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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Selected Maxims of Morals, Philosophy of Life, Character, Circumstances, etc.
The Literature of China
 
From the Chinese Moralists

From ‘The Proverbial Philosophy of Confucius,’ by Forster H. Jennings; G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895

FILIAL piety and fraternal submission, are they not the root of all benevolent actions?—CONFUCIAN AN., Heo Urh (ch. ii.).  1
 
  The path of duty lies in what is near, and men seek for it in what is remote. The work of duty lies in what is easy, and men seek for it in what is difficult. If each man would love his parents and show due respect to his elders, the whole empire would enjoy tranquillity.—MENCIUS, Le Low (pt. i., ch. xi.).  2
 
  Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.—CONFUCIAN AN., Heo Urh (ch. viii.).  3
 
  If what we see is doubtful, how can we believe what is spoken behind the back?—INSCRIPTION in “Celestial Influence Temple.”  4
 
  Words which are simple, while their meaning is far-reaching, are good words. Principles which are held as compendious, while their application is extensive, are good principles. The words of the superior man are not necessarily high-sounding, but great principles are contained in them.—MENCIUS, Tsin Sin (ch. xxxii.).  5
 
  The superior man is correctly firm, and not firm merely.—CONFUCIAN AN., Wei Ling Kung (ch. xxxvi.).  6
 
  For one word a man is often deemed to be wise; and for one word he is often deemed to be foolish. We ought to be careful indeed in what we say.—CONFUCIAN AN., Observations of Tsze Kung.  7
 
  In archery we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the centre of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.—DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN (ch. xiv.).  8
 
  God leads men to tranquil security.—SHOO KING, ii., Numerous Officers (ch. ii.).  9
 
  The glory and tranquillity of a State may arise from the excellence of one man.—SHOO KING, ii., Speech of the Duke of Tsin (ch. viii.).  10
 
  Mencius said, The superior man has two things in which he delights, and to be ruler over the empire is not one of them.  11
  That his father and mother are both alive, and that the condition of his brothers affords no cause for anxiety; this is one delight.  12
  Then when looking up he has no occasion for shame before heaven, and below he has no occasion to blush before men; this is a second delight.—MENCIUS, Tsin Sin (pt. i., ch. xx.).  13
 
  Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with virtue.—CONFUCIAN AN., Yang Ho (ch. xvii.).  14
 
  I am pleased with your intelligent virtue, not loudly proclaimed nor portrayed, without extravagance or changeableness, without consciousness of effort on your part, in accordance with the pattern of God.—SHE KING, ii., Major Odes, Hwang I.  15
 
  Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.—CONFUCIAN AN., Wei Ching (ch. xv.).  16
 
  Without recognizing the ordinances of Heaven it is impossible to be a superior man.—CONFUCIAN AN., Yaou Yue (ch. iii.).  17
 
  Be tremblingly fearful,
Be careful night and day;
Men trip not on mountains,
They trip on ant-hills.
YAOU’S WARNING, Poem from Hwae Nan.    
  18
 
  The ways of God are not invariable; on the good doer he sends down all blessings, and on the evil doer he sends down all miseries.—SHOO KING, Instructions of E (ch. iv.).  19
 
  In the way of superior man there are four things, not one of which have I as yet attained:—To serve my father as I would require my son to serve me; to serve my Prince as I would require my minister to serve me; to serve my elder brother as I would require my younger brother to serve me; to set the example in behaving to a friend as I would require him to behave to me.—DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN (ch. xiii.).  20
 
  Virtue has no invariable model. A supreme regard to what is good gives the model of it. What is good has no invariable characteristic to be supremely regarded; it is found where there is conformity to the uniform decision of the mind.—SHOO KING, Both Possessed Pure Virtue (ch. iii.).  21
 
  This King Wan
Watchfully and reverently
With entire intelligence served God,
And so secured the great blessing.—
SHE KING, Decade of King Wan II.    
  22
 
  Man’s nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good, just as all water flows downwards.—MENCIUS, Kaou Tsze (pt. i., ch. ii).  23
 
  Virtue is the root; wealth the result.—THE GREAT LEARNING (ch. x.).  24
 
  Its sovereigns on their part were humbly careful not to lose the favor of God.—SHOO KING, ii., Numerous Officers (ch. viii.).  25
 
  He who loves his parents will not dare to incur the risk of being hated by any man, and he who reveres his parents will not dare to incur the risk of being condemned by any man.—HSIAO KING, Filial Piety (ch. ii.).  26
 
  Do not speak lightly; your words are your own. Do not say, This is of little importance; no one can hold my tongue for me; words are not to be cast away. Every word finds its answer; every good deed has its recompense.—SHE KING, ii., Major Odes, the Yi.  27
 
  Looked at in friendly intercourse with superior men, you make your countenance harmonious and mild, anxious not to do anything wrong. Looked at in your chamber, you ought to be equally free from shame before the light which shines in. Do not say, This place is not public; no one can see me here: the approaches of spiritual beings cannot be calculated beforehand, but the more should they not be slighted.—SHE KING, ii., Major Odes, the Yi.  28
 
  Let me not say that Heaven is high aloft above me. It ascends and descends about our doings; it daily inspects us wherever we are.—SHE KING, i., Sacrificial Odes of Kau, Ode, King Kih.  29
 
  What future misery have they and ought they to endure who talk of what is not good in others?—MENCIUS, Le Low (pt. ii., ch. ix.).  30
 
  Above all, sternly keep yourself from drink.—SHOO KING, Announcement about Drunkenness (ch. xiii.).  31
 
  Of ten thousand evils, lewdness is the head.
Of one hundred virtues, filial piety is the first.
CONFUCIAN PROVERB.    
  32
 
  There are three thousand offenses against which the five punishments are directed, and there is not one of them greater than being unfilial.—THE HSIAO KING, The Five Punishments.  33
 
  Benevolence is man’s mind and righteousness is man’s path.  34
  How lamentable is it to neglect the path and not pursue it, to lose the mind and not know to seek it again.—MENCIUS, Kaou Tsze (pt. i., ch. xi.).  35
 
  Tsze Kung asked, saying, “What do you say of a man who is loved by all the people of his village?” The Master replied, “We may not for that accord our approval of him.” “And what do you say of him who is hated by all the people of his village?” The Master said, “We may not for that conclude that he is bad. It is better than either of these cases that the good in the village love him and the bad hate him.”—CONFUCIAN AN., Tsze Loo (ch. xxiv.).  36
 
  Men must be decided on what they will not do, and then they are able to act with vigor in which they ought.—MENCIUS, Le Low (pt. ii., ch. viii.).  37
 
  Learn as if you could not reach your object and were always fearing also lest you should lose it.—CONFUCIAN AN., T’ae Pih (ch. xvii.).  38
 
  King Wan looked on the people as he would on a man who was wounded, and he looked toward the right path as if he could not see it.—MENCIUS, Le Low (pt. ii., ch. xx.).  39
 
  To nourish the heart there is nothing better than to make the desires few.—MENCIUS, Tsin Sin (ch. xxxv.).  40
 
  When Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies.—MENCIUS, Kaou Tsze (pt. ii. ch. xv.).  41
 
  You should ever stand in awe of the punishment of Heaven.—SHOO KING, ii.; Prince of Leu on Punishments.  42
 
  Great Heaven is intelligent and is with you in all your doings. Great Heaven is clear-seeing, and is with you in all your wanderings and indulgences.—SHE KING, ii., Major Odes, the Pan.  43
 
  Ke Loo asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said, “While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?” Ke Loo added, “I venture to ask about death.” He was answered, “While you do not know life, how can you know about death?”—CONFUCIAN AN., Seen Tsin (ch. xi.).  44
 
  For all affairs let there be adequate preparation. With preparation there will be no calamities.—SHOO KING, Charge of Yue (ch. i.).  45
 
  As to what the superior man would feel to be a calamity, there is no such thing. He does nothing which is not according to propriety. If there should befall him one morning’s calamity, the superior man does not account it a calamity.—MENCIUS, Le Low (pt. ii., ch. xxviii.).  46
 
  God is with you, have no doubts in your heart.—SHE KING, Decade of King Wan II.  47
 
  Beware. What proceeds from you will return to you again.—MENCIUS, King Hwuy (pt. ii., ch. xii.).  48
 
  Show reverence for the weak.—SHOO KING, Timber of the Tsze Tree (ch. iii.).  49
 
  When the year becomes cold, then we know how the pine and the cypress are the last to lose their leaves; i.e., men are not known save in times of adversity.—CONFUCIAN AN., Tsze Han (ch. xxvii.).  50
 
  By nature men are nearly alike; by practice they get to be wide apart.—CONFUCIAN AN., Yang Ho (ch. ii.).  51
 
  All are good at first, but few prove themselves to be so at the last.—SHE KING, ii., Major Odes, the Tang.  52
 
  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.—CONFUCIAN AN., Le Yin (ch. xviii.).  53
 
  The Great God has conferred on the inferior people a moral sense, compliance with which would show their nature invariably right.—SHOO KING, Announcement of T’ang (ch. ii.).  54
 
  Confucius said:—“There are three things which the superior man guards against. In youth when the physical powers are not yet settled, he guards against lust. When he is strong and the physical powers are full of vigor, he guards against quarrelsomeness. When he is old and the animal powers are decayed, he guards against covetousness.”—CONFUCIAN AN., Ke She (ch. vii.).  55
 
  He who stops short where stopping short is not allowable, will stop short in everything. He who behaves shabbily to those whom he ought to treat well, will behave shabbily to all.—MENCIUS, Tsin Sin (pt. i., ch. xliv.).  56
 
  Men are partial where they feel affection and love; partial where they despise and dislike; partial where they stand in awe and reverence; partial where they feel sorrow and compassion; partial where they are arrogant and rude. Thus it is that there are few men in the world who love and at the same time know the bad qualities of the object of their love, or who hate and yet know the excellences of the object of their hatred.—THE GREAT LEARNING (ch. viii.).  57
 
  Heaven’s plan in the production of mankind is this: that they who are first informed should instruct those who are later in being informed, and they who first apprehend principles should instruct those who are slower to do so. I am one of Heaven’s people who first apprehended. I will take these principles and instruct this people in them.—MENCIUS, Wan Chang (pt. i., ch. vii.).  58
 
 
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