Confucius said, “To lead with the power of moral influence is like being the North Star. It stays in its place and all the other stars arrange themselves around it.”
Confucius said, “There are three hundred poems in The Book of Odes, but they can be summed up in just one phrase, ‘They never swerve from the path.’”
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.”
Confucius said, “At fifteen, I set my heart on learning. At thirty, I took my stand. At forty, I was without confusion. At fifty, I understood the commands of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was attuned to what I heard. At seventy, I can follow my heart’s desire without stepping over the line.”
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.”
Meng Wubo asked about filiality.
Confucius said, “Give your parents nothing to worry about other than your health.”
Ziyou asked about filiality.
Confucius said, “These days, people think just feeding their parents is filiality. But people feed horses and dogs, too. Without respect, what’s the difference?”
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.”
Confucius said, “I can talk with Yan Hui all day and not once does he question or contradict me. It’s like he’s stupid. But after he walks away and I see how he conducts himself, it’s clear that there’s nothing stupid about him!”
Confucius said, “Watch what a person does. Observe their motives and where they feel at ease. Where can they hide? Where can they hide?”
Confucius said, “Bringing past teachings to life while learning the new—that’s what makes a worthy teacher.”
Confucius said, “The noble person is not a vessel.”
Zigong asked about the character of a noble person.
Confucius said, “A noble person acts first and then lets their words follow their actions.”
Confucius said, “A noble person is open-minded and not biased. A small person is narrow-minded and biased.”
Confucius said, “If you learn without thinking, you’ll be lost. If you think without learning, you’ll be in danger.”
Confucius said, “Throwing yourself into strange teachings is dangerous.”
Confucius said, “Zilu, do you want to know about knowledge? To realize when you know something and to realize when you don’t know something. That’s knowledge.”
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.”
Duke Ai asked, “How can I get the people to follow me?”
Confucius replied, “If you raise up the straight and apply them to the crooked, the people will follow you. If you raise up the crooked and apply them to the straight, though, they won’t.”
Ji Kangzi asked, “How can I get the people to be respectful, loyal, and hard-working?”
Confucius replied, “If you lead the people with dignity, they’ll be respectful. If you’re filial and compassionate, they’ll be loyal. If you promote the skilled and train the unskilled, they’ll be hard-working.”
Someone asked Confucius, “Why aren’t you involved in government?”
Confucius replied, “The Book of History says,
‘Filial! Just be filial!
And a friend to brothers, young and old.
This has influence on government.’
“Since this is taking part in government, why do I need to be ‘involved in government?’”
Confucius said, “A person who can’t be trusted, I don’t see how they get anywhere. When the linchpin is missing from the yoke-bar of a large wagon or the collar-bar of a small wagon—how can you drive them anywhere?”
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.”
Confucius said, “To venerate ancestors other than your own is brown-nosing. To see what’s right and not do it is to lack courage.”