Zixia said, “If you can appreciate character more than beauty, serve your parents tirelessly, give all of yourself in service to your ruler, and keep your word to your friends—though other people may say you lack learning, I would say you are very well-educated.”
Zixia asked about filiality.
Confucius said, “The tough part is having the right demeanor. The young should take on the harder physical tasks and defer to their elders when food and wine is passed around, of course, but filiality is more than that.”
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!”
Confucius said to Zixia, “Be a noble scholar. Don’t be a petty scholar.”
The virtuous were Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Boniu, and Zhonggong. The well-spoken were Zai Wo and Zigong. The skillful administrators were Ran Qiu and Zilu. Ziyou and Zixia excelled in scholarship.
Zigong asked Confucius, “Who is more worthy, Zhizhang or Zixia?”
Confucius replied, “Zhizhang overshoots the mark and Zixia undershoots it.”
Zigong said, “Then Zhizhang is superior.”
Confucius replied, “Overshooting the mark is just as bad as undershooting it.”
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?”
Fan Chi asked Confucius about humaneness.
Confucius replied, “Love others.”
Fan Chi then asked about knowledge.
Confucius replied, “Know others.”
Fan Chi didn’t get it.
Confucius continued, “Place the upright over the crooked and the crooked will be straightened out.”
After Fan Chi left, he saw Zixia and said to him, “I was just asking Confucius about knowledge and he said, ‘Place the upright over the crooked and the crooked will be straightened out.’ What did he mean by this?”
Zixia replied, “How rich his words are! When Shun was emperor, he selected Gao Yao from among the people and put him in charge. Evil people kept their distance. When T’ang was emperor, he selected Yi Yin and put him in charge. Here again, the evil people kept their distance.”
Zixia, who was serving as Governor of Jufu, asked Confucius about government.
Confucius answered, “Don’t rush things and don’t look for small wins. If you rush around, you’ll never reach your goal. If you go after small wins, you won’t be able to attend to more important matters.”
Students of Zixia asked Zizhang about making friends. Zizhang asked, “What did Zixia teach you?”
“Zixia taught us, ‘Associate with the right kind of people and avoid the wrong kind.’”
Zizhang replied, “I was taught something else. I was taught that the noble person respects the worthy and tolerates the ordinary people. The noble person applauds the good and takes pity on those who have a hard time being good.
“If I’m worthy, who can’t I tolerate? If I’m not worthy, people will surely avoid me, so on what grounds could I avoid them?”
Zixia said, “Even if a byway is minor, there’s certainly something to appreciate about it. Still, if you follow it too far, you can get bogged down, so the noble person doesn’t go down the byways.”
Zixia said, “If you assess daily what you still need to learn, and remember month-by-month what you’ve already learned—well, then, we can say you really love learning.”
Zixia said, “To study broadly and stick to your purpose, to ask questions about matters that are pressing to you—humaneness can be found in this.”
Zixia said, “Craftsmen live in their workshops to perfect their craft. The noble person keeps learning to perfect their Way.”
Zixia said, “A small person will always make excuses to cover up their mistakes.”
Zixia said, “A noble person has three appearances. From a distance, they inspire awe. When you approach, they’re warm. When you hear their words, they’re insightful and demanding.”
Zixia said, “The noble person earns the trust of the people before putting them to work. Without that trust, they’ll feel ill-used.
“The noble person earns the trust of a ruler before remonstrating with him. Without that trust, the ruler will feel slandered.”
Zixia said, “Major principles should never be transgressed, but there’s room for flexibility in minor matters.”
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.”
Zixia said, “If a person in office has energy to spare, they should devote it to learning. If a person dedicated to learning has energy to spare, they should take office.”