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?”
Youzi said, “A young person who is filial and respectful of his parents and elders rarely becomes the kind of person who enjoys defying their superiors. And a person who does not enjoy defying their superiors does not create chaos.
“A noble person tends to the roots first. With the roots taken care of, the Way naturally grows. Isn’t filiality and respect for parents and elders the root of humaneness?”
Confucius said, “Slick words and a plastic smile are rarely signs of humaneness.”
Zengzi said, “Every day I examine myself on three counts. When working for others, did I fail to do my best? With my friends, did I fail to be trustworthy? Have I practiced what I preached?”
Confucius said, “To govern an important state, take care of business, keep your word, and watch your spending. Care for the people and only employ them at the right times.”
Confucius said, “A young person should be filial to parents inside the home and respectful of elders outside the home. Conscientious and trustworthy, cherishing everyone, but with a special affection for the humane. If you have any energy left over, use it to study the cultural arts.”
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 leader who is not serious will not be taken seriously. Still, don’t be inflexible. Take loyalty and sincerity as first principles and don’t make friends with someone who isn’t your moral equal. When you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to fix it.”
Zengzi said, “Tend to the recently deceased with great care, and continue venerating the long-departed. Doing this, the people will return to virtue.”
Ziqin asked Zigong, “When our teacher arrives in another state, he always manages to learn about its government. Does he ask around about it, or do people just tell him?”
Zigong replied, “Our teacher gets information by being friendly, kind, humble, and not being pushy. He goes about this differently from other people.”
Confucius said, “While you father is alive, observe his intentions. After he’s passed away, reflect on his actions. If you hold back from changing your father’s ways for three years, you can be called filial.”
Youzi said, “When it comes to ritual, harmony is key. This is what made the Way of the great kings of old so elegant, and it applies in all matters—great and small. But if you just try to achieve harmony for its own sake without following ritual, it won’t work.”
Youzi said, “Trustworthiness comes close to righteousness because other people can count on your words. Showing respect is close to ritual correctness because it banishes shame and disgrace. If you can stick to these principles and not lose your family’s affection, you will be revered.”
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.”
Zigong asked, “To be a poor person who doesn’t grovel or a rich person who isn’t arrogant. What do you think of that?”
Confucius replied, “Not bad, not bad. But not as good as being poor and enjoying the Way or being rich and loving ritual.”
Zigong said, “The Book of Odes says,
‘Like cutting and filing,
like grinding and polishing.’
Is that what you mean?”
Confucius said, “Ah Zigong, you’re the kind of person I can talk about The Book of Odes with. I give you a little and you come back with the rest!”
Confucius said, “Don’t worry about others not knowing you. Worry about not knowing others.”
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.”
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?”
The Three Families had the King’s ode performed at the closing of their ceremonies, as the ritual utensils were being gathered up.
Confucius quoted the Ode,
‘Served by lords and princes,
The King, solemn and majestic.’
He added, “What could this possibly have to do with the ancestral hall of the Three Families?”
Confucius said, “If a person lacks humaneness, what can their ritual be like? If a person lacks humaneness, what can their music be like?”
Lin Fang asked about the roots of ritual.
Confucius said, “Good question! In ritual, it’s better to error on the side of modesty than showy extravagance. In mourning, it’s better to error on the side of real grief than to fuss over all the formal details.”
Confucius said, “The Eastern and Northern tribes, even with kings, are not equal to the Chinese countries, even when we lack rulers.”
The head of the Jisun family made a kingly sacrifice at Mt. Jai.
Confucius asked Ran Qiu, “Couldn’t you stop this?”
Ran Qiu replied, “I couldn’t.”
Confucius said, “What, then, does Mt. Tai know less about ritual than Lin Fang?”
Confucius said, “A noble person is not competitive, but they do take part in the archery contest. They ascend to their positions, bowing and deferring to each other. After descending, they offer toasts to each other. This is how noble people compete.”
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, “I can speak of the rituals of the Xia Dynasty, but there’s little left in the state of Qii to document them. I can speak of the rituals of the Shang Dynasty, too, but there’s little left in the state of Song to document them.
“There’s not much in the way of documentation or worthy scholars in those states. If there were, I could back up my words with evidence.”
Confucius said, “As for the king’s ceremonial sacrifice, I don’t want to hang around after they pour the libation.”