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.”


Bi Xi called for Confucius, and Confucius was tempted to go.

Zilu said, “I remember you saying, ‘A noble person won’t associate with someone who is committing evil.’ Now Bi Xi is about to use his stronghold in Zhong Mou to start a rebellion. How can you even consider joining him?”

Confucius replied, “Yes, I did say that. But what resists grinding is truly strong and what resists black dye is truly white. Should I be like a bitter gourd, hanging on a string as decoration but not fit to eat?”


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.”