on 13 November 2010
James Legge (1815-1897), was a Christian missionary of Scottish birth, and the first professor of Chinese language and literature at Oxford University. He travelled extensively in China, and sought to understand the people he intended to convert, through their already existing philosophical and spiritual traditions. With Max Muller, he worked to translate numerous Asian texts for the series entitled 'Sacred Books of the East'. He also translated two other books associated with Confucius - the 'Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong), and the 'Great Learning' (Da Xue), as well as the 'I Ching', or Book of Change (commonly romanised in China as'Yijing'). He also translated the 'Mengzi', or the work of Mencius (372BC - 289BC), the loyal student of Confucius.
Legge's work are very well presented and are logical and clear. In all his works he presents the reader with ample and lavish footnotes - usually giving insight to a technical point - as well as providing the original Chinese text that he was working from at the time of translating. Of course, legge's particular contribution to this field is his enquiring mind that always searched for a deeper meaning in surface structure. A translation can be literal and shallow - this does not apply to Legge's work. Although very much of his time, nevertheless, his translations have helped to introduce a new Western audience to the subject of an often ancient Chinese wisdom.
The Analects of Confucius are a compendium of his teachings gathered sometime after his death, into one book. His teachings evolve around treating one another with 'respect' (xiao) and 'humaneness' (ren). This is achieved through the study of the classic books and subsequent meditation upon the deep meaning contained within. Continuous self-study and refinement are very much attributes of the Confucian way.