1.12

Youzi said, “When it comes to ritual, harmony is key. This is what made the Way of the great kings of old so elegant, and it applies in all matters—great and small. But if you just try to achieve harmony for its own sake without following ritual, it won’t work.”

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!”

2.3

Confucius said, “If you lead with regulations and keep people in line with punishments, they’ll stay out of trouble, but they’ll have no sense of shame. If you lead by setting a good example, however, and keep people in line with ritual, they will develop their own sense of shame and lead themselves.”

2.5

Meng Yizi asked about filiality.

Confucius said, “Don’t diverge from them.”

Later, as Fan Chi was driving Confucius’ chariot, Confucius told him, “Meng Yizi asked me about filiality and I told him, ‘Don’t diverge from them.’”

Fan Chi asked, “What did you mean by that?”

Confucius said, “While your parents are alive, serve them according to ritual. When they die, bury them according to ritual. After they are gone, venerate them according to ritual.”

2.23

Zizhang asked, “Can we know what things will be like ten generations from now?”

Confucius said, “The Yin Dynasty followed the ritual of the Xia Dynasty, and what they added and subtracted from that can be known. The Zhou Dynasty followed the ritual of the Yin Dynasty, and what they added and subtracted from that can be known.

“In just this Way, what follows after the Zhou Dynasty—even to a hundred generations from now—can also be known.”

3.2

The Three Families had the King’s ode performed at the closing of their ceremonies, as the ritual utensils were being gathered up.

Confucius quoted the Ode,

 ‘Served by lords and princes,

The King, solemn and majestic.’

He added, “What could this possibly have to do with the ancestral hall of the Three Families?”

3.4

Lin Fang asked about the roots of ritual.

Confucius said, “Good question! In ritual, it’s better to error on the side of modesty than showy extravagance. In mourning, it’s better to error on the side of real grief than to fuss over all the formal details.”

3.6

The head of the Jisun family made a kingly sacrifice at Mt. Jai.

Confucius asked Ran Qiu, “Couldn’t you stop this?”

Ran Qiu replied, “I couldn’t.”

Confucius said, “What, then, does Mt. Tai know less about ritual than Lin Fang?”

3.7

Confucius said, “A noble person is not competitive, but they do take part in the archery contest. They ascend to their positions, bowing and deferring to each other. After descending, they offer toasts to each other. This is how noble people compete.”

3.8

Zixia asked about the meaning of this passage from The Book of Odes:

‘Her alluring smile, with dimples,

The lovely eyes, expressive and clear

The color emerges bright and distinct from the white’

Confucius said, “The painting of color is done on a plain background.”

Zixia said, “Then, does ritual come after?”

Confucius replied, “Zixia lifts me up! Finally, someone to discuss The Book of Odes with!”

3.9

Confucius said, “I can speak of the rituals of the Xia Dynasty, but there’s little left in the state of Qii to document them. I can speak of the rituals of the Shang Dynasty, too, but there’s little left in the state of Song to document them.

“There’s not much in the way of documentation or worthy scholars in those states. If there were, I could back up my words with evidence.”

3.15

When Confucius entered the Great Ancestral Temple, he asked questions about everything. Seeing this, someone said, “Who ever said this son of a guy from Zou understands ritual? He comes into the Great Ancestral Temple and asks questions about everything!”

When Confucius head about this, he said, “Asking questions is the ritual.”

3.19

Duke Ding asked how a leader should employ ministers, and how ministers should serve their leader.

Confucius said, “The leader should employ ministers according to ritual. The ministers should serve their leader with dutifulness and loyalty.”

3.21

Duke Ai asked Zai Wo about the altar to the soil.

Zai Wo answered, “The Xia used pine and the Shang used cypress. But the Zhou, they say, used chestnut in order to instill the people with fear.”

After hearing about this, Confucius said, “Don’t try to explain what is already over and done with. Don’t try to criticize what’s already past. Don’t try to assign blame after something is past.”

3.22

Confucius said, “Guan Zhong was a small vessel.”

Someone asked, “So, you mean he was frugal?”

Confucius replied, “He had three different residences and kept a separate member of staff to perform each duty. You call that frugal?”

“So, then, do you mean that Guan Zhong understood ritual?”

Confucius replied, “The princes kept a ritual screen in front of their gates–and so did Guan Zhong. The princes, when entertaining other heads of state, had a bar to hold their drinks–and so did Guan Zhong. If Guan Zhong understands ritual, who doesn’t?”

7.31

The Minister of Justice in Chen asked Confucius, “Did the Duke of Zhou know the rules of ritual?”

Confucius replied, “He did.”

After Confucius left, the minister bowed to his prince, Wuma Qi, and told him, “I have heard that a noble person is not biased, but maybe some are.

“The Duke of Zhou married a woman with the same clan, and justified it by saying that she came from ‘the Elder Family of Wu.’ If the Duke of Zhou knew the rules of ritual, then who doesn’t know them?”

Later, Wuma Qi told this to Confucius.

Confucius replied, “I’m a lucky man! When I make a mistake, other people always find out.”

8.2

Confucius said, “Without ritual, being respectful becomes tiresome, caution becomes timidness, courage becomes recklessness, and straightforwardness becomes rudeness.

“When a person with a high office is generous to family and kin, the common people will be inspired to be humane. If old friends and acquaintances are not forgotten, the common people will honor their obligations, too.”

8.4

When Zengzi became ill, Meng Jingzi visited him.

Zengzi said, “When a bird is about to die, its song is melancholy. When a man is about to die, his words are excellent.

“There are three things a noble person should value in the Way. In conduct and bearing, avoiding violence and arrogance. In facial expression, welcoming trustworthiness. In words and tone of voice, avoiding coarseness and vulgarity. As to the sacrificial vessels, there are professionals to deal with those matters.”

9.3

Confucius said, “The linen cap is prescribed by the rites, but these days they use a silk cap. That’s thrifty—I’ll go with the consensus on that.

“Bowing at the bottom of the stairs is prescribed by the rites, but these days they bow at the top of the stairs. That’s arrogant—I’ll go against the consensus on that and bow at the bottom of the stairs.”

9.11

With a deep sigh, Yan Hui said, “The more I look up at it, the higher it gets. The more I drill into it, the harder it gets. I catch a glimpse of it in front of me, and all of a sudden, it’s behind me.

“My teacher is skilled at leading me forward, one step at a time. He broadens me with culture and restrains me with ritual. I couldn’t quit, even if I wanted to, but it still towers over me. I want to get there, but I can’t find a route up.”

10.3

When the ruler summoned Confucius to welcome a guest, his face would be solemn and his pace brisk. When he bowed to those around him, extending his cupped hands to the right and to the left, his robes swayed, perfectly arrayed, front and back. Stepping forward with them, he glided like a bird.

When the guests had departed, he would report back to the ruler, “Our guest no longer looks back.”

10.4

When passing through the door of his ruler, he would draw himself in, as if the gate wasn’t large enough to accommodate him. He wouldn’t stand in the middle of the gate or step on the threshold. When he passed by the throne, his expression became serious, his steps, short and deliberate. His voice dropped to a whisper, as if he could barely get the words out.

When he lifted the hem of his robe to climb the steps, he again drew himself in, holding his breath as if he’d stopped breathing altogether. On leaving the ruler’s place, after he had gone back down the first step, his expression became relaxed. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, he’d glide back to his position like a bird and resume a reverent attitude.

10.5

When Confucius carried the jade tablet of his ruler, he drew himself in as if he couldn’t bear the weight. When it held it high, it was as if he was bowing to someone. When he held it low, it was as if he was offering it to someone. His expression was serious and concerned. His steps were short and controlled, as if his feet never left the ground.

During the presentation ritual, his expression was relaxed. In a private meeting, he was even more at ease.

10.25

When Confucius saw a person wearing clothes of mourning, even if it was someone he saw every day, his face would express grief. When he saw someone wearing a court cap or a blind person, even if it was someone he saw every day, he would become solemn.

If Confucius was riding in his carriage and he came across someone in mourning, or someone carrying official documents, he would bow down and grasp the crossbar.

If he was served a rare delicacy at a banquet, he would rise and express his appreciation.

He would also change his expression at the clap of thunder or a strong gust of wind.

11.8

When Yan Hui died, his father asked Confucius for his carriage, so that he could sell it and buy an outer coffin.

Confucius replied, “Whether they’re gifted or not, all sons are loved by their parents. When my own son died, we had an inner coffin, but not an outer coffin. Since my rank is right below the grand officers’, it wouldn’t be proper for me to walk on foot.”

11.26

Zilu, Zeng Xi, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Hua were sitting with Confucius, when said, “Although I am older than you, forget about it that for now. You are all always saying, ‘The word doesn’t recognize my talents.’ But suppose your talents were fully acknowledged. What would you do then?”

Zilu rushed to respond first, “In a state of a thousand war chariots, wedged between two much larger states, under siege by invading armies, drought, and famine. Put me in charge for three years, and I would bring the people courage and direction.”

Confucius smiled at him.

He then asked Ran Qiu, “How about you?”

Ran Qiu replied, “In a territory of sixty to seventy li, or maybe fifty to sixty li, put me in charge for three years, and the people would have their material needs met. As for ritual and music, that would have to be handled by a nobleman.”

Confucius then asked, “And what about you, Gongxi Hua?”

Gongxi Hua replied, “I can’t say that I can do this for sure, but I’d really like to try. In services at the Great Ancestral Hall or in audience with the ruler, I’d like to play the part of a minor assistant, dressed in ceremonial cap and gown.”

Confucius asked, “Zeng Xi, how about you?”

Zeng Xi, who had been playing the zither, set it down, the last chord still ringing out. He stood up.

“What I’d like to do,” Zeng Xi said, “is very different from these three.”

“No harm in that,” Confucius replied. “We’re all just sharing our personal aspirations.”

Zeng Xi said, “In the late spring, after the clothes have been made, I’d like to go with five or six companions and six or seven youngsters and take a swim in the Yi River. We’d enjoy the breeze at the Rain-Dance Altar, and then return home singing.”

Confucius sighed and said, “I am with Zeng Xi.”

The three others left, but Zeng Xi hung back and asked Confucius, “What did you think about what the other three said?”

Confucius replied, “They each just shared their own wishes.”

Zeng Xi asked, “Why did you smile at Zilu?”

Confucius said, “To govern a state requires ritual, and Zilu’s words showed no deference. That’s why I smiled.”

Zeng Xi then asked, “And Ran Qui, he was asking for a state, wasn’t he?”

Confucius said, “Of course. Have you ever seen a territory of sixty to seventy li, or fifty to sixty li, that wasn’t a state?”

Zeng Xi asked, “And Gongxi Hua, was he also talking about a state?”

Confucius replied, “Ceremonies in the Great Ancestral Hall and audiences with the ruler—what are these but affairs of state? And if Gongxi Hua was there playing a minor role, who would be playing the major role?”

12.1

Yan Hui asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “Restrain the self and return to ritual. That’s humaneness. If for a full day you can restrain yourself and return to ritual, everyone under Heaven will move toward humaneness. Humaneness comes from oneself. How could it come from others?”

Yan Hui asked, “Can I ask for specific steps?”

Confucius said, “If it’s not according to ritual, don’t look at it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t listen to it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t say it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t do it.”

Yan Hui said, “Even though I’m not that clever, I’ll apply myself to this.”

12.2

Zhonggong asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “When you go out into the world, conduct yourself as if you’re receiving an honored guest. Employ the people as if you’re conducting a great ceremony. Don’t impose on others what you wouldn’t want for yourself. In this way, you won’t stir up resentment in public or in your own household.”

Zhonggong said, “Even though I’m not that clever, I’ll apply myself to this.”

12.5

Sima Niu was in distress. He said, “Everyone has brothers! I alone have none!”

Zixia said, “I have heard a proverb:

Life and death are up to fate,

Wealth and honors are up to Heaven.’

“Because the noble person behaves with reverence and tries to be free of error, is courteous to others and behaves with ritual correctness, all within the Four Seas are his brothers. How can a noble person worry about not having brothers?”

13.3

Zilu asked, “If the ruler of Wei put you in charge of governing, what would be your top priority?”

Confucius replied, “The rectification of names. Without a doubt.”

Zilu said, “Oh, you’re way off! What’s so important about that?”

Confucius replied, “What a rube you are, Zilu. When a noble person doesn’t understand something, they keep their mouth shut.

“If names are not rectified, then words don’t align with reality. If words don’t align with reality, work can’t be accomplished. If work can’t be accomplished, ritual and music can’t be developed. If ritual and music can’t be developed, punishments won’t fit the crime. If punishments don’t fit the crime, people won’t even know where to put their hands and feet.

“The rectification of names allows the noble person to speak, and what a noble person says can be acted upon. For this reason, a noble person is never careless in speech.”

13.4

Fan Chi asked Confucius about farming.

Confucius replied, “Why don’t you go ask an old farmer?”

Fan Chi asked Confucius about growing vegetables.

Confucius replied, “Why don’t you go ask an old gardener?”

Fan Chi left, and Confucius said, “What a simple-minded person Fan Chi is! If the people in charge love ritual, the people wouldn’t dare to be irreverent. If the people in charge love righteousness, then the people wouldn’t dare to be disobedient. If the people in charge loved being true to their word, then the people wouldn’t dare to be two-faced.

“If you govern this way, the people would come flocking to you, carrying their babies on their backs. Why worry about agriculture?”

14.12

Zilu asked about becoming a complete person.

Confucius said, “The wisdom of Zang Wuzhong, the desirelessness of Meng Gongchuo, the courage of Zhuangzi of Bian, and the abilities of Ran Qiu, all refined through ritual and music.

But if you want to be a complete person today, why do you need all of that? If you see a chance for profit and think of right conduct, if you’re ready to give your life when facing danger, and if you can endure long hardships without forgetting your principles—then you, also, may be considered a complete person.”

14.21

When Chen Chengzi assassinated Duke Chien, Confucius cleansed himself according to ritual and went to court. He reported to Duke Ai, saying, “Chen Chengzi has killed his ruler. I encourage you to punish him.”

Duke Ai replied, “Report this to the Three Families.”

Confucius said, “It’s only because I have an official rank that I felt duty-bound to make this report. And yet Duke Ai tells me to report it to the Three Families?”

Confucius then reported the matter to the Three Families, but they refused to do anything about it.

Confucius repeated, “It’s only because I have an official rank that I felt duty-bound to make this report.”

14.40

Zizhang said, “The Book of History says, ‘Gaozong stayed in the mourning shed for three years without speaking.’ Why did he do this?”

Confucius replied, “There’s no need to single out Gazong this way. All the ancients did this. After the ruler died, all of the officials took orders from the Prime Minister for three years.”

15.11

Yan Hui asked about how to govern a state.

Confucius replied, “Follow the calendar of the Xia. Ride in the state carriage of the Yin. Wear the ceremonial cap of the Zhou. As for music, play the Shao and Wu. Abolish the tunes of the Zheng and keep slick talkers at a distance. The Zheng music is lewd and slick talkers are dangerous.”

15.18

Confucius said, “The noble person takes justice as their essential, carries it out in accordance with ritual, expresses it with modesty, and brings it to completion through trustworthiness. Now that’s a noble person!”

15.33

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.”

15.42

The Music Master Mian came for a visit. As he came to the stairs, Confucius said, “Here are the steps.” When they came to the mats, Confucius said, “Here is the mat.” When everyone was seated, Confucius said, “So-and-so is here, and so-and-so is over there.”

After Mian had left, Zizhang asked, “Is this the way of speaking to a music master.”

Confucius replied, “Yes, indeed. This is the way of speaking to a music master.”

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.”

16.2

Confucius said, “When the Way prevails in the world, it’s the Son of Heaven who orders the rituals, music, and military expeditions. When the Way does not prevail in the world, it’s the regional rulers who order the rituals, music, and military expeditions.

“Once the regional rulers take over these duties, it’s rare for them to hold onto their authority for more than ten generations. Once the ministers take on these duties, their authority rarely lasts for five generations. When the family stewards are in charge, their authority rarely lasts for more than three generations.

“When the Way prevails in the world, these government duties don’t fall to the ministers. When the Way prevails in the world, the common people don’t need to debate politics.”

16.5

Confucius said, “There are three kinds of pleasure that will help you and three kinds of pleasure that will harm you. The enjoyment of cultivation in music and ritual, speaking well of others’ good points, and being surrounded by friends of good character—these will help you. The enjoyment of self-importance, loafing, and going overboard in feasting—these will harm you.”

16.13

Chen Kang asked Confucius’ son, Boyu, “Have you been taught anything special, anything different from what the rest of us students have been taught?”

Boyu replied, “No. One day my father was standing alone in the courtyard as I came rushing past. He asked me, ‘Have you learned the Odes?’

“I said, ‘Not yet.’

“He said, ‘If you don’t learn the Odes, you’ll have nothing to say.’ So I went off and studied the Odes.

“Another time, he was standing alone when I came rushing past and he asked me, ‘Have you learned the Rites?’

“I said, ‘Not yet.’

He said, ‘If you don’t learn the Rites, you won’t be able to take your place in society.’ So I went off and studied the Rites. These are the two teachings I’ve received.”

Chen Kang withdrew, and with delight, said, “I asked one thing and learned three! I learned about the Odes and the Rites, and I learned that a noble person keeps some distance from his son.”

17.21

Zai Wo questioned Confucius about the traditional three-year mourning period.

“One year is already too long. If a noble person gives up ritual for three years, the ritual will decay. If a noble person gives up music for three years, then music will fall apart. In the course of a year, as the old crop is eaten up, new crops grow for harvest. Four types of firewood—one for each season—have been used for kindling. A full year of mourning is quite enough.”

Confucius asked, “Would you be comfortable eating white rice and wearing silk after a year?”

“I would,” replied Zai Wo.

Confucius said, “If you’d feel comfortable, go right ahead then. When a noble person mourns, fine foods are not sweet, music brings no joy, and luxurious clothes bring no comfort, even around the house. These things don’t bring pleasure, so the noble person doesn’t indulge in them. But if you’d feel comfortable doing these things, go right ahead.”

After Zai Wo left, Confucius said, “He lacks humaneness. Children do not leave their parents arms for three years after they’re born, so three years’ mourning is the custom throughout the world. Didn’t Zai Wo even have three years of love from his parents?”

17.24

Zigong asked, “Does a noble person have hatreds?”

Confucius answered, “Yes, a noble person hates those who point out the faults of others, those who slander their superiors, those who have courage but lack ritual, and those who are bold but lack understanding.”

He continued, “And what about you? Do you have hatreds?”

“Yes,” replied Zigong, “I hate those who steal other peoples’ ideas and then act like they’re smart. I hate those who think being arrogant is courageous. And I hate those who think that insulting people is straightforwardness.”

19.1

Zizhang said, “A person is sufficient if they are ready to lay down their lives to follow orders, keep fairness in mind when faced with opportunities for personal gain, conduct sacrifices with respect, and mourn with sorrow.”

20.1

Yao said, “Oh, Shun! The regulation of Heaven’s calendar now falls to you. Hold to the middle way. If the people fall into distress, this gift of Heaven’s will be withdrawn forever.”

In turn, Shun charged Yu with these same words.

T’ang said, “I, Lü, am only a youth, but I dare to sacrifice this black ox and make this declaration to the Lord of Heaven. I don’t dare pardon the guilty. We can’t hide anything from the Lord of Heaven, since we are his subjects, and guilt is known in the Lord’s heart.

“If I commit a crime, don’t make the people of the ten thousand regions suffer for it. But if the people of the ten thousand regions commit a crime, let the punishment fall to me alone.”

The Zhou was greatly rewarded because it had good people to serve it.

King Wu said, “Although I have all my kin, it’s better to employ people who have humaneness. If the people commit crimes, let it fall to me alone.”

Set standard weights and measures, align the laws and regulations, and restore offices that have been abolished. Revive the states that are about to fall and the lineages about to end. Find worthy people who have gone into hiding and raise them up into high offices. By doing this, the people will flock to you.

This is what’s important to the people: their food, their funerals, and their sacrifices.

Be generous, and you will win the hearts of the people. Be trustworthy, and you will gain the confidence of the people. If you are industrious, you will get things done. If you’re just, the people will be pleased.

20.3

Confucius said, “If you don’t understand fate, you can’t be a noble person. If you don’t understand ritual, you can’t take your stand. If you don’t understand language, you won’t be able to assess others’ character.”