17.1

Yang Huo wanted to see Confucius, but Confucius didn’t want to see him. Yang Huo sent him a suckling pig as a present. Confucius chose to offer his thanks at a time when he knew Yang Huo wouldn’t be home. On his way back home, however, he met him in the street.

Yang Huo said, “Come here, I have something to tell you! Would you say that someone has humaneness if he clutches a great jewel to himself while his state is going to hell? I don’t think so! Would you call someone wise if he wants to take part in government but then lets every opportunity to do so slip through his fingers? I don’t think so! Days and months go by—time isn’t on our side!”

Confucius replied, “Alright, I’ll accept an office.”

17.4

Confucius went to Wucheng, where Ziyou was governor. While there, he heard stringed instruments played together with singing. Amused by this, he commented, “Why use an ox-cleaver to kill a chicken?”

Ziyou replied, “I can remember you saying, ‘The noble person who cultivates the Way loves everyone. The common people who cultivate the way are easy to govern.’”

Confucius said, “My friends, Ziyou is right. I was only joking.”

17.5

Gongshan Furao was holding Bi as his base, and was about to start a rebellion. He asked Confucius to join him. Confucius was tempted.

Ziyou said, “We may be at the end of the line, but is that a good reason to join Gongshan?”

Confucius replied, “The man must’ve had some purpose in inviting me. If someone would employ me, I could establish a new Zhou dynasty in the East.”

17.6

Zizhang asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “To be humane is to spread five practices in the world.”

Zizhang asked, “And those are?”

Confucius said, “Respect, tolerance, trustworthiness, diligence, and generosity. If you’re respectful, you won’t be insulted. If you’re tolerant, you’ll win the hearts of the people. If you’re trustworthy, people will have confidence in you. If you’re diligent, you’ll get things done. If you’re generous, people will do things for you.”

17.7

Bi Xi called for Confucius, and Confucius was tempted to go.

Zilu said, “I remember you saying, ‘A noble person won’t associate with someone who is committing evil.’ Now Bi Xi is about to use his stronghold in Zhong Mou to start a rebellion. How can you even consider joining him?”

Confucius replied, “Yes, I did say that. But what resists grinding is truly strong and what resists black dye is truly white. Should I be like a bitter gourd, hanging on a string as decoration but not fit to eat?”

17.8

Confucius said, “Zilu, have you heard about the six noble tendencies and their perversions?”

Zilu replied that he hadn’t.

“Sit down, then, and I’ll tell you,” Confucius said. “To love humaneness without loving learning leads to foolishness. To love intelligence without loving learning leads to being scattered. To love forthrightness without the love of learning leads to harm. To love bravery without loving learning leads to brutality. To love force without the love of learning leads to wildness.”

17.9

Confucius said, “Little ones, why don’t you study the Odes? The Odes can give your spirit a kick in the pants and can give your mind keener eyes. They can help you adjust better in groups and make you more articulate when making a complaint. They teach you to serve your parents at home and your ruler abroad. They also make you familiar with the names of birds, animals, plants, and trees.”

17.15

Confucius said, “Is it really possible to work side-by-side with a vulgar person in serving a ruler? Before he gets what he wants, all he cares about is getting it. Once he gets it, all he worries about is losing it. Once he starts worrying about losing it, there’s nothing he won’t do.”

17.16

Confucius said, “In ancient times, people had three kinds of faults. These days, we’ve lost even these. In those times, the wild were daring—nowadays, the wild are simply out of control. In those times, the proud had principles—nowadays, the proud are bad-tempered and contentious. In those times, the stupid were straightforward—nowadays, the stupid are deceitful.”

17.19

Confucius said, “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

Zigong said, “If you don’t speak, what will we students pass along?”

Confucius replied, “Does Heaven speak? Yet the four seasons continue to turn and the creatures of the world are born. Does Heaven speak?”

17.21

Zai Wo questioned Confucius about the traditional three-year mourning period.

“One year is already too long. If a noble person gives up ritual for three years, the ritual will decay. If a noble person gives up music for three years, then music will fall apart. In the course of a year, as the old crop is eaten up, new crops grow for harvest. Four types of firewood—one for each season—have been used for kindling. A full year of mourning is quite enough.”

Confucius asked, “Would you be comfortable eating white rice and wearing silk after a year?”

“I would,” replied Zai Wo.

Confucius said, “If you’d feel comfortable, go right ahead then. When a noble person mourns, fine foods are not sweet, music brings no joy, and luxurious clothes bring no comfort, even around the house. These things don’t bring pleasure, so the noble person doesn’t indulge in them. But if you’d feel comfortable doing these things, go right ahead.”

After Zai Wo left, Confucius said, “He lacks humaneness. Children don’t leave their parents arms for three years after they’re born, so three years’ mourning is the custom throughout the world. Didn’t Zai Wo even have three years of love from his parents?”

17.23

Zilu asked, “Does a noble person value courage?”

Confucius replied, “A noble person values righteousness above all. If a noble person has courage without righteousness, chaos reigns. If a small person has courage without righteousness, they become a bandit.”

17.24

Zigong asked, “Does a noble person have hatreds?”

Confucius answered, “Yes, a noble person hates those who point out the faults of others, those who slander their superiors, those who have courage but lack ritual, and those who are bold but lack understanding.”

He continued, “And what about you? Do you have hatreds?”

“Yes,” replied Zigong, “I hate those who steal other peoples’ ideas and then act like they’re smart. I hate those who think being arrogant is courageous. And I hate those who think insulting people is straightforwardness.”