Robert Eno's English language translation The Analects of Confucius 

Interview with Stephen Prothero: "World Religions: Confucianism" 


Ren = the outward expression of Confucian ideals, human-heartedness, empathy, virtue

Li = etiquette, propriety, knowing the right thing to say and do in society

reciprocity = behaving in a moral manner with others, behaving towards others as we want them to behave 

                   towards us

gentleman / junzi = a virtuous person, one who is ren

5 key relationships

ruler / ruled

husband / wife

father / son (parent / child)

elder brother / younger brother

friend / friend

The first 4 relationships are hierarchical; the last relationship is egalitarian.

Questions and discussion prompts for the Confucian Analects

1. According to excerpts you read from the Analects, what are the basic characteristics of the junzi 


2. Explain the meaning of Analect 15.24: 

Zigong asked: Is there any word that could guide one's entire life?  

The Master said: Should it not be reciprocity? What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to 


3. Choose 2 (two) of the following analects. Discuss the meaning of each, then re-write both analects in your 

    own words.

2.13, 2.14, 2.15

4.11, 4.14, 4.16, 4.17, 4.24


15.8, 15.9, 15.15, 15.19

4. Study the following expressions of the rule of reciprocity, then identify why this concept is so commonly 

    found in multiple cultures and belief systems.

Aristotle wrote, “We should behave to our friends as we wish our friends to behave to us.”

The Hindu holy book Mahabharata says, “Do nothing to thy neighbor which thou wouldst not have him do to thee."

Islamic Traditions says, “No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

The Buddhist Udanavarga prescribes, “Hurt not others with that which pains thyself.”

In Jewish literature, the Apocrypha reads, “And what you hate, do not do to anyone.”

Matthew 7:12 of the Christian Bible says: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 

5. Identify similarities and differences between the Confucian concept of reciprocity, the ancient Egyptian 

     concept of Ma'at, Aristotle's Golden Mean, and Stoicism. 

6. Which code of moral behavior do you find most useful to today's society? Explain your response.

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