The Analects of Confucius

By Arthur Waley

As Dorothy L. Sayers has a woman say in Gaudy Night, once I was a scholar. I went to the University of Leyden to study sinology, capping my studies with an attempt at comparative linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman area. During my five years in Leyden, I acquired, amongst others, this translation of the Analects. I never quite got round to reading it — I always preferred Mencius to Confucius.

  • Author: Arthur Waley
  • Title: The Analects of Confucius
  • Pages: 268
  • Published: 1988 (1938)
  • Publisher: Mandala books (Unwin paperbacks)
  • ISBN: 0-04-440223-6

However, I came across a reference to the Analects in Halssnoer en Kalebas, and besides, the evil sorcerer in my current work-in-progress badly needs some evil underpinning, and I’d already plundered the Pragñâ-pâramitâ-hridaya-sûtra for the underpinnings of the sorcery itself. So I grabbed this handbook for the perfect gentleman. At least, that is the conclusion that follows necessarily from Waley’s argument in the introduction.

Waley is one of the great, grand old men of Sinology. Together with Legge, Couvreur, Needham, Wade and Giles — and Waley has the unique distinction of being a poet, too. (His translation of the Nine Songs is delightful.)

In his introduction, Waley explains that he is translating the texts as they stand, working from the best known version (the textual history of the Confucian classics is confused to say the least. The texts have survived at least one book burning and innumerable edited version.), and not as they were used in the Confucian tradition that developed since the Song dynasty, which was more concerned with finding metaphysical hints in the texts.

His argument is cogent, perhaps a bit arrogantly stated, but very convincing. And then what we’re left with is mostly a Miss Manners for Chinese knights. Which is exactly what Yusham Zizuran needs.