Prior to Confucius there was no literary work created on a private capacity, i.e. with assigned authorship correlated to a visible school of thought. There are books from these period that were used by later philosophers, including Confucius, as the basis for development:
  • The five classics or 五經 (simplified: 五经, pīnyīn: Wǔ jīng), that were later attributed to Confucius:
    • The Book of Odes or 詩經 (simplified: 诗经, pīnyīn: Shī Jīng), a collection of court and popular poems from the period,
    • The Book of History or 書經 (simplified: 书经, pīnyīn: Shū Jīng), a collection of speeches and prayers given in historical occasions,
    • The Book Etiquette and Ceremonial or 儀禮 (simplified: 仪礼, pīnyīn: Yí lǐ), a detailed account of etiquette and individual rites,
    • The Spring and Autumn Annals or 春秋 (simplified: 春秋, pīnyīn: Chūn Qiū), a brief year by year chronicle of the state of Lu鲁 (simplified:魯, pīnyīn: Lǔ),
    • The Book of Changes or I Ching - 易經 (simplified: 易经, pīnyīn: Yì Jīng).
  • Tso Chuan - 左傳 (simplified: 左传, pīnyīn: Zuǒ zhuàn) an early commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals,
  • The Sayings of the States or 國語 (simplified: 国语, pīnyīn: guó yǔ).
The period is marked by a religious, superstitious, pre-rational way of looking at the world. Among the key elements of the period:
  • Belief on divine beings – the belief that natural phenomena and human affairs are under the control o f spirits or 神 (pīnyīn: shén),
  • Divination or 術數 (simplified: 术数, pīnyīn: shù shù) – as natural phenomena and human affairs were believed to be interrelated, different divination methods were used to read misfortune or prosperity. Divination became more and more ritualized, becoming the rites - 禮(simplified: 礼, pīnyīn: lǐ) – who were central to later philosophy,
  • Besides the spirits, there is an evolution from the concept of a God - 上帝 (pīnyīn: Shàng dì), who was supposed to exist presiding the hierarchy of spirits, to an impersonal Heaven - 天 (pīnyīn: tiān). This heaven would intervene in human affairs through fate or heaven's appointment - 命 (pīnyīn: mìng) or 天命 (pīnyīn: tiān mìng)

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