Confucius said of the Jisun family, “They have eight rows of dancers in their courtyard! If they’re capable of this, what are not they not capable of?”
The Three Families had the King’s ode performed at the closing of their ceremonies, as the ritual utensils were being gathered up.
Confucius quoted the Ode,
‘Served by lords and princes,
The King, solemn and majestic.’
He added, “What could this possibly have to do with the ancestral hall of the Three Families?”
Confucius said, “If a person lacks humanity, what can their ritual be like? If a person lacks humanity, what can their music be like?”
Lin Fang asked about the roots of ritual.
Confucius said, “Good question! In ritual, it’s better to error on the side of modesty than showy extravagance. In mourning, it’s better to error on the side of real grief than to fuss over all the formal details.”
Confucius said, “The Eastern and Northern tribes, even with kings, are not equal to the Chinese countries, even when we lack rulers.”
The head of the Jisun family made a kingly sacrifice at Mt. Jai.
Confucius asked Ran Qiu, “Couldn’t you stop this?”
Ran Qiu replied, “I couldn’t.”
Confucius said, “What, then, does Mt. Tai know less about ritual than Lin Fang?”
Confucius said, “A noble person is not competitive, but they do take part in the archery contest. They ascend to their positions, bowing and deferring to each other. After descending, they offer toasts to each other. This is how noble people compete.”
Zixia asked about the meaning of this passage from The Book of Odes:
‘Her alluring smile, with dimples,
The lovely eyes, expressive and clear
The color emerges bright and distinct from the white’
Confucius said, “The painting of color is done on a plain background.”
Zixia said, “Then, does ritual come after?”
Confucius replied, “Zixia lifts me up! Finally, someone to discuss The Book of Odes with!”
Confucius said, “I can speak of the rituals of the Xia Dynasty, but there’s little left in the state of Qii to document them. I can speak of the rituals of the Shang Dynasty, too, but there’s little left in the state of Song to document them.
“There’s not much in the way of documentation or worthy scholars in those states. If there were, I could back up my words with evidence.”
Confucius said, “As for the king’s ceremonial sacrifice, I don’t want to hang around after they pour the libation.”
Someone asked Confucius to explain the king’s ceremonial sacrifice.
Confucius said, “I don’t know. A person who did know could handle the world as if they had it right here,” and he pointed to the palm of his hand.
“Sacrificing as if present” means to sacrifice to the spirits as though they are present.
Confucius said, “If I am not fully present at the sacrifice, it’s as if I didn’t sacrifice at all.”
Wangsun Jia asked, “What is the meaning of the old saying, ‘It’s better to sacrifice to the spirit of the kitchen stove than the spirit of the southwest corner?’”
Confucius said, “It’s not so! If you offend Heaven, there’s no one you can pray to.”
Confucius said, “The Zhou Dynasty had the advantage of looking back to the two previous dynasties. How great its culture was! I follow the Zhou.”
When Confucius entered the Great Ancestral Temple, he asked questions about everything. Seeing this, someone said, “Who ever said this son of a guy from Zou understands ritual? He comes into the Great Ancestral Temple and asks questions about everything!”
When Confucius head about this, he said, “Asking questions is the ritual.”
Confucius said, “In archery, the main thing isn’t piercing the target, because people’s strength differs. This is the Way of the ancients.”
Zigong wanted to stop sacrificing a sheep at the Declaration of the New Moon Ceremony.
Confucius said, “Zigong, you love the sheep. I love the ritual.”
Confucius said, “If you observe every detail of propriety when serving your leader, people will say you’re a kiss-ass.”
Duke Ding asked how a leader should employ ministers, and how ministers should serve their leader.
Confucius said, “The leader should employ ministers according to ritual. The ministers should serve their leader with dutifulness and loyalty.”
Confucius said, “The poem The Cry of the Osprey expresses joy without lewdness, and grief without over-the-top drama.”
Duke Ai asked Zai Wo about the altar to the soil.
Zai Wo answered, “The Xia used pine and the Shang used cypress. But the Zhou, they say, used chestnut in order to instill the people with fear.”
After hearing about this, Confucius said, “Don’t try to explain what is already over and done with. Don’t try to criticize what’s already past. Don’t try to assign blame after something is past.”
Confucius said, “Guan Zhong was a small vessel.”
Someone asked, “So, you mean he was frugal?”
Confucius replied, “He had three different residences and kept a separate member of staff to perform each duty. You call that frugal?”
“So, then, do you mean that Guan Zhong understood ritual?”
Confucius replied, “The princes kept a ritual screen in front of their gates–and so did Guan Zhong. The princes, when entertaining other heads of state, had a bar to hold their drinks–and so did Guan Zhong. If Guan Zhong understands ritual, who doesn’t?”
Confucius, while discussing music with the Music Master of Lu, said, “Here’s what I know about music. In the beginning, the notes seem disconnected, but they come into accord through harmony, and it continues flowing in this way until it reaches perfection.”
The border guard at Yi asked to speak with Confucius saying, “I’ve never been denied an audience with the noble men who have passed this way.”
Confucius’ students arranged a meeting.
When he came out, he said, “Friends, why are you worried because your teacher lost his position? The world has been without the Way for a long time now, and Heaven intends to use your teacher like the wooden clapper of a bell.”
Confucius said the music of the Shao was both perfectly beautiful and perfectly good. He said the music of the Wu was perfectly beautiful, but not perfectly good.
Confucius said, “To lack tolerance when holding high office, to lack respect but perform ritual, to attend a funeral but not mourn–how could I stand to look at someone like that?”