Unlike in Confucius' time, two thousand five hundred years ago, Confucianism today is no longer exclusively Chinese, nor exclusive to Confucian scholars, but applicable and of interest internationally. As an advocator of the concept of World Culture based on Confucianism, Mr. Cheung initiated this multilingual web site in 1996 to make the Lun Yu accessible by millions of people around the World. As demands grow, the addition of more languages to this site has become inevitable. Currently, as many as twenty three language versions have been published. These include: Traditional Chinese (Fan Ti), Simplified Chinese (Jan Ti), English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, Tagalog, Malay, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Tamil, Korean, Arabic, Polish, Thai, Indonesian, Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Persian.
The four hundred and ninety-nine verses of The Lun Yu are composed of Confucius' comments and conversations. The twenty chapters in which they are arranged were compiled by the various disciples and followers of Confucius after the lifetime of the philosopher, to honour and record his philosophy.
Hence The Lun Yu, while treated as a main component of the Confucian Classics known as The Four Books, is not considered to be representative of great Chinese literature. Style and content differ from chapter to chapter, and even among verses.
While every effort has been made to represent the content and style of the original as faithfully as possible in the translated versions, from one language to another there are necessarily differences in structure, grammar, emphasis and expression. Furthermore, the original text itself is the subject of much scholastic exploration so that any translation must be interpretative in some instances. Where such an interpretation was required of our Editorial Board, it was made strictly within the context of The Lun Yu, without recourse to other literary sources or schools of thought.
The Editorial Board embarked on the initial translation of The Lun Yu to English, having first decided its objectives and priorities. A specific vocabulary of words and terms was compiled for translation purposes, and is used consistently. Words such as 'benevolent' and 'trustworthiness', and terms such as 'gentleman' and 'petty man' appear throughout the chapters. While the language of the translation is simple, concise, and as close as possible to the spirit and sentiment of the original, the Editorial Board tried to avoid an overly literal approach, endeavouring to reflect the subtleties and ambiguities of the Chinese language in the translation, thereby permitting the reader his or her personal interpretation. Where appropriate, background information has been provided in the footnotes, to clarify terms and interpretations.
Subsequent translations into other languages were based on the English one and achieved with the assistance of various parties and individuals who provided translation services. The Editorial Board is committed to the continuous improvement of such translations based on comments received from readers through the Internet.
The verses of The Lun Yu are perhaps of the greatest inspiration and significance to the reader who ponders them, one at a time. Individually they provide much scope of thought. Collectively, they are glimpses of the aspirations, sights, character, conduct, wit, and even humour of Confucius.
- Nicholas P.C. Tsui -