13.2

Zhonggong, serving as prime minister to the head of the Chi family, asked Confucius about government.

Confucius replied, “Set a good example for your officers, pardon small offenses, and raise up worthy talents.”

Zhonggong asked, “How am I going to find these worthy talents to raise them up?”

Confucius replied, “Raise up those you know. As for those you don’t recognize, others will recognize them.”

13.3

Zilu asked, “If the ruler of Wei put you in charge of governing, what would be your top priority?”

Confucius replied, “The rectification of names. Without a doubt.”

Zilu said, “Oh, you’re way off! What’s so important about that?”

Confucius replied, “What a rube you are, Zilu. When a noble person doesn’t understand something, they keep their mouth shut.

“If names are not rectified, then words don’t align with reality. If words don’t align with reality, work can’t be accomplished. If work can’t be accomplished, ritual and music can’t be developed. If ritual and music can’t be developed, punishments won’t fit the crime. If punishments don’t fit the crime, people won’t even know where to put their hands and feet.

“The rectification of names allows the noble person to speak, and what a noble person says can be acted upon. For this reason, a noble person is never careless in speech.”

13.4

Fan Chi asked Confucius about farming.

Confucius replied, “Why don’t you go ask an old farmer?”

Fan Chi asked Confucius about growing vegetables.

Confucius replied, “Why don’t you go ask an old gardener?”

Fan Chi left, and Confucius said, “What a simple-minded person Fan Chi is! If the people in charge love ritual, the people wouldn’t dare to be irreverent. If the people in charge love righteousness, then the people wouldn’t dare to be disobedient. If the people in charge loved being true to their word, then the people wouldn’t dare to be two-faced.

“If you govern this way, the people would come flocking to you, carrying their babies on their backs. Why worry about agriculture?”

13.8

Confucius said, “Prince Jing of Wei was sensible about household management. When he first began accumulating wealth, he said, ‘That’s about right.’ When he got a little more, he said, ‘This will do.’ When he became wealthy, he said, ‘This opulent enough.’”

13.9

Ran Qiu drove the chariot for Confucius on a trip to Wei. When they arrived, Confucius said, “There are so many people here!”

Ran Qiu asked, “Once there are this many people, what should be done for them?”

Confucius replied, “Enrich them.”

“And after they’re rich,” asked Ran Qiu, “what next?”

Confucius replied, “Educate them.”

13.14

Ran Qiu returned from court and Confucius asked, “What kept you?”

Ran Qiu replied, “I was on official government business.”

Confucius said, “Private business, you mean. If you were on official government business, I would know about it, even though I’m not in office.”

13.15

Duke Ding asked if there’s a single phrase which could bring a state to prosperity.

Confucius replied, “No words can have that kind of effect. There is a saying that comes close, though: ‘Being a ruler is hard, and being a minister isn’t easy.’

“If this saying made a ruler realize the difficulty of the job, wouldn’t it come close to being a single phrase that could bring a state to prosperity?”

Duke Ding then asked, “Is there a single phrase which could ruin a state?”

Confucius replied, “No words can have that kind of effect. There is a saying that comes close, though: ‘There is only one joy in being a ruler: no one contradicts me.’

“If you’re right and no one contradicts you, that’s fine. But if you’re wrong and no one contradicts you—well, wouldn’t it come close to being a single phrase that could ruin a state?”

 

13.17

Zixia, who was serving as Governor of Jufu, asked Confucius about government.

Confucius answered, “Don’t rush things and don’t look for small wins. If you rush around, you’ll never reach your goal. If you go after small wins, you won’t be able to attend to more important matters.”

13.18

The Governor of She told Confucius, “In my land, there is a righteous man. When his father stole a sheep, his son turned him in.”

Confucius replied, “The righteous men in my land are different. The father covers for the son and the son covers for the father. That’s righteous!”

13.19

Fan Chi asked about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “Be reverent at home, respectfully attentive in public matters, and loyal in your dealings with others.

“Even if you go and live with barbarians, don’t throw these things away.”

13.20

Zigong asked, “What sort of people are good enough to be considered a good government official?”

Confucius replied, “People who conduct themselves with a sense of shame, and who can be sent abroad on missions without disgracing the mission. Those are the sort of people who can be considered good government officials.”

Zigong then asked, “And who is one step below that?”

Confucius replied, “People whose families consider them filial and whose fellow villagers consider them respectful of elders.”

Zigong asked, “And one step below that?”

Confucius answered, “Someone who keeps their word and always follows through on their actions. They may be stubborn and small-minded, but they qualify as the next step down.”

Zigong asked, “And how about those serving in government today?”

Confucius replied, “Ugh. They’re little tools. They don’t even count.”

13.22

Confucius said, “The Southerners say, ‘A person without constancy couldn’t be a doctor or a shaman.’ That’s well said.

The Book of Changes says,

‘A person who is not constant may receive disgrace.’

“Yes, you don’t need a fortune-teller to see that!”

13.24

Zigong asked, “What would you think of a person if everyone in their village loved them?”

Confucius replied, “That’s not enough to go on.”

Zigong then asked, “What would you think of a person if everyone in their village hated them?”

Confucius replied, “That’s not enough to go on. It’s better if all the good people in the village loved them and all the bad people in the village hated them.”

13.25

Confucius said, “A noble person is easy to serve but difficult to please. If you try to please them with behavior that isn’t consistent with the Way, they won’t be pleased. When employing others, the noble person respects others’ limitations.

“A small person, on the other hand, is difficult to serve but easy to please. If you try to please them with behavior that isn’t consistent with the Way, they will be pleased anyway. When employing others, the small person expects everyone to be good at everything.”

13.28

Zilu asked, “What must a person be like to deserve to serve in government?”

“People who are critical and demanding, but also kind, are worthy to serve in government,” Confucius replied. “Critical and demanding of friends, and kind toward brothers.”