1.2

Youzi said, “A young person who is filial and respectful of his parents and elders rarely becomes the kind of person who enjoys defying their superiors. And a person who does not enjoy defying their superiors does not create chaos.

“A noble person tends to the roots first. With the roots taken care of, the Way naturally grows. Isn’t filiality and respect for parents and elders the root of humaneness?”

1.14

Confucius said, “A noble person isn’t motivated by the desire for a full belly or a comfortable house. A noble person gets things done and is careful with words, sticking close to those who know the Way, being improved by them. We could say that this is the kind of person who loves learning.”

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!”

3.24

The border guard at Yi asked to speak with Confucius saying, “I’ve never been denied an audience with the noble men who have passed this way.”

Confucius’ students arranged a meeting.

When he came out, he said, “Friends, why are you worried because your teacher lost his position? The world has been without the Way for a long time now, and Heaven intends to use your teacher like the wooden clapper of a bell.”

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.”

5.2

Confucius said of Nan Rong, “If the state follows the Way, he’ll always hold an office. If the state doesn’t follow the Way, he’ll avoid punishment and execution.”

Confucius gave him the daughter of his oldest brother in marriage.

5.7

Confucius said, “If the Way isn’t put into practice, I’ll just head out to sea on a small raft. I bet Zilu would go with me.”

Zilu was happy to hear this.

Confucius said, “Zilu loves daring more than I do, but he lacks judgment.”

5.21

Confucius said, “When the Way was being practiced in his state, Ning Wuzi showed his wisdom. When the Way was not being practiced, though, he played the fool. Someone might be able to match his wisdom, but no one can match his foolishness.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

9.30

Confucius said, “Just because someone can learn with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can walk the Way with you. Just because someone can walk the Way with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can walk by your side. Just because someone can walk by your side, that doesn’t necessarily mean they can join you in acting with moral discretion.”

11.24

Ji Ziran asked, “Could Zilu and Ran Qiu be called great ministers?”

Confucius replied, “Oh, I thought you were going to ask about something else. You want to know about Zilu and Ran Qiu?

“Great minister serves their ruler by means of the Way, and if they can’t, they’ll quit. Zilu and Ran Qiu are what we could call ordinary ‘team players.’”

Ji Zaran asked, “So they’ll always follow orders?”

Confucius replied, “No, not if they were ordered to kill their fathers or their rulers.”

12.19

Ji Kangzi asked Confucius about government, “How about I kill those who have abandoned the Way to help out the good. How about that?”

Confucius replied, “As head of government, why would you need to kill? If you set your heart on virtue and humaneness, the people will follow suit. The noble person is like the wind and the people are like the grass. When the wind blows, the grass bends.”

13.25

Confucius said, “A noble person is easy to serve but difficult to please. If you try to please them with behavior that isn’t consistent with the Way, they won’t be pleased. When employing others, the noble person respects others’ limitations.

“A small person, on the other hand, is difficult to serve but easy to please. If you try to please them with behavior that isn’t consistent with the Way, they will be pleased anyway. When employing others, the small person expects everyone to be good at everything.”

14.1

Xian asked about shameful conduct.

Confucius replied, “When the Way prevails in your state, take office. To take office when the Way does not prevail—that is shameful conduct.”

Xian then asked, “If a person is free of arrogance, self-importance, resentment and desire, can their conduct be called humane?”

Confucius replied, “It’s certainly difficult, but I don’t know if I’d call it humane.”

14.19

Confucius spoke about how Duke Ling of Wei didn’t follow the Way.

Ji Kangzi asked, “Well, if that’s the case, why didn’t he come to ruin?”

Confucius replied, “Zhongshu Yu attends to the guests, Preacher Tuo manages the temples, and Wangsun Jia leads the military. That being the case, how could he come to ruin?”

14.28

Confucius said, “The Way of a noble person has three points that I haven’t achieved: humaneness without anxiety, wisdom without doubts, and courage without fear.”

Zigong said, “You’ve just described yourself.”

14.36

Gongbo Liao slandered Zilu to the Jisun family.

Zifu Jingbo told Confucius about it, saying, “The Jisuns have been led astray by Gongbo Liao, but I have the power to drag his corpse out into the marketplace.”

Confucius replied, “It’s up to fate if the Way prevails or is cast aside. What can Gongbo Liao do about fate?”

15.7

Confucius said, “How straight Shi Yu was! When the Way prevailed in the state, he was straight as an arrow. When the Way didn’t prevail in the state, he was still straight as an arrow.

“And Qu Boyu was noble. When the Way prevailed in the state, he served. When the Way didn’t prevail in the state, he could roll it up and hide it away.”

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.”

16.2

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.”

16.11

Confucius said, “I’ve heard the saying,

“‘In seeing the good, rushing to catch up,

In seeing what is not good, recoiling as if touching boiling water.’”

“I’ve heard the saying, and known people like this. But I’ve also heard,

“‘Living in reclusion to pursue the heart’s purpose

Practicing what is right to pursue the Way.’”

“I’ve heard this saying, but I haven’t known any people like this.”

17.4

Confucius went to Wucheng, where Ziyou was governor. While there, he heard stringed instruments played together with singing. Amused by this, he commented, “Why use an ox-cleaver to kill a chicken?”

Ziyou replied, “I can remember you saying, ‘The noble person who cultivates the Way loves everyone. The common people who cultivate the way are easy to govern.’”

Confucius said, “My friends, Ziyou is right. I was only joking.”

18.6

Chang Ju and Jie Ni were yoked together, plowing the fields. Confucius, who was passing by, sent Zilu to ask where the river crossing was.

Chang Ju asked, “Who’s that holding the carriage reigns?”

“Confucius,” replied Zilu.

“Confucius from Lu?”

“Yes.”

“Then he already knows where the river crossing is.”

Zilu then asked Jie Ni the same question.

“And who are you?” asked Jie Ni.

“Zilu.”

“Zilu, the student of Confucius from Lu?”

“I am.”

“The water keeps moving forward, all over the world. Who can change it? Why do you bother following someone who keeps running from one ruler to another? Wouldn’t it be better to follow someone who’s given up this world altogether?”

The two of them went back to their work.

Zilu reported this conversation to Confucius, who furrowed his brow and said, “I can’t flock with birds and beasts! Who am I supposed to keep company with, if not other human beings? If the Way prevailed in the world, I wouldn’t have to reform it!”

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’s a recluse,” and asked 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.”

19.12

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.”

19.19

The Meng family appointed Yang Fu as a magistrate, and he asked Zengzi for advice.

Zengzi said, “Those who rule have departed from the Way and left the common people adrift without moral guidance for a long time now. If you solve a case, be compassionate, not triumphant.”