The Documents Classic

The book of Documents is one of the five ancient Confucian Classics. It is a collection of speeches by politicians, rulers. The book is organized into 5 parts, starting with ancient mythical times and moving into the 11th century BCE. It contains a total of 58 chapters, and is separated in the New Text which is 33 chapters that are thought to be from the Warring States Period or earlier.

It is one of the earliest examples of Chinese writing and citations can be found in the bamboo slips from the Guodian tombs in Hubei (300BCE).

The Shu Jing 書經, (Documents Classic or Book of History) is also known as the Shang shu 尚書 or Shang Shu Jing 尚書經 (Documents of the Elder, Book of History).


Legge, James. The Shoo King or the Book of Historical Documents. The Chinese Classics, Vols III, IV. London: Oxford University Press, 1865.

other reading

Karlgren, Bernhard. The Book of Documents, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 22 (1950): 1-81.

---, Glosses on the Book of Documents, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 20 (1948): 39-315 and 21 (1949).

Nylan, Michael, The Shifting Center: The Original "Great Plan" and Later Readings. Sankt Augustin, Institute Monumenta Serica, 1992.

Explores the exegetical tradition underlying this early source of political, cosmological, and social theory included as a "New Text" chapter in the Documents Classic.

online resources

For the Original Chinese text ›

Available from the Chinese Text Project.

Other Resources

·  China Knowledge has a description of the text, a list of sections and a brief excerpt of the translation by Legge with Chinese included : ›