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, “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.”


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!”


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, “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.”


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.”