16.1

The Jisun family was about to attack Zhuanyu, so Ran Qiu and Zilu went to see Confucius, saying, “The Jisun family is getting ready to move against Zhuanyu.”

Confucius said, “Ran Qiu, isn’t this your fault? Since ancient times the former kings have maintained Zhuanyu as the site of the sacrifice at Dong Meng mountain. Also, it’s located within our own state, and is subject to our national altars to the soil and grain. Why attack it?”

Ran Qiu replied, “It’s our lord who wants to do this, not the two of us as ministers.”

Confucius said, “Ran Qiu, the historian Zhou Ren said, ‘The one who displays his power is the one who gets the position; those who are not capable give up.’

“What sort of an assistant can’t steady his master when he totters or hold him up when he falls?

“Also, what you are saying is wrong. Who’s to blame when a tiger or a rhino escapes from its cage, or when a tortoise shell or jade is smashed in its case?”

Ran Qiu said, “But Zhuanyu is well-fortified and is located right next to the Ji family stronghold. If they don’t take it now, it will be a menace to their descendants.”

Confucius replied, “Ran Qiu! A noble person despises those who make excuses instead of just coming right out and saying what they want!

“I’ve heard it said that the heads of states or hereditary families don’t worry about poverty, but worry about inequality of distribution. They don’t worry about having too few people, but worry about unrest. When there’s fairness in distribution of wealth, there won’t be poverty. When there’s harmony in society, there won’t be a lack of people. When people are content, there’s no threat of unrest.

“So if people at a distance aren’t open to your rule, improve your ways and cultivate virtue to attract them. Once you’ve attracted them, see to it that they enjoy peace.

“But now, with the two of you as ministers, your lord can’t attract people from a distance, his land is falling apart, and he can’t hold onto it—and now he wants to wage war on one of his own provinces!

“For Lord Jisun, the real danger isn’t coming from Zhuanyu, but lies within his own walls.”

16.2

Confucius said, “When the Way prevails in the world, it’s the Son of Heaven who orders the rituals, music, and military expeditions. When the Way does not prevail in the world, it’s the regional rulers who order the rituals, music, and military expeditions.

“Once the regional rulers take over these duties, it’s rare for them to hold onto their authority for more than ten generations. Once the ministers take on these duties, their authority rarely lasts for five generations. When the family stewards are in charge, their authority rarely lasts for more than three generations.

“When the Way prevails in the world, these government duties don’t fall to the ministers. When the Way prevails in the world, the common people don’t need to debate politics.”

16.3

Confucius said, “It’s been five generations since the Lu government lost its authority to make appointments and set salaries. The ministers have been in charge for four generations now. That’s why the descendants of the Three Families are in decline.”

16.4

Confucius said, “There are three kinds of friends who can help you and three kinds of friends who can harm you. Friends who are upright, trustworthy, and learned—these will help you. Friends who are devious, brown nosers, and smooth-talkers—these will harm you.”

16.5

Confucius said, “There are three kinds of pleasure that will help you and three kinds of pleasure that will harm you. The enjoyment of cultivation in music and ritual, speaking well of others’ good points, and being surrounded by friends of good character—these will help you. The enjoyment of self-importance, loafing, and going overboard in feasting—these will harm you.”

16.6

Confucius said, “There are three kinds of mistakes to avoid when serving a ruler. To speak out of turn is impetuous. To be silent when it is time to speak is secrecy. To speak without noticing the ruler’s expression is blindness.”

16.7

Confucius said, “A noble person guards against three things. When young, and the blood is up, guard against lust. When mature, and energy is in full force, guard against rage. When old, and on the decline, guard against acquisitiveness.”

16.8

Confucius said, “A noble person stands in awe of three things: the will of Heaven, great people, and the words of the sages. The small person is clueless about the will of Heaven, despises the great, and mocks the words of the sages.”

16.9

Confucius said, “Those who are born with innate knowledge are at the top. Next come those who gain knowledge through learning. Next are those who learn through the trials of life, but who still are determined to learn. The lowest are those who learn nothing even from their trials.”

16.10

Confucius said, “A noble person takes care to give attention to nine things. In seeing, to have clear vision. In hearing, to be keen. In expression, to be warm. In attitude, to be courteous. In speech, to be loyal. In service, to be reverent. In doubt, to ask questions. In anger, to think of the consequences. In gaining an advantage, to think of fairness.”

16.11

Confucius said, “I’ve heard the saying,

“‘In seeing the good, rushing to catch up,

In seeing what is not good, recoiling as if touching boiling water.’”

“I’ve heard the saying, and known people like this. But I’ve also heard,

“‘Living in reclusion to pursue the heart’s purpose

Practicing what is right to pursue the Way.’”

“I’ve heard this saying, but I haven’t known any people like this.”

16.12

Duke Jing of Qi had thousands of horse-drawn chariots, but when he died, the people couldn’t think of anything good to say about him. Bo Yi and Shu Qi both died of starvation at the foot of Mount Shouyang and the people continue praising them right up the present day. This is what it means.”

16.13

Chen Kang asked Confucius’ son, Boyu, “Have you been taught anything special, anything different from what the rest of us students have been taught?”

Boyu replied, “No. One day my father was standing alone in the courtyard as I came rushing past. He asked me, ‘Have you learned the Odes?’

“I said, ‘Not yet.’

“He said, ‘If you don’t learn the Odes, you’ll have nothing to say.’ So I went off and studied the Odes.

“Another time, he was standing alone when I came rushing past and he asked me, ‘Have you learned the Rites?’

“I said, ‘Not yet.’

He said, ‘If you don’t learn the Rites, you won’t be able to take your place in society.’ So I went off and studied the Rites. These are the two teachings I’ve received.”

Chen Kang withdrew, and with delight, said, “I asked one thing and learned three! I learned about the Odes and the Rites, and I learned that a noble person keeps some distance from his son.”