Zengzi said, “Confucius told me, ‘Even if a person never gives their utmost, they might when mourning their parents.’”
Zengzi said, “Confucius told me, ‘It’s possible to match Meng Zhuangzi’s filiality in most respects. But in keeping his father’s officials and not changing his father’s policies? That would be very hard to match.’”
The Meng family appointed Yang Fu as a magistrate, and he asked Zengzi for advice.
Zengzi said, “Those who rule have departed from the Way and left the common people adrift without moral guidance for a long time now. If you solve a case, be compassionate, not triumphant.”
Zigong said, “Zhouxin wasn’t as evil as his reputation makes him out to be. That’s why a noble person hates living downstream from public opinion—all the world’s filth ends up there.”
Zigong said, “A noble person’s errors are like an eclipse. Everyone sees them. But when they correct the error, everyone looks up in admiration.”
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.”
Shusun Wushu said to his ministers at court, “Zigong is worthier than Confucius.”
When Zifu Jingbo reported this to Zigong, Zigong replied, “Let’s make an analogy of the walls surrounding a house. My walls are only shoulder-high, so anyone passing by can peer over the top and see the elegance of the house.
“Confucius’ walls, on the other hand, are many yards taller, so unless you come in through the gate, you’ll never see the beauty of the ancestral hall or the splendor of all the buildings within. Very few people have made it through that gate, though, so it’s no surprise that Shusun Wushu would say what he said.”
Shusun Wushu disrespected Confucius, but Zigong said, “There’s no point in even trying. Confucius can’t be disparaged.
“The worthiness of other great people is like a hill. You can climb to the top of a hill. But Confucius is like the sun and the moon. You can’t reach them. Even if people want to cut themselves off from the sun and the moon, how could this touch the sun and moon? This just shows they overestimate themselves.”
Chen Ziqin said to Zigong, “Surely you’re just being reverent towards your teacher. How could Confucius be more worthy than you?”
“With just a single word, a person can reveal their wisdom, or expose their ignorance,” Zigong replied, “that’s why you have to choose your words carefully.”
Zigong continued, “Confucius can’t be matched, just like you can’t climb the sky! If he’d been put in charge of a state or a ruling family, he would have fulfilled the saying,
‘He raised them up, and they stood on their own.
He set the direction, and they forged ahead.
He put them at ease, and they flocked to him.
He set them in motion, and they worked in harmony.’
“In life he was honored and in death he was mourned. How can he be equaled?”
Yao said, “Oh, Shun! The regulation of Heaven’s calendar now falls to you. Hold to the middle way. If the people fall into distress, this gift of Heaven’s will be withdrawn forever.”
In turn, Shun charged Yu with these same words.
T’ang said, “I, Lü, am only a youth, but I dare to sacrifice this black ox and make this declaration to the Lord of Heaven. I don’t dare pardon the guilty. We can’t hide anything from the Lord of Heaven, since we’re his subjects, and guilt is known in the Lord’s heart.
“If I commit a crime, don’t make the people of the ten thousand regions suffer for it. But if the people of the ten thousand regions commit a crime, let the punishment fall to me alone.”
The Zhou was greatly rewarded because it had good people to serve it.
King Wu said, “Although I have all my kin, it’s better to employ people who have humaneness. If the people commit crimes, let it fall to me alone.”
Set standard weights and measures, align the laws and regulations, and restore offices that have been abolished. Revive the states that are about to fall and the lineages about to end. Find worthy people who have gone into hiding and raise them up into high offices. By doing this, the people will flock to you.
This is what’s important to the people: their food, their funerals, and their sacrifices.
Be generous, and you’ll win the hearts of the people. Be trustworthy, and you’ll gain the confidence of the people. If you’re industrious, you’ll get things done. If you’re just, the people will be pleased.
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.”
Confucius said, “If you don’t understand fate, you can’t be a noble person. If you don’t understand ritual, you can’t take your stand. If you don’t understand language, you won’t be able to assess the others’ characters.”