17.4

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.”

17.5

Gongshan Furao was holding Bi as his base, and was about to start a rebellion. He asked Confucius to join him. Confucius was tempted.

Ziyou said, “We may be at the end of the line, but is that a good reason to join Gongshan?”

Confucius replied, “The man must’ve had some purpose in inviting me. If someone would employ me, I could establish a new Zhou dynasty in the East.”

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.”

17.7

Bi Xi called for Confucius, and Confucius was tempted to go.

Zilu said, “I remember you saying, ‘A noble person won’t associate with someone who is committing evil.’ Now Bi Xi is about to use his stronghold in Zhong Mou to start a rebellion. How can you even consider joining him?”

Confucius replied, “Yes, I did say that. But what resists grinding is truly strong and what resists black dye is truly white. Should I be like a bitter gourd, hanging on a string as decoration but not fit to eat?”

17.8

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.”

17.9

Confucius said, “Little ones, why don’t you study the Odes? The Odes can give your spirit a kick in the pants and can give your mind keener eyes. They can help you adjust better in groups and make you more articulate when making a complaint. They teach you to serve your parents at home and your ruler abroad. They also make you familiar with the names of birds, animals, plants, and trees.”

17.11

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!”

17.15

Confucius said, “Is it really possible to work side-by-side with a vulgar person in serving a ruler? Before he gets what he wants, all he cares about is getting it. Once he gets it, all he worries about is losing it. Once he starts worrying about losing it, there’s nothing he won’t do.”

17.16

Confucius said, “In ancient times, people had three kinds of faults. These days, we’ve lost even these. In those times, the wild were daring—nowadays, the wild are simply out of control. In those times, the proud had principles—nowadays, the proud are bad-tempered and contentious. In those times, the stupid were straightforward—nowadays, the stupid are deceitful.”

17.19

Confucius said, “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

Zigong said, “If you don’t speak, what will we students pass along?”

Confucius replied, “Does Heaven speak? Yet the four seasons continue to turn and the creatures of the world are born. Does Heaven speak?”

17.20

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.

17.21

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?”

17.22

Confucius said, “I don’t get people who sit around all day filling their bellies and never using their minds. Why can’t they at least play chess? That would be better than nothing.”

17.23

Zilu asked, “Does a noble person value courage?”

Confucius replied, “A noble person values righteousness above all. If a noble person has courage without righteousness, chaos reigns. If a small person has courage without righteousness, they become a bandit.”

17.24

Zigong asked, “Does a noble person have hatreds?”

Confucius answered, “Yes, a noble person hates those who point out the faults of others, those who slander their superiors, those who have courage but lack ritual, and those who are bold but lack understanding.”

He continued, “And what about you? Do you have hatreds?”

“Yes,” replied Zigong, “I hate those who steal other peoples’ ideas and then act like they’re smart. I hate those who think being arrogant is courageous. And I hate those who think insulting people is straightforwardness.”

17.25

Confucius said, “Women and servants are hard to deal with. If you’re friendly, they become insolent. If you’re distant, they become resentful.”

18.2

The magistrate Liuxia Hui was fired three times.

People asked him, “Why don’t you go to another state?”

Liuxia Hui replied, “If I serve in a straight way, where can I go where the same thing won’t happen to me? If I wanted to go crooked, why would I bother to leave the land of my parents?”

18.3

Duke Jing of Qi invited Confucius to serve him and considered how to treat him.

“I can’t treat him the way the head of the Jisun family is treated in Lu. I’ll treat him as if his position is somewhere between the head of the Jisun family and the head of the Mengsun family.” Later, he added, “I’m too old. I can’t employ him.”

Hearing this, Confucius left.

18.5

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!

Enough, enough!

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.

18.6

Chang Ju and Jie Ni were yoked together, plowing the fields. Confucius, who was passing by, sent Zilu to ask where the river crossing was.

Chang Ju asked, “Who’s that holding the carriage reigns?”

“Confucius,” replied Zilu.

“Confucius from Lu?”

“Yes.”

“Then he already knows where the river crossing is.”

Zilu then asked Jie Ni the same question.

“And who are you?” asked Jie Ni.

“Zilu.”

“Zilu, the student of Confucius from Lu?”

“I am.”

“The water keeps moving forward, all over the world. Who can change it? Why do you bother following someone who keeps running from one ruler to another? Wouldn’t it be better to follow someone who’s given up this world altogether?”

The two of them went back to their work.

Zilu reported this conversation to Confucius, who furrowed his brow and said, “I can’t flock with birds and beasts! Who am I supposed to keep company with, if not other human beings? If the Way prevailed in the world, I wouldn’t have to reform it!”

18.7

While traveling with Confucius, Zilu fell behind and met an old man carrying a basket on his staff.

Zilu asked him, “Sir, have you seen my teacher?”

The old man replied, “You look like someone who hasn’t worked with his four limbs and can’t tell between the different kinds of grain. Who can your teacher be?”

The old man then planted his staff in the ground and started weeding.

Zilu watched him respectfully.

The old man took Zilu in for the night. He killed a chicken, and cooked the chicken and millet for his guest. He then introduced Zilu to his two sons.

Zilu caught up with Confucius the next day and reported what had happened. Confucius said, “He’s a recluse,” and asked Zilu take him back to see the old man. When they got there, however, the old man had gone.

Zilu said, “It’s not right to withdraw from public life. If a person knows not to abandon the obligations of the young to the old, how can he abandon the obligations of the subject to the ruler? He tries to keep himself pure, but brings chaos to a basic human relationship. A noble person serves the state, even if it’s obvious that the Way can’t prevail.”

18.8

Those who withdrew from the world were Bo Yi and Shu Qi; Yu Zhong, Yi Yi, and Zhu Zhang; Liuxia Hui and Shao Lian.

Confucius said, “Never compromising, never accepting insult—that’s Bo Yi and Shu Qi. Liuxia Hui and Shao Lian compromised and suffered insults, but their words were morally sound and their actions always followed their plans—they managed that much.

“Yu Zhong and Yi Yi hid themselves away and gave up speech. They remained pure and were expedient in giving up the world.

“But I’m different from all these. I have no preconceived rules on what should and shouldn’t be done.”

18.9

Music Master Zhi left for Qi. Gan, the master of the second course, went to Chu. Liao, master of the third course, left for Cai. Master of the fourth course, Que, went to Qin.

The drummer, Fangshu, crossed the Yellow River valley and the hand drum player, Wu, crossed the Han River Valley. The Master’s assistant, Yang, and Xiang, who played the stone chimes, took to the sea.

18.10

The Duke of Zhou told his son, the Duke of Lu, “The noble person doesn’t forget family. Nor does the noble person give ministers cause to complain that they’re not trusted. Nor does the noble person abandon old friends without great cause. Nor does the noble person expect any one person to be good at everything.”

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

19.4

Zixia said, “Even if a byway is minor, there’s certainly something to appreciate about it. Still, if you follow it too far, you can get bogged down, so the noble person doesn’t go down the byways.”

19.5

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.”

19.9

Zixia said, “A noble person has three appearances. From a distance, they inspire awe. When you approach, they’re warm. When you hear their words, they’re insightful and demanding.”

19.11

Zixia said, “Major principles should never be transgressed, but there’s room for flexibility in minor matters.”

19.12

Ziyou said, “Zixia’s students are well-trained when it comes to sweeping and mopping, answering the door, and saying hello and goodbye. But these are just details. When it comes to the fundamentals, though, they’re completely lost. How is this possible?”

When Zixia heard this, he said, “Ziyou is way off-base! When it comes to the Way of the noble person, how can a teacher know if someone is ready to understand from the start or if they’ll get frustrated and lose interest?

“It’s like planting grass and trees. They have to be separated into categories and planted in the spots that suit them. How can he slander the Way of the noble person like that? After all, it’s only a sage that masters it from beginning to end.”