Ji Kangzi sent Confucius some medicine as a present. He accepted it graciously, but told the messenger, “Since I don’t know anything about this medicine, I don’t dare take it.”
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 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 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?!”
Yang Huo wanted to see Confucius, but Confucius didn’t want to see him. Yang Huo sent him the present of a suckling pig. Confucius chose to offer his thanks at a time when he knew Yang Huo wouldn’t be home. On his way back home, however, he met him in the street.
Yang Huo said, “Come here, I have something to tell you! Would you call someone humane if he clutches a great jewel to himself while his state is going to hell? I don’t think so! Would you call someone wise if he wants to take part in government but then lets every opportunity to do so slip through his fingers? I don’t think so! Days and months go by—time is not on our side!”
Confucius replied, “Alright, I’ll accept an office.”