When the ruler sent him a gift of cooked food, Confucius would always taste it right away, after straightening his mat. If the ruler sent uncooked meat, he would always cook it and offer some as a sacrifice. If the ruler presented him with a live animal, he would always raise it. When attending a meal with the ruler, after the ruler made the sacrifice, Confucius would eat first.


Startled by their arrival, a bird took off and circled several times before perching on a branch.

Confucius quoted,

“‘The hen pheasant by the mountain ridge,

It knows the right moment!

It knows the right moment!’”

Zilu saluted the bird. It flapped its wings three times and flew away.


Ji Zicheng said, “Being a noble person just means having substance. What need is there for refinement?”

Zigong replied, “I’m shocked to hear you speak about a noble person this way! Even a team of fast horses couldn’t catch up to these misspoken words. A noble person’s substance isn’t different from refinement and refinement isn’t different from substance. If you strip the hair from the hide of a tiger or leopard, it looks the same as the hide of a dog or sheep.”


Confucius said, “I can remember a time when scribes would leave a gap when they were unsure about a word and horse owners would lend their horses out to an expert to be assessed. This doesn’t happen anymore.”


Duke Jing of Qi had thousands of horse-drawn chariots, but when he died, the people couldn’t think of anything good to say about him. Bo Yi and Shu Qi both died of starvation at the foot of Mount Shouyang and the people continue praising them right up the present day. This is what it means.”


Yang Huo wanted to see Confucius, but Confucius didn’t want to see him. Yang Huo sent him a suckling pig as a present. Confucius chose to offer his thanks at a time when he knew Yang Huo wouldn’t be home. On his way back home, however, he met him in the street.

Yang Huo said, “Come here, I have something to tell you! Would you say that someone has humaneness if he clutches a great jewel to himself while his state is going to hell? I don’t think so! Would you call someone wise if he wants to take part in government but then lets every opportunity to do so slip through his fingers? I don’t think so! Days and months go by—time isn’t on our side!”

Confucius replied, “Alright, I’ll accept an office.”


Confucius said, “Little ones, why don’t you study the Odes? The Odes can give your spirit a kick in the pants and can give your mind keener eyes. They can help you adjust better in groups and make you more articulate when making a complaint. They teach you to serve your parents at home and your ruler abroad. They also make you familiar with the names of birds, animals, plants, and trees.”