1.6

Confucius said, “A young person should be filial to parents inside the home and respectful of elders outside the home. Conscientious and trustworthy, cherishing everyone, but with a special affection for the humane. If you have any energy left over, use it to study the cultural arts.”

1.8

Confucius said, “A leader who is not serious will not be taken seriously. Still, don’t be inflexible. Take loyalty and sincerity as first principles and don’t make friends with someone who isn’t your moral equal. When you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to fix it.”

1.14

Confucius said, “A noble person isn’t motivated by the desire for a full belly or a comfortable house. A noble person gets things done and is careful with words, sticking close to those who know the Way, being improved by them. We could say that this is the kind of person who loves learning.”

1.15

Zigong asked, “To be a poor person who doesn’t grovel or a rich person who isn’t arrogant. What do you think of that?”

Confucius replied, “Not bad, not bad. But not as good as being poor and enjoying the Way or being rich and loving ritual.”

Zigong said, “The Book of Odes says,

Like cutting and filing,

like grinding and polishing.

Is that what you mean?”

Confucius said, “Ah Zigong, you’re the kind of person I can talk about The Book of Odes with. I give you a little and you come back with the rest!”

2.3

Confucius said, “If you lead with regulations and keep people in line with punishments, they’ll stay out of trouble, but they’ll have no sense of shame. If you lead by setting a good example, however, and keep people in line with ritual, they will develop their own sense of shame and lead themselves.”

2.4

Confucius said, “At fifteen, I set my heart on learning. At thirty, I took my stand. At forty, I was without confusion. At fifty, I understood the commands of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was attuned to what I heard. At seventy, I can follow my heart’s desire without stepping over the line.”

2.5

Meng Yizi asked about filiality.

Confucius said, “Don’t diverge from them.”

Later, as Fan Chi was driving Confucius’ chariot, Confucius told him, “Meng Yizi asked me about filiality and I told him, ‘Don’t diverge from them.’”

Fan Chi asked, “What did you mean by that?”

Confucius said, “While your parents are alive, serve them according to ritual. When they die, bury them according to ritual. After they are gone, venerate them according to ritual.”

2.8

Zixia asked about filiality.

Confucius said, “The tough part is having the right demeanor. The young should take on the harder physical tasks and defer to their elders when food and wine is passed around, of course, but filiality is more than that.”

2.18

Zizhang asked about getting an official position.

Confucius said, “Listen as much as you can, put aside what’s doubtful, and speak cautiously about the rest. This will lead to few errors. Observe as much as you can, put aside what’s dangerous, and be careful in acting on the rest. This will lead to few regrets.

Few errors in speech and few regrets in action—that’s the key to earning an official position.”

2.19

Duke Ai asked, “How can I get the people to follow me?”

Confucius replied, “If you raise up the straight and apply them to the crooked, the people will follow you. If you raise up the crooked and apply them to the straight, though, they won’t.”

2.20

Ji Kangzi asked, “How can I get the people to be respectful, loyal, and hard-working?”

Confucius replied, “If you lead the people with dignity, they’ll be respectful. If you’re filial and compassionate, they’ll be loyal. If you promote the skilled and train the unskilled, they’ll be hard-working.”

2.21

Someone asked Confucius, “Why aren’t you involved in government?”

Confucius replied, “The Book of History says,

‘Filial! Just be filial!

And a friend to brothers, young and old.

This has influence on government.’

“Since this is taking part in government, why do I need to be ‘involved in government?’”

2.23

Zizhang asked, “Can we know what things will be like ten generations from now?”

Confucius said, “The Yin Dynasty followed the ritual of the Xia Dynasty, and what they added and subtracted from that can be known. The Zhou Dynasty followed the ritual of the Yin Dynasty, and what they added and subtracted from that can be known.

“In just this Way, what follows after the Zhou Dynasty—even to a hundred generations from now—can also be known.”

3.2

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?”

3.4

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.”

3.6

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?”

3.7

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.”

3.8

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!”

3.9

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.”

3.13

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.”

3.15

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.”

3.21

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.”

3.22

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?”

3.23

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.”

3.24

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.”

4.2

Confucius said, “If you don’t have humaneness, you can’t deal with long stretches of hardship or long stretches of comfort. A humane person feels at home with humaneness. The merely clever seek humaneness because they think it will help them get ahead.”

4.5

Confucius said, “Everyone wants money and fame, but if you can’t get them by following the Way, don’t go after them. Everyone hates being broke and disgraced, but if that’s what you get for following the Way, then don’t reject it.

“If a noble person abandons humaneness, how can they be worthy of being called a noble person? A noble person doesn’t abandon humaneness, even for the space of a meal. A noble person clings to humaneness, even in times of rushing or crisis.”

4.6

Confucius said, “I’ve never met a man who loved humaneness and hated what is not humane. If you love humaneness, you’ll put nothing above it. If you hate what is not humane, you won’t let it near you.

“Are there people who can devote all their strength to humaneness, even for one day? Well, I’ve never met anyone who lacked the strength to do it, anyway. Maybe there are people like that, but I haven’t met them.

4.15

Confucius said, “Zeng Can, my Way has a single thread running through it.”

Zeng Can replied, “Yes.”

After Confucius left, the other students asked, “What did he mean by that?”

Zeng Can replied, “Our teacher’s way is just to be sincere and fair.”

5.2

Confucius said of Nan Rong, “If the state follows the Way, he’ll always hold an office. If the state doesn’t follow the Way, he’ll avoid punishment and execution.”

Confucius gave him the daughter of his oldest brother in marriage.

5.5

Someone said, “Zhonggong is humane, but he’s not eloquent.”

Confucius replied, “Why should he be ‘eloquent?’ People usually end up hating a smooth-talker. I don’t know if Zhonggong is humane, but why does he need to be eloquent?”

5.7

Confucius said, “If the Way isn’t put into practice, I’ll just head out to sea on a small raft. I bet Zilu would go with me.”

Zilu was happy to hear this.

Confucius said, “Zilu loves daring more than I do, but he lacks judgment.”

5.8

Meng Wubo asked Confucius whether Zilu was humane.

Confucius replied, “I don’t know.”

Meng Wubo asked again.

Confucius replied, “Zilu could oversee the collection of military taxes in a large state. But I don’t know if he is humane.”

Meng asked, “What about Ran Qiu?”

Confucius answered, “Ran Qiu could be the steward of a city of a thousand families or a clan with a hundred chariots, but I don’t know if he is humane.”

Meng asked, “What about Gongxi Hua?”

Confucius said, “If he was dressed properly with his sash and placed in the middle of the court, he could make conversation with the guests. But I don’t know if he is humane.”

5.9

Confucius asked Zigong, “Who is a better man, you or Yan Hui?”

Zigong replied, “How could I compare myself to Yan Hui? He hears one point and understands ten. I hear one point and only understand two.”

Confucius said, “No, you’re not as good as Yan Hui. Neither one of us is as good as Yan Hui.”

5.10

Zai Wo napped during the day.

Confucius said, “Rotten wood can’t be carved and mud walls can’t be plastered. As for Zai Wo, what’s the point of scolding him?

“I used to listen to what people said and trusted that their actions would follow. Nowadays, I listen to what people say and I watch what they do. I learned this from Zai Wo.”

5.15

Zigong asked, “How did Kong Wenzi get the title ‘Cultured?’”

Confucius replied, “He was hardworking and loved to learn. He was also not above asking questions of his inferiors. That’s how he got the title of ‘Cultured.’”

5.16

Confucius said, “Zichan had four qualities of a noble person. He behaved with reverence. He was respectful when serving his superiors. He cared for the common people, and he was just in how he employed them.”

5.19

Zizhang asked, “The Chief Minister Ziwen was appointed three times, but never showed any signs of being pleased. He was fired three times, but never showed any signs of resentment. He would always brief his replacement fully on the prior government. What do you think of him?”

Confucius replied, “He was certainly dutiful.”

Zizhang asked, “But was he humane?”

Confucius replied, “I don’t know about that. What makes you think he was humane?”

Zizhang followed up, “When Cuizi assassinated the prince of Qi, Chen Wenzi, who had ten chariots, abandoned them and left the state.

“When he arrived at another state, he said, ‘The government here is just as bad as Cuizi’s.’ and so he left it.

Coming to another state he said, ‘Here, too, they’re just like Cuizi.’ and so he left. What do you think of him?”

Confucius replied, “He was certainly pure.”

Zizhang asked, “But was he humane?”

Confucius replied, “I don’t know about that. What makes you think he was humane?”

5.21

Confucius said, “When the Way was being practiced in his state, Ning Wuzi showed his wisdom. When the Way was not being practiced, though, he played the fool. Someone might be able to match his wisdom, but no one can match his foolishness.”

5.25

Confucius said, “Clever words, a plastic smile, and superficial gestures of respect. Zuoqiu Ming considered this stuff to be shameful and so do I.

“Hiding your resentment and pretending to be someone’s friend. Zuoqiu Ming considered this to be shameful, too, and so do I.”

5.26

Yan Hui and Zilu were with Confucius, and he asked them, “How about each of you tell me what you’d like to accomplish?”

Zilu replied, “I’d like to have wagons, horses, and fur coats to give to my friends, and not to get angry if they got damaged.”

Yan Hui replied, “I’d like not to be proud of my good points and not to brag about what I’ve done for other people.”

Zilu asked Confucius, “What would you like to accomplish?”

Confucius replied, “I’d like to comfort the elderly, have the trust of my friends, and nurture the young.”

6.2

Zhonggong asked about Zisang Bozi.

Confucius replied, “He’ll do. He takes a simple approach.”

Zhonggong said, “Maybe it’s okay to be simple in your approach if you have reverence in how you carry yourself. But if you’re simple in your approach and simple in how you carry yourself, isn’t that taking simplicity too far?”

Confucius said, “You’re right.”

6.5

When Yuan Si was serving as a steward, he was offered a salary of nine hundred measures of grain, but he turned it down.

Confucius said, “Don’t turn it down! If you don’t need it, couldn’t you share it with the people in your village and the surrounding communities?”

6.11

Confucius said, “What a worthy person Yan Hui was! He survived on a small bowl of rice and ladleful of water in a dingy back alley. Most people couldn’t have endured that kind of misery, but Yan Hui never let it spoil his joy. What a worthy person Yan Hui was!”

6.15

Confucius said, “Meng Zifan isn’t the boastful kind. Once, when his army was forced to retreat, he stayed behind to guard the rear. As they were about to enter the city gates, though, he spurred his horses ahead, saying, ‘It wasn’t my bravery that kept me behind to guard the rear. It’s just that my horses wouldn’t move.’”

6.18

Confucius said, “When raw material overwhelms refinement, you get a coarse rustic. When refinement overwhelms raw material, you get an officious scribe. Only when refinement and raw material are appropriately balanced and blended do you get a noble person.”

6.26

Zai Wo asked, “If you lie and tell a humane person that someone is stuck at the bottom of a well, would they jump into the well?”

Confucius replied, “Why would they? The noble person can be tricked into taking a look, but not into jumping in. They can be deceived, but not trapped.”

6.30

Zigong asked, “If someone were able to benefit everyone and help those in need, what would you say about that? Would you call that person humane?”

Confucius replied, “Why just humane? They’d be a sage! Even Yao and Shun would find this tough!

A humane person who wants to get established helps establish others. Wanting to be successful, they help others become successful. To make an analogy of what’s close at hand—that’s the way to humaneness.”

7.8

Confucius said, “I won’t give anyone a boost if they’re not at least struggling to make sense of an idea and get it into words. If I give someone one corner of a lesson and they can’t come back with the other three, I’m done teaching them.”

7.11

Confucius said to Yan Hui, “Acting when called upon to act and retiring when not needed. Only you and I are like this.”

Zilu asked, “If you were leading an army, who would you take as a lieutenant?”

Confucius replied, “Not the kind of person who likes to wrestle tigers or rush across a river on foot. Not someone who rushes headlong toward death without a second thought. I’d like someone who approaches the work with caution, someone who plans, and someone who sees the thing through to completion.”

7.19

The Governor of She asked Zilu about Confucius, but Zilu didn’t answer him.

When Confucius heard about this, he said, “Why didn’t you just tell him, ‘He’s the sort of man who goes after learning so eagerly that he forgets to eat, and in his joy forgets his worries and doesn’t notice old age creeping up on him?’”

7.26

Confucius said, “I’ve never met a sage, but I’d be satisfied to meet a noble person. I’ve never met someone who was truly good, but I’d be satisfied to meet someone who was steadfast.

“I see a lot of people who have nothing pretending to be something, who are empty while pretending to have substance, pretending to have comfort in the midst of their difficulties. Just to be steadfast is hard enough.”

7.28

Confucius said, “There may be some people who innovate without prior knowledge, but I’m not like that. I listen closely and follow what’s good. I observe closely and remember what’s good. This is the second best kind of knowledge.”

7.34

Confucius said, “I can’t claim to be a sage or a noble person. But I keep on working at it without disappointment and I never get tired of teaching others.”

Gongxi Hua said, “It’s exactly these qualities that we students can’t imitate.”

7.35

Confucius became very sick and Zilu asked permission to offer a prayer for him.

Confucius asked, “Is there a precedent for that?”

Zilu replied, “Yes. There is a passage in the Eulogies, ‘We pray to the spirits above and the spirits below for you.’”

Confucius replied, “Then I have already been praying for a long time.”

8.2

Confucius said, “Without ritual, being respectful becomes tiresome, caution becomes timidness, courage becomes recklessness, and straightforwardness becomes rudeness.

“When a person with a high office is generous to family and kin, the common people will be inspired to be humane. If old friends and acquaintances are not forgotten, the common people will honor their obligations, too.”

8.13

Confucius said, “Be devoted and love learning. Stick to the Way until death. Don’t enter a state in peril and don’t stay in a state in chaos.

“When the Way prevails in the world, show yourself. When it does not, withdraw into seclusion.

“When the Way prevails in a state, it’s shameful to be poor and of low rank. When the Way doesn’t prevail in a state, it’s shameful to be rich and honored.”

8.19

Confucius said, “How great Yao was as a ruler! Nothing is greater than Heaven, but Yao could emulate it. His virtue was so vast that the common people couldn’t even describe it! His achievements were sublime and his teaching was brilliant!”

8.20

Shun successfully governed the empire with five ministers.

King Wu said, “I have ten competent ministers.”

Confucius said, “Talent is hard to find, isn’t it? It really flourished in the time of Yao and Shun. As for King Wu, he really only has nine good men, as one of his ministers is a woman.

“When the Zhou already controlled two-thirds of the empire, they were able to continue serving the previous dynasty of Yin. We can call the virtue of Zhou the highest virtue.”

8.21

Confucius said, “I can’t find fault with Yu. He lived on the simplest food and drink, but he showed his filial devotion with lavish offerings to the spirits. He wore shabby clothes in his daily life, but his ceremonial robes and caps were elegant. He lived in a humble home, but he exhausted his strength building irrigation canals to water the fields. I can’t find fault with Yu.”

9.2

A man from Daxiang said, “How great Confucius is! His learning is so broad, but he hasn’t made a name for himself in anything in particular.”

When Confucius heard this, he remarked to his students, “What should I specialize in? Charioteering? Archery? I think I’ll go with charioteering!”

9.3

Confucius said, “The linen cap is prescribed by the rites, but these days they use a silk cap. That’s thrifty—I’ll go with the consensus on that.

“Bowing at the bottom of the stairs is prescribed by the rites, but these days they bow at the top of the stairs. That’s arrogant—I’ll go against the consensus on that and bow at the bottom of the stairs.”

9.5

When Confucius’ life was under threat in Kuang, he said, “King Wen is dead, but culture lives on in me. If Heaven intended for that culture to die off, those of us who came after wouldn’t have it. If Heaven doesn’t want to kill off this culture, what can the men of Kuang do to me?”

9.6

A high minister asked Zigong, “Is your master really a sage? Then why does he have so many skills?”

Zigong replied, “It’s Heaven that made him a sage and allowed him to develop many skills besides.”

When he heard about this, Confucius said, “What does the high minister know about me? When I was a boy, my family was poor, so I had to learn many skills. Does a noble person need to have many skills? I don’t think so.”

9.11

With a deep sigh, Yan Hui said, “The more I look up at it, the higher it gets. The more I drill into it, the harder it gets. I catch a glimpse of it in front of me, and all of a sudden, it’s behind me.

“My teacher is skilled at leading me forward, one step at a time. He broadens me with culture and restrains me with ritual. I couldn’t quit, even if I wanted to, but it still towers over me. I want to get there, but I can’t find a route up.”

9.12

When Confucius became ill, Zilu told the other students to act as if they were Confucius’ “ministers.”

During a remission in his illness, Confucius said, “Ah, Zilu, you’ve been carrying on this charade for a long time now, haven’t you? You want to make believe that I have ‘ministers?’ Who are you fooling? Heaven?

I’d much rather die in the arms of my students than in the arms of ministers. Besides, even though I won’t get a grand state funeral, it’s not like I’m dying on the side of the road.”

9.24

Confucius said, “How can we disagree with exemplary sayings? But the real value is in reforming yourself according to those sayings. How can we not be pleased by gentle and tactful words of correction? But the real value is understanding the point of those words.

“To agree with sayings but not try to understand their point, to agree with advice but not follow through with actions—what can I do with people like that?”

9.27

Confucius said, “Wearing only tattered work clothes while standing among gentlemen in their fineries, yet feeling no embarrassment. That’s Zilu, isn’t it?

Free of resentment, free of craving,

How could he do wrong?’”

On hearing this praise, Zilu took to repeating these lines over and over again.

Confucius said, “Is this really enough to be considered good?”

9.30

Confucius said, “Just because someone can learn with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can walk the Way with you. Just because someone can walk the Way with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can walk by your side. Just because someone can walk by your side, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can join you in acting with moral discretion.”

9.31

The petals of the wild cherry tree,

How they wave and turn,

It’s not that I don’t think of you,

But your home is so far away.’

Confucius remarked, “He wasn’t really thinking of her. If he was, why would the distance bother him?”

10.2

When speaking at court with his juniors, he was relaxed and friendly. When speaking with his superiors, he was straightforward, but respectful. When in the presence of the ruler, he showed reverence, but was collected.

10.3

When the ruler summoned Confucius to welcome a guest, his face would be solemn and his pace brisk. When he bowed to those around him, extending his cupped hands to the right and to the left, his robes swayed, perfectly arrayed, front and back. Stepping forward with them, he glided like a bird.

When the guests had departed, he would report back to the ruler, “Our guest no longer looks back.”

10.4

When passing through the door of his ruler, he would draw himself in, as if the gate wasn’t large enough to accommodate him. He wouldn’t stand in the middle of the gate or step on the threshold. When he passed by the throne, his expression became serious, his steps, short and deliberate. His voice dropped to a whisper, as if he could barely get the words out.

When he lifted the hem of his robe to climb the steps, he again drew himself in, holding his breath as if he’d stopped breathing altogether. On leaving the ruler’s place, after he had gone back down the first step, his expression became relaxed. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, he’d glide back to his position like a bird and resume a reverent attitude.

10.5

When Confucius carried the jade tablet of his ruler, he drew himself in as if he couldn’t bear the weight. When it held it high, it was as if he was bowing to someone. When he held it low, it was as if he was offering it to someone. His expression was serious and concerned. His steps were short and controlled, as if his feet never left the ground.

During the presentation ritual, his expression was relaxed. In a private meeting, he was even more at ease.

10.8

Confucius did not demand that his rice be finely-polished or that his meat be finely cut. He didn’t eat rice that had gone sour, spoiled meat or fish, food with a bad color or odor, or food that was overcooked. He didn’t eat food that was not cooked properly, and he didn’t eat outside of mealtimes.

He wouldn’t eat food that was improperly seasoned or prepared with the wrong sauce. Even when there was a lot of meat, he wouldn’t eat more meat than rice.

He didn’t limit his wine, though he never got drunk. He didn’t drink store-bought wine or eat store-bought dried meats. He would leave ginger on the table for after the meal, but he didn’t overdo it.

10.18

When the ruler sent him a gift of cooked food, Confucius would always taste it right away, after straightening his mat. If the ruler sent uncooked meat, he would always cook it and offer some as a sacrifice. If the ruler presented him with a live animal, he would always raise it. When attending a meal with the ruler, after the ruler made the sacrifice, Confucius would eat first.

10.25

When Confucius saw a person wearing clothes of mourning, even if it was someone he saw every day, his face would express grief. When he saw someone wearing a court cap or a blind person, even if it was someone he saw every day, he would become solemn.

If Confucius was riding in his carriage and he came across someone in mourning, or someone carrying official documents, he would bow down and grasp the crossbar.

If he was served a rare delicacy at a banquet, he would rise and express his appreciation.

He would also change his expression at the clap of thunder or a strong gust of wind.

10.27

Startled by their arrival, a bird took off and circled several times before perching on a branch.

Confucius quoted,

“‘The hen pheasant by the mountain ridge,

It knows the right moment!

It knows the right moment!’”

Zilu saluted the bird. It flapped its wings three times and flew away.

11.8

When Yan Hui died, his father asked Confucius for his carriage, so that he could sell it and buy an outer coffin.

Confucius replied, “Whether they’re gifted or not, all sons are loved by their parents. When my own son died, we had an inner coffin, but not an outer coffin. Since my rank is right below the grand officers’, it wouldn’t be proper for me to walk on foot.”

11.11

When Yan Hui died, the other students wanted to give him a lavish funeral. Confucius said, “It’s not proper.” The students gave Yan Hui a lavish funeral anyway.

Confucius said, “Yan Hui looked on me as a father, but in this matter I couldn’t look after him as a father should. This isn’t my fault, friends, but yours.”

11.12

Zilu asked Confucius about serving the spirits. Confucius replied, “If you can’t yet serve the living, how can you be able to serve the spirits?”

Zilu then said, “May I ask about death?”

Confucius replied, “You don’t yet understand life. What could you understand about death?”

11.14

When the men of Lu were rebuilding the treasury building, Min Ziqian said, “Why don’t we just rebuild it in the old style? Why do we have to change it completely?”

Confucius said, “This man doesn’t say much, but when he does, he hits the mark.”

11.16

Zigong asked Confucius, “Who is more worthy, Zhizhang or Zixia?”

Confucius replied, “Zhizhang overshoots the mark and Zixia undershoots it.”

Zigong said, “Then Zhizhang is superior.”

Confucius replied, “Overshooting the mark is just as bad as undershooting it.”

11.17

Even though the head of the Chi family was wealthier than the Duke of Zhou, Ran Qiu collected more taxes to make him even richer.

Confucius said, “He’s no follower of mine. My students, you have my permission to beat the drum and attack him if you want.”

11.24

Ji Ziran asked, “Could Zilu and Ran Qiu be called great ministers?”

Confucius replied, “Oh, I thought you were going to ask about something else. You want to know about Zilu and Ran Qiu?

“Great minister serves their ruler by means of the Way, and if they can’t, they’ll quit. Zilu and Ran Qiu are what we could call ordinary ‘team players.’”

Ji Zaran asked, “So they’ll always follow orders?”

Confucius replied, “No, not if they were ordered to kill their fathers or their rulers.”

11.26

Zilu, Zeng Xi, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Hua were sitting with Confucius, when said, “Although I am older than you, forget about it that for now. You are all always saying, ‘The word doesn’t recognize my talents.’ But suppose your talents were fully acknowledged. What would you do then?”

Zilu rushed to respond first, “In a state of a thousand war chariots, wedged between two much larger states, under siege by invading armies, drought, and famine. Put me in charge for three years, and I would bring the people courage and direction.”

Confucius smiled at him.

He then asked Ran Qiu, “How about you?”

Ran Qiu replied, “In a territory of sixty to seventy li, or maybe fifty to sixty li, put me in charge for three years, and the people would have their material needs met. As for ritual and music, that would have to be handled by a nobleman.”

Confucius then asked, “And what about you, Gongxi Hua?”

Gongxi Hua replied, “I can’t say that I can do this for sure, but I’d really like to try. In services at the Great Ancestral Hall or in audience with the ruler, I’d like to play the part of a minor assistant, dressed in ceremonial cap and gown.”

Confucius asked, “Zeng Xi, how about you?”

Zeng Xi, who had been playing the zither, set it down, the last chord still ringing out. He stood up.

“What I’d like to do,” Zeng Xi said, “is very different from these three.”

“No harm in that,” Confucius replied. “We’re all just sharing our personal aspirations.”

Zeng Xi said, “In the late spring, after the clothes have been made, I’d like to go with five or six companions and six or seven youngsters and take a swim in the Yi River. We’d enjoy the breeze at the Rain-Dance Altar, and then return home singing.”

Confucius sighed and said, “I am with Zeng Xi.”

The three others left, but Zeng Xi hung back and asked Confucius, “What did you think about what the other three said?”

Confucius replied, “They each just shared their own wishes.”

Zeng Xi asked, “Why did you smile at Zilu?”

Confucius said, “To govern a state requires ritual, and Zilu’s words showed no deference. That’s why I smiled.”

Zeng Xi then asked, “And Ran Qui, he was asking for a state, wasn’t he?”

Confucius said, “Of course. Have you ever seen a territory of sixty to seventy li, or fifty to sixty li, that wasn’t a state?”

Zeng Xi asked, “And Gongxi Hua, was he also talking about a state?”

Confucius replied, “Ceremonies in the Great Ancestral Hall and audiences with the ruler—what are these but affairs of state? And if Gongxi Hua was there playing a minor role, who would be playing the major role?”

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.”

12.7

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.”

12.10

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.”

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?”

13.9

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.”

13.17

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!”

13.22

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.”

14.1

Xian asked about shameful conduct.

Confucius replied, “When the Way prevails in your state, take office. To take office when the Way does not prevail—that is shameful conduct.”

Xian then asked, “If a person is free of arrogance, self-importance, resentment and desire, can their conduct be called humane?”

Confucius replied, “It’s certainly difficult, but I don’t know if I’d call it humane.”

14.4

Confucius said, “A person with moral power always has something to say, but a person with something to say doesn’t necessarily have moral power. A humane person is certainly brave, but not all brave people have humaneness.”

14.5

Nangong Kuo asked Confucius, “How is it that Yi was a master of archery and Ao could drive his enemy’s ships onto dry land, but neither died a natural death? Yet Yu and Hou Ji were farmers and ended up ruling the world?”

Confucius didn’t answer at the time, but after Nangong Kuo left, he said, “Now there’s a noble person! There’s someone who values virtue!”

14.9

Someone asked about Zichan.

Confucius replied, “He was generous.”

“And what about Zixi?”

Confucius replied, “That guy? Don’t even mention him.”

“And how about Guan Zhong?”

Confucius answered, “He was a man! He seized a territory of three hundred households in Pian from the Bo family. Although the head of the family was reduced to eating coarse rice for the rest of his life, he didn’t utter a single word of complaint against him.”

14.12

Zilu asked about becoming a complete person.

Confucius said, “The wisdom of Zang Wuzhong, the desirelessness of Meng Gongchuo, the courage of Zhuangzi of Bian, and the abilities of Ran Qiu, all refined through ritual and music.

But if you want to be a complete person today, why do you need all of that? If you see a chance for profit and think of right conduct, if you’re ready to give your life when facing danger, and if you can endure long hardships without forgetting your principles—then you, also, may be considered a complete person.”

14.13

Confucius asked Gong Mingjia about Gongshu Wen Zi, “Is it true that your master never spoke, laughed, or accepted anything?”

Gongming Jia replied, “That’s an exaggeration. He only spoke when it was appropriate, so people never got sick of his words. He laughed, but only when he was joyful, so people never got sick of his laughter. He only took when it was the right thing to do, so people never get tired of his taking.”

Confucius said, “Really? Is that so?!”

14.16

Zilu said, “When Huan Gong assassinated Gongzi Jiu, his tutor Zhao Hu chose to die with him, but Guan Zhong didn’t. He fell short of humaneness, didn’t he?”

Confucius replied, “When Huan Gong brought the nine rulers together in council, it wasn’t through military might, but through the influence of Guan Zhong. Such humaneness! Such humaneness!”

14.17

Zigong said, “Surely, Guan Zhong was not humane? After Duke Huan killed his Prince Jiu, not only did Guan Zhong not die along with him—he actually became Duke Huan’s prime minister!”

“With Guan Zhong as his Prime Minister, Duke Huan became leader of the nobles and brought order to the realm,” Confucius replied. “Down to this day, we still benefit from this. Without Guan Zhong, we’d be wearing our hair down and buttoning our clothes on the left side like barbarians.

“What should we expect? That he act out the petty virtues of a country rube and hang himself in some ditch, anonymously?”

14.19

Confucius spoke about how Duke Ling of Wei didn’t follow the Way.

Ji Kangzi asked, “Well, if that’s the case, why didn’t he come to ruin?”

Confucius replied, “Zhongshu Yu attends to the guests, Preacher Tuo manages the temples, and Wangsun Jia leads the military. That being the case, how could he come to ruin?”

14.21

When Chen Chengzi assassinated Duke Chien, Confucius cleansed himself according to ritual and went to court. He reported to Duke Ai, saying, “Chen Chengzi has killed his ruler. I encourage you to punish him.”

Duke Ai replied, “Report this to the Three Families.”

Confucius said, “It’s only because I have an official rank that I felt duty-bound to make this report. And yet Duke Ai tells me to report it to the Three Families?”

Confucius then reported the matter to the Three Families, but they refused to do anything about it.

Confucius repeated, “It’s only because I have an official rank that I felt duty-bound to make this report.”