Confucius said, “I won’t give anyone a boost if they’re not at least struggling to make sense of an idea and get it into words. If I give someone one corner of a lesson and they can’t come back with the other three, I’m done teaching them.”


Confucius said, “I can’t claim to be a sage or a noble person. But I keep on working at it without disappointment and I never get tired of teaching others.”

Gongxi Hua said, “It’s exactly these qualities that we students can’t imitate.”


Confucius said, “How great Yao was as a ruler! Nothing is greater than Heaven, but Yao could emulate it. His virtue was so vast that the common people couldn’t even describe it! His achievements were sublime and his teaching was brilliant!”


Zilu asked if it was a good idea to put a teaching into practice immediately after he first heard it.

Confucius replied, “While your father and older brother are still alive, how can you put teaching into practice immediately?”

When Ran You asked the same question, however, Confucius replied, “Oh yes, put it into practice right away.”

Gongxi Hua asked, “When Zilu asked you, you told him he shouldn’t be in such a hurry because his father and older brother are still alive. But when Ran You asked you the same thing, you told him to practice immediately. Can I ask why?”

Confucius said, “Ran You tends to hold back, so I push him forward. Zilu has the energy of two people, so I hold him back.”


Ran Qiu drove the chariot for Confucius on a trip to Wei. When they arrived, Confucius said, “There are so many people here!”

Ran Qiu asked, “Once there are this many people, what should be done for them?”

Confucius replied, “Enrich them.”

“And after they’re rich,” asked Ran Qiu, “what next?”

Confucius replied, “Educate them.”


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.”


Confucius said, “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

Zigong said, “If you don’t speak, what will we students pass along?”

Confucius replied, “Does Heaven speak? Yet the four seasons continue to turn and the creatures of the world are born. Does Heaven speak?”


Ziyou said, “Zixia’s students are well-trained when it comes to sweeping and mopping, answering the door, and saying hello and goodbye. But these are just details. When it comes to the fundamentals, though, they’re completely lost. How is this possible?”

When Zixia heard this, he said, “Ziyou is way off-base! When it comes to the Way of the noble person, how can a teacher know if someone is ready to understand from the start, or if they’ll get frustrated and lose interest?

“It’s like planting grass and trees. They have to be separated into categories and planted in the spots that suit them. How can he slander the Way of the noble person like that? After all, it’s only a sage that masters it from beginning to end.”


Gongsun Chao, a counselor in Wei, asked Zigong , “Who did Confucius learn from?”

Zigong  replied, “The way of King Wen and King Wu never completely disappeared. It always remained with the people. The worthy retained its major points and the unworthy retained its minor points. All of them had some aspects of the way of King Wen and King Wu.

“So there was no one from whom Confucius couldn’t have learned something and no single teacher from whom he could have learned everything.”


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.”