The Six Confucian Classics areThe Book of Changes,The Book of History,The Book of Songs,The Book of Rites,The Book of Music, andThe Spring and Autumn Annals. An important proposition put forward by scholars of late imperial China was that those are all historical texts. According to these scholars, the Six Classics are all concerned with the social and political realities of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties rather than the teachings left by ancient sages. Zhang Xuecheng of the Qing Dynasty was the representative scholar to systematically expound this proposition. This view challenged the sacred status of the classics of Confucianism and marked a self-conscious and independent trend in Chinese historiography.
Scholars worship the Six Classics and say that they are the words of sages set down to teach later generations. They do not realize that the classics are the regulations and historical facts recorded by officials in the flourishing days of the three dynasties of Xia, Shang, and Zhou. They are not the writings of ancient sages. (Zhang Xuecheng:General Principles of Literature and History)