Confucius said, “Hear the Way in the morning, die in peace that night.”
Duke Ai asked Confucius which of his students loved to learn.
Confucius replied, “There was Yan Hui, he loved learning. He didn’t transfer his anger to the wrong person and he didn’t make the same mistake twice. But, he died young and nowadays there isn’t anyone who loved learning like he did. At least, I haven’t heard of anyone.”
When Zengzi became ill, Meng Jingzi visited him.
Zengzi said, “When a bird is about to die, its song is melancholy. When a man is about to die, his words are excellent.
“There are three things a noble person should value in the Way. In conduct and bearing, avoiding violence and arrogance. In facial expression, welcoming trustworthiness. In words and tone of voice, avoiding coarseness and vulgarity. As to the sacrificial vessels, there are professionals to deal with those matters.”
Zengzi said, “An aspiring scholar-official must be determined and strong. The burden is heavy and the road is long. Humaneness is the burden—isn’t that heavy? Only at death may it be laid down—isn’t that a long road?”
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.”
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.”
Confucius said, “There are some seedlings that never flower, and some flowers that never bear fruit.”
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.”
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, 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 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.”
Sima Niu was in distress. He said, “Everyone has brothers! I alone have none!”
Zixia said, “I have heard a proverb:
‘Life and death are up to fate,
Wealth and honors are up to Heaven.’
“Because the noble person behaves with reverence and tries to be free of error, is courteous to others and behaves with ritual correctness, all within the Four Seas are his brothers. How can a noble person worry about not having brothers?”
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.’”
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.”
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.’
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!”
Gongbo Liao slandered Zilu to the Jisun family.
Zifu Jingbo told Confucius about it, saying, “The Jisuns have been led astray by Gongbo Liao, but I have the power to drag his corpse out into the marketplace.”
Confucius replied, “It’s up to fate if the Way prevails or is cast aside. What can Gongbo Liao do about fate?”
Confucius said, “The dedicated scholar-official, the humane person, will not sacrifice humaneness for the sake of their lives—but they may sacrifice their lives to fulfill humaneness.
Confucius said, “A noble person is worried that they will die without establishing a good name for posterity.”
Zizhang said, “A person is sufficient if they’re ready to lay down their lives to follow orders, keep fairness in mind when faced with opportunities for personal gain, conduct sacrifices with respect, and mourn with sorrow.”
Chen Ziqin said to Zigong, “Surely you’re just being reverent towards your teacher. How could Confucius be more worthy than you?”
“With just a single word, a person can reveal their wisdom, or expose their ignorance,” Zigong replied, “that’s why you have to choose your words carefully.”
Zigong continued, “Confucius can’t be matched, just like you can’t climb the sky! If he’d been put in charge of a state or a ruling family, he would have fulfilled the saying,
‘He raised them up, and they stood on their own.
He set the direction, and they forged ahead.
He put them at ease, and they flocked to him.
He set them in motion, and they worked in harmony.’
“In life he was honored and in death he was mourned. How can he be equaled?”