Confucius said of the Jisun family, “They have eight rows of dancers in their courtyard! If they’re capable of this, what are not they not capable of?”
Confucius said, “If a person lacks humaneness, what can their ritual be like? If a person lacks humaneness, what can their music be like?”
Confucius, while discussing music with the Music Master of Lu, said, “Here’s what I know about music. In the beginning, the notes seem disconnected, but they come into accord through harmony, and it continues flowing in this way until it reaches perfection.”
Confucius said the music of the Shao was both perfectly beautiful and perfectly good. He said the music of the Wu was perfectly beautiful, but not perfectly good.
On a day when Confucius wept, he wouldn’t sing.
When Confucius was in Qi, he heard the Shao music. For three months afterward, he didn’t even notice the taste of meat.
He said, “I didn’t even know music could be this good.”
When Confucius was singing with someone else, and he found that they sang well, he would ask them start over again so he could sing the harmony.
Confucius said, “Arise with the Odes, take your stand with ritual, and come to perfection with music.”
Confucius said, “From the time Music Master Zhi begins all the way to the finale of the The Cry of the Osprey—overflowing! It fills the ears!”
Confucius said, “It was only after I returned to Lu from Wei that the music got straightened out, with the odes and the hymns being played at their proper places and times.”
Confucius said, “The first students to join me in learning about ritual and music were commoners. The noblemen joined in the learning later. If I were appointing officials, I would choose from among the former.”
Confucius said, “Why do I hear Zilu playing his zither at my door?” After this, the other students began disrespecting Zilu.
Confucius corrected them, saying, “Zilu may not have entered the inner chambers, but he has ascended the stairs.”
Zilu, Zeng Xi, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Hua were sitting with Confucius, when said, “Although I am older than you, forget about it that for now. You are all always saying, ‘The word doesn’t recognize my talents.’ But suppose your talents were fully acknowledged. What would you do then?”
Zilu rushed to respond first, “In a state of a thousand war chariots, wedged between two much larger states, under siege by invading armies, drought, and famine. Put me in charge for three years, and I would bring the people courage and direction.”
Confucius smiled at him.
He then asked Ran Qiu, “How about you?”
Ran Qiu replied, “In a territory of sixty to seventy li, or maybe fifty to sixty li, put me in charge for three years, and the people would have their material needs met. As for ritual and music, that would have to be handled by a nobleman.”
Confucius then asked, “And what about you, Gongxi Hua?”
Gongxi Hua replied, “I can’t say that I can do this for sure, but I’d really like to try. In services at the Great Ancestral Hall or in audience with the ruler, I’d like to play the part of a minor assistant, dressed in ceremonial cap and gown.”
Confucius asked, “Zeng Xi, how about you?”
Zeng Xi, who had been playing the zither, set it down, the last chord still ringing out. He stood up.
“What I’d like to do,” Zeng Xi said, “is very different from these three.”
“No harm in that,” Confucius replied. “We’re all just sharing our personal aspirations.”
Zeng Xi said, “In the late spring, after the clothes have been made, I’d like to go with five or six companions and six or seven youngsters and take a swim in the Yi River. We’d enjoy the breeze at the Rain-Dance Altar, and then return home singing.”
Confucius sighed and said, “I am with Zeng Xi.”
The three others left, but Zeng Xi hung back and asked Confucius, “What did you think about what the other three said?”
Confucius replied, “They each just shared their own wishes.”
Zeng Xi asked, “Why did you smile at Zilu?”
Confucius said, “To govern a state requires ritual, and Zilu’s words showed no deference. That’s why I smiled.”
Zeng Xi then asked, “And Ran Qui, he was asking for a state, wasn’t he?”
Confucius said, “Of course. Have you ever seen a territory of sixty to seventy li, or fifty to sixty li, that wasn’t a state?”
Zeng Xi asked, “And Gongxi Hua, was he also talking about a state?”
Confucius replied, “Ceremonies in the Great Ancestral Hall and audiences with the ruler—what are these but affairs of state? And if Gongxi Hua was there playing a minor role, who would be playing the major role?”
Zilu asked, “If the ruler of Wei put you in charge of governing, what would be your top priority?”
Confucius replied, “The rectification of names. Without a doubt.”
Zilu said, “Oh, you’re way off! What’s so important about that?”
Confucius replied, “What a rube you are, Zilu. When a noble person doesn’t understand something, they keep their mouth shut.
“If names are not rectified, then words don’t align with reality. If words don’t align with reality, work can’t be accomplished. If work can’t be accomplished, ritual and music can’t be developed. If ritual and music can’t be developed, punishments won’t fit the crime. If punishments don’t fit the crime, people won’t even know where to put their hands and feet.
“The rectification of names allows the noble person to speak, and what a noble person says can be acted upon. For this reason, a noble person is never careless in speech.”
Zilu asked about becoming a complete person.
Confucius said, “The wisdom of Zang Wuzhong, the desirelessness of Meng Gongchuo, the courage of Zhuangzi of Bian, and the abilities of Ran Qiu, all refined through ritual and music.
But if you want to be a complete person today, why do you need all of that? If you see a chance for profit and think of right conduct, if you’re ready to give your life when facing danger, and if you can endure long hardships without forgetting your principles—then you, also, may be considered a complete person.”
Confucius was playing the stone chimes in Wei.
A man carrying a basket walked by and commented, “He puts his heart into his playing.”
Then, after a while, he added, “So much urgency in that stubborn clanging! If no one appreciates him, that’s that!
“‘When it’s deep—wade through, clothes and all.
When it’s shallow—lift the hem of your robes and step across.’”
In response, Confucius said, “Of course! So decisive, and so easy, too!”
Yan Hui asked about how to govern a state.
Confucius replied, “Follow the calendar of the Xia. Ride in the state carriage of the Yin. Wear the ceremonial cap of the Zhou. As for music, play the Shao and Wu. Abolish the tunes of the Zheng and keep slick talkers at a distance. The Zheng music is lewd and slick talkers are dangerous.”
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.”
Confucius said, “There are three kinds of pleasure that will help you and three kinds of pleasure that will harm you. The enjoyment of cultivation in music and ritual, speaking well of others’ good points, and being surrounded by friends of good character—these will help you. The enjoyment of self-importance, loafing, and going overboard in feasting—these will harm you.”
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.”
Confucius said, “They talk about rituals here and there, as if it’s just about making offerings of jade and silk! They talk about music here and there, as if it’s just about bells and drums!”
Confucius said, “I hate that purple has replaced vermillion, that the tunes of Zheng bring disorder to classical music, and that slick people overturn states and families.”
Ru Bei came to see Confucius, but Confucius turned him down on account of illness. As Ru Bei’s messenger left, however, Confucius picked up his zither and began playing. He sang loudly enough for the messenger to hear.
Zai Wo questioned Confucius about the traditional three-year mourning period.
“One year is already too long. If a noble person gives up ritual for three years, the ritual will decay. If a noble person gives up music for three years, then music will fall apart. In the course of a year, as the old crop is eaten up, new crops grow for harvest. Four types of firewood—one for each season—have been used for kindling. A full year of mourning is quite enough.”
Confucius asked, “Would you be comfortable eating white rice and wearing silk after a year?”
“I would,” replied Zai Wo.
Confucius said, “If you’d feel comfortable, go right ahead then. When a noble person mourns, fine foods are not sweet, music brings no joy, and luxurious clothes bring no comfort, even around the house. These things don’t bring pleasure, so the noble person doesn’t indulge in them. But if you’d feel comfortable doing these things, go right ahead.”
After Zai Wo left, Confucius said, “He lacks humaneness. Children don’t leave their parents arms for three years after they’re born, so three years’ mourning is the custom throughout the world. Didn’t Zai Wo even have three years of love from his parents?”
The men of Qi made a present of singing-and-dancing girls. Ji Huanzi accepted them, and for three days, he didn’t hold court.
As Jie Yu, the Madman of Chu, passed Confucius’ carriage, he sang,
“Pheonix, Pheonix, virtue has declined!
The past is beyond repair, but the future still has a chance!
Danger for those in office!”
Confucius stepped down from his chariot, hoping to speak with Jie Yu, but he ran off and Confucius never got a chance to talk to him.