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Analects | Book 10 | Summary

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Summary

Unique in The Analects, Book 10 is almost entirely a description of ritual behavior, such as how to dress, walk, and compose one's face for particular occasions. The stories related describe the actions of either the Master or the ideal gentleman, perhaps also describing the Master, as an example of correct ritual behavior. How to act in situations from the local community, to the temple, to court are described. No detail is too small—very fine points of dress, diet, and eating habits, including complex rules for the care and consumption of sacrificial meat, are offered as examples for proper behavior.

Analysis

While many details in Book 10, such as when to wear lambskin versus fox fur, carry little meaning for a modern Western reader, occasional chapters illustrate the applications of ideas taught elsewhere. Chapter 1 demonstrates the balance between respect and straightforwardness to be shown to people of different statuses. The Master respectfully thanks Ji Kang Zi for a gift of medicine but feels free to decline to take it in Chapter 10, showing that respect does not trump safety or common sense. Consistent with Book 9, Chapter 10, the Master shows respect in Chapter 18 to those in mourning, regardless of their status.

Some parts of the Master's manner described in the earlier stories in Book 10 make him seem unsure or hesitant. However, these instances are usually associated with interactions with royalty, suggesting such behavior could be a show of extreme respect to the Heavenly authority of the ruler.

Despite the very different character of Book 10 from other books, it also contains some overlapping information. Chapter 15 duplicates part of the story of the Master's visit to the grand temple originally told in Book 3, Chapter 15.

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