The Analects of Confucius - Book 5

Confucius on the Golden Rule

This is Book 5 of the Analects of Confucius.

Find the complete text of the Analects of Confucius.

Suiren, the fire driller, brought fire to humankind according to Chinese mythology
Suiren, the fire driller, brought fire to humankind according to Chinese mythology


A Disciple and the Golden Rule—Miscellaneous

The Master pronounced Kung-ye Ch'ang, a disciple, to be a marriageable person; for although lying bound in criminal fetters he had committed no crime. And he gave him his own daughter to wife.

Of Nan Yung, a disciple, he observed, that in a State where the government was well conducted he would not be passed over in its appointments, and in one where the government was ill conducted he would evade punishment and disgrace. And he caused his elder brother's daughter to be given in marriage to him.

Of Tsz-tsien, a disciple, he remarked, "A superior man indeed is the like of him! But had there been none of superior quality in Lu, how should this man have attained to this excellence?"

Tsz-kung asked, "What of me, then?" "You," replied the Master—"You are a receptacle." "Of what sort?" said he. "One for high and sacred use," was the answer.

Some one having observed of Yen Yung that he was good-natured towards others, but that he lacked the gift of ready speech, the Master said, "What need of that gift? To stand up before men and pour forth a stream of glib words is generally to make yourself obnoxious to them. I know not about his good-naturedness; but at any rate what need of that gift?"

When the Master proposed that Tsi-tiau K'ai should enter the government service, the latter replied, "I can scarcely credit it." The Master was gratified.

"Good principles are making no progress," once exclaimed the Master. "If I were to take a raft, and drift about on the sea, would Tsz-lu, I wonder, be my follower there?" That disciple was delighted at hearing the suggestion; whereupon the Master continued, "He surpasses me in his love of deeds of daring. But he does not in the least grasp the pith of my remark."

In reply to a question put to him by Mang Wu respecting Tsz-lu—as to whether he might be called good-natured towards others, the Master said, "I cannot tell"; but, on the question being put again, he answered, "Well, in an important State [10] he might be intrusted with the management of the military levies; but I cannot answer for his good nature."

"What say you then of Yen Yu?"

"As for Yen," he replied, "in a city of a thousand families, or in a secondary fief, [11] he might be charged with the governorship; but I cannot answer for his good-naturedness."

"Take Tsz-hwa, then; what of him?"

"Tsz-hwa," said he, "with a cincture girt upon him, standing as attendant at Court, might be charged with the addressing of visitors and guests; but as to his good-naturedness I cannot answer."

Addressing Tsz-kung, the Master said, "Which of the two is ahead of the other—yourself or Hwúi?" "How shall I dare," he replied, "even to look at Hwúi? Only let him hear one particular, and from that he knows ten; whereas I, if I hear one, may from it know two."

"You are not a match for him, I grant you," said the Master. "You are not his match."

Tsai Yu, a disciple, used to sleep in the daytime. Said the Master, "One may hardly carve rotten wood, or use a trowel to the wall of a manure-yard! In his case, what is the use of reprimand?

"My attitude towards a man in my first dealings with him," he added, "was to listen to his professions and to trust to his conduct. My attitude now is to listen to his professions, and to watch his conduct. My experience with Tsai Yu has led to this change.

"I have never seen," said the Master, "a man of inflexible firmness." Some one thereupon mentioned Shin Ch'ang, a disciple. "Ch'ang," said he, "is wanton; where do you get at his inflexibleness?"

Tsz-kung made the remark: "That which I do not wish others to put upon me, I also wish not to put upon others." "Nay," said the Master, "you have not got so far as that."

The same disciple once remarked, "There may be access so as to hear the Master's literary discourses, but when he is treating of human nature and the way of Heaven, there may not be such success."

Tsz-lu, after once hearing him upon some subject, and feeling himself as yet incompetent to carry into practice what he had heard, used to be apprehensive only lest he should hear the subject revived.

Tsz-kung asked how it was that Kung Wan had come to be so styled Wan (the talented). The Master's answer was, "Because, though a man of an active nature, he was yet fond of study, and he was not ashamed to stoop to put questions to his inferiors."

Respecting Tsz-ch'an,[12] the Master said that he had four of the essential qualities of the 'superior man':—in his own private walk he was humble-minded; in serving his superiors he was deferential; in his looking after the material welfare of the people he was generously kind; and in his exaction of public service from the latter he was just.

Speaking of Yen Ping, he said, "He was one who was happy in his mode of attaching men to him. However long the intercourse, he was always deferential to them."

Referring to Tsang Wan, he asked, "What is to be said of this man's discernment?—this man with his tortoise-house, with the pillar-heads and posts bedizened with scenes of hill and mere!"

Tsz-chang put a question relative to the chief Minister of Tsu, Tsz-wan. He said, "Three times he became chief Minister, and on none of these occasions did he betray any sign of exultation. Three times his ministry came to an end, and he showed no sign of chagrin. He used without fail to inform the new Minister as to the old mode of administration. What say you of him?"

"That he was a loyal man," said the Master.

"But was he a man of fellow-feeling?" said the disciple.

"Of that I am not sure," he answered; "how am I to get at that?"

The disciple went on to say:—"After the assassination of the prince of Ts'i by the officer Ts'ui, the latter's fellow-official Ch'in Wan, who had half a score teams of horses, gave up all, and turned his back upon him. On coming to another State, he observed, 'There are here characters somewhat like that of our minister Ts'ui,' and he turned his back upon them. Proceeding to a certain other State, he had occasion to make the same remark, and left. What say you of him?"

"That he was a pure-minded man," answered the Master.

"But was he a man of fellow-feeling?" urged the disciple.

"Of that I am not sure," he replied; "how am I to get at that?"

Ki Wan was one who thought three times over a thing before he acted. The
Master hearing this of him, observed, "Twice would have been enough."

Of Ning Wu, the Master said that when matters went well in the State he used to have his wits about him: but when they went wrong, he lost them. His intelligence might be equalled, but not his witlessness!

Once, when the Master lived in the State of Ch'in, he exclaimed, "Let me get home again! Let me get home! My school-children [13] are wild and impetuous! Though they are somewhat accomplished, and perfect in one sense in their attainments, yet they know not how to make nice discriminations."

Of Peh-I and Shuh Ts'i he said, "By the fact of their not remembering old grievances, they gradually did away with resentment."

Of Wei-shang Kau he said, "Who calls him straightforward? A person once begged some vinegar of him, and he begged it from a neighbor, and then presented him with it!"

"Fine speech," said he, "and studied mien, and superfluous show of deference—of such things Tso-k'iu Ming was ashamed, I too am ashamed of such things. Also of hiding resentment felt towards an opponent and treating him as a friend—of this kind of thing he was ashamed, and so too am I."

Attended once by the two disciples Yen Yuen and Tsz-lu, he said, "Come now, why not tell me, each of you, what in your hearts you are really after?"

"I should like," said Tsz-lu, "for myself and my friends and associates, carriages and horses, and to be clad in light furs! nor would I mind much if they should become the worse for wear."

"And I should like," said Yen Yuen, "to live without boasting of my abilities, and without display of meritorious deeds."

Tsz-lu then said, "I should like, sir, to hear what your heart is set upon."

The Master replied, "It is this:—in regard to old people, to give them quiet and comfort; in regard to friends and associates, to be faithful to them; in regard to the young, to treat them with fostering affection and kindness."

On one occasion the Master exclaimed, "Ah, 'tis hopeless! I have not yet seen the man who can see his errors, so as inwardly to accuse himself."

"In a small cluster of houses there may well be," said he, "some whose integrity and sincerity may compare with mine; but I yield to none in point of love of learning."

[Footnote 10: Lit., a State of 1,000 war chariots.]

[Footnote 11: Lit., a House of 100 war chariots.]

[Footnote 12: A great statesman of Confucius's time.]

[Footnote 13: A familiar way of speaking of his disciples in their hearing.]

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