Confucius said, “Your knowledge might be sufficient, but if you don’t have the humaneness to guard it, you will lose what you gained.

“If your knowledge is sufficient and you have the humaneness to guard it, it won’t be respected by the people if you don’t exercise it with dignity.

“If your knowledge is sufficient, and you have the humaneness to guard it, and you exercise it with dignity, but you take action that’s not in line with ritual—that’s still not good enough.”


Zizhang asked Confucius, “What qualifies a person to govern?”

Confucius replied, “If a person honors the five beautiful traits and eschews the four evils, they are qualified to govern.”

Zizhang asked, “And what are the five beautiful traits?”

Confucius replied, “A noble person is generous, but not wasteful. A noble person works the people hard, but is not resented for it. A noble person has desires, but is not greedy. A noble person has authority, but is not arrogant. A noble person is dignified, but not fierce.”

Zizhang asked, “What do you mean by generous, but not wasteful?”

Confucius replied, “If you let people pursue what’s beneficial for them, isn’t that being generous, but not wasteful? If you put people to work on tasks that they’re capable of, isn’t that working people hard, but not being resented for it? If what you desire is humaneness, what room does that desire leave for greed? A noble person is respectful when dealing with the great and the few, the high and the lowly—isn’t that having authority without arrogance? A noble person dresses correctly and has a serious expression—people look at the noble person with awe. Isn’t this being dignified, but not fierce?”

Zizhang asked, “And what are the four evils?”

Confucius replied, “To execute people without first giving them instruction is cruelty. To demand results without first setting expectations is tyranny. To expect timely results after being slow in giving instructions is thievery. To dole out something that you must hand over and being stingy about it is bureaucratic pettiness.”