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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Idea of Self in the Analects

Vol. 31 No. 4   12/2001  


The Idea of Self in the Analects


Yuet Keung Lo









Key words

Analects, self, mind-body holism, yuwojigongshen


    On the assumption that the notion of the self is present in the Confucian Analects, this paper addresses this question of terminology in this small classic primarily from a philological angle. It will explore the notion of the self in this seminal classic strictlyon its own terms. We will first identify what possible terms the text employs to describe and discuss the self, and then analyze what these terms actually mean and how they relate to one another. We will rely on the linguistic and etymological clues unwittingly revealed in the personal pronouns such as wu , yu (I/my/me), wo  (I/my/me), and zi  (reflexive pronoun) in the Analects. We will also venture beyond the grammatical boundaries into the analytical unraveling of other key terms such as ji  (self), gong  (body/person) and shen  (body/person). This paper will draw two conclusions. First, the two pronouns yu and wo in the Analects were not quite technical terms that signify the self, even though wo was already going through a historical terms that signify the self, even though wo was already going through a historical process to become one. Meanwhile, yu seemed to have a peculiar reference for Confucius in his self-definition that linked his identity with Heaven. Second, ji and shen constitute a holistic self in the Analects, signifying the inner core and its outer embodiment respectively. The inner core represents the authentic identity of the self whereas the outer embodiment gives full expression to that authenticity.



Author: Yuet Keung Lo
Genre: Article
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