1.15

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!”

4.5

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.”

6.4

Gongxi Hua was sent on a mission to the state of Qi. Ran Qiu asked their employer to provide grain to Gongxi Hua’s mother. Ran Qiu asked Confucius how much he should request for her.

Confucius said, “Request a full measure of grain.”

Ran Qiu asked for more.

Confucius said, “Then request a double measure of grain.”

In the end, Ran Qiu requested ten measures of grain.

Confucius said, “Gongxi Hua travelled to Qi, he drove the best horses and wore fine furs. I’ve always heard, ‘The noble person helps out the poor, but doesn’t make the rich richer.’”

6.11

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!”

8.13

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.”

8.21

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.”

9.6

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.”

9.27

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?”

15.32

Confucius said, “A noble person makes plans for the sake of the Way, not for making a living. Till the fields and you still might go hungry. Study and you may make a career of it. A noble person worries about finding the Way, not about being poor.”

16.1

The Jisun family was about to attack Zhuanyu, so Ran Qiu and Zilu went to see Confucius, saying, “The Jisun family is getting ready to move against Zhuanyu.”

Confucius said, “Ran Qiu, isn’t this your fault? Since ancient times the former kings have maintained Zhuanyu as the site of the sacrifice at Dong Meng mountain. Also, it’s located within our own state, and is subject to our national altars to the soil and grain. Why attack it?”

Ran Qiu replied, “It’s our lord who wants to do this, not the two of us as ministers.”

Confucius said, “Ran Qiu, the historian Zhou Ren said, ‘The one who displays his power is the one who gets the position; those who are not capable give up.’

“What sort of an assistant can’t steady his master when he totters or hold him up when he falls?

“Also, what you are saying is wrong. Who’s to blame when a tiger or a rhino escapes from its cage, or when a tortoise shell or jade is smashed in its case?”

Ran Qiu said, “But Zhuanyu is well-fortified and is located right next to the Ji family stronghold. If they don’t take it now, it will be a menace to their descendants.”

Confucius replied, “Ran Qiu! A noble person despises those who make excuses instead of just coming right out and saying what they want!

“I’ve heard it said that the heads of states or hereditary families don’t worry about poverty, but worry about inequality of distribution. They don’t worry about having too few people, but worry about unrest. When there’s fairness in distribution of wealth, there won’t be poverty. When there’s harmony in society, there won’t be a lack of people. When people are content, there’s no threat of unrest.

“So if people at a distance aren’t open to your rule, improve your ways and cultivate virtue to attract them. Once you’ve attracted them, see to it that they enjoy peace.

“But now, with the two of you as ministers, your lord can’t attract people from a distance, his land is falling apart, and he can’t hold onto it—and now he wants to wage war on one of his own provinces!

“For Lord Jisun, the real danger isn’t coming from Zhuanyu, but lies within his own walls.”