Holy Confucian Canon
English translation by James Legge
The Master Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application?
Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters?
Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?
The philosopher Yu said, They are few who, being filial and fraternal, are fond of offending against their superiors. There have been none, who, not liking to offend against their superiors, have been fond of stirring up confusion.
The superior man bends his attention to what is radical. That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up. Filial piety and fraternal submission,-are they not the root of all benevolent actions?
The Master said, Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.
The philosopher Tsang said, I daily examine myself on three points:-whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful;-whether, in intercourse with friends, I may have been not sincere;-whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher.
The Master said, To rule a country of a thousand chariots, there must be reverent attention to business, and sincerity; economy in expenditure, and love for men; and the employment of the people at the proper seasons.
The Master said, A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in polite studies.
Tsze-hsia said, If a man withdraws his mind from the love of beauty, and applies it as sincerely to the love of the virtuous; if, in serving his parents, he can exert his utmost strength; if, in serving his prince, he can devote his life; if, in his intercourse with his friends, his words are sincere:-although men say that he has not learned, I will certainly say that he has.
The Master said, If the scholar be not grave, he will not call forth any veneration, and his learning will not be solid.
Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
Have no friends not equal to yourself.
When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.
The philosopher Tsang said, Let there be a careful attention to perform the funeral rites to parents, and let them be followed when long gone with the ceremonies of sacrifice;-then the virtue of the people will resume its proper excellence.
Tsze-ch'in asked Tsze-kung saying, When our master comes to any country, he does not fail to learn all about its government. Does he ask his information? or is it given to him?
Tsze-kung said, Our master is benign, upright, courteous, temperate, and complaisant and thus he gets his information. The master's mode of asking information,-is it not different from that of other men?
The Master said, While a man's father is alive, look at the bent of his will; when his father is dead, look at his conduct. If for three years he does not alter from the way of his father, he may be called filial.
The philosopher Yu said, In practicing the rules of propriety, a natural ease is to be prized. In the ways prescribed by the ancient kings, this is the excellent quality, and in things small and great we follow them.
Yet it is not to be observed in all cases. If one, knowing how such ease should be prized, manifests it, without regulating it by the rules of propriety, this likewise is not to be done.
The philosopher Yu said, When agreements are made according to what is right, what is spoken can be made good. When respect is shown according to what is proper, one keeps far from shame and disgrace. When the parties upon whom a man leans are proper persons to be intimate with, he can make them his guides and masters.
The Master said, He who aims to be a man of complete virtue in his food does not seek to gratify his appetite, nor in his dwelling place does he seek the appliances of ease; he is earnest in what he is doing, and careful in his speech; he frequents the company of men of principle that he may be rectified:-such a person may be said indeed to love to learn.
Tsze-kung said, What do you pronounce concerning the poor man who yet does not flatter, and the rich man who is not proud? The Master replied, They will do; but they are not equal to him, who, though poor, is yet cheerful, and to him, who, though rich, loves the rules of propriety.
Tsze-kung replied, It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'As you cut and then file, as you carve and then polish.'-The meaning is the same, I apprehend, as that which you have just expressed.
The Master said, With one like Ts'ze, I can begin to talk about the odes. I told him one point, and he knew its proper sequence.
The Master said, I will not be afflicted at men's not knowing me; I will be afflicted that I do not know men.
The Master said, He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.
The Master said, In the Book of Poetry are three hundred pieces, but the design of them all may be embraced in one sentence 'Having no depraved thoughts.'
The Master said, If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame.
If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.
The Master said, At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning.
At thirty, I stood firm.
At forty, I had no doubts.
At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.
At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth.
At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.
Mang I asked what filial piety was. The Master said, It is not being disobedient.
Soon after, as Fan Ch'ih was driving him, the Master told him, saying, Mang-sun asked me what filial piety was, and I answered him,-'not being disobedient.'
Fan Ch'ih said, What did you mean? The Master replied, That parents, when alive, be served according to propriety; that, when dead, they should be buried according to propriety; and that they should be sacrificed to according to propriety.
Mang Wu asked what filial piety was. The Master said, Parents are anxious lest their children should be sick.
Tsze-yu asked what filial piety was. The Master said, The filial piety nowadays means the support of one's parents. But dogs and horses likewise are able to do something in the way of support;-without reverence, what is there to distinguish the one support given from the other?
Tsze-hsia asked what filial piety was. The Master said, The difficulty is with the countenance. If, when their elders have any troublesome affairs, the young take the toil of them, and if, when the young have wine and food, they set them before their elders, is THIS to be considered filial piety?
The Master said, I have talked with Hui for a whole day, and he has not made any objection to anything I said;-as if he were stupid. He has retired, and I have examined his conduct when away from me, and found him able to illustrate my teachings. Hui!-He is not stupid.
The Master said, See what a man does.
Mark his motives.
Examine in what things he rests.
How can a man conceal his character? How can a man conceal his character?
The Master said, If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge, so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.
The Master said, The accomplished scholar is not a utensil.
Tsze-kung asked what constituted the superior man. The Master said, He acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions.
The Master said, The superior man is catholic and not partisan. The mean man is partisan and not catholic.
The Master said, Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.
The Master said, The study of strange doctrines is injurious indeed!
The Master said, Yu, shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it;-this is knowledge.
Tsze-chang was learning with a view to official emolument.
The Master said, Hear much and put aside the points of which you stand in doubt, while you speak cautiously at the same time of the others:-then you will afford few occasions for blame. See much and put aside the things which seem perilous, while you are cautious at the same time in carrying the others into practice: then you will have few occasions for repentance. When one gives few occasions for blame in his words, and few occasions for repentance in his conduct, he is in the way to get emolument.
The Duke Ai asked, saying, What should be done in order to secure the submission of the people? Confucius replied, Advance the upright and set aside the crooked, then the people will submit. Advance the crooked and set aside the upright, then the people will not submit.
Chi K'ang asked how to cause the people to reverence their ruler, to be faithful to him, and to go on to nerve themselves to virtue. The Master said, Let him preside over them with gravity;-then they will reverence him. Let him be final and kind to all;-then they will be faithful to him. Let him advance the good and teach the incompetent;-then they will eagerly seek to be virtuous.
Some one addressed Confucius, saying, Sir, why are you not engaged in the government?
The Master said, What does the Shu-ching say of filial piety?-'You are final, you discharge your brotherly duties. These qualities are displayed in government.' This then also constitutes the exercise of government. Why must there be THAT-making one be in the government?
The Master said, I do not know how a man without truthfulness is to get on. How can a large carriage be made to go without the crossbar for yoking the oxen to, or a small carriage without the arrangement for yoking the horses?
Tsze-chang asked whether the affairs of ten ages after could be known.
Confucius said, The Yin dynasty followed the regulations of the Hsia: wherein it took from or added to them may be known. The Chau dynasty has followed the regulations of Yin: wherein it took from or added to them may be known. Some other may follow the Chau, but though it should be at the distance of a hundred ages, its affairs may be known.
The Master said, For a man to sacrifice to a spirit which does not belong to him is flattery.
To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.
Confucius said of the head of the Chi family, who had eight rows of pantomimes in his area, If he can bear to do this, what may he not bear to do?
The three families used the Yungode, while the vessels were being removed, at the conclusion of the sacrifice. The Master said, 'Assisting are the princes;-the son of heaven looks profound and grave';-what application can these words have in the hall of the three families?
The Master said, If a man be without the virtues proper to humanity, what has he to do with the rites of propriety? If a man be without the virtues proper to humanity, what has he to do with music?
Lin Fang asked what was the first thing to be attended to in ceremonies.
The Master said, A great question indeed!
In festive ceremonies, it is better to be sparing than extravagant. In the ceremonies of mourning, it is better that there be deep sorrow than in minute attention to observances.
The Master said, The rude tribes of the east and north have their princes, and are not like the States of our great land which are without them.
The chief of the Chi family was about to sacrifice to the T'ai mountain. The Master said to Zan Yu, Can you not save him from this? He answered, I cannot. Confucius said, Alas! will you say that the T'ai mountain is not so discerning as Lin Fang?
The Master said, The student of virtue has no contentions. If it be said he cannot avoid them, shall this be in archery? But he bows complaisantly to his competitors; thus he ascends the hall, descends, and exacts the forfeit of drinking. In his contention, he is still the Chun-tsze.
Tsze-hsia asked, saying, What is the meaning of the passage-'The pretty dimples of her artful smile! The well-defined black and white of her eye! The plain ground for the colors?'
The Master said, The business of laying on the colors follows the preparation of the plain ground.
Ceremonies then are a subsequent thing? The Master said, It is Shang who can bring out my meaning. Now I can begin to talk about the odes with him.
The Master said, I could describe the ceremonies of the Hsia dynasty, but Chi cannot sufficiently attest my words. I could describe the ceremonies of the Yin dynasty, but Sung cannot sufficiently attest my words. They cannot do so because of the insufficiency of their records and wise men. If those were sufficient, I could adduce them in support of my words.
The Master said, At the great sacrifice, after the pouring out of the libation, I have no wish to look on.
Some one asked the meaning of the great sacrifice. The Master said, I do not know. He who knew its meaning would find it as easy to govern the kingdom as to look on this-pointing to his palm.
He sacrificed to the dead, as if they were present. He sacrificed to the spirits, as if the spirits were present.
The Master said, I consider my not being present at the sacrifice, as if I did not sacrifice.
Wang-sun Chia asked, saying, What is the meaning of the saying, 'It is better to pay court to the furnace then to the southwest corner?'
The Master said, Not so. He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray.
The Master said, Chau had the advantage of viewing the two past dynasties. How complete and elegant are its regulations! I follow Chau.
The Master, when he entered the grand temple, asked about everything. Some one said, Who say that the son of the man of Tsau knows the rules of propriety! He has entered the grand temple and asks about everything. The Master heard the remark, and said, This is a rule of propriety.
The Master said, In archery it is not going through the leather which is the principal thing;-because people's strength is not equal. This was the old way.
Tsze-kung wished to do away with the offering of a sheep connected with the inauguration of the first day of each month.
The Master said, Ts'ze, you love the sheep; I love the ceremony.
The Master said, The full observance of the rules of propriety in serving one's prince is accounted by people to be flattery.
The Duke Ting asked how a prince should employ his ministers, and how ministers should serve their prince. Confucius replied, A prince should employ his minister according to according to the rules of propriety; ministers should serve their prince with faithfulness.
The Master said, The Kwan Tsu is expressive of enjoyment without being licentious, and of grief without being hurtfully excessive.
The Duke Ai asked Tsai Wo about the altars of the spirits of the land. Tsai Wo replied, The Hsia sovereign planted the pine tree about them; the men of the Yin planted the cypress; and the men of the Chau planted the chestnut tree, meaning thereby to cause the people to be in awe.
When the Master heard it, he said, Things that are done, it is needless to speak about; things that have had their course, it is needless to remonstrate about; things that are past, it is needless to blame.
The Master said, Small indeed was the capacity of Kwan Chung!
Some one said, Was Kwan Chung parsimonious? Kwan, was the reply, had the San Kwei, and his officers performed no double duties; how can he be considered parsimonious?
Then, did Kwan Chung know the rules of propriety? The Master said, The princes of States have a screen intercepting the view at their gates. Kwan had likewise a screen at his gate. The princes of States on any friendly meeting between two of them, had a stand on which to place their inverted cups. Kwan had also such a stand. If Kwan knew the rules of propriety, who does not know them?
The Master instructing the grand music master of Lu said, How to play music may be known. At the commencement of the piece, all the parts should sound together. As it proceeds, they should be in harmony while severally distinct and flowing without break, and thus on to the conclusion.
The border warden at Yi requested to be introduced to the Master, saying, When men of superior virtue have come to this, I have never been denied the privilege of seeing them. The followers of the sage introduced him, and when he came out from the interview, he said, My friends, why are you distressed by your master's loss of office? The kingdom has long been without the principles of truth and right; Heaven is going to use your master as a bell with its wooden tongue.
The Master said of the Shao that it was perfectly beautiful and also perfectly good. He said of the Wu that it was perfectly beautiful but not perfectly good.
The Master said, High station filled without indulgent generosity; ceremonies performed without reverence; mourning conducted without sorrow;-wherewith should I contemplate such ways?
The Master said, It is virtuous manners which constitute the excellence of a neighborhood. If a man in selecting a residence do not fix on one where such prevail, how can he be wise?
The Master said, Those who are without virtue cannot abide long either in a condition of poverty and hardship, or in a condition of enjoyment. The virtuous rest in virtue; the wise desire virtue.
The Master said, It is only the truly virtuous man, who can love, or who can hate, others.
The Master said, If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness.
The Master said, Riches and honors are what men desire. If they cannot be obtained in the proper way, they should not be held. Poverty and meanness are what men dislike. If they cannot be avoided in the proper way, they should not be avoided.
If a superior man abandon virtue, how can he fulfill the requirements of that name?
The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In seasons of danger, he cleaves to it.
The Master said, I have not seen a person who loved virtue, or one who hated what was not virtuous. He who loved virtue, would esteem nothing above it. He who hated what is not virtuous, would practice virtue in such a way that he would not allow anything that is not virtuous to approach his person.
Is any one able for one day to apply his strength to virtue? I have not seen the case in which his strength would be insufficient.
Should there possibly be any such case, I have not seen it.
The Master said, The faults of men are characteristic of the class to which they belong. By observing a man's faults, it may be known that he is virtuous.
The Master said, If a man in the morning hear the right way, he may die in the evening hear regret.
The Master said, A scholar, whose mind is set on truth, and who is ashamed of bad clothes and bad food, is not fit to be discoursed with.
The Master said, The superior man, in the world, does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow.
The Master said, The superior man thinks of virtue; the small man thinks of comfort. The superior man thinks of the sanctions of law; the small man thinks of favors which he may receive.
The Master said: He who acts with a constant view to his own advantage will be much murmured against.
The Master said, If a prince is able to govern his kingdom with the complaisance proper to the rules of propriety, what difficulty will he have? If he cannot govern it with that complaisance, what has he to do with the rules of propriety?
The Master said, A man should say, I am not concerned that I have no place, I am concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known.
The Master said, Shan, my doctrine is that of an all-pervading unity. The disciple Tsang replied, Yes.
The Master went out, and the other disciples asked, saying, What do his words mean? Tsang said, The doctrine of our master is to be true to the principles-of our nature and the benevolent exercise of them to others,-this and nothing more.
The Master said, The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the mean man is conversant with gain.
The Master said, When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.
The Master said, In serving his parents, a son may remonstrate with them, but gently; when he sees that they do not incline to follow his advice, he shows an increased degree of reverence, but does not abandon his purpose; and should they punish him, he does not allow himself to murmur.
The Master said, While his parents are alive, the son may not go abroad to a distance. If he does go abroad, he must have a fixed place to which he goes.
The Master said, If the son for three years does not alter from the way of his father, he may be called filial.
The Master said, The years of parents may by no means not be kept in the memory, as an occasion at once for joy and for fear.
The Master said, The reason why the ancients did not readily give utterance to their words, was that they feared lest their actions should not come up to them.
The Master said, The cautious seldom err.
The Master said, The superior man wishes to be slow in his speech and earnest in his conduct.
The Master said, Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.
Tsze-yu said, In serving a prince, frequent remonstrances lead to disgrace. Between friends, frequent reproofs make the friendship distant.
The Master said of Kung-ye Ch'ang that he might be wived; although he was put in bonds, he had not been guilty of any crime. Accordingly, he gave him his own daughter to wife.
Of Nan Yung he said that if the country were well governed he would not be out of office, and if it were in governed, he would escape punishment and disgrace. He gave him the daughter of his own elder brother to wife.
The Master said of Tsze-chien, Of superior virtue indeed is such a man! If there were not virtuous men in Lu, how could this man have acquired this character?
Tsze-kung asked, What do you say of me, Ts'ze! The Master said, You are a utensil. What utensil? A gemmed sacrificial utensil.
Some one said, Yung is truly virtuous, but he is not ready with his tongue.
The Master said, What is the good of being ready with the tongue? They who encounter men with smartness of speech for the most part procure themselves hatred. I know not whether he be truly virtuous, but why should he show readiness of the tongue?
The Master was wishing Ch'i-tiao K'ai to enter an official employment. He replied, I am not yet able to rest in the assurance of this. The Master was pleased.
The Master said, My doctrines make no way. I will get upon a raft, and float about on the sea. He that will accompany me will be Yu, I dare say. Tsze-lu hearing this was glad, upon which the Master said, Yu is fonder of daring than I am. He does not exercise his judgment upon matters.
Mang Wu asked about Tsze-lu, whether he was perfectly virtuous. The Master said, I do not know.
He asked again, when the Master replied, In a kingdom of a thousand chariots, Yu might be employed to manage the military levies, but I do not know whether he be perfectly virtuous.
And what do you say of Ch'iu? The Master replied, In a city of a thousand families, or a clan of a hundred chariots, Ch'iu might be employed as governor, but I do not know whether he is perfectly virtuous.
What do you say of Ch'ih? The Master replied, With his sash girt and standing in a court, Ch'ih might be employed to converse with the visitors and guests, but I do not know whether he is perfectly virtuous.
The Master said to Tsze-kung, Which do you consider superior, yourself or Hui?
Tsze-kung replied, How dare I compare myself with Hui? Hui hears one point and knows all about a subject; I hear one point, and know a second.
The Master said, You are not equal to him. I grant you, you are not equal to him.
Tsai Yu being asleep during the daytime, the Master said, Rotten wood cannot be carved; a wall of dirty earth will not receive the trowel. This Yu,-what is the use of my reproving him?
The Master said, At first, my way with men was to hear their words, and give them credit for their conduct. Now my way is to hear their words, and look at their conduct. It is from Yu that I have learned to make this change.
The Master said, I have not seen a firm and unbending man. Some one replied, There is Shan Ch'ang. Ch'ang, said the Master, is under the influence of his passions; how can he be pronounced firm and unbending?
Tsze-kung said, What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men. The Master said, Ts'ze, you have not attained to that.
Tsze-kung said, The Master's personal displays of his principles and ordinary descriptions of them may be heard. His discourses about man's nature, and the way of Heaven, cannot be heard.
When Tsze-lu heard anything, if he had not yet succeeded in carrying it into practice, he was only afraid lest he should hear something else.
Tsze-kung asked, saying, On what ground did Kung-wan get that title of Wan?
The Master said, He was of an active nature and yet fond of learning, and he was not ashamed to ask and learn of his inferiors!-On these grounds he has been styled Wan.
The Master said of Tsze-ch'an that he had four of the characteristics of a superior man-in his conduct of himself, he was humble; in serving his superior, he was respectful; in nourishing the people, he was kind; in ordering the people, he was just.
The Master said, Yen P'ing knew well how to maintain friendly intercourse. The acquaintance might be long, but he showed the same respect as at first.
The Master said, Tsang Wan kept a large tortoise in a house, on the capitals of the pillars of which he had hills made, and with representations of duckweed on the small pillars above the beams supporting the rafters.-Of what sort was his wisdom?
Tsze-chang asked, saying, The minister Tsze-wan thrice took office, and manifested no joy in his countenance. Thrice he retired from office, and manifested no displeasure. He made it a point to inform the new minister of the way in which he had conducted the government; what do you say of him? The Master replied. He was loyal. Was he perfectly virtuous? I do not know. How can he be pronounced perfectly virtuous?
Tsze-chang proceeded, When the officer Ch'ui killed the prince of Ch'i, Ch'an Wan, though he was the owner of forty horses, abandoned them and left the country. Coming to another state, he said, 'They are here like our great officer, Ch'ui,' and left it. He came to a second state, and with the same observation left it also;-what do you say of him? The Master replied, He was pure. Was he