Confucius said, “Isn’t it satisfying to learn and apply what you’ve learned? Isn’t it great when friends come from afar? If I’m not bothered that people don’t recognize me, isn’t that the mark of a noble person?”
Confucius said, “Slick words and a plastic smile are rarely signs of humaneness.”
Confucius said, “To govern an important state, take care of business, keep your word, and watch your spending. Care for the people and only employ them only at the right times.”
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.”
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.”
Confucius said, “While you father is alive, observe his intentions. After he’s passed away, reflect on his actions. If you hold back from changing your father’s ways for three years, you can be called filial.”
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.”
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!”
Confucius said, “Don’t worry about others not knowing you. Worry about not knowing others.”
Confucius said, “To lead with the power of moral influence is like being the North Star. It stays in its place and all the other stars arrange themselves around it.”
Confucius said, “There are three hundred poems in The Book of Odes, but they can be summed up in just one phrase, ‘They never swerve from the path.’”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Meng Wubo asked about filiality.
Confucius said, “Give your parents nothing to worry about other than your health.”
Ziyou asked about filiality.
Confucius said, “These days, people think just feeding their parents is filiality. But people feed horses and dogs, too. Without respect, what’s the difference?”
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.”
Confucius said, “I can talk with Yan Hui all day and not once does he question or contradict me. It’s like he’s stupid. But after he walks away and I see how he conducts himself, it’s clear that there’s nothing stupid about him!”
Confucius said, “Watch what a person does. Observe their motives and where they feel at ease. Where can they hide? Where can they hide?”
Confucius said, “Bringing past teachings to life while learning the new—that’s what makes a worthy teacher.”
Confucius said, “The noble person is not a vessel.”
Zigong asked about the character of a noble person.
Confucius said, “A noble person acts first and then lets their words follow their actions.”
Confucius said, “A noble person is open-minded and not biased. A small person is narrow-minded and biased.”
Confucius said, “If you learn without thinking, you’ll be lost. If you think without learning, you’ll be in danger.”
Confucius said, “Throwing yourself into strange teachings is dangerous.”
Confucius said, “Zilu, do you want to know about knowledge? To realize when you something and to realize when you don’t know something. That’s knowledge.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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?’”
Confucius said, “A person who can’t be trusted, I don’t see how they get anywhere. When the linchpin is missing from the yoke-bar of a large wagon or the collar-bar of a small wagon—how can you drive them anywhere?”
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.”
Confucius said, “To venerate ancestors other than your own is brown-nosing. To see what’s right and not do it is to lack courage.”
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.”
“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.”
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?”
Confucius said, “It’s the humaneness that makes the neighborhood. If you decide to live in a neighborhood that lacks humaneness, how can you be wise?”
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.”
Confucius said, “Only a humane person can truly like or dislike other people.”
Confucius said, “If you really set your mind on humaneness, you will not resent anyone.”
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.”
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.
Confucius said, “People make mistakes according to the kind of person they are. Look at a person’s mistakes. That will tell you what kind of person they are.”
Confucius said, “Hear the Way in the morning, die in peace that night.”
Confucius said, “If a scholar sets his heart on the Way but is ashamed to eat poor food or wear shabby clothes—this isn’t someone worth talking to.”
Confucius said, “When dealing with the world, the noble person isn’t prejudiced for or against anything. They just do what’s right.”
Confucius said, “The noble person worries about setting a good example. The small person cares about property. The noble person does what is right. The small person looks for special treatment.”
Confucius said, “If all you do is chase after profit, people will resent you.”
Confucius said, “If you can lead with ritual and deference, what else do you need? If you can’t lead with ritual and deference, what good will ritual do you?”
Confucius said, “Don’t worry because you don’t have a position. Worry about having what it takes to have a position.
“Don’t worry about not being well-known. Worry about being worthy of being well-known.”
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.”
Confucius said, “The noble person knows what’s fair. The small person knows what pays.”
Confucius said, “When you see a good person, think of becoming their equal. When you see someone who is not worthy, turn back and look at yourself.”
Confucius said, “When you serve your parents, it’s okay to gently correct them. If you see that they don’t want to listen, though, be respectful. Continue working for their benefit and don’t complain.”
Confucius said, “While your parents are alive, it’s better not to travel too far away. If you do have to travel, though, you should stick to a fixed itinerary.”
Confucius said, “If you hold back from changing your father’s ways for three years, you can be called filial.”
Confucius said, “You should always be mindful of your parents’ ages. It’s a cause of both joy and anxiety.”
Confucius said, “The ancients were not eager to speak because they were afraid their actions might not live up to their words.”
Confucius said, “Very few go off-track if they show restraint.”
Confucius said, “A noble person is slow to speak and quick to act.”
Confucius said, “Virtue never stands alone. It always has neighbors.”
Confucius said of Gongye Chang, “He is fit for marriage. He did some time in prison, but he was innocent.”
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.
Confucius said of Zijian, “Now there’s a noble person. If the state of Lu is really lacking in noble people, where did he acquire that kind of character?”
Zigong asked, “What do you think of me?”
Confucius replied, “You are a vessel.”
Zigong asked, “What kind of vessel?”
Confucius replied, “One of the ancient sorts of vessels that held grain offerings in the ancestral temples.”
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?”
Confucius encouraged Qidi Kai to take office.
He replied, “I’m not confident that I’m ready for that responsibility yet.”
Confucius was pleased.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Confucius said, “I’ve never met a really solid person.”
Someone asked, “What about Shen Cheng?”
Confucius replied, “Shen Cheng is lustful. How could he be solid?”
Zigong said, “What I don’t want done to me, I don’t want to do to others.”
Confucius said, “Zigong, this is beyond you.”
Zigong said, “You can hear about Confucius’ mastery of literature and culture, but you can’t get his views on human nature or the way of Heaven.”
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.’”
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.”
Confucius said, “Yan Pingzhong was good at getting along with people. Even after he knew them for a long time, he continued treating them with respect.”
Confucius said, “Zang Wenzhong housed his sacred tortoises in a hall where the tops of the pillars were carved in the shapes of mountains and the roof beams were decorated with water plants. How could we call him wise?”
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?”
Ji Wenzi always reflected three times before acting.
When Confucius heard about this, he quipped, “Twice would’ve been enough.”
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.”
Once, when Confucius was travelling in the state of Chen, he said, “Let’s go home! Let’s go home! Our young students back in Lu are wild and ambitious. They’re made of the right stuff, but they don’t know how to shape it.”
Confucius said, “Bo Yi and Shu Qi didn’t dwell on people’s past failings, so there wasn’t much resentment against them.”
Confucius said, “Whoever said that Weisheng Gao was upright? When someone asked him for vinegar, he would go and beg for some from a neighbor and present it as his own.”
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.”
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.”
Confucius said, “I give up! I’ve not met a single person who could see their own faults and correct them.”
Confucius said, “Zhonggong could be given a ruler’s seat.”
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.”
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?”
Confucius said of Zhonggong, “The calf of a brindled plow ox could be all red and have good horns. Even if people think it’s unsuitable for sacrifice, would the spirits reject it?”
Confucius said, “Yan Hui could set his heart on humanity for three months at a time without a break. Everyone else only does it now and then.”
Boniu was sick and Confucius went to visit him.
Confucius held Boniu’s hand through the window and said, “We’re going to lose him. It must be fate that a man like this is dying and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
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!”
Ran Qiu said, “It’s not that I don’t delight in your Way, but I don’t have the strength.”
Confucius replied, “People who don’t have the strength collapse along the Way. You’re holding yourself back.”
Confucius said to Zixia, “Be a noble scholar. Don’t be a petty scholar.”
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.’”
Confucius said, “These days, it’s hard to get by unscathed without the golden tongue of Preacher Tuo or the good looks of Song Zhao.”
Confucius said, “How can anyone leave a room except through the door? So why doesn’t anyone use the Way?”
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.”
Confucius said, “A person lives by being upright. If they manage to get by while living a crooked life, it’s just luck.”
Confucius said, “Knowing it isn’t as good as loving it. Loving it isn’t as good as finding joy in it.”
Confucius said, “You can talk about higher subjects with people whose intelligence is above average, but not with those whose intelligence is below average.”
Confucius said, “The wise enjoy the waters and the humane enjoy the mountains. The wise are busy and the humane are still. The wise are happy and the humane are long-lived.”
Confucius said, “With just one change, the state of Qi could come up to the level of the state of Lu. With just one change, the state of Lu could attain the Way.”
Confucius said, “A misshapen wine glass is not a wine glass. How could it be a wine glass? How could it be a wine glass?”
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.”
Confucius said, “The noble person who studies broadly in culture and restrains themselves through ritual won’t jump the track.”
Confucius visited Nanzi and Zilu was not happy about it.
Confucius swore an oath, “If I have done wrong, may Heaven punish me! May Heaven punish me!”
Confucius said, “Finding the right balance, day-in and day-out, isn’t this the best way? But most people aren’t able to stick with it for long.”
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.”
Confucius said, “I transmit, but I don’t innovate. I have faith in the old ways, I love them. In this, I compare myself to Old Peng.”
Confucius said, “Keeping silent, but thinking. Learning without getting tired. Encouraging others without fatigue. These things aren’t a problem for me.”
Confucius said, “Failing to cultivate virtue. Studying but not making sense of what I study. Not practicing what I preach. Not correcting my errors. These things keep me up at night.”
When Confucius was at leisure, he was composed, but relaxed.
Confucius said, “I must really be going downhill. It’s been a long time since I dreamed of the Duke of Zhou.”
Confucius said, “Set your heart on the Way. Hold tight to virtue and rely on your humanity. Take your leisure in culture.”
Confucius said, “From those who could only bring me some dried meat and upwards, I’ve never turned away anyone who came to me for instruction.”
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.”
When Confucius ate next to someone who was mourning, he never ate his fill.
On a day when Confucius wept, he wouldn’t sing.
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.”
Confucius said, “If wealth were guaranteed and worth going after, I’d go after it, even if it meant just holding a whip. Since it’s not, though, I’ll do something I love.”
Confucius was cautious about fasting, war, and sickness.
Confucius said, “If I could add some years on to my life, I would spend about fifty of them studying the principles of change and I could be free of errors.”
Confucius always used the correct pronunciation when reciting from The Book of Odes, or The Book of Documents and when conducting rituals. On all these occasions, he used the classical pronunciation.
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?’”
Confucius said, “I wasn’t born with knowledge. I just love the old ways and I work hard to learn about them.”
Confucius didn’t talk about strange happenings, feats of strength, chaos, or ghost stories.
Confucius said, “When I do something with two other people, they’re my teachers. I notice their good points and try to follow suit. I notice their bad points and try to correct them in myself.”
Confucius said, “Heaven has given me virtue. What do I have to fear from the likes of Huan Tui?”
Confucius said, “My young friends, do you think I hide anything from you? I don’t hide anything from you. I don’t do anything that I don’t put right out there in front of you. That’s just how I am.”
Confucius taught four things: culture, correct conduct, doing one’s best, and trustworthiness.
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.”
When Confucius went fishing, he didn’t use a net. When he went hunting, he wouldn’t shoot at nesting birds.
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.”
Confucius said, “Is humaneness so far away? As soon as I aspire to humaneness, look! There it is!”
When Confucius was singing with someone else, and he found that they sang well, he would ask them start over again so he could sing the harmony.
Confucius said, “I work hard at learning, but when it comes to putting it all into practice as a noble person, I’m not there yet.”
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.”
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.”
Confucius said, “Extravagance leads to a lack of humility. Frugality leads to shabbiness. Better to be shabby than to lack humility.”
Confucius said, “The noble person is self-possessed and relaxed. The small person is always worried.”
Confucius was gentle, but firm. He inspired awe, but wasn’t harsh. He was respectful, but relaxed.
Confucius said, “We can say that Tai Bo possessed the highest virtue. He declined the rule of the kingdom three times. Since no one knew he did this, he didn’t take any credit for it.”
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.”
Confucius said, “Arise with the Odes, take your stand with ritual, and come to perfection with music.”
Confucius said, “The common people can be made to follow, but they cannot be made to understand the reasons why.”
Confucius said, “If a person who loves only valor is faced with poverty, chaos ensues. If a person who lacks humaneness faces stress, chaos ensues.”
Confucius said, “Even if you had the talents of the Duke of Zhou, if you’re arrogant and stingy, the rest of your qualities aren’t worth a glance.”
Confucius said, “It’s hard to find a person who studies for three years who doesn’t start thinking about getting a salary.”
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.”
Confucius said, “If you don’t hold a particular office, don’t meddle in its business.”
Confucius said, “People who are wild without at least being upright, simple-minded without at least being honest, tactless without at least being trustworthy—I just don’t get them.”
Confucius said, “Learn as if you’ll never catch up, as if you’re afraid of losing what you’ve already learned.”
Confucius said, “How impressive Shun and Yu were! They possessed the whole empire, but it was as if it was nothing to them!”
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!”
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.”
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.”
Confucius rarely spoke of profit, fate, or humaneness.
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!”
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.”
There were four things Confucius kept away from: speculation, demanding absolute certainty, stubbornness, and selfishness.
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?”
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.”
Lao said, “Our teacher once said, ‘I didn’t have an official position, so I developed many skills.’”
Confucius said, “Do I have wisdom? No, I don’t. But if a simple person asks me a question and I come up empty, I’ll look into it from one end to the other.”
Confucius said, “The phoenix hasn’t come and the river hasn’t produced its chart. It’s all over for me, isn’t it?”
If Confucius saw someone in mourning, or in full ceremonial dress, or a blind person— even if they were younger than him—he would arise. If he had to pass by them, he would do so quickly.
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.”
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.”
Zigong asked, “If you have a beautiful piece of jade, would you hide it away in a locked box or try to sell it for a good price?”
Confucius replied, “Oh, I’d sell it! I’d sell it! But I’m waiting for the right offer.”
Confucius wanted to go and live with some barbarian tribe. Someone said, “But they’re so uncouth? How could you stand it?”
Confucius replied, “If a noble person lives among them, how could they be uncouth?”
Confucius said, “It was only after I returned to Lu from Wei that the music got straightened out, with the odes and the hymns being played at their proper places and times.”
Confucius said, “When out in the world, serving the rulers and ministers. When at home, serving my elders. Not slacking off during funerary rites and not getting drunk. These things aren’t a problem for me.”
Standing on the banks of the river, Confucius said, “On and on it flows, never ceasing, day or night!”
Confucius said, “I’ve never met a man who loves virtue as much as he loves beauty.”
Confucius said, “It’s like building a mountain. If I stop just one bucket shy of completion, then I’ve stopped. It’s like filling in a pit. Even if I’ve only just dumped in the first bucketful of dirt, I’m making progress.”
Confucius said, “If there was anyone who could listen to my teaching without slacking off, that was Yan Hui, wasn’t it?”
Confucius said about Yan Hui, “Such a shame. I saw him strive forward, but I never saw him stop.”
Confucius said, “There are some seedlings that never flower, and some flowers that never bear fruit.”
Confucius said, “We should look on the younger generation with awe. How are we to know if the coming generation won’t be our equals? Only after a person reaches forty or fifty and they haven’t been heard from should we not be in awe of them.”
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?”
Confucius said, “Stand firm in doing your best and sticking to your word. Don’t make friends with people who aren’t your equals in this. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct it.”
Confucius said, “You can take away the general of the Three Armies, but you can’t deprive even a lowly commoner of their purpose.”
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?”
Confucius said, “It’s only after the cold of winter sets in that we realize that the pine and the cypress are the last to fade.”
Confucius said, “The wise are not confused, the humane are not anxious, and the brave are not afraid.”
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.”
‘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?”
In his own neighborhood, Confucius was agreeable and modest, seeming to be at a loss for words. When he was in the ancestral temples or at court, however, he was eloquent, though always cautious.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
When Confucius fasted, he always wore a clean, plain linen robe. When he fasted, he always changed his diet and his usual seat at home.
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.
After he assisted at a public sacrifice, he wouldn’t let his portion of the sacrificial meat sit overnight. When sacrificing at home, he wouldn’t let the meat sit for more than three days. If it did, he wouldn’t eat it.
Confucius didn’t speak while eating, or after he had lied down for the night.
Even if Confucius was just having a simple meal of coarse grains and vegetable broth, he’d always set some aside for sacrifice, and he did so with reverence.
Confucius wouldn’t sit down on a mat unless it was straight.
When drinking with the people in his village, he would leave only after the elderly left.
When the villagers performed the year-end ritual to drive away the spirits of disease and pestilence, Confucius would put on his full court regalia stand on the eastern steps.
When he asked about the well-being of a friend in another state, Confucius would bow twice before sending the messenger away.
When his stables caught on fire, Confucius hurried back from court and asked, “Was anyone hurt?”
He did not ask about the horses.
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.
When Confucius was sick and his ruler came to visit him, he had himself laid out facing east, with his court robes draped over him, and his sash laid out across the bed.
When Confucius was in the Great Ancestral Temple, he’d ask questions about everything.
When a friend died and had no relatives to take care of the funeral, Confucius would say, “I’ll have the funeral in my home.”
When a friend would send him a gift—even something as lavish as a horse and carriage—he would not bow in acknowledgement unless it was sacrificial meat.
Confucius didn’t sleep stiffly, like a corpse. At home, he was casual and at ease.
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.
When he climbed up into a carriage, Confucius would stand upright, holding the straps. Once inside, he didn’t gawk at this and that, talk rapidly, or point at things with his hands.
Startled by their arrival, a bird took off and circled several times before perching on a branch.
“‘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.
Confucius said, “The first students to join me in learning about ritual and music were commoners. The noblemen joined in the learning later. If I were appointing officials, I would choose from among the former.”
Confucius said “Of all my students who shared my troubles with me in Chen and Cai, none have returned through my gate since.”
Confucius said, “Yan Hui is no help to me. No matter what I say, he’s delighted.”
Confucius said, “How filial Min Ziqian was! No one disagreed with what his parents or his brothers said about him.”
Nan Rong frequently repeated the refrain of The White Jade Tablet. Confucius gave his older brother’s daughter to him in marriage.
Ji Kangzi asked which of Confucius’ students loved learning.
Confucius replied, “Yan Hui did. Unfortunately, he was fated to die young, and now there is no one.”
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.”
When Yan Hui died, Confucius cried out, “Oh, Heaven is killing me! Heaven is killing me!”
When Yan Hui died, Confucius wept uncontrollably. His students said, “You’re going too far!”
Confucius replied, “Am I? If I can’t cry for this man, then who could I cry for?”
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.”
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?”
When attending on Confucius, Min Ziqian was upright, Zilu was poised for action, and Ran You and Zigong were happy and at ease. Confucius was pleased, but said, “People like Zilu can’t die of old age.”
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.”
Confucius said, “Why do I hear Zilu playing his zither at my door?” After this, the other students began disrespecting Zilu.
Confucius corrected them, saying, “Zilu may not have entered the inner chambers, but he has ascended the stairs.”
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.”
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.”
Confucius said, “Yan Hui is nearly there—and he is almost always broke.
“Zigong is not wealthy by fate, but he’s gone into business, and his speculations are almost always right on target.”
Zizhang asked Confucius about the Way of the good man.
Confucius replied, “They don’t follow in the footsteps of those who came before, but they also never enter the inner chambers.”
Confucius said, “A person’s words may seem sincere, but are they really noble people, or are they just dignified in their appearance?”
When Confucius and his students were ambushed in Kuang, Yan Hui fell behind. Later, when they reunited, Confucius said, “I thought you had died!”
Yan Hui replied, “I wouldn’t dare get myself killed while you’re still alive.”
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.”
Zizhang asked Confucius about discernment.
Confucius replied, “If you can maintain your objectivity when soaked with slander and attacked with personal accusations, you will be discerning. In fact, you will be far-sighted.”
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.”
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.’”
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?”
Confucius said, “If there’s anyone who can decide a case only by listening to one side, it’s Zilu.”
Zilu also never went to sleep with a promise unfulfilled.
Confucius said, “When it comes to hearing cases in court, I’m no better than anyone else. The main thing is to make it so that these lawsuits never come up.”
Zizhang asked about good governance.
Confucius replied, “Ponder over it untiringly and do your best to carry it out.”
Confucius said, “If you learn broadly in culture and restrain yourself through ritual, you won’t stray from the path.”
Confucius said, “The noble person brings out the best in other people. The petty person does just the opposite.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.”
Zilu asked Confucius how to govern.
Confucius said, “Set a good example for the people and then encourage them.”
When Zilu asked for more explanation, Confucius replied, “Don’t let up.”
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.”
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?”
Confucius said, “If you can recite all three hundred poems from the Book of Odes, but you can’t put this knowledge to use when in office or when entrusted with affairs abroad, what good is knowing all these poems?”
Confucius said, “If you have yourself straightened out, others will follow suit even if you don’t give orders. If you don’t have yourself straightened out, though, you can give all the orders you like–no one will obey them anyway.”
Confucius said, “The governments of Lu and Wei are like an elder and younger brother.”
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.”
Confucius said, “If some ruler would employ me, things would be under control in a year. In three years, the job would be done.”
Confucius said, “They say, ‘If good men were to govern a state for a hundred years, cruelty would be wiped out and there would be no more killing.’
Confucius said, “Even if we had a true king, it would still take a generation for humaneness to prevail.”
Confucius said, “If you can correct yourself, what difficulty will you have with a government position? If you don’t know how to correct yourself, though, how can you hope to correct others?”
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.”
The Governor of She asked about government.
Confucius said, “If you make those close to you happy, you will draw in those from afar.”
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.”
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!”
Confucius said, “If you can’t keep company with those who steer the middle course, you have no choice but to turn to the reckless and the timid. The reckless will rush into things headlong and the timid will hold back from some things.”
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!”
Confucius said, “The noble person acts in harmony with others, but doesn’t try to conform to them. The small person tries to conform to others but doesn’t act in harmony with them.”
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.”
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.”
Confucius said, “The noble person is confident without being arrogant. The small person is arrogant but lacks confidence.”
Confucius said, “Firmness, resolution, simplicity and caution in speaking—that’s close to humaneness.”
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.”
Confucius said, “Only after good men have instructed people for seven years are they ready to take up arms.”
Confucius said, “To send people into battle without instructing them first—that’s throwing them away.”
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.”
Confucius said, “An official who is hung up on the comforts of home shouldn’t be called an official.”
Confucius said, “When the Way prevails in your state, be daring in your speech and your action. When the Way does not prevail in your state, be daring in your conduct but cautious in your speech.”
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.”
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?!”
Confucius said, “On his way into exile, Zang Wuzhong used his town, Fang, to bargain with Lu. They say he didn’t use coercion, but I don’t believe it.”
Confucius said, “Duke Wen of Jin was expedient and not upright. Duke Huan of Qi was upright, and not expedient.”
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!”
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?”
Gongshu, The Refined One, had his family steward, Zhuan, promoted alongside him within the court.
When he heard about this, Confucius said, “Well, he certainly earned the title ‘The Refined One!’”
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?”
Confucius said, “If your words lack humility, you’ll find it tough to back them up.”
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.”
Zilu asked Confucius how to serve a ruler.
Confucius said, “Don’t be deceptive, but be ready to admonish him by taking a stand directly.”
Confucius said, “The noble person reaches up. The small person reaches down.”
Confucius said, “In the past, scholars would study to improve themselves. Nowadays, they study to impress other people.”