Four Books

The Analects, Book of Mencius, Great Learning and Doctrine of the Mean have been the central texts for the Confucian tradition since the 12th century, when the Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi (1130-1200) grouped them together as the Four Books. They gained the status of orthodoxy in 1313, when the imperial house designated them as the basis of China’s civil service examinations. For the next six centuries, Neo-Confucian interpretations of these texts would play a leading role in shaping the religious, philosophical, and political discourse of East Asia.