Four Books

Si shu,  (Chinese: “Four Books”, Wade-Giles romanization Ssu-shu), four ancient Confucian texts that were used as official subject matter for civil service examinations in China from 1313 to 1905 and that usually serve to introduce Chinese students to Confucian literature. Students later turn to the more extensive and, generally speaking, more difficult Wujing (“Five Classics”).

The publication of these four texts as a unit in 1190, with commentaries by the Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi, helped to revitalize Confucianism in China. From 1415 onward, knowledge of Zhu’s commentaries was indispensable to success in civil service examinations.