Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Wei Zhang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gil Ben-Herut, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cass Fisher, Ph.D.


Analects, China, Heaven, Religiosity


This paper seeks to analyze the three earliest Confucian thinkers and the foundational texts associated with them. In studying these texts this paper attempts to discover how these early Confucian thinkers conceived of Tian. This paper claims the early Confucian thinkers did not make as radical of a departure from the Ancient Chinese religiosity as many modern scholars have suggested. It has often been asserted that the tradition presented by these Confucian thinkers was entirely humanistic, altogether separate from the Ancient Chinese religiosityThis paper contests such claims,instead insisting that the early Confucian spirituality still viewed Tian as God and that the three earliest thinkers actually introduced new concepts which expanded, rather than diminished, upon the role of Tian.