Wednesday, September 20, 2006

“Xue” in the Analects of Confucius

“Xue” is one of the central themes of the Analects of Confucius. To understand what is study we must first look at Confucius’ teaching. It can give us an idea about what he thought of as important.

Confucius, also known as the Great Teacher, is said to have taught altogether three thousand students, seventy of whom truly mastered his arts. Confucius was willing to teach anyone, whatever their social standing, as long as they were eager and tireless. “In instruction, there is no such thing as social classes.” (The Analects of Confucius 15.39) At his time, education was an extravagance not everyone could afford. Confucius did not just accept students from various social status, he accepted them with no regard of tuition: “I have never failed to instruct students who, using their own resources, could only afford a gift of dried meat.”

He taught his students morality, proper speech, government, and the refined arts. While he also emphasized the “Six Arts” -- ritual, music, archery, chariot-riding, calligraphy, and computation -- it is clear that he regarded morality the most important subject. It is not only one of the most-discussed subjects in the Analects of Confucius, it also appears as an evaluation standard as to whether someone is well educated or not: “ As for persons who care for character much more than beauty, who in serving their parents are able to exert themselves utterly, who give their whole person in the serve of their ruler, and who, in interactions with colleagues and friends, make good on their word – even if it were said of such persons that they are unschooled, I would insist that they are well educated indeed.” (1.7)

Besides Confucius’ broad content of teaching, his teaching methods are also one of a kind. He never discoursed at length on a subject. Instead he posed questions, cited passages from the classics, or used apt analogies, and waited for his students to arrive at the right answers. “I do not open the way for students who are not driven with eagerness; I do not supply a vocabulary for students who are not trying desperately to find the language for their ideas. If on showing students one corner they do not come back to me with the other three, I will not repeat myself.” (The Analects of Confucius 7.8).

From above, we could see Confucius’ teaching was broad: a large and mixed student body, a wide range of subjects, and individualized teaching method. We can further deduce that “xue” in the Analects of Confucius is for everybody, yet deferent from individual to individual; it should cover a wide range of knowledge, especially the general moral code. That include the how to deal with relationships with parents, siblings, teachers, and others, how to face hardship and difficulties in life, how to find The Way, and how to achieve Authoritative Conduct. Therefore, Confucius saw “xue” an essential path to a person’s development.

Confucius accentuated the importance of learning by saying without learning, even the desirable qualities in a person would have flaws. “The flaw in being fond of acting authoritatively without equal regard for learning is that you will be easily duped; the flaw in being fond of acting wisely without equal regard for learning is that it leads to self-indulgence; the flaw in being fond of making good on one’s word without equal regard for learning is that it leads one into harm’s way; the flaw in being fond of candor without equal regard for learning is that it leads to rudeness; the flaw in being fond of boldness without equal regard for learning is that it leads to unruliness; the flaw in being fond of firmness without equal regard for learning is that it leads to rashness.” (17.8) It means that to form a well-rounded virtuous person, learning is indispensable, and only through learning can one “promote their way” (19.7).

Another thing Confucius emphasized is the zeal for learning and the commitment one must make to truly love learning. He was very proud of his own love for learning saying most people “can’t compare with me in the love of learning” (5.28). Love for learning is also one of the most important if not the single criteria for a student if they wish to study under Confucius, as he said “I do not open the way for students who are not driven with eagerness; I do not supply a vocabulary for students who are not trying desperately to find the language for their ideas.” (7.8)

Only if the students have the love for learning can they get closer to being well educated, but that’s just a beginning. According to Confucius, a well educated person is one who “care for character much more than beauty, who in serving their parents are able to exert themselves utterly, who give their whole person in the serve of their ruler, and who, in interactions with colleagues and friends, make good on their word” (1.7). This means learning is not just on technical levels, but goes onto moral levels. Learning perfects a person’s inner self, and since the perfection of human moralities is infinite, learning is also infinite. It’s a life-span process.

In conclusion, “xue”, according to the Analects of Confucius, is the essential and individualized access to The Way that includes learning of concrete knowledge as well as moral codes, acquires one’s devotion and commitment, and should be available to anyone.


First assignment of the Chinese Classics, I haven't read a more disorganized piece before;) Anyway, to pull this out is already amazing... Fortunately, it's not graded. But the next time will be... That's scary...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Top 10 Important Contemporary Authors Alive Today

From Mark Flanagan,
Your Guide to Literature: Contemporary.

While it is impossible to rank the most important authors in contemporary literature, here is a list of ten important (English language) authors with some biographical notes and links to more information about them and their work.

1) Isabel Allende
Chilean-American author Isabel Allende wrote her debut novel, House of Spirits to great acclaim in 1982. The novel began as a letter to her dying grandfather and is a work of magical realism charting the history of Chile. Allende began writing House of Spirits on January 8th, and subsequently has begun all her books on that day.

2) Margaret Atwood
Canadian author Margaret Atwood has numerous critically-acclaimed novels to her credit, most recently Oryx and Crake and The Penelopiad (2005). She is known for her feminist themses, but her prolific output of work spans both form and genre.

3) Jonathan Franzen
Winner of the National Book Award for his 2001 novel, The Corrections, and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker magazine, Jonathan Franzen is also the author of a 2002 books of essays entitled How to Be Alone and a 2006 memoir, The Discomfort Zone.

4) Ian McEwan
British writer Ian McEwan started winning literary awards with his first book, First Love, Last Rites (1976) and never stopped. Atonement (2002) won several awards and is being made into a movie, and Saturday (2005) won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

5) David Mitchell
English novelist David Mitchell is known for his tendency toward experimental structure. In his first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), he uses nine narrators to tell the story and 2004's Cloud Atlas is a novel comprised of six interconnected stories. Mitchell won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Ghostwritten, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas, and is on the Booker longlist for Black Swan Green (2006).

6) Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987) was named best novel of the past 25 years in a 2006 New York Times Book Review survey. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, and Toni Morrison, whose name has become synonymous with African American literature, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

7) Haruki Murakami
Son of a Buddhist priest, Japanese author Haruki Murakami first struck a chord with A Wild Sheep Chase in 1982, a novel steeped in the genre of magical realism which he would make his own over the coming decades. Murakami's most popular work among Westerners is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, though 2005's Kafka on the Shore met with success in this country, as well. The English version of Murakami's most recent novel, After Dark, is slated for release in 2007.

8) Philip Roth
Philip Roth seems to have won more book awards than any other American writer alive. Most recently he won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for The Plot Against America (2005) and a PEN/Nabokov Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. In Everyman (2006), Roth's 27th novel, he sticks to one of his familiar themes: what it's like growing old Jewish in America.

9) Zadie Smith
Literary Critic James Wood coined the term "hysterical realism" in 2000 to describe Zadie Smith's hugely successful debut novel, White Teeth, which Smith agreed was a "painfully accurate term for the sort of overblown, manic prose to be found in novels like my own White Teeth." Her third novel, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.

10) John Updike
Terrorist (2006) is the most recent in the twenty-some novels John Updike has to his credit. His four Rabbit Angstrom novels were named in 2006 among the best novels of the past 25 years in a New York Times Book Review survey.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

China Open

Grace got two tickets to China Open today, Nikolay Davydenko playing Gergorc. To tell the truth, I've never watched a tennis game before in my life. This is the first one, and live. It surely was very impressive.
At first, I was surprised at how clearly I can see the game. I know it sounds stupid, but I always imagined watching tennis is like watch Quidditch in Harry Potter, far from above and with a pair of binoculous. But this is not the case. I can see the players very well. Every step, every swing. It was awesome! And the bonus is, at the end of each game, you have a chance to catch one signed tennis ball:)
I'm kind of really busy these days, so I couldn't write more about this game, not that I have much to say about it. After all, it's just the first tennis game I saw and coincidently today I took my first tennis lesson.
......
I remember yesterday, the professor teaching Western Media Literacy talked about the bad bloggers, write nothing more than eating and drinking daily routines. When I reflected on it later, I found myself inevitably one of these lousy bloggers who has no brain for serious thinking, at least on the web page. So maybe I'll have to write about nonproliferation next time, haha
Ps: He's the most distinguished professor in the university by the way, and also my favorite.