East Asian Canonical Texts - List of 36

This is a list of East Asian Canonical Texts. East Asia is defined to include China, Japan and (the two) Korea(s); in theory it should include Mongolia - but given population considerations I did not include any texts. Tibet (as part of China politically) should be included - but for expediency the only author I've selected, Tsong Kha Ba, is now included in the South Asian list with his Ocean of Reasoning commentary on Nagajuna.


This is a list of 36 texts on the surface, but because of the "embedded" titles due to including commentaries of earlier works, the true list is something like 45 texts (or much more if one consider inclusion of "anthologies" as including multiple works). This number of texts selected (36-45) is based on historical population of East Asia of roughly 25% above South Asia (whose list I include 36 texts), yet nowadays South Asia and East Asia has roughly the same population.


Just like all other lists on this site, balance is attempted across genres, traditions, and as possible geographical region of origin. Most of the considerations are written in the blog entry http://lawpark.jimdo.com/2011/11/05/east-asian-canonical-texts-list-structure-thoughts/ which I wouldn't repeat. The only thing has changed since that blog entry is the decision to combine the Tibetan language work into the South Asian list.

Table Form

Traditions Genre Total
History Philosophy Literature

Daoism -


    10.Declarations of the Perfected 8.Baopuzi; 27.Elaborations on Zhouyi Cantong Qi 23.Chongyang's Complete Perfection Collection 4

 Daoism - Philosophical 

  6.Wang Bi's Works   7.Guo Xiang's Commentaries on Zhuangzi   2


- Mixed / General

   9.New Account of Tales of the World 2.Hanfeizi; 3.Mozi; 20.Book of Supreme World Ordering Principles    11.Selected Literature; 22.Su Shi's Works; 26.Ci Anthology by Huaan; 28.Romance of West Chamber; 29.Water Margin; 30.Graded Collections of Tang Poetry; 31.The Story of the Stone  11
 Confucianism - Pure 13.Correct Meanings of Mao Odes

 5.Records of the Grand Historian; 16.Comprehensive Institutions; 21.Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government; 32.Summary of Learnings of Ming Confucians; 36.Continuation of Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government

1.Xunzi; 4.Luxuriant Dew of Spring and Autumn Annals; 24.Commentaries on Four Books; 31.Ten Diagrams of Sage Learning (Korea); 33.Records of Daily LEarnings    11
 Buddhism     14.Records of Western Regions; 18.Jingde Transmission of Lamp 12.Deep Meanings of Lotus Sutra; 15.Commentaries on Awakening of Faith (Korea); 17. Treatise on Ten Stages of Mind (Japan); 25.Kyogyoshinsho (Japan)    6
Japanese       19.Tale of Genji; 34. Matsuo Basho's Works  2
Total 2 9 15 10 36

List Form

Note: in the list below  use the romanized transliteration of original titles as much as possible to clarify the work I mean. So the numbers match with those used in the Table Form, but the titles themselves do not.

No. Title

Author or


Date used
for Ordering
1 Xunzi Xunzi 238B.C. N. China
2 Hanfeizi Hanfeizi 233B.C. N. China
3 Mozi Mozi 221B.C. N. China
4 Chunqiu Fanlu Dong Zhongshu 115B.C. N. China
5 Shiji Sima Qian 86B.C. N. China
6 Wang Bi Ji  Wang Bi 249 N. China
7 Zhuangzi Zhu  Guo Xiang 312 N. China
8 Baopuzi Ge Hong 333 S. China
9  Shishuo Xinyu Liu Yiqing 444 S. China
10  Zhengao Tao Hongjing 499 S. China
11 Wenxuan Xiao Tong 531 S. China
12 Fahua Xuanyi Zhiyi (Guanding) 601 S. China
13  Maoshi Zhengyi Kong Yingda 638 N. China
14 Datang Xiyu Ji Xuanzhuang 646 N. China
15 Dacheng Qixinlun Shuji  Wonhyo 660 Korea
16  Tongdian Du You 801 N. China
17 Jujushinron   Kukai 830 Japan 
18 Jingdi Chuandeng Lu Dao Yuan 1007 S. China
19 Genji Monogatari Murasaki Shikibu 1014 Japan
20  Huangji Jingshi Shu Shao Yong 1077 N. China
21  Zizhi Tongjian Sima Guang 1084 N. China
22 Dongpo Quanji Su Shi 1101 S. China
23  Chongyang Quanzhen Ji Wang Zhe 1170 N. China
24  Sishu Zhangju Jizhu Zhu Xi 1200 S. China
25 Jiao Xing Xin Zheng (Kyogyoshinsho) Shinran 1224 Japan
26  Huaan Cixuan Huang Sheng 1249 S. China
27  Zhouyi Cantong Qi Fahui Yu Yan 1284 S. China
28  Xixiang Ji Wang Shifu 1300 N. China
29  Shuihu Zhuan Shi Naian 1389 S. China
30  Tangshi Pinhui Gao Bing 1398 S. China
31 Sheng Xue Shi Tu (Seonghaksipdo) Yi Hwang 1568 Korea
32 Mingru Xuean Huang Zongxi 1676 S. China
33  Rizhi Lu Gu Yanwu 1682 S. China
34  Works Matsuo Basho 1706 Japan
35 Shitou Ji Cao Xueqin 1763 N. China
36  Xu Zizhi Tongjian Bi Yuan 1797 S. China


1. For both the dates and region, I use the completion of the final work as the basis (of course, there are some guess work involved). Thus Mozi is later than Xunzi only in that the final compilation of Mozi include some late Warring States materials; clearly Mozi the person is dated earlier than Xunzi. The division into North vs. South China in some cases are not very clear-cut - e.g. Rizhi Lu was written by a Southerner who wrote the work in North China. The Division of North vs. South China I used the typical division based on Huai River and Qin Mountains as the dividing line.


2. There are at least 9 "embedded" texts here - as the selection include commentaries. Wang Bi Ji includes (1) Zhouyi and (2) Laozi; Zhuangzi Zhu includes (3) ZhuangziMaoshi Zhengyi includes at least (4) Book of Odes; Wonhyo's commentaries includes (5) The Awakening of Faith (still controversial as to whether it originates in China or from Central / South Asia); Zhu Xi's commentaries include (6) The Analects, (7) Mengzi, and (8) Li Ji from which Zhong Yong and Da Xue are 2 chapters; and lastly, Yu Yan's commentaries include (9) Zhouyi Cantong Qi, putatively a late Eastern Han work.  


3. Geographical origins of works - among the 36 works, 4 from Japan, 2 from Korea, 15 each from North vs. South China.


4. Language-wise, other than the two literary works classified under "Japanese" tradition (in Japanese), the rest of the works were written in Chinese (including the two Korean works and the two Japanese Buddhist works).


5. For Basho, as in the CWANA list for Kalidasa and Amir Khusraw, I just use "Works" to represent his literary output - which is mostly Haiku poetry, but also including a famous travel works Oku no Hosomichi. On the other and, for Su Shi's Works -- given that his ci poetry work are selected in Huaan Cixuan -- is just the traditional collection of his prose and shi poetry writings.


6. For Chinese literature, I included 3 multi-author anthologies. Wenxuan includes substantial parts of Chu Ci, and poetry up till the compilers' time including say works by Cao Zhi or Tao Yuanming. Tangshi Pinhui is a substantial early Ming compilation of Tang poetry - the way it classifies poets, and poems by sub-genre is commonly used afterwards such as the popular 300 Tang Poems. Huaan Cixuan is a Southern Song compilation that includes ci poetry of various styles..


7. For Buddhism, I have included works from figures of major sects: Tiantai, Huayan (Wonhyo's Commentaries on Awakening of Faith was known and taught by Fazang, a key figure in the sect), Chan (Transmission of Lamp), Tantric / Shingon / Mi (Kukai), Pure Land (Shinran). One can easily argue that Dogen is more important philosophically than Shinran, or that as a sect Tendai was more important than the Tantric Sect of Kukai. 


8. I did not include any Confucianist texts from Japan - though in the Tokugawa era there were many key authors from that tradition. The thought is that a text is needed to represent Neo-Confucian thoughts in East Asia outside of China after Zhu Xi - if we phrase it this way, Yi Hwang (Toegye) is a good representative who is both central to the Korean Confucian tradition, and early (influential for the Japanese Confucians also). 


9. For History works, inclusion of Xu Zizhi Tongjian is a somewhat difficult decision. It is included eventually as my list do not include Zhang Xuecheng (as a rule I don't include pure historiographical or literary theory works) - but he is clearly important figure and contributed to Xu Zizhi Tongjian. With the texts selected, the long sweep of Chinese history (which included regimes typically of the largest population in the world almost all of the time) is mostly covered from earliest (Shiji) through end of Yuan dynasty (Xu Zizhi Tongjian), with additional intellectual historical coverage of the Ming dynasty (Mingru Xuean). Qing dynasty ends too late to have any full dynastic history to be included (as my lists' end date is 1900).