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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just fortune cookie wisdom, 17 Oct 2003
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
In his book on 'The Essential Tao', Thomas Cleary presented a wonderful picture of one of the dominant strands of Asian wisdom, one that has intrigued and fascinated people in the West in the past few generations. Cleary is one of the foremost scholars of ancient Chinese and Japanese. Mostly likely, if you have read a copy of ancient Chinese classic 'The Art of War' (a text widely popular, from historians and military strategists to corporate raiders and managers), it has been one of Cleary's translations.
Following the success of the book on the Tao, Cleary turned to another pillar of ancient Chinese thought, and developed this further volume in the 'Essentials' series, The Essential Confucius, the heart of Confucius' teachings in authentic I Ching order.
Confucius is a confusing character to classify. He does not fit the characterisation of the typical religious leader. He certainly did not mean to found a religion. Confucius was an educator, a social critic, a politician, and philosopher.
'"The Analects of Confucius" are a basic source for a wide range of advice on human affairs--from governing nations and managing enterprises to dealing with society and getting along with others.'
Confucius is much more than the author of fortune-cookie proverbs. In this work, Cleary has set forth the sayings of Confucius in the order of the sixty-four classic I Ching hexagrams. Many of these sayings are reduced (and likewise dismissed) as fortune-cookie sayings; however, taken together with the commentaries of Confucius, these give profound insight into the human condition. The I Ching, or literally, Book of Change, is a book which Confucius studied and promoted. Thus, to use it as a guide to Confucius' own writings is appropriate and authentic.
Confucius tried to stimulate people into original thinking, into independent thinking. It is ironic that so many times in history that original thinking has been suppressed in favour of Confucian purity -- a perennial danger in any religion.
An example of Cleary's technique is in order:
Book of Change
Good people examine themselves and cultivate virtue
- Confucius said, 'Study as though you will not reach, as if you may lose it.' (8:17)
- Confucius said, 'The virtue of balanced normalcy is consummate, it seems, but it has been scarce among the people for a long time.' (6:29)
Cleary presents the I Ching, the setting of Confucius proverb, and then various commentaries upon it. Through the sixty-four sayings and commentaries, one gets a sense of exegesis similar in character to Mishnah and Talmud as well as various Christian commentators.
Confucius above all believed in the responsibility of the learned to the ignorant, the powerful to the weak, and the wealthy for the poor. Each individual is entrusted with potential to serve the greater good of all, not just himself or herself. These are words that are worthy hearing and elevating, and not dismissing as after-dinner quips.
May your reading be truly enlightened in the virtues of humanity, justice, courtesy and wisdom.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not just fortune cookie wisdom..., 24 Feb 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
In his book on 'The Essential Tao', Thomas Cleary presented a wonderful picture of one of the dominant strands of Asian wisdom, one that has intrigued and fascinated people in the West in the past few generations. Cleary is one of the foremost scholars of ancient Chinese and Japanese. Mostly likely, if you have read a copy of ancient Chinese classic 'The Art of War' (a text widely popular, from historians and military strategists to corporate raiders and managers), it has been one of Cleary's translations.
Following the success of the book on the Tao, Cleary turned to another pillar of ancient Chinese thought, and developed this further volume in the 'Essentials' series, The Essential Confucius, the heart of Confucius' teachings in authentic I Ching order.
Confucius is a confusing character to classify. He does not fit the characterisation of the typical religious leader. He certainly did not mean to found a religion. Confucius was an educator, a social critic, a politician, and philosopher.
'"The Analects of Confucius" are a basic source for a wide range of advice on human affairs--from governing nations and managing enterprises to dealing with society and getting along with others.'
Confucius is much more than the author of fortune-cookie proverbs. In this work, Cleary has set forth the sayings of Confucius in the order of the sixty-four classic I Ching hexagrams. Many of these sayings are reduced (and likewise dismissed) as fortune-cookie sayings; however, taken together with the commentaries of Confucius, these give profound insight into the human condition. The I Ching, or literally, Book of Change, is a book which Confucius studied and promoted. Thus, to use it as a guide to Confucius' own writings is appropriate and authentic.
Confucius tried to stimulate people into original thinking, into independent thinking. It is ironic that so many times in history that original thinking has been suppressed in favour of Confucian purity -- a perennial danger in any religion.
An example of Cleary's technique is in order:
Book of Change
Good people examine themselves and cultivate virtue
- Confucius said, 'Study as though you will not reach, as if you may lose it.' (8:17)
- Confucius said, 'The virtue of balanced normalcy is consummate, it seems, but it has been scarce among the people for a long time.' (6:29)
Cleary presents the I Ching, the setting of Confucius proverb, and then various commentaries upon it. Through the sixty-four sayings and commentaries, one gets a sense of exegesis similar in character to Mishnah and Talmud as well as various Christian commentators.
Confucius above all believed in the responsibility of the learned to the ignorant, the powerful to the weak, and the wealthy for the poor. Each individual is entrusted with potential to serve the greater good of all, not just himself or herself. These are words that are worthy hearing and elevating, and not dismissing as after-dinner quips.
May your reading be truly enlightened in the virtues of humanity, justice, courtesy and wisdom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essential Confucius - By Thomas Cleary, 2 Dec 2010
This is an interesting book. Harvard educated Thomas Cleary, through this book, combines the teachings of Confucius as found in the Analects (Lunyu), with that of the commentaries found in the ancient Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching-Yijing), that Cleary believes are written by Confucius himself. This is based upon the traditional belief that either Confucius, his descendents or his students (and their descendents), wrote, edited or re-organised the commentary chapters known in the Book of Changes as the 'Ten Wings'. These ten chapters effectively transformed a Bronze Age manual of divination, into a Confucius 'Classic' that presents a philosophy that seeks to define the concept of 'change', and how change might be managed and controlled.

The key to Cleary's thinking in this instance, might be gleamed from the fact that he mentions E Bruce Brooks in his Acknowledgements. Brooks taught Cleary whilst he was a student at Harvard University, but more to the point, Brooks, along with his wife 'E Taeko', together authored a book entitled 'The Original Analects', within which they present their research suggesting the the received Analects and its order of aphorisms, was arranged differently at its inception.

In this book, Cleary presents the 64 hexagrams of the Book of Changes. With each hexagram is a simple, short paragraph of wisdom, attributed to Confucius himself. These paragraphs vary from one to four lines of writing, with the average length being two lines. These sayings are taken from chapter three and four of the Ten Wings associated with the Book of Changes - the so-called 'Xiang Zhuan', or 'Symbolism Treatise'. Readers may be more familiar with Richard Wilhelm's rendering of 'xiang' as 'image'. These short statements are always two sentences long in the original Chinese and describe two distinct attributes:

1) The first line describes the symbolism (or 'imagery') of the constituent trigrams that comprise the individual hexagram.
2) The second line advises upon what a king or 'superior person' (junzi) would do, so that their behaviour is 'coorect'.

Cleary chooses to ignore the first line of each xiang, and instead focuses upon the wisdom contained solely in the second lines. Ineffect, Cleary is using only half of each Xiang Zhuan statement, and attributing its construction to the great sage Confucius. This serves Cleary's greater purpose of linking the Analects directly to the Book of Change. The authorship of the Xiang Zhuan is disputed however, even amongst traditional scholars. Some do accept that Confucius wrote the Xiang Zhuan, whilst others assert the it was infact the Duke of Zhou. Richard Wilhelm suggests, in his notes regarding his translation of the I Ching, that the philosophy of the Xiang Zhuan is directly linked to that found in the 'Great Learning' (Daxue), which is one of the 'Four Books' of Confucianism. However, what is interesting is the fact that with each hexagram and its symbol statement, Cleary carefully selects passages from the received Analects and arranges them around each hexagarm. Each hexagram has around three or four aphorisms from the received Analects, attached to it by Cleary. What Cleary achieves with this book is a re-arranging of the Analects itself, into what he considers to be a more logical presentation for a Western audience. Appreciation is of course subjective, and it is the reader who must decide the validity of such efforts. As both texts - the Analects and the I Ching - are fairly obscure in their respective, traditional formats, it does seem a rather odd undertaking to use one Classic text to clarify the other, when both are, in the process, altered beyond recognition. The book has merit however, and is certainly useful to the spiritual seeker and scholar alike.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essential Confucius - By Thomas Cleary, 2 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Essential Confucius (Hardcover)
This is an interesting book. Harvard educated Thomas Cleary, through this book, combines the teachings of Confucius as found in the Analects (Lunyu), with that of the commentaries found in the ancient Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching-Yijing), that Cleary believes are written by Confucius himself. This is based upon the traditional belief that either Confucius, his descendents or his students (and their descendents), wrote, edited or re-organised the commentary chapters known in the Book of Changes as the 'Ten Wings'. These ten chapters effectively transformed a Bronze Age manual of divination, into a Confucius 'Classic' that presents a philosophy that seeks to define the concept of 'change', and how change might be managed and controlled.

The key to Cleary's thinking in this instance, might be gleamed from the fact that he mentions E Bruce Brooks in his Acknowledgements. Brooks taught Cleary whilst he was a student at Harvard University, but more to the point, Brooks, along with his wife 'E Taeko', together authored a book entitled 'The Original Analects', within which they present their research suggesting the the received Analects and its order of aphorisms, was arranged differently at its inception.

In this book, Cleary presents the 64 hexagrams of the Book of Changes. With each hexagram is a simple, short paragraph of wisdom, attributed to Confucius himself. These paragraphs vary from one to four lines of writing, with the average length being two lines. These sayings are taken from chapter three and four of the Ten Wings associated with the Book of Changes - the so-called 'Xiang Zhuan', or 'Symbolism Treatise'. Readers may be more familiar with Richard Wilhelm's rendering of 'xiang' as 'image'. These short statements are always two sentences long in the original Chinese and describe two distinct attributes:

1) The first line describes the symbolism (or 'imagery') of the constituent trigrams that comprise the individual hexagram.
2) The second line advises upon what a king or 'superior person' (junzi) would do, so that their behaviour is 'coorect'.

Cleary chooses to ignore the first line of each xiang, and instead focuses upon the wisdom contained solely in the second lines. Ineffect, Cleary is using only half of each Xiang Zhuan statement, and attributing its construction to the great sage Confucius. This serves Cleary's greater purpose of linking the Analects directly to the Book of Change. The authorship of the Xiang Zhuan is disputed however, even amongst traditional scholars. Some do accept that Confucius wrote the Xiang Zhuan, whilst others assert the it was infact the Duke of Zhou. Richard Wilhelm suggests, in his notes regarding his translation of the I Ching, that the philosophy of the Xiang Zhuan is directly linked to that found in the 'Great Learning' (Daxue), which is one of the 'Four Books' of Confucianism. However, what is interesting is the fact that with each hexagram and its symbol statement, Cleary carefully selects passages from the received Analects and arranges them around each hexagarm. Each hexagram has around three or four aphorisms from the received Analects, attached to it by Cleary. What Cleary achieves with this book is a re-arranging of the Analects itself, into what he considers to be a more logical presentation for a Western audience. Appreciation is of course subjective, and it is the reader who must decide the validity of such efforts. As both texts - the Analects and the I Ching - are fairly obscure in their respective, traditional formats, it does seem a rather odd undertaking to use one Classic text to clarify the other, when both are, in the process, altered beyond recognition. The book has merit however, and is certainly useful to the spiritual seeker and scholar alike.
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