12.1

Yan Hui asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “Restrain the self and return to ritual. That’s humaneness. If for a full day you can restrain yourself and return to ritual, everyone under Heaven will move toward humaneness. Humaneness comes from oneself. How could it come from others?”

Yan Hui asked, “Can I ask for specific steps?”

Confucius said, “If it’s not according to ritual, don’t look at it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t listen to it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t say it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t do it.”

Yan Hui said, “Even though I’m not that clever, I’ll apply myself to this.”

12.2

Zhonggong asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “When you go out into the world, conduct yourself as if you’re receiving an honored guest. Employ the people as if you’re conducting a great ceremony. Don’t impose on others what you wouldn’t want for yourself. In this way, you won’t stir up resentment in public or in your own household.”

Zhonggong said, “Even though I’m not that clever, I’ll apply myself to this.”

12.3

Sima Niu asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “The humane person is reluctant to speak.

Sima Niu replied, “That’s all humaneness is? Reluctance to speak?”

Confucius replied, “Carrying it out is so difficult, how can you not be reluctant to speak about it?”

12.4

Sima Niu asked Confucius about being a noble person.

Confucius replied, “The noble person has no anxiety or fear.”

Sima Niu replied, “No anxiety or fear? That’s all it takes to be a noble person?”

Confucius replied, “If you look within yourself and find nothing to be ashamed of, how could you have any anxiety or fear?”

12.5

Sima Niu was in distress. He said, “Everyone has brothers! I alone have none!”

Zixia said, “I have heard a proverb:

Life and death are up to fate,

Wealth and honors are up to Heaven.’

“Because the noble person behaves with reverence and tries to be free of error, is courteous to others and behaves with ritual correctness, all within the Four Seas are his brothers. How can a noble person worry about not having brothers?”

12.7

Zigong asked Confucius about government.

Confucius replied, “Enough food, enough weapons, and the confidence of the people in their ruler.”

Zigong then asked, “But suppose you have to give up one of these three. Which would you give up first?

Confucius replied, “Weapons.”

Zigong said “And what if you had to give up one of the remaining two?”

Confucius replied, “Food. Death has been with us since ancient times, but if the people lose confidence in their ruler, the community cannot stand.”

12.8

Ji Zicheng said, “Being a noble person just means having substance. What need is there for refinement?”

Zigong replied, “I’m shocked to hear you speak about a noble person this way! Even a team of fast horses couldn’t catch up to these misspoken words. A noble person’s substance isn’t different from refinement and refinement isn’t different from substance. If you strip the hair from the hide of a tiger or leopard, it looks the same as the hide of a dog or sheep.”

12.9

Duke Ai asked Youzi, “We’ve had a famine this year and there aren’t enough revenues to run the state. What should I do?”

Youzi replied, “How about a 10% tax, as the Zhou used to levy?”

Duke Ai replied, “I can’t even get by on a 20% tax! How could I manage on 10%?”

Youzi said, “If the people have enough, you’ll have enough. But if the people don’t have enough, how can you expect to have enough?”

12.10

Zizhang asked Confucius how to accumulate virtue and recognize confusion.

Confucius replied, “Take loyalty and trustworthiness as your first principles, and always move in the direction of what is right. That’s how to accumulate virtue.

“If you love something, you want it to live. If you hate something, you want it to die. If you want something to live and die at the same time, this is confusion.

“‘Not for her wealth,

But just for the novelty.’”

12.11

Duke Jing of Qi asked Confucius about government.

Confucius replied, “Let the ruler be a ruler, minister be a minister, father be a father, son be a son.”

The Duke said, “Excellent! If indeed, if the ruler is not a ruler, the ministers not ministers, fathers not fathers and sons not sons, even if I had grain, how could I eat it?”

12.18

Ji Kangzi was troubled by the thieves in his state. He asked Confucius what he should do about it.

Confucius replied, “If you weren’t so greedy, your people wouldn’t steal, even if you offered them a reward for doing it.”

12.19

Ji Kangzi asked Confucius about government, “How about I kill those who have abandoned the Way to help out the good. How about that?”

Confucius replied, “As head of government, why would you need to kill? If you set your heart on virtue and humaneness, the people will follow suit. The noble person is like the wind and the people are like the grass. When the wind blows, the grass bends.”

12.20

Zizhang asked what a scholar should do to be called prominent.

Confucius asked, “Prominent? What on earth do you mean by that?”

Zizhang replied, “To have your name known throughout your family and the state.”

Confucius replied, “You’re talking about fame, not prominence. Someone with an upright character who loves justice has prominence. They listen carefully to others and observe their countenances. They defer to others. This kind of person will have prominence in the family and the state.

To be famous, just put on a good show of humaneness while doing otherwise. Keep this con going without breaking and you’re sure to be famous among your family and the state.”

12.21

Fan Chi, while walking with Confucius among the Rain Dance altars, asked, “If I may, can I ask how to raise up virtue, overcome wickedness, and recognize delusion?”

Confucius replied, “Great questions! If you put the effort before reward, won’t that raise up virtue? If you attack evil itself rather than the evil person, won’t that overcome wickedness? In a moment of anger, to forget the danger to yourself and to your parents, isn’t that delusion?”

12.22

Fan Chi asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “Love others.”

Fan Chi then asked about knowledge.

Confucius replied, “Know others.”

Fan Chi didn’t get it.

Confucius continued, “Place the upright over the crooked and the crooked will be straightened out.”

After Fan Chi left, he saw Zixia and said to him, “I was just asking Confucius about knowledge and he said, ‘Place the upright over the crooked and the crooked will be straightened out.’ What did he mean by this?”

Zixia replied, “How rich his words are! When Shun was emperor, he selected Gao Yao from among the people and put him in charge. Evil people kept their distance. When T’ang was emperor, he selected Yi Yin and put him in charge. Here again, the evil people kept their distance.”

12.23

Zigong asked about the way of friendship.

Confucius replied, “Be honest with your friends, and show them the right path with skill and tact. But if they’re unwilling to listen, just stop. Don’t humiliate yourself.”