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Narrated by John Lescault
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The Master said, 'At fifteen, I had my mind bent
'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
'At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without
transgressing what was right.'
The Master said, 'The superior man, extensively
studying all learning, and keeping himself under the restraint of
the rules of propriety, may thus likewise not overstep what is
The Master said, 'The sage and the man of
perfect virtue;— how dare I rank myself with them? It may simply
be said of me, that I strive to become such without satiety, and
teach others without weariness.'
'It is not easy to find a man who
has learned for three years without coming to be good.'
With sincere faith he unites
the love of learning; holding firm to death, he is perfecting the
excellence of his course.
The Master said, 'The prosecution of learning
may be compared to what may happen in raising a mound. If there
want but one basket of earth to complete the work, and I stop, the
stopping is my own work. It may be compared to throwing down
the earth on the level ground. Though but one basketful is thrown
at a time, the advancing with it is my own going forward.'
Tsze-lu asked whether he should immediately
carry into practice what he heard. The Master said, 'There are your
father and elder brothers to be consulted;— why should you act on
that principle of immediately carrying into practice what you hear?'
Zan Yu asked the same, whether he should immediately carry into
practice what he heard, and the Master answered, 'Immediately
carry into practice what you hear.' Kung-hsi Hwa said, 'Yu asked
whether he should carry immediately into practice what he heard,
and you said, "There are your father and elder brothers to be
consulted." Ch'iu asked whether he should immediately carry into
practice what he heard, and you said, "Carry it immediately into
practice." I, Ch'ih, am perplexed, and venture to ask you for an
explanation.' The Master said, 'Ch'iu is retiring and slow; therefore,
I urged him forward. Yu has more than his own share of energy;
therefore I kept him back.'
Yen Yuan asked about perfect virtue. The Master
said, 'To subdue one's self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue.
If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety,
all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him. Is the practice
of perfect virtue from a man himself, or is it from others?'
Yen Yuan said, 'I beg to ask the steps of that process.' The
Master replied, 'Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not
to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to
propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety.' Yen
Yuan then said, 'Though I am deficient in intelligence and vigour, I
will make it my business to practise this lesson.'
Tsze-chang asked what constituted intelligence. The
Master said, 'He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks
into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh,
are successful, may be called intelligent indeed. Yea, he with whom
neither soaking slander, nor startling statements, are successful,
may be called farseeing.'
Tsze-kung asked about government. The Master
said, 'The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of
food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the
people in their ruler.'
Tsze-kung said, 'If it cannot be helped, and one of these
must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone
first?' 'The military equipment,' said the Master.
Tsze-kung again asked, 'If it cannot be helped, and one of
the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should
be foregone?' The Master answered, 'Part with the food. From of
old, death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have no
faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state.'
Tsze-lu said, 'The ruler of Wei has been waiting
for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will
you consider the first thing to be done?'
The Master replied, 'What is necessary is to rectify names.'
'So, indeed!' said Tsze-lu. 'You are wide of the mark! Why
must there be such rectification?'
The Master said, 'How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior
man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.
'If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with
the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth
of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.
'When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties
and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not
flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When
punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know
how to move hand or foot.
'Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the
names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he
speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man
requires, is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.'
The Duke Ting asked whether there was a single
sentence which could make a country prosperous. Confucius replied,
'Such an effect cannot be expected from one sentence.
'There is a saying, however, which people have— "To be a
prince is difficult; to be a minister is not easy."
'If a ruler knows this,— the difficulty of being a prince,—
may there not be expected from this one sentence the prosperity of
The duke then said, 'Is there a single sentence which can
ruin a country?' Confucius replied, 'Such an effect as that cannot be
expected from one sentence. There is, however, the saying which
people have— "I have no pleasure in being a prince, but only in
that no one can offer any opposition to what I say!"
'If a ruler's words be good, is it not also good that no one
oppose them? But if they are not good, and no one opposes them,
may there not be expected from this one sentence the ruin of his
Tsze-kung asked, saying, 'What do you say of a
man who is loved by all the people of his neighborhood?' 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
neighborhood?' 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
neighborhood love him, and the bad hate him.'
The Master said, 'The superior man is easy to
serve and difficult to please. If you try to please him in any way
which is not accordant with right, he will not be pleased. But in his
employment of men, he uses them according to their capacity. The
mean man is difficult to serve, and easy to please. If you try to
please him, though it be in a way which is not accordant with right,
he may be pleased. But in his employment of men, he wishes them
to be equal to everything.'
Tsze-lu asked what constituted the superior man.
The Master said, 'The cultivation of himself in reverential
carefulness.' 'And is this all?' said Tsze-lu. 'He cultivates himself so
as to give rest to others,' was the reply. 'And is this all?' again
asked Tsze-lu. The Master said, 'He cultivates himself so as to give
rest to all the people. He cultivates himself so as to give rest to all
the people:— even Yao and Shun were still solicitous about this.'
'The superior person has nine things
which are subjects with him of thoughtful consideration. In regard
to the use of his eyes, he is anxious to see clearly. In regard to the
use of his ears, he is anxious to hear distinctly. In regard to his
countenance, he is anxious that it should be benign. In regard to his
demeanor, he is anxious that it should be respectful. In regard to
his speech, he is anxious that it should be sincere. In regard to his
doing of business, he is anxious that it should be reverently careful.
In regard to what he doubts about, he is anxious to question others.
When he is angry, he thinks of the difficulties (his anger may
involve him in). When he sees gain to be got, he thinks of
The Master said, 'Yu, have you heard the six
words to which are attached six becloudings?' Yu replied, 'I have
'Sit down, and I will tell them to you.
"There is the love of being benevolent without the love of
learning;— the beclouding here leads to a foolish simplicity. There is
the love of knowing without the love of learning;— the beclouding
here leads to dissipation of mind. There is the love of being sincere
without the love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to an
injurious disregard of consequences. There is the love of
straightforwardness without the love of learning;— the beclouding
here leads to rudeness. There is the love of boldness without the
love of learning;— the beclouding here leads to insubordination.
There is the love of firmness without the love of learning;— the
beclouding here leads to extravagant conduct.'
The Master said, 'Without recognising the
ordinances of Heaven, it is impossible to be a superior man.
'Without an acquaintance with the rules of Propriety, it is
impossible for the character to be established.
'Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to
know each other.'
Tsze-kung asked, saying, 'Is there one word which may serve
as a rule of practice for all one's life?' The Master
said, 'Is not RECIPROCITY such a word? What you do not want done
to yourself, do not do to others.'
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