe Confucius would find today’s college student properly decorous?
Confucius and Aristotle
TheAnalectscan be compared to the text of Aristotle’sOn Rhetoric. Neither Confucius nor Aristotle, a Greek philosopher of the 4th century B.C., wrote their own
thoughts. It is the followers of these great thinkers who provided us with the texts of their masters.
• Aristotle’s students compiled the text based on notes from lectures, many after his death. As such, the text can be difficult to read because the writing style
shifts, and the organization does not allow a smooth transition in thought.
• The disciples of Confucius also compiled their teacher’s sayings into one text, much of it centuries after his death. His work is also difficult to read
because the sayings are a random compilation of passages and vary in style and structure.
• As Aristotle has had a profound impact on Western philosophy, rhetoric, and worldview, so too has Confucius had a timeless impact on Asian philosophy,
rhetoric, and worldview.
Confucius’ teaching became a code of behavior for many eras of Chinese history. In fact, compare the text to the Book of Proverbs. There are snippets of wisdom in
both, and the reader is meant to apply this wisdom to his or her life.
The Analects reflects the idea that “goodness, ritual and attention to social roles create order in society” (1333). You should hear the echo of this philosophy in the
epics we have studied so far, such as the changing behavior of Gilgamesh. However, do not look for too many similarities in the texts. You should appreciate the unique
features of this ancient Chinese thought.
For this session, read the following:
Confucius, From Analects (A1334-1344)
Tips for Reading:
• Be sure to read the introduction on pages 1330-1334 before you attempt your reading of the Analects. This discussion introduces key points you will need to
understand to appreciate the text.
• Read the Analects as you would the Book of Proverbs. Expect to read some passages more than once in order to reflect on the significance of each word.
• Consider our previous discussions of community and identity. How can you apply these to the Analects?
• Consider why Confucius had a reputation for saying much less than he could. Why is so much of the interpretation of his passages left to the reader? What does
this say about Confucius’s beliefs regarding human nature?
• Keep in mind that the text was written generations after Confucius’s death. What could this imply about the purpose for recording his thoughts?
Lecture: Indian Poetry
We will now turn our attention to literature from India, the classical Tamil lyric. Tamil is a very old language that developed in southern India long before the rise
of the nation-state. The collection of Tamil poetry includes 2,381 poems written by over 500 poets between 150 B.C. and 250 A.D. Don’t panic–we are reading only a
small selection of these poems!
As your introduction mention, there are two kinds of ancient Tamil poetry:
• akam: inner world/private life
• focus on specific moments in a relationship
• puram: outer world/public life
• usually praise of a patron
• anonymity is important
Just as the poets of the Greek classical epics were respected for being mediums through which the Muse (the divine) would speak, the pulavans (Tamil poets) were also
revered. SumathiRamaswamy notes that, unlike the Greek poets, the Tamil poets actually could control the gods: “Verses in Tamil cured fevers, stopped floods, and
impeded enemies. It was a world in which poets, because of their mastery of Tamil, lorded over the gods themselves, and in which celestials vied with each other to win
the affections of the language” (66). There is actually a poem (one we will not read) called “Tamil Dispatched as Messenger to Cokkanatar in Madurai,” which
personifies the Tamil language as a messenger between two lovers. 200 of the 268 verses sing the praises of the messenger, not the lovers, reflecting the great power
attributed to this language and those who spoke it.
Indeed, Tamil and its speakers have had a wide influence in the development of the Indian nation-state, and it is now officially recognized as a classical language.
Tamil is still widely spoken today, and poetry continues to be created in this tongue. What does this say about the social and political power of a language and those
who speak it?
Ramaswamy, Sumathi. Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India,
1891-1970. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Print.
• Make sure you read the introduction beforereading the poetry. Take the time to read this information carefully.
• If you study the symbolism of the poetry, the surface meaning will become obvious, but think deeper into the concepts of self-awareness, identity, power, and
gender reflected in the verses. What do these say about this culture?
• Ask yourself why the poet wrote such varying perspectives of one event or character.
• Think about the poetry in comparison to the characters in our epics. What conclusions can you draw about the values of the culture?
As you read, note how the setting of the poem is often linked to a specific type of content. Your introduction provides you with some examples of the types of Tamil
poems you will see:
• Poems with hilly landscapes usually feature lovers’ meetings
• Seashore poems often feature anxiety and separation
• Wasteland poems suggest deprivation and/or difficult journeys
• Edge of forests often feature happy marriages
• Lowlands often suggest unhappy and even unfaithful marriages
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