Someone asked Confucius to explain the king’s ceremonial sacrifice.

Confucius said, “I don’t know. A person who did know could handle the world as if they had it right here,” and he pointed to the palm of his hand.


“Sacrificing as if present” means to sacrifice to the spirits as though they are present.

Confucius said, “If I am not fully present at the sacrifice, it’s as if I didn’t sacrifice at all.”


Wangsun Jia asked, “What is the meaning of the old saying, ‘It’s better to sacrifice to the spirit of the kitchen stove than the spirit of the southwest corner?’”

Confucius said, “It’s not so! If you offend Heaven, there’s no one you can pray to.”


When Confucius entered the Great Ancestral Temple, he asked questions about everything. Seeing this, someone said, “Who ever said this son of a guy from Zou understands ritual? He comes into the Great Ancestral Temple and asks questions about everything!”

When Confucius head about this, he said, “Asking questions is the ritual.”


Duke Ding asked how a leader should employ ministers, and how ministers should serve their leader.

Confucius said, “The leader should employ ministers according to ritual. The ministers should serve their leader with dutifulness and loyalty.”


Duke Ai asked Zai Wo about the altar to the soil.

Zai Wo answered, “The Xia used pine and the Shang used cypress. But the Zhou, they say, used chestnut in order to instill the people with fear.”

After hearing about this, Confucius said, “Don’t try to explain what is already over and done with. Don’t try to criticize what’s already past. Don’t try to assign blame after something is past.”


Confucius said, “Guan Zhong was a small vessel.”

Someone asked, “So, you mean he was frugal?”

Confucius replied, “He had three different residences and kept a separate member of staff to perform each duty. You call that frugal?”

“So, then, do you mean that Guan Zhong understood ritual?”

Confucius replied, “The princes kept a ritual screen in front of their gates–and so did Guan Zhong. The princes, when entertaining other heads of state, had a bar to hold their drinks–and so did Guan Zhong. If Guan Zhong understands ritual, who doesn’t?”


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.”


The border guard at Yi asked to speak with Confucius saying, “I’ve never been denied an audience with the noble men who have passed this way.”

Confucius’ students arranged a meeting.

When he came out, he said, “Friends, why are you worried because your teacher lost his position? The world has been without the Way for a long time now, and Heaven intends to use your teacher like the wooden clapper of a bell.”


Confucius said, “If you don’t have humaneness, you can’t deal with long stretches of hardship or long stretches of comfort. A humane person feels at home with humaneness. The merely clever seek humaneness because they think it will help them get ahead.”


Confucius said, “Everyone wants money and fame, but if you can’t get them by following the Way, don’t go after them. Everyone hates being broke and disgraced, but if that’s what you get for following the Way, then don’t reject it.

“If a noble person abandons humaneness, how can they be worthy of being called a noble person? A noble person doesn’t abandon humaneness, even for the space of a meal. A noble person clings to humaneness, even in times of rushing or crisis.”


Confucius said, “I’ve never met a man who loved humaneness and hated what is not humane. If you love humaneness, you’ll put nothing above it. If you hate what is not humane, you won’t let it near you.

“Are there people who can devote all their strength to humaneness, even for one day? Well, I’ve never met anyone who lacked the strength to do it, anyway. Maybe there are people like that, but I haven’t met them.


Confucius said, “Don’t worry because you don’t have a position. Worry about having what it takes to have a position.

“Don’t worry about not being well-known. Worry about being worthy of being well-known.”


Confucius said, “Zeng Can, my Way has a single thread running through it.”

Zeng Can replied, “Yes.”

After Confucius left, the other students asked, “What did he mean by that?”

Zeng Can replied, “Our teacher’s way is just to be sincere and fair.”


Confucius said, “When you see a good person, think of becoming their equal. When you see someone who is not worthy, turn back and look at yourself.”


Confucius said, “When you serve your parents, it’s okay to gently correct them. If you see that they don’t want to listen, though, be respectful. Continue working for their benefit and don’t complain.”


Ziyou said, “If you’re overbearing with your ruler, you’ll be disgraced. If you’re overbearing with your friends, they’ll become distant.”


Confucius said of Nan Rong, “If the state follows the Way, he’ll always hold an office. If the state doesn’t follow the Way, he’ll avoid punishment and execution.”

Confucius gave him the daughter of his oldest brother in marriage.


Zigong asked, “What do you think of me?”

Confucius replied, “You are a vessel.”

Zigong asked, “What kind of vessel?”

Confucius replied, “One of the ancient sorts of vessels that held grain offerings in the ancestral temples.”


Someone said, “Zhonggong is humane, but he’s not eloquent.”

Confucius replied, “Why should he be ‘eloquent?’ People usually end up hating a smooth-talker. I don’t know if Zhonggong is humane, but why does he need to be eloquent?”


Confucius said, “If the Way isn’t put into practice, I’ll just head out to sea on a small raft. I bet Zilu would go with me.”

Zilu was happy to hear this.

Confucius said, “Zilu loves daring more than I do, but he lacks judgment.”


Meng Wubo asked Confucius whether Zilu was humane.

Confucius replied, “I don’t know.”

Meng Wubo asked again.

Confucius replied, “Zilu could oversee the collection of military taxes in a large state. But I don’t know if he is humane.”

Meng asked, “What about Ran Qiu?”

Confucius answered, “Ran Qiu could be the steward of a city of a thousand families or a clan with a hundred chariots, but I don’t know if he is humane.”

Meng asked, “What about Gongxi Hua?”

Confucius said, “If he was dressed properly with his sash and placed in the middle of the court, he could make conversation with the guests. But I don’t know if he is humane.”