Confucius said, “Isn’t it satisfying to learn and apply what you’ve learned? Isn’t it great when friends come from afar? If I’m not bothered that people don’t recognize me, isn’t that the mark of a noble person?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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, “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 asked Zigong, “Who is a better man, you or Yan Hui?”
Zigong replied, “How could I compare myself to Yan Hui? He hears one point and understands ten. I hear one point and only understand two.”
Confucius said, “No, you’re not as good as Yan Hui. Neither one of us is as good as Yan Hui.”
When Zilu heard a teaching, but was not yet able to apply it, he was afraid of hearing something new.
Zigong asked, “How did Kong Wenzi get the title ‘Cultured?’”
Confucius replied, “He was hardworking and loved to learn. He was also not above asking questions of his inferiors. That’s how he got the title of ‘Cultured.’”
Confucius said, “In any given village of ten houses, there are bound to be people who are as dutiful and trustworthy as I am. But I doubt I could find anyone who loves learning as much as I do.”
Confucius said, “Keeping silent, but thinking. Learning without getting tired. Encouraging others without fatigue. These things aren’t a problem for me.”
Confucius said, “Failing to cultivate virtue. Studying but not making sense of what I study. Not practicing what I preach. Not correcting my errors. These things keep me up at night.”
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, “If I could add some years on to my life, I would spend about fifty of them studying the principles of change and I could be free of errors.”
The Governor of She asked Zilu about Confucius, but Zilu didn’t answer him.
When Confucius heard about this, he said, “Why didn’t you just tell him, ‘He’s the sort of man who goes after learning so eagerly that he forgets to eat, and in his joy forgets his worries and doesn’t notice old age creeping up on him?’”
Confucius said, “There may be some people who innovate without prior knowledge, but I’m not like that. I listen closely and follow what’s good. I observe closely and remember what’s good. This is the second best kind of knowledge.”
Confucius said, “I work hard at learning, but when it comes to putting it all into practice as a noble person, I’m not there yet.”
Zengi said, “To be competent, but to learn from those who are less able. To know a lot, but to ask for advice from those who know little. To have something, but seeming to have nothing. To be full, but to seem empty. To be harmed, but not to seek retaliation. I used to have a friend who worked at these things.”
Confucius said, “It’s hard to find a person who studies for three years who doesn’t start thinking about getting a salary.”
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.”
Confucius said, “Learn as if you’ll never catch up, as if you’re afraid of losing what you’ve already learned.”
A man from Daxiang said, “How great Confucius is! His learning is so broad, but he hasn’t made a name for himself in anything in particular.”
When Confucius heard this, he remarked to his students, “What should I specialize in? Charioteering? Archery? I think I’ll go with charioteering!”
Confucius said, “How can we disagree with exemplary sayings? But the real value is in reforming yourself according to those sayings. How can we not be pleased by gentle and tactful words of correction? But the real value is understanding the point of those words.
“To agree with sayings but not try to understand their point, to agree with advice but not follow through with actions—what can I do with people like that?”
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.”
Ji Kangzi asked which of Confucius’ students loved learning.
Confucius replied, “Yan Hui did. Unfortunately, he was fated to die young, and now there is no one.”
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.”
Zilu got Zigao appointed as Prefect of Bi.
Confucius said, “You’re harming someone’s son!
Zilu said, “There are people to govern there and altars to look after. Why should it be necessary to read books to be regarded as learned?
Confucius replied, “This is why I don’t like glib people.”
Confucius said, “If you can recite all three hundred poems from the Book of Odes, but you can’t put this knowledge to use when in office or when entrusted with affairs abroad, what good is knowing all these poems?”
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.”
Confucius said, “Only after good men have instructed people for seven years are they ready to take up arms.”
Confucius said, “To send people into battle without instructing them first—that’s throwing them away.”
Confucius said, “In the past, scholars would study to improve themselves. Nowadays, they study to impress other people.”
Confucius asked, “Zigong, do you think I’m the kind of person who learns lots of different things and remembers them all?”
Zigong replied, “Yes, of course. Don’t you?”
Confucius said, “No. I thread them all together on a single string.”
Confucius said, “If you fail to teach a person who is capable of learning, you waste the person. If you try to teach someone who is not capable of learning, you waste your teaching. A wise person doesn’t waste people or teaching.”
Confucius said, “I once spent a whole day without eating and whole night without sleeping in order to think. Useless! Study would have been better.”
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.”
Confucius said, “There are three kinds of friends who can help you and three kinds of friends who can harm you. Friends who are upright, trustworthy, and learned—these will help you. Friends who are devious, brown nosers, and smooth-talkers—these will harm you.”
Confucius said, “A noble person stands in awe of three things: the will of Heaven, great people, and the words of the sages. The small person is clueless about the will of Heaven, despises the great, and mocks the words of the sages.”
Confucius said, “Those who are born with innate knowledge are at the top. Next come those who gain knowledge through learning. Next are those who learn through the trials of life, but who still are determined to learn. The lowest are those who learn nothing even from their trials.”
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, “Zilu, have you heard about the six noble tendencies and their perversions?”
Zilu replied that he hadn’t.
“Sit down, then, and I’ll tell you,” Confucius said. “To love humaneness without loving learning leads to foolishness. To love intelligence without loving learning leads to being scattered. To love forthrightness without the love of learning leads to harm. To love bravery without loving learning leads to brutality. To love force without the love of learning leads to wildness.”
Confucius said, “To hear about something on the roadway and then repeat it right away—this is throwing virtue away.”
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, “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.”
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’re 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 isn’t resented for it. A noble person has desires, but isn’t greedy. A noble person has authority, but isn’t 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 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 you must hand over and being stingy about it is bureaucratic pettiness.”