The Essential Confucius: The Heart of Confucius’ Teachings in Authentic I Ching Order, by Thomas Cleary

My Copy: 9780062502155

I’ve tried reading “The Analects,” without a shred of success a couple of different ways. Then again, they weren’t compiled by Thomas Cleary, who I’ve read before and is probably the best translator of religious/philosophical texts I’ve found so far.

The Essential Confucius is a bit strange to look through at first, but you get the hang of it and can get something out of it. The arrangement of text, with descriptions in back regarding the students or disciples for each portion is far preferable to other versions of Confucian compilations I’d tried to get through. I’d barely gotten past page 18 on most of them, totally baffled by all the names.

Cleary’s translation is about the message more than anything, so the people’s names are often in the back for reference. I doubt most people pick up Confucius just to get the names right anyway, right?

It’s a thin work, but one that takes some time to absorb. I found it repetitive at times, but that’s Confucius from what I understand. I haven’t gotten much into Eastern philosophy and Confucian thought, but I think it’s a good start.

And again, if you’re looking for religious/philosophical texts that you want to get to the basis of, Thomas Cleary is a hard translator to beat. Worth a look.

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