Confucius said, “Zichan had four qualities of a noble person. He behaved with reverence. He was respectful when serving his superiors. He cared for the common people, and he was just in how he employed them.”
When speaking at court with his juniors, he was relaxed and friendly. When speaking with his superiors, he was straightforward, but respectful. When in the presence of the ruler, he showed reverence, but was collected.
When passing through the door of his ruler, he would draw himself in, as if the gate wasn’t large enough to accommodate him. He wouldn’t stand in the middle of the gate or step on the threshold. When he passed by the throne, his expression became serious, his steps, short and deliberate. His voice dropped to a whisper, as if he could barely get the words out.
When he lifted the hem of his robe to climb the steps, he again drew himself in, holding his breath as if he’d stopped breathing altogether. On leaving the ruler’s place, after he had gone back down the first step, his expression became relaxed. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, he’d glide back to his position like a bird and resume a reverent attitude.
When Confucius saw a person wearing clothes of mourning, even if it was someone he saw every day, his face would express grief. When he saw someone wearing a court cap or a blind person, even if it was someone he saw every day, he would become solemn.
If Confucius was riding in his carriage and he came across someone in mourning, or someone carrying official documents, he would bow down and grasp the crossbar.
If he was served a rare delicacy at a banquet, he would rise and express his appreciation.
He would also change his expression at the clap of thunder or a strong gust of wind.
Fan Chi asked Confucius about farming.
Confucius replied, “Why don’t you go ask an old farmer?”
Fan Chi asked Confucius about growing vegetables.
Confucius replied, “Why don’t you go ask an old gardener?”
Fan Chi left, and Confucius said, “What a simple-minded person Fan Chi is! If the people in charge love ritual, the people wouldn’t dare to be irreverent. If the people in charge love righteousness, then the people wouldn’t dare to be disobedient. If the people in charge loved being true to their word, then the people wouldn’t dare to be two-faced.
“If you govern this way, the people would come flocking to you, carrying their babies on their backs. Why worry about agriculture?”
Fan Chi asked about humaneness.
Confucius replied, “Be reverent at home, respectfully attentive in public matters, and loyal in your dealings with others.
“Even if you go and live with barbarians, don’t throw these things away.”
Confucius said, “There was one ruler who was able to bring order without overreaching, and that was Shun. So what did he do? He simply assumed an air of reverence and faced South.”
Confucius said, “A noble person takes care to give attention to nine things. In seeing, to have clear vision. In hearing, to be keen. In expression, to be warm. In attitude, to be courteous. In speech, to be loyal. In service, to be reverent. In doubt, to ask questions. In anger, to think of the consequences. In gaining an advantage, to think of fairness.”
Chen Ziqin said to Zigong, “Surely you’re just being reverent towards your teacher. How could Confucius be more worthy than you?”
“With just a single word, a person can reveal their wisdom, or expose their ignorance,” Zigong replied, “that’s why you have to choose your words carefully.”
Zigong continued, “Confucius can’t be matched, just like you can’t climb the sky! If he’d been put in charge of a state or a ruling family, he would have fulfilled the saying,
‘He raised them up, and they stood on their own.
He set the direction, and they forged ahead.
He put them at ease, and they flocked to him.
He set them in motion, and they worked in harmony.’
“In life he was honored and in death he was mourned. How can he be equaled?”