5.19

Zizhang asked, “The Chief Minister Ziwen was appointed three times, but never showed any signs of being pleased. He was fired three times, but never showed any signs of resentment. He would always brief his replacement fully on the prior government. What do you think of him?”

Confucius replied, “He was certainly dutiful.”

Zizhang asked, “But was he humane?”

Confucius replied, “I don’t know about that. What makes you think he was humane?”

Zizhang followed up, “When Cuizi assassinated the prince of Qi, Chen Wenzi, who had ten chariots, abandoned them and left the state.

“When he arrived at another state, he said, ‘The government here is just as bad as Cuizi’s.’ and so he left it.

Coming to another state he said, ‘Here, too, they’re just like Cuizi.’ and so he left. What do you think of him?”

Confucius replied, “He was certainly pure.”

Zizhang asked, “But was he humane?”

Confucius replied, “I don’t know about that. What makes you think he was humane?”

7.29

It was hard to have a worthwhile conversation with people from Huxiang, so when a young man from that village came to Confucius, his students weren’t sure about it.

Confucius said, “Just because I accepted him when he came to me doesn’t mean I approve of everything he does after he leaves. Don’t be so strict. When someone purifies himself to approach, accept that purity. That doesn’t mean you have to approve of everything they did before or after.”

18.7

While traveling with Confucius, Zilu fell behind and met an old man carrying a basket on his staff.

Zilu asked him, “Sir, have you seen my teacher?”

The old man replied, “You look like someone who hasn’t worked with his four limbs and can’t tell between the different kinds of grain. Who can your teacher be?”

The old man then planted his staff in the ground and started weeding.

Zilu watched him respectfully.

The old man took Zilu in for the night. He killed a chicken, and cooked the chicken and millet for his guest. He then introduced Zilu to his two sons.

Zilu caught up with Confucius the next day and reported what had happened. Confucius said, “He is a recluse,” and has Zilu take him back to see the old man. When they got there, however, the old man had gone.

Zilu said, “It’s not right to withdraw from public life. If a person knows not to abandon the obligations of the young to the old, how can he abandon the obligations of the subject to the ruler? He tries to keep himself pure, but brings chaos to a basic human relationship. A noble person serves the state, even if it’s obvious that the Way can’t prevail.”