Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > The Sayings of Confucius
   The Sayings of Confucius.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
[1]  THE MASTER said: “Those who led the way in courtesy and music are deemed rude, and elegant the later school of courtesy and music. My wont is to follow the leaders.”
[2]    The Master said: “None of the men who were with me in Ch´en or Ts´ai come any more to my door! Of noble life were Yen Yüan, Min Tzu-ch´ien, Jan Po-niu, and Chung-kung; Tsai Wo and Tzu-kung were the talkers; statesmen Jan Yu and Chi-lu. Tzu-yu and Tzu-hsia were men of culture.”
[3]    The Master said: “I get no help from Hui. 1 No word I say but delights him!”
[4]    The Master said: “How good a son was Min Tzu-ch´ien! In all that parents and brethren said of him no hole was picked.”
[5]    Nan Jung would thrice repeat “The sceptre white.” 2
  Confucius gave him his niece to wife.
[6]    Chi K´ang asked which of the disciples loved learning.
  Confucius answered: “Yen Hui 3 loved learning. By ill luck his life was cut short. Now there is no one.”
[7]    When Yen Yüan died, Yen Lu 4 asked for the Master’s chariot to furnish an outer coffin.
  The Master said: “Whether gifted or not, each one speaks of his son. When Li 5 died he had an inner but not an outer coffin. I would not walk on foot to furnish an outer coffin. Following in the wake of the ministry, it would ill become me to walk on foot.”
[8]    When Ye Yüan died the Master cried: “Woe is me! I am undone of Heaven! I am undone of Heaven!”
[9]    When Yen Yüan died the Master gave way to grief.
  Those with him said: “Sir, ye are giving way.”
  The Master said: “Am I giving way? If for this man I did not give way to grief, for whom should I give way?”
[10]    When Ye Yüan died the disciples wished to bury him in state.
  The Master said: “This must not be.”
  The disciples buried him in state.
  The Master said: “Hui treated me as a father: I have failed to treat him as a son. No, not I: it was your doing, my boys.”
[11]    Chi-lu 6 asked what is due to the ghosts of the dead.
  The Master said: “We fail in our duty to the living; can we do our duty to the dead?”
  He ventured to ask about death.
  “We know not life,” said the Master, “how can we know death?”
[12]    Seeing the disciple Min standing at his side in winning strength, Tzu-lu with war-like front, Jan Yu and Tzu-kung fresh and rank, the Master’s heart was glad.
  “A man like Yu,” 7 he said, “dies before his day.”
[13]    The men of Lu were building the Long Treasury.
  Min Tzu-ch´ien said: “Would not the old one do? Why must a new one be built?”
  The Master said: “That man does not talk: when he speaks, he hits the mark.”
[14]    The Master said: “What has the lute of Yu 8 to do twanging at my door!”
  But when the disciples began to look down on Tzu-lu, the Master said: “Yu has climbed to the hall, though he has not passed the closet door.”
[15]    Tzu-kung asked whether Shih 9 or Shang 10 were the better man.
  The Master said: “Shih goes too far: Shang goes not far enough.”
  “Then Shih is the better man,” said Tzu-kung.
  “Too far,” replied the Master, “is no better than not far enough.”
[16]    The Chi was richer than the Duke of Chou; Ch´iu 11 added to his wealth by becoming his tax-gatherer.
  The Master said: “He is no disciple of mine. Sound your drums to the attack, my boys!”
[17]    Ch´ai 12 is simple, Shen 13 is dull, Shih 14 is smooth, Yu 15 is coarse.
[18]    The Master said: “Hui 16 is well-nigh faultless, and ofttimes empty. Tz´u 17 will not bow to fate, and hoards up substance; but his views are often sound.”
[19]    Tzu-chang asked, What is the way of a good man?
  The Master said: “He does not tread in footprints; neither can he gain the closet.”
[20]    The Master said: “Commend a man for plain speaking: he may prove a gentleman, or else but seeming honest.”
[21]    Tzu-lu asked: “Shall I do all I am taught?”
  The Master said: “Whilst thy father and elder brothers live, how canst thou do all thou art taught?”
  Jan Yu asked: “Shall I do all I am taught?”
  The Master said: “Do all thou art taught.”
  Kung-hsi Hua said: “Yu 18 asked, ‘Shall I do all I am taught?’ and ye spake, Sir, of father and elder brothers. Ch´iu 19 asked, ‘Shall I do all I am taught?’ and ye answered, ‘Do all thou art taught.’ I am puzzled, and make bold to ask you, Sir.”
  The Master said: “Ch´iu is bashful, so I egged him on: Yu has the pluck of two, so I held him back.”
[22]    When fear beset the Master in K´uang, Yen Yüan fell behind.
  The Master said: “I held thee as dead.”
  He answered: “Whilst my Master lives durst I brave death?”
[23]    Chi Tzu-jan 20 asked whether Chung Yu 21 or Jan Ch´iu 22 could be called statesmen.
  The Master said: “I thought ye would ask me some riddle, Sir, and your text is Yu 23 and Ch´iu. 24 A minister who does his duty to the king, and withdraws rather than do wrong, is called a statesman. As for Yu and Ch´iu, I should call them tools.”
  “Who would do one’s bidding then?”
  “Neither would they do your bidding,” said the Master, “if bidden slay king or father.”
[24]    Tzu-lu had Tzu-kao made governor of Pi.
  The Master said: “Thou art undoing a man’s son.”
  Tzu-lu said: “What with the people and the guardian spirits must a man read books to come by knowledge?”
  The Master said: “This is why I hate a glib tongue.”
[25]    The Minister said to Tzu-lu, Tseng Hsi, 25 Jan Yu, and Kung-hsi Hua as they sat beside him: “I may be a day older than you, but forget that. Ye are wont to say, ‘I am unknown.’ Well, had ye a name, what would ye do?”
  Tzu-lu lightly answered: “Give me charge of a land of a thousand chariots, crushed between great neighbours, overrun by soldiery and searched by famine, in three years’ time I could put courage into the people and high purpose.”
  The Master smiled.
  “What wouldst thou do, Ch´iu?” 26 he said.
  He answered: “Had I charge of sixty or seventy square miles, or from fifty to sixty square miles, in three years’ time I would give the people plenty. As for courtesy, music, and the like, they would wait the rise of a gentleman.”
  “And what wouldst thou do, Ch´ih?” 27
  He answered: “I speak of the things I fain would learn, not of what I can do. At service in the Ancestral Temple, or at the Grand Audience, clad in black robe and cap, I fain would fill a small part.”
  “And what wouldst thou do, Tien?” 28
  Tien ceased to play, pushed his still sounding lute aside, rose and answered: “My choice would be unlike those of the other three.”
  “What harm in that?” said the Master. “Each but spake his mind.”
  “In the last days of spring, all clad for the season, with five or six grown men and six or seven lads, I would bathe in the Yi, be fanned by the breeze in the Rain God’s glade, and wander home with song.”
  The Master sighed and said: “I hold with Tien.”
  Tseng Hsi stayed after the other three had left, and said: “What did ye think of what the others said, Sir?”
  “Each but spake his mind,” said the Master.
  “Why did ye smile at Yu, 29 Sir?”
  “Lands are swayed by courtesy, but what he said was not modest. That was why I smiled.”
  “But did not Ch´iu, too, speak of a state.?”
  “Where could sixty or seventy square miles be found, or from fifty to sixty, that are not a state?”
  “And did not Ch´ih, too, speak of a state?”
  “Who but great vassals would there be in the Ancestral Temple, or at the Grand Audience? But if Ch´ih were to play a small part, who could fill a big one?”
Note 1. Yen Yüan. [back]
Note 2. The verse runs— [back]
Note 3. Yen Yüan. [back]
Note 4. The father of Yen Yüan. [back]
Note 5. Confucius’ son. [back]
Note 6. Tzu-lu. [back]
Note 7. Tzu-lu. This prophecy came true. Tzu-lu and Tzu-kao were officers of Wei when troubles arose. Tzu-lu hastened to the help of his master. He met Tzu-kao withdrawing from the danger, and was advised to follow suit. But Tzu-lu refused to desert the man whose pay he drew. He plunged into the fight and was killed. [back]
Note 8. Tzu-lu. [back]
Note 9. The disciple Tzu-chang. [back]
Note 10. The disciple Tzu-hsia. [back]
Note 11. The disciple Jan Yu. [back]
Note 12. The disciple Kao Ch´ai. [back]
Note 13. The disciple Tseng-tzu. [back]
Note 14. The disciple Tzu-chang. [back]
Note 15. Tzu-lu. [back]
Note 16. The disciple Yen Yüan. [back]
Note 17. The disciple Tzu-kung. [back]
Note 18. Tzu-lu. [back]
Note 19. Jan Yu. [back]
Note 20. The younger brother of Chi Huan, head of the Chi clan. [back]
Note 21. Tzu-lu. He and Jan Yu had taken office under the Chi. [back]
Note 22. Jan Yu. [back]
Note 23. Tzu-lu. He and Jan Yu had taken office under the Chi. [back]
Note 24. Jan Yu. [back]
Note 25. A disciple: the father of Tseng-tzu. [back]
Note 26. Jan Yu. [back]
Note 27. Kung-hsi Hua. [back]
Note 28. Tseng Hsi. [back]
Note 29. Tzu-lu. [back]


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2020 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit · Free Essays