Zengzi said, “Every day I examine myself on three counts. When working for others, did I fail to do my best? With my friends, did I fail to be trustworthy? Have I practiced what I preached?”


Zengzi said, “Tend to the recently deceased with great care, and continue venerating the long-departed. Doing this, the people will return to virtue.”


When Zengzi became ill, he called his students to him and said, “Uncover my feet and hands. “The Book of Odes says,

In fear and trembling,

As if standing on the edge of an abyss,

As is treading on thin ice.’

It’s only now that I know I’ve made it through safely, my young friends.”


When Zengzi became ill, Meng Jingzi visited him.

Zengzi said, “When a bird is about to die, its song is melancholy. When a man is about to die, his words are excellent.

“There are three things a noble person should value in the Way. In conduct and bearing, avoiding violence and arrogance. In facial expression, welcoming trustworthiness. In words and tone of voice, avoiding coarseness and vulgarity. As to the sacrificial vessels, there are professionals to deal with those matters.”


Zengi said, “To be competent, but to learn from those who are less able. To know a lot, but to ask for advice from those who know little. To have something, but seeming to have nothing. To be full, but to seem empty. To be harmed, but not to seek retaliation. I used to have a friend who worked at these things.”


Zengzi said, “A person who can be trusted to take care of an orphaned crown prince, take responsibility for a large territory, and who can handle a major crisis without being shaken up. Is this not a noble person? Certainly, this is a noble person.”


Confucius said, “If you don’t have an official position, you shouldn’t make plans for that position.”

Zengzi commented, “The noble person doesn’t let their thoughts overstep their position.”


Zengzi said, “Confucius told me, ‘It’s possible to match Meng Zhuangzi’s filiality in most respects. But in keeping his father’s officials and not changing his father’s policies? That would be very hard to match.’


The Meng family appointed Yang Fu as a magistrate, and he asked Zengzi for advice.

Zengzi said, “Those who rule have departed from the Way and left the common people adrift without moral guidance for a long time now. If you solve a case, be compassionate, not triumphant.”