The Lives of Confucius is another book from a college class that I didn't have time to fully read at the time. It catalogues the many kind of "Confucianism" through the ages, and the faces of this famous philosopher, along with charting how he became popular. This makes it a intriguing mixture of literary analysis, cultural examination and historical development.
In a nutshell, I found this book to be a concentration of knowledge about Confucius. It is a useful reference to the many ways he was portrayed and is still portrayed. While there is a lot of information packed into these pages, the Suggested Readings section at the end of each chapter demonstrates that there is plenty more to read, research and form an opinion on.
The majority of the chapters are straightforward. The "historical" Confucius, the opinions of his early critics, the use of his name by the Han Dynasty, the academic debates and all the stuff about the Imperial/Ancestral cult stuff, all of these (mostly) read as the author passively transmitting information. I found all of that interesting.
The further towards the modern era the book goes, the more it becomes interaction with the other voices in the, for lack of a better phrase, Market of Confucius(es). This is basically the final chapter, which is appropriately called "A Confusion of Confusciuses". In this chapter, Michael Nylan (the author of this chapter in particular) basically critiques many modern writers of Confucius as deliberately misconstruing the classics for their own goals or accidentally getting the wrong idea through faulty translations. There are three that he praises but most of them get flak. There's even a joke that I find worth including here because it does a wonderful job of illustrating his point. He writes that no one has portrayed Confucius as a proto-feminist yet but he expects that there will be one eventually.
There might even be yet another Confucius in the end of this book. Yes, one of the authors throwing their own hat into the ring; a Confucius of international cooperation, advocate of learning, and a practitioner of humaneness (which may or may not be the same as "social justice").
Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Lives of Confucius" a +
(I.e. I don't know how to grade this other than the fact that I enjoyed reading it because it is the only book on Confucius that I've read).
Click here for my previous book review (also for fun): No Game No Life volume 5
Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).