2.18

Zizhang asked about getting an official position.

Confucius said, “Listen as much as you can, put aside what’s doubtful, and speak cautiously about the rest. This will lead to few errors. Observe as much as you can, put aside what’s dangerous, and be careful in acting on the rest. This will lead to few regrets.

Few errors in speech and few regrets in action—that’s the key to earning an official position.”

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.”

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?”

12.10

Zizhang asked Confucius how to accumulate virtue and recognize confusion.

Confucius replied, “Take loyalty and trustworthiness as your first principles, and always move in the direction of what is right. That’s how to accumulate virtue.

“If you love something, you want it to live. If you hate something, you want it to die. If you want something to live and die at the same time, this is confusion.

“‘Not for her wealth,

But just for the novelty.’”

12.20

Zizhang asked what a scholar should do to be called prominent.

Confucius asked, “Prominent? What on earth do you mean by that?”

Zizhang replied, “To have your name known throughout your family and the state.”

Confucius replied, “You’re talking about fame, not prominence. Someone with an upright character who loves justice has prominence. They listen carefully to others and observe their countenances. They defer to others. This kind of person will have prominence in the family and the state.

To be famous, just put on a good show of humaneness while doing otherwise. Keep this con going without breaking and you’re sure to be famous among your family and the state.”

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.”

15.6

Zizhang asked Confucius about correct conduct.

Confucius replied, “If you do your very best to make good on your word, and you act with integrity and respect, your conduct will be effective, even among barbarians. If you don’t follow through on your word, though, and you don’t act with integrity and respect, you’ll have trouble, even in your own hometown.

“When you stand, see these words in front of you. When you ride in a carriage, see them resting on the crossbar. Only then will you make progress.”

Zizhang wrote these words on his sash.

17.6

Zizhang asked Confucius about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “To be humane is to spread five practices in the world.”

Zizhang asked, “And those are?”

Confucius said, “Respect, tolerance, trustworthiness, diligence, and generosity. If you’re respectful, you won’t be insulted. If you’re tolerant, you’ll win the hearts of the people. If you’re trustworthy, people will have confidence in you. If you’re diligent, you’ll get things done. If you’re generous, people will do things for you.”

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.”

19.3

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 I not tolerate? If I’m not worthy, people will surely avoid me, so on what grounds could I avoid them?”

20.2

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.”