The Three Character Classic, or Sanzi Jing, is one of the Chinese classic texts. It was probably written in the 13th century and attributed to Wang Yinglin (王應麟, 1223–1296) during the Song dynasty. The work is an embodiment of Confucianism suitable for teaching young children. Until the latter part of the 1800s, it served as a child’s first formal education at home. The text is written in triplets of characters for easy memorization. With illiteracy common for most people at the time, the oral tradition of reciting the classic ensured its popularity and survival through the centuries. With the short and simple text arranged in three-character verses, children learned many common characters, grammar structures, elements of Chinese history and the basis of Confucian morality, especially filial piety and respect for elders (the Five Relationships in Chinese society).
This book, by the best-selling writing team of Jeff Pepper and Xiao Hui Wang, is both a workbook for people learning to read and write Chinese characters, and also an introduction to the basics of Confucian thought. Each of the 128 couplets (each one consisting of four 3-character sentences or phrases) is provided in Chinese, pinyin and English. There is also a short paragraph, based on ancient commentaries, that explains the meaning of the couplet.