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.”


Confucius asked Zigong, “Who is a better man, you or Yan Hui?”

Zigong replied, “How could I compare myself to Yan Hui? He hears one point and understands ten. I hear one point and only understand two.”

Confucius said, “No, you’re not as good as Yan Hui. Neither one of us is as good as Yan Hui.”


Zai Wo napped during the day.

Confucius said, “Rotten wood can’t be carved and mud walls can’t be plastered. As for Zai Wo, what’s the point of scolding him?

“I used to listen to what people said and trusted that their actions would follow. Nowadays, I listen to what people say and I watch what they do. I learned this from Zai Wo.”


Confucius said, “I’ve never met a really solid person.”

Someone asked, “What about Shen Cheng?”

Confucius replied, “Shen Cheng is lustful. How could he be solid?”


Confucius said, “Zang Wenzhong housed his sacred tortoises in a hall where the tops of the pillars were carved in the shapes of mountains and the roof beams were decorated with water plants. How could we call him wise?”


Zizhang asked, “The Chief Minister Ziwen was appointed three times, but never showed any signs of being pleased. He was fired three times, but never showed any signs of resentment. He would always brief his replacement fully on the prior government. What do you think of him?”

Confucius replied, “He was certainly dutiful.”

Zizhang asked, “But was he humane?”

Confucius replied, “I don’t know about that. What makes you think he was humane?”

Zizhang followed up, “When Cuizi assassinated the prince of Qi, Chen Wenzi, who had ten chariots, abandoned them and left the state.

“When he arrived at another state, he said, ‘The government here is just as bad as Cuizi’s.’ and so he left it.

Coming to another state he said, ‘Here, too, they’re just like Cuizi.’ and so he left. What do you think of him?”

Confucius replied, “He was certainly pure.”

Zizhang asked, “But was he humane?”

Confucius replied, “I don’t know about that. What makes you think he was humane?”


Confucius said, “When the Way was being practiced in his state, Ning Wuzi showed his wisdom. When the Way was not being practiced, though, he played the fool. Someone might be able to match his wisdom, but no one can match his foolishness.”


Once, when Confucius was travelling in the state of Chen, he said, “Let’s go home! Let’s go home! Our young students back in Lu are wild and ambitious. They’re made of the right stuff, but they don’t know how to shape it.”


Confucius said, “Clever words, a plastic smile, and superficial gestures of respect. Zuoqiu Ming considered this stuff to be shameful and so do I.

“Hiding your resentment and pretending to be someone’s friend. Zuoqiu Ming considered this to be shameful, too, and so do I.”


Yan Hui and Zilu were with Confucius, and he asked them, “How about each of you tell me what you’d like to accomplish?”

Zilu replied, “I’d like to have wagons, horses, and fur coats to give to my friends, and not to get angry if they got damaged.”

Yan Hui replied, “I’d like not to be proud of my good points and not to brag about what I’ve done for other people.”

Zilu asked Confucius, “What would you like to accomplish?”

Confucius replied, “I’d like to comfort the elderly, have the trust of my friends, and nurture the young.”


Confucius said, “In any given village of ten houses, there are bound to be people who are as dutiful and trustworthy as I am. But I doubt I could find anyone who loves learning as much as I do.”