100 books like Understanding the Analects of Confucius

By Peimin Ni,

Here are 100 books that Understanding the Analects of Confucius fans have personally recommended if you like Understanding the Analects of Confucius. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Who am I?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

In this deeply personal book, philosopher Amy Olberding shows how ancient Confucians can help us to grasp the centrality of manners and civility to good lives today. The book has important lessons for anyone who has ever struggled to be politeor wondered whether it's worth the bother. It’s also frequently hilarious. 

By Amy Olberding,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wrong of Rudeness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a time of fractious politics, being rude can feel wickedly gratifying, while being polite can feel simple-minded or willfully naive. Do manners and civility even matter now? Is it worthwhile to make the effort to be polite? When rudeness has become routine and commonplace, why bother? When so much of public and social life with others is painful and bitterly acrimonious, why should anyone be polite?

As Amy Olberding argues, civility and ordinary politeness are linked both to big values, such as respect and consideration, and to the fundamentally social nature of human beings. Being polite is not just…


Book cover of Ethical Excellence: Philosophers, Psychologists, and Real-Life Exemplars Show Us How to Achieve It

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Who am I?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

Giebel succeeds brilliantly at the challenging task of weaving together ancient philosophical insight from both East and West, modern psychological research, and stories from the lives of exemplary individuals. Each strand of the book expands on and reinforces the others: Confucians fill out gaps in Socratic theory, and vice versa; psychologists test, tweak, and confirm ancient theories; and contemporary lives give richness and realism to the ideals. The whole tapestry, conveyed in Giebel’s lovely, accessible prose, is nothing short of a master class in how to cultivate a better, more meaningful life for oneself and all those for whom one cares.

By Heidi M. Giebel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ethical Excellence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do some people achieve ethical excellence while others fail? For example, how did Gloria Lewis overcome a lifetime of difficulty and go on to found a non-profit focused on feeding the homeless while Danny Starrett, despite a seemingly ideal childhood, became a rapist and murderer? Why did some Germans rescue their Jewish neighbors while others stood by?

One recent study found that four personal variables, taken together, differentiated Nazi-era bystanders from rescuers with startling 96.1% accuracy: social responsibility, altruistic moral reasoning, empathic concern, and risk-taking-traits related to ethical excellences (virtues) like justice, benevolence, and courage. Drawing from the combined…


Book cover of Learning to Be a Sage: Selections from the Conversations of Master Chu, Arranged Topically

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Who am I?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

Zhu Xi (also written Chu Hsi; 1130-1200 C.E.) was among the very greatest Confucians both as theorist and as teacher. I love how contemporary his concerns seem; when he worries about students who are "just hurrying through the texts, reading for their literal meaning and taking little pleasure in them," he might as well be talking about most of us today. In Gardner’s fluid translation, Zhu’s millennium-old ideas about how and why to learn—ultimately aimed at becoming a “sage”—turn out to be remarkably relevant. 

By Chu Hsi, Daniel K. Gardner (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Learning to Be a Sage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Students and teachers of Chinese history and philosophy will not want to miss Daniel Gardner's accessible translation of the teachings of Chu Hsi (1130-1200)--a luminary of the Confucian tradition who dominated Chinese intellectual life for centuries. Homing in on a primary concern of our own time, Gardner focuses on Chu Hsi's passionate interest in education and its importance to individual development. For hundreds of years, every literate person in China was familiar with Chu Hsi's teachings. They informed the curricula of private academies and public schools and became the basis of the state's prestigious civil service examinations. Nor was Chu's…


Book cover of Confucianism in China: An Introduction

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Who am I?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

Most books on the history of Confucianism are dry and concentrated on the earliest period, during and soon after Confucius lived. I’m not saying Confucius himself wasn’t important, but the greatness of Tony Swain’s book is that it manages to be both fascinating and engaging, even occasionally snarky, while also bringing the story of Confucianism all the way up to the twenty-first century. If you want to think about Confucianism as something important today, it helps to understand the evolving ways the tradition has been lived throughout the centuries. 

By Tony Swain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Confucianism in China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This accessible history of Confucianism, or the 'Way of the Ru', emphasizes the religious dimensions of the tradition. It clearly explains the tradition's unique and subtle philosophical ideals as well as the 'arts of the Ru' whereby seemingly simple acts such as reading, sitting quietly, good manners, and attending to family and state responsibilities, became ways of ultimate transformation.

This book explains the origins of the Ru and documents their impact in imperial China, before providing extensive coverage of the modern era. Confucianism in China: An Introduction shows how the long history of the Ru is vital to comprehending China…


Book cover of The Analects of Confucius: The Books of Confucian Wisdom

Yijie Zhuang Author Of 24 Hours in Ancient China: A Day in the Life of the People Who Lived There

From my list on history and environmental history of China.

Who am I?

I'm an archaeologist that is primarily interested in understanding ancient history of water. I have conducted fieldwork in China, Southeast Asia, and Africa. In my spare time, I enjoy writing novels (though never published any yet). This 24 Hours in Ancient China is a trial from this hobbit. I first became fascinated by Han China through a remarkable excavation at the Sanyangzhuang site where an almost intact Han-Dynasty farming village was preserved due to a Yellow River flood. Houses, mills, farming fields, and many other artefacts were revealed through the excavation. Subsequently, I was fortunate to be involved in some collaborative research on the environment and society of Han China. 

Yijie's book list on history and environmental history of China

Yijie Zhuang Why did Yijie love this book?

Lunyu is another ancient masterpiece that has withstood the test of time. The book contains primarily sayings and ideas of Confucius and his contemporaries. It is arguably, the most influential Confucius cannon that is still extremely influential. The chapters are being regularly taught at all levels of school. It provides the most unique perspective to understand the philosophy, politics, ideology, and many other aspects of ancient and contemporary Chinese societies. 

By Confucius, James Legge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Analects of Confucius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the long river of human history, if one person can represent the civilization of a whole nation, it is perhaps Master Kong, better known as Confucius in the West. If there is one single book that can be upheld as the common code of a whole people, it is perhaps Lun Yu, or The Analects. Surely few individuals in history have shaped their country's civilization more profoundly than Master Kong. The great Han historiographer, Si-ma Qian, writing
2,100 years ago said, "He may be called the wisest indeed!" And, as recently as 1988, at a final session of the…


Book cover of The Analects of Confucius

Alan E. Johnson Author Of Reason and Human Ethics

From my list on a rational approach to ethics.

Who am I?

Since I was a teenager, I have thought about the connection between reason and ethics. This preoccupation was present during my formal education (A.B. and A.M., University of Chicago; J.D., Cleveland State University), during my three decades as a practicing lawyer, and, finally, as an independent philosopher during more than a decade of retirement from law practice. My book Reason and Human Ethics is the culmination of my reflection about this philosophical issue. The books I have recommended have been among those references that have been most helpful to me in formulating my own conclusions, though my own views are not identical with those of any other writing.

Alan's book list on a rational approach to ethics

Alan E. Johnson Why did Alan love this book?

The Analects of Confucius are a treasure trove of ancient ethical wisdom. Without explicitly discussing reason, as it came to be known in the West, Confucius’s maxims were implicitly based on reason and moderation. He articulated the concept of the ethical mean (avoiding both excess and deficiency) about 150 years before Aristotle taught a similar concept. He expressed the principle of the Golden Rule hundreds of years before Jesus, though other thinkers had formulated it even earlier. Much of what Confucius said had to do with ritual and political matters unique to his time and place. However, some of his ethical sayings are as true today as they were when he first uttered them millennia ago. In reading and reflecting upon them, I was struck by their contemporary relevance.

By Confucius, Simon Leys (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Analects of Confucius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this terse, brilliant translation, Simon Leys restores the human dimension to Confucius. He emerges a full-blooded character with a passion for politics and a devotion to the ideals of a civilization he saw in decline. Leys's notes draw Confucius into conversation with the great thinkers of the Western tradition. In all, this volume provides new readers the perfect introduction to a classic work.


Book cover of Three Kingdoms: A Historical Novel

Olivia Milburn Author Of Kingdoms in Peril, Volume 1: The Curse of the Bao Lords

From my list on epic historical narratives from around the world.

Who am I?

I am a translator specializing in Chinese historical novels, and also an academic researching marginalized groups in Chinese history—ethnic minorities, the disabled, people with mental health issues, and so on. The treatment of marginalized people tells you a lot about what is going on within mainstream society. I’ve always been interested in stories about people from distant times and places, and I have a particular love of long sagas, something that you can really get your teeth into. Kingdoms in Peril covers five hundred years of history: I translated this for my own enjoyment and was surprised when I realized that I’d managed to write 850,000 words for fun!

Olivia's book list on epic historical narratives from around the world

Olivia Milburn Why did Olivia love this book?

If I were ever going to be marooned on a desert island, and was only allowed one book, this would be my choice.

Three Kingdoms is a book worth rereading, in fact, this is something you can spend the rest of your life thinking about. This epic account of the fall of the Han dynasty has everything—political scheming, great battle scenes, tragic love stories, double and triple-crossing, heroes and villains, bravery and cowardice, and best of all, these are real people, and their choices and failings have real-life consequences, some of which we are still living with today.

By Guanzhong Luo, Moss Roberts (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Kingdoms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A material epic with an astonishing fidelity to history."-New York Times Book Review

Three Kingdoms tells the story of the fateful last reign of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), when the Chinese empire was divided into three warring kingdoms. Writing some twelve hundred years later, the Ming author Luo Guanzhong drew on histories, dramas, and poems portraying the crisis to fashion a sophisticated, compelling narrative that has become the Chinese national epic. This abridged edition captures the novel's intimate and unsparing view of how power is wielded, how diplomacy is conducted, and how wars are planned and fought. As…


Book cover of The Cambridge Illustrated History of China

Yang Ye Author Of Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p'in Anthology

From my list on understanding China.

Who am I?

I am a Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Riverside. I was brought up in the family of a Chinese poetry scholar. Arriving in the States for my graduate studies at Harvard in 1982, I have engaged myself in academia here ever since. Acutely aware of, and deeply fascinated by, the cultural similarities and differences of China and the West, I have continued my learning experience, in my thirty years of college teaching, often from direct exchanges with my students. The books on my list of recommendations include both required texts chosen for my courses, and those I want to share with what Virginia Woolf called the Common Reader.

Yang's book list on understanding China

Yang Ye Why did Yang love this book?

Enriched by more than 200 pictures, mostly in color, as well as maps and line drawings, it is an illuminating and succinct account of Chines civilization from prehistoric times through the rise of the “Three Teachings” (Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism) to the modern communist state. As someone who taught a popular undergraduate college course on Chinese civilization for many years, I can testify that the overall length (384 pages) of the book and its structure of 12 chapters plus an epilogue make it a perfect choice of required texts.

By Patricia Buckley Ebrey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cambridge Illustrated History of China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

More populous than any other country on earth, China also occupies a unique place in our modern world for the continuity of its history and culture. In this sumptuously illustrated single-volume history, now in its second edition, noted historian Patricia Buckley Ebrey traces the origins of Chinese culture from prehistoric times to the present. She follows its development from the rise of Confucianism, Buddhism, and the great imperial dynasties to the Mongol, Manchu, and Western intrusions and the modern communist state. Her scope is phenomenal - embracing Chinese arts, culture, economics, society and its treatment of women, foreign policy, emigration,…


Book cover of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao

Jennifer Lin Author Of Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family

From my list on history of Christianity in China.

Who am I?

I come from a long line of Chinese Christians. My grandfather, the Rev. Lin Pu-chi, was an Ivy League-educated Anglican minister, and my grandmother’s brother was Watchmen Nee, a leading Chinese Christian whose legacy lives on around the world. Library shelves are filled with books by missionaries. But where are the stories of the Chinese people they encountered? That’s the starting point for my family memoir, which spans five generations, starting with the first convert, a fisherman from Fujian. These are the books I relied on to place the family story into the broader context of what was happening in China from the period after the Opium Wars until today.

Jennifer's book list on history of Christianity in China

Jennifer Lin Why did Jennifer love this book?

Let’s start in the present and work backward. And for a look at religion in China today, there is no better authority than Ian Johnson, journalist, author, and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. I knew Ian back in the 1990s when we were both newspaper correspondents in Beijing. Since then, he’s plumbed the depths of the spiritual awakening in China since 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution. In The Souls of China, he examines not just the rise of Christianity through the house church movement, but also explores the revival of interest in Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.

By Ian Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Souls of China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Masterfully opens up a little explored realm: how the quest for religion and spirituality drives hundreds of millions of Chinese' Pankaj Mishra

'A fascinating odyssey ... a nuanced group portrait of Chinese citizens striving for non-material answers in an era of frenetic materialism' Julia Lovell, Guardian

'The reappearance and flourishing of religion is perhaps the most surprising aspect of the dramatic changes in China in recent decades...this is a beautiful, moving and insightful book' Michael Szonyi

In no society on Earth was there such a ferocious attempt to eradicate all trace of religion as in modern China. But now, following…


Book cover of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Author Of Even Greater Mistakes

From my list on short stories that could change your life.

Who am I?

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which Time Magazine listed as one of the hundred best fantasy novels of all time. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night, Victories Greater than Death, and Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. She organizes the long-running spoken word series Writers With Drinks, helps to organize tours of local bookstores, and also co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, Slate, and the Boston Review.

Charlie's book list on short stories that could change your life

Charlie Jane Anders Why did Charlie love this book?

This story collection is mind-blowing in the best way. As its name suggests, a lot of the stories in this book deal with immigrants, including Chinese people who've immigrated to the United States, but also rural people who've migrated to cities. Chai's characters are struggling to balance traditional Confucian values with postmodern urban existence, and a lot of these stories feature tensions between different generations in a single-family. The best story is probably the award-winning "Fish Boy," in which a boy moves from the Chinese countryside to the big city and ends up working at a seafood restaurant whose offerings sound pretty unappetizing. Chai is brilliant at picking up on the subtle nuances of damaged families, and every one of these stories hits home.

By May-Lee Chai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Useful Phrases for Immigrants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the title story of this timely and innovative collection, a young woman wearing a Prada coat attempts to redeem a coupon for plastic storage bins while her in-laws are at home watching the Chinese news and taking her private phone calls. It is the lively and wise juxtaposition of cultures, generations, and emotions that characterize May-lee Chai's amazing stories. Within them, readers will find a complex blend of cultures spanning China, the Chinese diaspora in America, and finally, the world at large.

With luminous prose and sharp-eyed observations, Chai reveals her characters' hopes and fears, and our own: a…


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