"Ta HsA1/4eh" (Daxue) and Chung Yung (Zhongyong) are two of the central texts of early Chinese thought, encapsulating the Confucian philosophy of the Way of moral cultivation and spiritual attainment. Traditionally held to be the work of two of Confuciusas closest disciples, the books were compiled in their present form late in the second or first century bce and have occupied a central position in educational, political, and cultural life throughout East Asia for almost a thousand years. The texts focus on the connection between internal self-cultivation and the external realization of oneas moral core in the fulfillment of the practical aims of Confucian life: the observance of ritual, the proper conduct of personal relationships, and the grand enterprise of maintaining order in the state and the world.
Set alongside "The Analects and Mencius", these two texts make up the "Four Books" of Chinese Confucian tradition. Their depiction of the "Way of Great Learning" focues on the moral tenets of Confucian thinking, establishing a universal framework that links individuals with the cosmos. By drawing together key ethical and philosophical and metaphysical issues, the essays deal with the individual's development of moral character. They have long occupied a central position in the educational and political infrastructure of China, Korea and Japan, and their influence and popularity continues to grow, in the East and in the West.
ANDREW PLAKS is Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University. He has published widely on Chinese philosophy and religion. XINZHONG YAO is Professor of Religion & Ethics at the University of Wales, Lampeter.
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