Table of Contents

Chapter 1  "The Disciple": A Novella on Confucius  

            Japanese novelist Atsushi Nakajima recounted the life of Confucius through the eyes of his student Zilu in "The Disciple". In Japan, this novella has been serving as a lively introduction to Confucianism. This chapter introduces a summary and excerpts of the novella.


Chapter 2  On Confucius and Confucianism

             This chapter discusses Confucius and Confucianism, expanding and supplementing what is told in “The Disciple”.   


Chapter 3   Confucius, Laozi, Daoism, and Buddhism

             The history book Shiji tells that Confucius went to see Laozi, the Sage of Daoism (Taoism) to ask about the manners. What did Laozi say to Confucius?  This chapter explores the relationship between three main cultural influences of China, Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. 


Chapter 4  "The Disciple" and Japanese Understanding of Confucianism

            “The Disciple” is very Japanese in its interpretation of Confucius. This chapter looks at the historical reason why Japanese developed their particular understanding of Confucianism. This chapter is relevant only to the readers who have an interest in Japanese culture.


Chapter 5   The Journey to the West: Chinese Views of History

            The Journey to the West (also called The Monkey) is also an edutainment, mixing fabulous magic battles starring the loveable short-tempered supermonkey Wu Kong with preaching of the efficacy of Mahayana Buddhism. The novel expressly tells that Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism are three holy teachings that can peacefully coexist in China. This novel also provides an introduction to Chinese view of history and time; nearly eternal and cyclical.

Chapter 6   Creation of Lesser Gods: The World of Daoist Magic

            Creation of Lesser Gods is a popular novel that depicts the rise of ancient Zhou dynasty. The Zhou dynasty was the founder of Chinese imperial system, and Confucius regarded the early Zhou dynasty as the golden standard of culture. This novel is, therefore,  the popular founding epic of imperial China. Creation of Lesser Gods tells that the dynasty change was a part of Daoist gods' world reorganization plan, a way to purge the human-origin Daoists' accumulated aggression.  This chapter provides a detailed summary of the novel.


Chapter 7   The Mandate of Heaven: The Traditional Social Contract of China

            Creation of Lesser Gods is an edutainment, interlacing magic battles and history and moral lessons. The most important moral lesson is the idea of the Mandate of Heaven, that the ruler wins or loses Heaven’s mandate to rule depending upon his virtue or lack thereof. The Mandate of Heaven was a social contract that held the imperial China together. This social contract mode is still observed in today's  China. This chapter explores this important concept.


Chapter 8   Romance of Three Kingdoms: Male Bonding as Sanctity

            Romance of Three Kingdoms is said to capture the essence of being Chinese; being political, operating on the basis of personal bond of trust. This novel is well known for the "Live together, die together" brand of male bonding of three central hero, Liu Bei, Guanyu, and Zhang Fei. Romance of Three Kingdoms recounts the events of the war-torn Three Kingdoms period with tales of battles and political intrigues, intricate war strategies and tactics, and winners and losers. This chapter introduces the most famous episodes and heroes of this novel, since Asian epic movies are made on the assumption that you know these anecdotes.


Chapter 9  Women in Romance of Three Kingdoms: Seductress, Warrioress, and Wise Mothers

            Even though male bonding looms large in Romance of Three Kingdoms, women also play various interesting rolls. This chapter introduces these remarkable women, including Diaochan who is counted as one of the Four Beauties of Ancient China  and a wise mother who dies as a martyr, smiling.


Chapter 10  Water Margin: Chinese Robin Hood and His Bandits

            Water Margin is a Robin Hood type bandit novel. While Romance of Three Kingdoms mostly describes the lives of political leader class, Water Margin describes mostly the lives of middle class and lower. Developed from individual bandit's life stories, this novel depicts common people's life in details, warts and all. This chapter introduces the most famous characters of this novel.

Chapter 11 Women in Water Margin: Repression of Romantic Love and Civil Service Examinations

            By using the story of  Qiong Ying and Zhang Qing's marriage, this chapter looks at the repression of romantic love in Chinese literary tradition. This chapter also describes the civil service  examination system that consumed so many literate Chinese men's lives and the bureaucracy based on it was perceived.       

Chapter 12  Epilogue

             There are many other great stories in the Confucian tradition. This chapter briefly introduces Red Chamber Dream, the last of Four Great Novels of China. Since its publication, Red Chamber Dream  has had a cult following, because of its uniquely intimate description of the characters' emotions.