Books That Matter: The Analects of Confucius

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Books that matter: the Analects of Confucius Great course that gives a comprehensive discussion of Confucius and his thought
Date published: 2018-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course In the opening line of the Analects Confucius asks, "Isn't it a pleasure to study and then put into practice what you learn?" After watching this course, the answer is a resounding YES!. This course is an in-depth exploration - by a masterful teacher - of one of the most influential texts in history. The wisdom contained in the Analects is not only interesting from a cultural-historical perspective, but also from a modern day-to-day standpoint. I have found myself returning, again and again, to many of the lessons introduced in this course. Lessons on the value of family, education, character, humility, and leadership. Like the subject of the course, Prof. LaFleur's is a great teacher. His knowledge is thick and interdisciplinary; his energy is contagious; and his delivery is crisp. More than anything, Prof. LaFleur really cares about his work. He approaches the topic with a generous imagination and asks us, his virtual students, to so the same. I hope to see more courses from him in the future. Very happy with this purchase. Xie Xie The Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course was more than a curiosity From a website I ordered a BOOK entitled the “Analects of Confucius” to discover the written interpretation from Chinese (then) into modern English (now) was both vague and ambiguous….with some appearing as nonsense. So I searched the TGC master list and to my delight found this course taught by the very interesting and knowledgably professor (Dr Robert LaFleur) who not only knows how to read & write Chinese but also an in-depth professor who understands the complications of translation, not only from one-to-another, but over long TIME spans & complex culture differences very different than our own. I tip my hat to those professors that spend years ON SITE of the places they are lecturing about…instead of just reading about others’ materials. In regard to this “interpretation issue”, I thought the professor’s spending the first 5-6 chapters covering it was overkill – but as the course unfolded, it made perfect sense. Even with my years of word travel and in-depth understanding of academic & personal eye-witness accounts of the word RITUAL, I was amazed as I listened to an entire chapter devoted to that word. Without this unique perspective, the rich meaning of these Analects would have been lost or diluted. Well done! The good professor is an example of Confucius’ “exemplary person”. Such interpretation of foreign concepts & rituals are certainly relevant today; showing the Asian “hive” mentality compared to the western independent thinker. Of my 65 TGC courses, this is one of those few that gets better the further along you go. If I could summarize into one word, the course is THOROUGH. Besides the Analects, there was discussion of the COUNTER to the sage’s teaching and the counter-to-the-counter. The bottom line is what final IMPACT the teachings of Confucius had on both ancient and current societies. I learned that Confucius was profoundly sincere and adamant about NOT contributing one’s talents & abilities to a corrupt, totalitarian, and murderous government. Despots of the past have tried to eradicate (burn) his teachings to the point of killing off the teachers of Confucius. After the Tiananmen Square massacre, it became obvious it was NOT “The People’s Republic of China” but instead “The Communist Party’s Republic of China”. The journalists that covered the 2008 Olympics referred to “China’s Genocide Olympics” from the atrocities they witnessed around town that nobody saw in the broadcasts. So I wondered how the good professor was going to wrap up the course pertaining to how the people versus their brutal government regarded the teachings of Confucius. He DID answer that question well.
Date published: 2018-08-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from confucius for absolute beginners i didn’t enjoy this course nearly as much as i hoped i would. part of the problem was that i already knew a bit about confucius and had already read some of the analects, something which the guidebook curiously warns against. i still don’t understand that—why should i not read the book i’m studying while i’m studying it? nonetheless i figured that with 24 lectures there would still be enough content to satisfy those of us who weren’t coming to the subject fully green. and while there is some, there’s rather less of it than i expected. one of the reasons for this is that because this course is understandably aimed at people who have no knowledge of chinese civilization, many points are illustrated through extended examples drawn from the modern west. these examples, though helpful, often take up a surprising amount of each lecture. the professor clearly wants to make sure we get it, and so he’ll go over the same point again and again. teaching company courses rarely get me so exasperated that i want to yell at my player, but this happened on multiple occasions here. more than once i reached the end of a lecture with the feeling that the whole half hour consisted of nothing but the same two or three points repeated over and over and over. this tendency is particularly egregious in the middle of the course when he’s discussing the themes of the analects. i can probably make my point best by saying that if you need a full half hour to grasp the concept of remonstrance (lecture 12), then this course is for you. but if that sounds like an excessive amount of time to devote to a subject that’s really not that difficult, then you might well find much of this course as tedious and frustrating as i did. the professor also has a tendency to make big promises—“just follow my method and the secrets of the analects will unlock before your eyes”—of the sort that i’m more used to hearing from advertisers than from educators. i found these interjections distracting, and, since the promised benefits ultimately failed to materialize, they had a tendency to undermine my enthusiasm. in addition he chooses to present confucianism in such a way as to “sell” it to westerners—in other words, “you may have heard that confucius is tired and stodgy, but here’s how he makes sense in the modern world.” there’s obvious merit to this approach, but an unintended consequence is that he comes across as a bit evangelical, even pushy at times. for me personally, i would have preferred a more impartial study, which could still argue the case for confucius while also bringing in a range of critiques. and to be fair we do get some criticism, notably when he covers confucius’s opponents in a few of the later lectures, but we don’t get much; and it was only when i got to the final section of the course that i fully realized that the professor was adopting a deliberate rhetorical strategy of arguing in favour of confucius without necessarily agreeing with all the positions he was articulating. on the plus side, the professor is a very good speaker. his presentation is excellent and he recounts his extended metaphors well. the course is also well organized, and i particularly enjoyed his profiles of some of confucius’ prominent disciples. i found his linguistic discussions both helpful and persuasive, and he does seem to speak chinese quite well. in the end, i never doubted that he was an expert in the subject; i just wanted there to be more content and less filler.
Date published: 2018-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Masterful Explanation! By the time I finally began to read the actual text (in English) of the Analects I was already 75! (Better late than never, right?) Accordingly, many of Confucius' pithy sayings were already familiar to me from a life of reading and societal involvement. So, while I knew some things about Confucius, and had a general understanding of his teachings, I was a bit taken aback when finally encountering the text itself. It is relatively dense, is not organized by subject matter, and the dialogic back and forth, such as there is, often leaves one hanging as to the real point being made. Professor LaFleur is a most knowledgeable -- and energetic -- lecturer. His organized approach and thoroughly enjoyable presentations help the mysterious Analects unfold. In fact, I put aside my own reading of the Analects until I had finished this course, and I am glad that I did. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in the great wisdom that Confucius sought to impart. Much of it -- that devoted to how a truly wise, balanced and good person ought to live and behave -- will sound familiar; in many ways, his teachings strike me as another version of the Way that Jesus taught centuries later. But Confucius was the opposite of being just "an academic"; his teachings were intended to help his students put them into action through governmental service and, in that way, benefit the larger community. At the end of the course, you will not only have a better grasp of the essential lessons in the Analects, but also will have gained a greater knowledge of Confucius as well as of the fraught state of China at the time he lived. This is one of the finest -- of so many excellent -- courses produced by the Teaching Company to date!
Date published: 2018-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! Highly engaging and erudite exploration of the Analects - which by can seem obtuse and pedantic if you simply try to simply read them on your own. Thank you for bringing this text which has been so fundamental and influential to Asia cultures for millennia.
Date published: 2018-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well organized and clearly articulated Enjoyed this presentation. The Analects were a bit hard to go through when reading, but this puts it into much needed perspective. Sometimes you just need some good guidance, and this series is that.
Date published: 2018-04-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting and complex course Wife and I find the course material interesting. Yet we are not yet sure just what difference it makes to our present age.
Date published: 2018-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent discussion of a topic I thought was g Dr. LaSeur brings great knowledge and acumen to discussing what normally would be a banal topic
Date published: 2018-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful discovery This course gave me a completely different understanding of Confucius. To my mind it's useless to read the Analects without the commentaries of this course.
Date published: 2017-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from He should be taught more I had sampled The Analects previously, and found them disjointed and disorganized, a reaction the lecturer notes is common. The course has given me more of an overview as to what Confucius' teachings were about, which will help a lot as I tackle them again. I also think many in our own government could do well to consider this material, particularly the areas of remonstrance and effective governance. I would gladly chip in to a fund to send a few thousand copies of these lectures to Washington if I thought anyone there would listen to them!
Date published: 2017-10-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good. Would appreciate more similar courses Gave me some understanding of the Analects enjoyed the course.
Date published: 2017-10-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lecturer is a Sales Rep for Confucius It seems odd that the lecturer spends so many hours of this course "selling" the ideas of Confucius. If we have found (and bought!) the course, we are likely to already have some interest or appreciation, some expectation that learning more about Confucius' ideas would have value. Would I recommend this course to a friend? Depends on the friend. To someone brand new to Asian history and thought, maybe. To someone with passing knowledge of Confucius, say someone who has taken "From Yao to Mao" from the Great Courses, no. The lecturer spends more time describing his own learning path for Confucius than he does comparing or contrasting Confucius' thought with Western (or Indian) thought, and when he does make comparisons, they are lamentably general. So, overall, I was disappointed in the course. A stern editor could have cut the course to perhaps 6 lectures instead of 24 and had something pretty good, but still not terrific.
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid but quite demanding for a beginner like me The professor spends quite a lot of time explaining the nature of the Analects and that Confucius didn't actually write it. It is based on students' notes. The problem is a bit like that of the surviving records of Aristotle's teaching, but more extreme. The professor's method is quite demanding and subtle but, if the listener sticks with the course, it's very illuminating.
Date published: 2017-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Books that matter: The Analects of Confucius New information with insights about a time and place I knew little about
Date published: 2017-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Analects Explained I read The Analects before getting the course. The course gave the in insight to understand and read Confucius Analects again with better understanding
Date published: 2017-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth your time and money I really enjoyed this course. Dr. LaFleur is enthusiastic, insightful, and thorough. I have not read The Analects yet, but I know I will. And I will review this course when I do. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I wish I were a "Junzi" This is a superb course on a subject matter that could use a bit more attention from The Great Courses. I hope that a similar course on the Dao De Jing is developed, too. This particular course is taught by a scholar of ancient China who seems to have excellent Chinese language skills and a deep understanding of the source material. Confucius is treated competently in other TGC offerings, but not with the depth and specificity on display here. I had read The Analects several times, but I think this would also work for an introduction into that venerable text. I was watching these episodes while eating some cheesecake (it was pretty good) when I said to myself, "this course combines a sensitivity to historical context and a commitment to humanistic studies and applications". The professor explained how the Analects came to be produced in Ancient China, but also pointed out numerous cases in which the lessons of the Analects remain timely and important in the 21st century. As for Professor Presentation: Professor Lafleur was excellent. What Guy Lafleur was to ice hockey, Robert Andre Lafleur is to Confucian studies.
Date published: 2017-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Passionate instructor! The main thing that comes through in this series is the professor's passion for the material, and the study of history generally. He takes a complex subject and gives it a topical organization that even the text of the Analects itself lacks; as he points out, to the uninitiated the Analects seems like 500 fortune cookie sayings scattered with no apparent pattern, but LaFleur extracts substantive topics and themes that make it understandable. I purchased this course as part of a pre-trip study and reading list ahead of my first trip to China. I definitely feel that when I visit the Confucius temple in Beijing, and then later when I visit Qufu, I will have a good background and will be well-prepared to understand the exhibits. Now that I've gone all the way through this lecture series on the Analects of Confucius, I would love to see the same professor do a lecture series on Daoism (Taoism). Well done!
Date published: 2017-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worthwhile for Westerners Dr. LaFleur opens the course by comparing the Analects to five hundred fortune cookies that dropped from the sky and assembled into twenty books. It is a collection of about 500 wisdom sayings without any apparent organizing framework whether by time, by topic, or by author. Dr. LaFleur accepts as his challenge making sense of wisdom presented in this format. (By the say, students of the Biblical book of Proverbs face a very similar problem.) Dr. LaFleur holds that one must patiently grasp be whole before beginning to understand the parts. This presents a difficulty for Westerners who come to the Analects afresh. Unlike the TGC course Books that Matter: The City of God, for example, the lecturer cannot simply address one chapter per lecture and thus give the student an opportunity to follow along. I recommend that the student read the entire Analects (it’s not really very long) before beginning this course and then reading two chapters per day while listening to the lectures. The student will find that he or she is reading the Analects differently and learning more from it as time progresses. I also recommend using one of the seven translations that Dr. LaFleur lists in the bibliography. Dr. LeFleur says that everything in the Analects is about governing. Indeed, this course is highly recommended for anyone aspiring to leadership in either the public or the private sector. For that matter, it is also recommended for anyone hoping just to understand leadership in either the public or private sector including those interested in politics, public policy, or business administration. This course is organized into several groups of related lectures. Dr. LaFleur starts by giving an overview of relevant historical information such as who Confucius was, what were major cultural issues his society faced, and how the Analects came to be assembled. Next, he addresses four major characters who appear repeatedly in the Analects. Next, he addresses seven major themes woven throughout the Analects. He closes by addressing how Confucianism influenced China over the millennia.
Date published: 2017-02-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too universal I waited for this course many years. Unfortunately I found it long, but shallow. More an inspirational talk with usual platitude, than explanation of the deep philosophical meaning of Analects in the wide historical context. Of course there is interesting material, but not enough for the 24 lectures.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating History; Wisdom Obscure (to me) (Video adds nice drawings, written quotes, names, Chinese characters, and a few maps, plus occasional photos of Chinese landmarks and of the professor on his bike. Audio would be fine. The Course Guidebook is excellent, and includes an extensive annotated bibliography.) Confucius is unquestionably one of the most influential human beings who ever lived, and the Analects is unquestionably one of the most influential books ever written. For these reasons alone this course is very worthwhile for anyone with an interest in history and culture. Professor LaFleur is a superb presenter of the book, its context, and the story of its legacy over 2500 years. He is expert in Chinese history, culture, and language; he speaks eloquently and clearly; he is well-organized; and his enthusiasm and love for his subject are apparent throughout the course. And he accomplishes a remarkable amount in only 24 lectures, giving an overview of the Analects, of the little that is known of the life of Confucius, and of the wildly varying reactions to the book among subsequent Chinese scholars and leaders, through to the present day, as well as of its enormous influence upon Chinese society. However - There is a difference between having world-changing influence and being "one of the greatest books in human history," as the course description has it. I respectfully diverge from the latter characterization. Now, I realize it is the height of arrogance and hubris for a Westerner to offer such an opinion of one of the Chinese classics, especially after just listening to an outstanding professor explicate the text. My only defense is that I am aware of this, and am simply reporting my personal reaction, with no claim to authority or expertise. (For what it's worth - I know, not much - I have actually read the Analects, in the context of a course on Chinese Intellectual History.) For me, the individual entries are most often either simplistic and obvious (15.8: The Master said, "Not speaking with people who truly can benefit from your words is to let those people go to waste. Those who are wise never let people go to waste, and yet neither do they squander their words.") or so general and abstract as to lack any applicable meaning (2.1: The Master said, "To govern with excellence and virtue is analogous to the Pole Star; it resides in its fixed place, while the multitude of stars encircle it.") I hoped for insight and wisdom; my poor mind was unable to reap such a harvest. So - I highly recommend this course for the importance of its subject in the story of humanity. It is wonderfully taught. And, if you take it, I would sincerely appreciate your writing a review, and including your thoughts on the wisdom of the Master.
Date published: 2017-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The price of success is constand redefinition Video download. When the Jesuits seriously began courting China's imperial bureaucracy in the late 1500's with a view to spreading Christianity from the top down , they were amazed how this sophisticated society got along for millennia without a creation myth, a single god or even a close connection between morality and belief in a personal afterlife. The main cause was a this-worldly social and political philosophy called "Confucianism". Catholicism plainly had to compromise with this native belief system or Christ's message would forever remain unacceptable. What is Confucianism? ____________________ Dr LaFleur's THE ANALECTS OF CONFUCIUS is an attempt to answer this question through the analysis of a single book — 75% of the course — and a variety of other schools of thought that blended in to make up traditional China's state and family ideology. It is part of TGC's "great book" series. The Analects can be traced back to Kongzi (i.e. Confucius) even though he did not write it. Dr LaFleur nevertheless uses it effectively to outline 9 key Confucian concepts in lectures 10-18. And because Confucianism is sometimes labelled a "religion", LaFleur does his best to emphasize how syncretic the movement became. Confucius never claimed to represent a Higher Power. He merely sought to re-establish an idealized vision of the "good old days" in a society wracked by war. The problem was down-to-earth. So was his solution. __________________________ PROS • Dr LaFleur is a very clear, eloquent speaker. • He makes unusual, enlightening connections between Confucian thought patterns and those of modern Western philosophers, self-help thinkers and sociologists. • The guidebook is really excellent, with an annotated bibliography and many quotes from the Analects. CONS • Confucius lived over 2500 years ago. And yet Dr LaFleur sometimes, to my mind, stretches credibility by trying to guess his personality or introduce precision into ideas designed more to change the world than analyse it. • 24 lessons impose space limitations. The Analects was important, yes, but virtually all its concepts were heavily adapted and re-adapted by practical Chinese bureaucrats reacting to new political threats and religions ideas entering China during its very long history. State ideologies are like that. Consistency is secondary to how well they serve the social order. Dr LaFleur does not stress this much. • Again due to space restriction, Dr LaFleur cannot really talk about modern mainstream Confucianism such as exists in China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. The elderly take precedence over the young, men over women, the group over the individual and so on. It produces its own set of winners and losers. Confucius embodies a strong work ethic and respect for education, yes. But he is also the "examination hell" no child can avoid, authoritarian distant fathers and meddling mothers-in-law. Plenty of East Asians hate Confucius. ___________________________________ I think my 3 "cons" are worth noticing, but obviously the "great books" departure point of this course cannot cover every base, even if it does many things well. All in all, Dr LaFleur has done a great job. This is an excellent course, a fine addition to TGC's other courses on Asian history and philosophy. Will it help you understand modern China or pursue business opportunities there? To a limited extent, perhaps. Imagine, however, a Chinese executive reading Benjamin Franklin's "Autobiography" before visiting the U.S.. Books like the Analects only give very broad cultural pointers and illuminate sensibilities. Modern behavior is another thing. Contemporary business and political decisions in Asia, as elsewhere, are constrained by much more practical, immediate factors. In the case of China, for example, reading Richard McGregor's "The Party", Minxin Pei's "China's Crony Capitalism", or Daniel Bell's "The China Model" will help you much better understand how Confucian values, chopped-up and re-warmed yet again, are applied today. Highly recommended nevertheless.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Central topic in Chinese history and culture I have taken three courses in the TGC centered on China: Professor Benjamin’s “Foundations of Eastern Civilization” focuses on the broad cultural and political foundational changes in Southeast Asia across five Millennia, concentrating primarily on China. From “Yao to Mao” provides pretty much the straight narrative history of China, focusing primarily on the ruling dynasties. Finally, professor Baum’s wonderful course “Fall and Rise of China” focuses on China’s fantastically turbulent twentieth century. In all of these courses, but primarily in the first two, Confucius’ presence is ever present. None of the courses, however, went into sufficient depth in explaining Confucius’ teachings. The current course served this purpose very well. The bulk of the course is given over to discussing the content of the Analects, much as is promised in the title. The Professor sets up the stage by explaining why so many Western people find this text inaccessible, and how it should be read in order for it not to appear so. Next, he addresses the inevitable question of “who was Confucius?”, what was his biography etc. In all honesty, this was not the central aspect of the course and I found it to be better explained in the other courses I mentioned. This is a bit peculiar as this course is dedicated solely to the Analects - so you would expect a bit more biographical context… The heart of the course simply analyzes the content of the Analects: how are they structured, what they say and what they mean. Another central aspect is the characters that appear in the text (almost solely Confucius and his disciples), and Professor LaFleur dedicates a significant amount of time to explain each of the important students - who they were, what were their traits, and most importantly: what do their characters help to convey in the writings of the Analects? The central pillars of Confucian thinking - filial conduct, remonstration, traits of the exemplary person and the role of ritual are allocated a significant amount of time. I found these lectures to be fascinating and to give very good context to Chinese history which I learned in the other courses I mentioned. The last third of the course has two main threads. One describes the important inheritors of Confucius: Mencius, and much later Sima Guang; in what manner did they follow his way, in what did they differ and how did they expand his ideas. The second thread discusses the interaction between Confucianism and the other dominant philosophies of China over the Millennia: Daoism and Buddhism. I enjoyed Professor LaFleur’s presentation of the course. He conveyed a deep enthusiasm for the subject, his tone was casual and personal, and he made a big (and in my opinion successful) effort to explain why we should even be interested in what Confucius has to say twenty-five centuries after he said it. I found the personal stories about his own struggles in understanding the Analects important for getting a better perspective on how to understand the text, and it also helped to “ground” the content and give it a clearer perspective. Overall this course provided for me a very important and central context for understanding Chinese and Southeast Asian history, and as such, I found it very valuable.
Date published: 2016-12-21
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Books That Matter: The Analects of Confucius
Course Trailer
The Hidden Teaching Dynamic of the Analects
1: The Hidden Teaching Dynamic of the Analects

Before diving into the mysteries of the Analects, it's essential to get a broader view of Confucius and his style of teaching. Here, examine how the text's performative nature holds its diverse teachings together, and explore Confucius's mission to return China to a more harmonious era in its history....

30 min
The Analects: A Bird's-Eye View
2: The Analects: A Bird's-Eye View

The Analects, according to Professor LaFleur, shouldn't just be read. It should be lived. Learn how to enter the book's world by considering Confucius's imaginative ideas about living in society. Also, practice your ability to navigate through the book's tangle of questions and answers, assertions and observations, and challenges and retorts....

28 min
The Man We Call Confucius
3: The Man We Call Confucius

Who was Confucius? How did he manage to become one of the most important figures in world history? Get the full backstory on what historians know about the man called Confucius, including the opinions of thinkers like Mencius and Xunzi, and several illuminating passages from Chapter 10 of the Analects....

32 min
How the Analects Is Organized
4: How the Analects Is Organized

The structure of the Analects offers a helpful way in which to approach and understand the text's deeper meanings. Break down Confucius's book into its "chapters" (juan), the scattered nature of its tiny nuggets of knowledge ("analects"), and the generations of historical commentary winding among these approximately 500 individual sayings....

30 min
The Provenance of the Analects
5: The Provenance of the Analects

Archaeological discoveries were key to transforming scholarly understanding of early Chinese texts. In this lecture with the feel of a detective story, unearth the oldest version of the Analects (bamboo fragments found in a tomb in north-central China) and discover why there's no one single version of this world classic....

30 min
The Analects in Miniature
6: The Analects in Miniature

For those readers who've never encountered the Analects before, there's no better way to approach it than through its first five statements-which contain an entire world of philosophical knowledge. Join Professor LaFleur as he unpacks core themes in these iconic passages, including individual conduct and effective statesmanship....

29 min
Learning to Read the Analects
7: Learning to Read the Analects

While there are no absolute rules for reading the Analects, there are ways to enhance your understanding of its complexities. Tips you'll learn in this helpful lecture include: focus on the early chapters (more likely to be composed soon after Confucius's death) and-paradoxically-acknowledge what the book cannot teach you....

30 min
Confucius's Students: Zai Wo and Yan Hui
8: Confucius's Students: Zai Wo and Yan Hui

Meet two of the most important and memorable students featured in the Analects. The first is Zai Wo, a devoted (but prickly) student who functions as a sort of trickster character. The second is Yan Hui, Confucius's favorite student and the model for what the thinker valued in his students....

29 min
Confucius's Students: Zilu and Zigong
9: Confucius's Students: Zilu and Zigong

In this lecture, meet two more students who accompanied Confucius on his journey of enlightenment: the difficult (and often criticized) Zilu and the mistake-prone (but fiercely loyal) Zigong. Both students, as you'll learn, are surprisingly nuanced followers, and they both experience a powerful intellectual evolution as the Analects progresses....

31 min
Confucius on the Purpose of Learning
10: Confucius on the Purpose of Learning

What was the point of gaining knowledge, according to Confucius? Professor LaFleur reveals the answer in this pointed discussion on putting the teachings in the Analects into practice. In a close reading of several passages, you'll get to the heart of how Confucius's teachings relate to the wider world....

31 min
Filial Devotion in the Analects
11: Filial Devotion in the Analects

Begin investigating several of the core concepts in the Analects that would go on to define Confucian thought in Chinese history. The first of these concepts: "filial devotion" (xiao), which is a practical and symbolic way of creating an orderly society at home and in the world at large....

32 min
Confucius on the Value of Remonstrance
12: Confucius on the Value of Remonstrance

The idea of remonstrance (the duty of a child to "correct" the actions of an adult) lies at the heart of hierarchical Chinese society and politics. How is the concept critiqued in the Analects? How does it protect families and states from ruin? What are some of its potential dangers?...

29 min
The Exemplary Person in the Analects
13: The Exemplary Person in the Analects

How does the Analects define an exemplary person? Find out by examining a series of key concepts that work together to shape a "whole person" who can properly function as a social and political being. Among these are loyalty (zhong), sincerity (cheng), trust (xin), and virtue (de)....

30 min
Confucius's Ideal: Consummate Conduct
14: Confucius's Ideal: Consummate Conduct

Explore the highest (and most difficult) of Confucian skills: consummate conduct (ren). Along the way, you'll learn how this concept has dominated 25 centuries of Chinese history, how it reveals the true depths of Confucius's teachings, and why it's not just a lifestyle-but a matter of life and death....

29 min
Confucius on Cultivating the Social Self
15: Confucius on Cultivating the Social Self

Continue unpacking the concept of consummate conduct by breaking it down into smaller social and moral skills that should always be properly cultivated. As Professor LaFleur reveals, consummate conduct is more than an individual quality; it's profoundly social to its core, tying together family, community, and even the state itself....

29 min
Ritual Conduct in the Analects
16: Ritual Conduct in the Analects

Ritual lies at the heart of the Analects, and is perhaps one of Confucius's biggest action items. Here, delve into the idea of ritual propriety (li), which requires an individual to acknowledge both cosmological concepts and minute details. Ritual, as you'll discover, is so much more than just stuffy rule-following....

30 min
Confucius on Embodied Ritual and Music
17: Confucius on Embodied Ritual and Music

In this second lecture on Confucian ideas of ritual, learn why, in the Analects, ritual is tightly interlinked with the body-so that ritual becomes not just prescriptions but performative actions. Also, learn how Confucius links ritual with music, so that both reflect the height of human emotion and community....

30 min
The Analects on Effective Rule
18: The Analects on Effective Rule

In Confucian learning, the greatest challenge is the act of governing. How are we supposed to rule ourselves, our families, and our communities-all under the authority of heaven? Using pointed examples from the Analects, examine Confucian ideas about proper leadership, the importance of advisors, and the need for constant self-correction....

28 min
Mencius: The Next Confucian Sage
19: Mencius: The Next Confucian Sage

Who took up the mantle after the death of Confucius? Professor LaFleur introduces you to Mencius, whose collected writings are both a spirited defense and significant expansion of the Analects. Filled with long narratives that read like dramatic performances, his Mencius hammered home the idea that people are inherently good....

30 min
Confucius's Daoist and Legalist Critics
20: Confucius's Daoist and Legalist Critics

The ideas espoused in the Analects had their share of critics. Here, take a look at some of the most prominent of these, including Xunzi, who felt that humans were born flawed; Daoist critics like Zhuangzi; and the Legalist philosopher Han Fei, who considered Confucius to be a fuzzy-minded dilettante....

28 min
State Confucianism and Buddhism
21: State Confucianism and Buddhism

In the first half of this lecture, consider how Confucianism moved into the seat of power in China during the four centuries of the Han dynasty and evolved in two very different directions. Then, explore how this new form of "State Confucianism" blended with other Eastern belief systems-especially Buddhism....

30 min
Sima Guang and the Confucian Revival
22: Sima Guang and the Confucian Revival

View the life and works of the Chinese historian Sima Guang as a window into neo-Confucianism: the revived form of Confucianism that emerged in the 11th century. You'll learn how this historian took the lessons of the Analects and adapted them to fit new social, economic, and political complexities....

31 min
Neo-Confucianism and the Political Order
23: Neo-Confucianism and the Political Order

Go deeper inside the ways neo-Confucianism reshaped the foundations of Chinese education and government. Topics include Ouyang Xiu's essay, "On Fundamentals", which celebrated Confucian principles; Zhu Xi's reorganization of Confucian education into the "Four Books" model; and the importance (and misery) of civil service examinations....

31 min
Confucius's Comeback in a Global World
24: Confucius's Comeback in a Global World

Conclude the course with a look at Confucian thought in the modern age. How did the West influence internal Chinese affairs (already on the point of collapse before Westerners arrived)? Why were the Analects pilloried during Mao's "Cultural Revolution"? How did Confucius once again become the voice of China?...

32 min
Robert Andre LaFleur

The myth that began all Chinese myths tells the story, not of how the world began, but of a culture hero who transformed daily human life.


University of Chicago


Beloit College

About Robert Andre LaFleur

Professor Robert Andre LaFleur is Professor of History and Anthropology at Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he has taught since 1998. He received his doctorate from The University of Chicago's John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, where he combined work in anthropology, history, and Chinese literature. Professor LaFleur received the Charles S. Bassett Teaching Award from Colby College, as well as the James R. Underkofler Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award from Beloit College. He is the recipient of a Millicent C. McIntosh Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and has been a frequent visiting scholar with the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Research in the Humanities and the East-West Center in Honolulu. In 2013, Professor LaFleur gave a series of lectures and seminars at Beijing University. Professor LaFleur is the lead author and editor of two textbooks: China: A Global Studies Handbook and Asia in Focus: China. He has published book chapters, articles, and research papers about topics ranging from Chinese historiography, literature, ethnicity, and mythology to the history and anthropology of Oceania. Professor LaFleur's current work combines historical research using Chinese, Japanese, and Korean sources with anthropological fieldwork on each of China's five sacred mountains.

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