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?”


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, “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.”


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.”