The Sayings of Confucius
From Discount Logic
The Sayings of Confucius
THE MASTER said: “A teller and not a maker, one who trusts and loves the past; I may be likened to our old P´eng.”
The Master said: “A silent communer, an ever hungry learner, a still unflagging teacher; am I any of these?”
The Master said: “Neglect of what is good in me; want of thoroughness in study; failure to do the right when told me; lack of strength to overcome faults, these are my sorrows.”
In his free moments the Master was easy and cheerful.
The Master said: “How deep is my decay! It is long since I saw the Duke of Chou in a dream.”
The Master said: “Will the right; hold to good won; rest in love; move in art.”
The Master said: “From the man who paid in dried meat upwards, I have withheld teaching from no one.”
The Master said: “Only to those fumbling do I open, only for those stammering do I find the word. From him who cannot turn the whole when I lift a corner I desist.”
When eating beside a mourner the Master never ate his fill. On days when he had been wailing, the Master did not sing.
The Master said to Yen Yüan: “I and thou alone can both fill a post when given one and live unseen when passed by.”
Tzu-lu said: “Had ye to command three armies, Sir, who should go with you?”
“No man,” said the Master, “ready to fly unarmed at a tiger, or plunge into a river and die without a pang should be with me; but one, rather, who is wary before a move and gains his end by well-laid plans.”
The Master said: “Were shouldering a whip a sure road to riches, I would turn carter: but since there is no sure road, I tread the path I love.”
The Master gave heed to devotions, war, and sickness.
When the Master was in Ch´i for three months after hearing the Shao played he knew not the taste of meat.
“I did not suppose,” he said, “that music could touch such heights.”
Jan Yu said: “Is the Master for the King of Wei?”
“I will ask him, said Tzu-kung.
He went in, and said: “What kind of men were Po-yi and Shu-ch´i?”
“Worthy men of yore,” said the Master.
“Did they rue the past?”
“They sought love and found it; what had they to rue?”
Tzu-kung went out, and said: “The Master is not on his side.”
The Master said: “Living on coarse rice and water, with bent arm for pillow, mirth may be ours; but ill-gotten wealth and honours are to me a wandering cloud.”
The Master said: “Given a few more years, making fifty for the study of the Yi, I might be purged from gross sin.”
The Master liked to talk of poetry, history, and the upkeep of courtesy. Of all these he was fond of talking.
The Duke of She asked Tzu-lu about Confucius.
Tzu-lu did not answer.
The Master said: “Why couldst thou not say: ‘He is a man so eager that he forgets to eat, whose cares are lost in triumph, unmindful of approaching age’?”
The Master said: “I was not born to understanding. I loved the past, and questioned it earnestly.”
The Master never spake of ghosts or strength, crime or spirits.
The Master said: “Walking three together I am sure of teachers. I pick out the good and follow it; I see the bad and shun it.”
The Master said: “Heaven planted worth in me; what harm can come of Huan T´ui?”
The Master said: “My boys, do ye think that I hide things from you? I hide nothing. One who keeps from his boys nought that he does, such is Ch´iu.”
The four things the Master taught were culture, conduct, faithfulness, and truth.
The Master said: “A holy man I shall not live to see; enough could I find a gentleman! A good man I shall not live to see; enough could I find a steadfast one! But when nothing poses as something, cloud as substance, want as riches, steadfastness must be rare.”
The Master angled, but did not fish with a net; he shot, but not at birds sitting.
The Master said: “There may be men who act without understanding why. I do not. To listen much, pick out the good and follow it; to see much and ponder it: this comes next to understanding.”
It was ill talking to the Hu villagers. A lad having been admitted, the disciples wondered.
The Master said: “I allow his coming, not what is to come. Why be so harsh? If a man cleanse himself to gain admission, I admit his cleanness, but go not bail for his past.”
The Master said: “Is love so far a thing? I yearn for love, and lo! love is come.”
A judge of Ch´en asked whether Duke of Chao knew courtesy.
Confucius answered: “He knew courtesy.”
After Confucius had left, the judge beckoned Wu-ma Ch´i to his side, and said: “I had heard that gentlemen are of no party, but are they too for party? The prince married a Wu, of the same name as himself, and called her Miss Tzu of Wu. If the prince knew courtesy, who does not know courtesy?”
When Wu-ma Ch´i told this to the Master, he said: “How lucky I am! If I make a slip, men are sure to know it!”
When any one sang to the Master, and sang well, he would make him repeat it and join in.
The Master said: “I have no more culture than others: to live as a gentleman is not yet mine.”
The Master said: “How dare I lay claim to holiness or love? A man of endless craving I might be called, an unflagging teacher; but nothing more.”
“That is just what we disciples cannot learn,” said Kung-hsi Hua.
The Master being very ill, Tzu-lu asked leave to pray.
The Master said: “Is it the custom?”
“It is,” answered Tzu-lu. “The Memorials say, ‘Pray to the spirits in heaven above and on earth below.’”
The Master said: “Long lasting has my prayer been.”
The Master said: “Waste begets self-will; thrift begets meanness: but better be mean than self-willed.”
The Master said: “A gentleman is calm and spacious: the vulgar are always fretting.”
The Master was friendly, yet dignified; he inspired awe, but not fear; he was respectful, yet easy.
Note 1. Of old P´eng we should be glad to know more, but “the rest is silence.”
Note 2. Died B.C. 1105. He was the younger brother of King Wu, the founder of the dynasty, as great in peace as the king in war. He was so anxious to carry out olden principles, “that when aught he saw did not tally with them, he would look up in thought, till day gave way to night; and if by good luck he found the answer, would sit on waiting for dawn” (Mencius, IV. B. 20).
Note 3. The grandson of Duke Ling, husband of Nan-tzu. His father had been driven from the country for planning to kill Nan-tzu. When Duke Ling died, he was succeeded by his grandson, who opposed by force his father’s attempts to seize the throne.
Note 4. See note to v. 22.
Note 5. An abstruse, ancient classic, usually called the Book of Changes.
Note 6. In B.C. 495, during Confucius’ wanderings, Huan T´ui was an officer of Sung. He sent a band of men to kill Confucius; but why he did so is not clear.
Note 7. Confucius.
Note 8. Duke Chao of Lu (+B.C. 510) was the duke who first employed Confucius. It is contrary to Chinese custom for a man to marry a girl of the same surname as himself.
Note 9. A disciple of Confucius.