Reading The Analects is a bit like eavesdropping on someone else’s Twitter feed. There are all these little snippets of conversations among people you don’t know very well. And just when you think you’re getting a handle on something, the conversation jumps to a completely different topic and a new voice joins in.
That’s pretty much what The Analects is. It’s not an essay or a textbook. It’s snippets of conversations written down by Confucius’ students in the generations after his death. They didn’t bother writing down the cultural and historical background of the conversation because they already knew it. (They wrote down The Analects for each other, not for us.)
So if you want to make sense of this 2,500 year-old Twitter feed, you’ll have to do some background reading. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
And if all the “jumping around” in the conversation gets too frustrating, use the topical index on this site to read everything related to a given topic at one time. (It’s sort of like hash tags for The Analects.)