The Library

The Analects of Confucius


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, an 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 vigor, I
will make it my business to practice this lesson."
Chung-kung asked about perfect virtue. The Master said, "It is, when
you go abroad, to behave to every one as if you were receiving a great
guest; to employ the people as if you were assisting at a great
sacrifice; not to do to others as you would not wish done to yourself;
to have no murmuring against you in the country, and none in the
family." Chung-kung said, "Though I am deficient in intelligence and
vigor, I will make it my business to practice this lesson."
Sze-ma Niu asked about perfect virtue.
The Master said, "The man of perfect virtue is cautious and slow
in his speech."
"Cautious and slow in his speech!" said Niu;-"is this what is
meant by perfect virtue?" The Master said, "When a man feels the
difficulty of doing, can he be other than cautious and slow in
Sze-ma Niu asked about the superior man. The Master said, "The
superior man has neither anxiety nor fear."
"Being without anxiety or fear!" said Nui;"does this constitute what
we call the superior man?"
The Master said, "When internal examination discovers nothing wrong,
what is there to be anxious about, what is there to fear?"
Sze-ma Niu, full of anxiety, said, "Other men all have their
brothers, I only have not."
Tsze-hsia said to him, "There is the following saying which I have
heard-'Death and life have their determined appointment; riches and
honors depend upon Heaven.'
"Let the superior man never fail reverentially to order his own
conduct, and let him be respectful to others and observant of
propriety:-then all within the four seas will be his brothers. What
has the superior man to do with being distressed because he has no
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
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 an men; but if the people have no faith in
their rulers, there is no standing for the state."
Chi Tsze-ch'ang said, "In a superior man it is only the
substantial qualities which are wanted;-why should we seek for
ornamental accomplishments?"
Tsze-kung said, "Alas! Your words, sir, show you to be a superior
man, but four horses cannot overtake the tongue. Ornament is as
substance; substance is as ornament. The hide of a tiger or a
leopard stripped of its hair, is like the hide of a dog or a goat
stripped of its hair."
The Duke Ai inquired of Yu Zo, saying, "The year is one of scarcity,
and the returns for expenditure are not sufficient;-what is to be
Yu Zo replied to him, "Why not simply tithe the people?"
"With two tenths, said the duke, "I find it not enough;-how could
I do with that system of one tenth?"
Yu Zo answered, "If the people have plenty, their prince will not be
left to want alone. If the people are in want, their prince cannot
enjoy plenty alone."
Tsze-chang having asked how virtue was to be exalted, and
delusions to be discovered, the Master said, "Hold faithfulness and
sincerity as first principles, and be moving continually to what is
right,-this is the way to exalt one's virtue.
"You love a man and wish him to live; you hate him and wish him to
die. Having wished him to live, you also wish him to die. This is a
case of delusion. 'It may not be on account of her being rich, yet you
come to make a difference.'"
The Duke Ching, of Ch'i, asked Confucius about government. Confucius
replied, "There is government, when the prince is prince, and the
minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son."
"Good!" said the duke; "if, indeed, the prince be not prince, the
not minister, the father not father, and the son not son, although I
have my revenue, can I enjoy it?"
The Master said, "Ah! it is Yu, who could with half a word settle
Tsze-lu never slept over a promise.
The Master said, "In hearing litigations, I am like any other
body. What is necessary, however, is to cause the people to have no
Tsze-chang asked about government. The Master said, "The art of
governing is to keep its affairs before the mind without weariness,
and to practice them with undeviating consistency."
The Master said, "By extensively studying all learning, and
keeping himself under the restraint of the rules of propriety, one may
thus likewise not err from what is right."
The Master said, "The superior man seeks to perfect the admirable
qualities of men, and does not seek to perfect their bad qualities.
The mean man does the opposite of this."
Chi K'ang asked Confucius about government. Confucius replied, "To
govern means to rectify. If you lead on the people with correctness,
who will dare not to be correct?"
Chi K'ang, distressed about the number of thieves in the state,
inquired of Confucius how to do away with them. Confucius said, "If
you, sir, were not covetous, although you should reward them to do it,
they would not steal."
Chi K'ang asked Confucius about government, saying, "What do you say
to killing the unprincipled for the good of the principled?" Confucius
replied, "Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use
killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and
the people will be good. The relation between superiors and
inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass
must bend, when the wind blows across it."
Tsze-chang asked, "What must the officer be, who may be said to be
The Master said, "What is it you call being distinguished?"
Tsze-chang replied, "It is to be heard of through the state, to be
heard of throughout his clan."
The Master said, "That is notoriety, not distinction.
"Now the man of distinction is solid and straightforward, and
loves righteousness. He examines people's words, and looks at their
countenances. He is anxious to humble himself to others. Such a man
will be distinguished in the country; he will be distinguished in
his clan.
"As to the man of notoriety, he assumes the appearance of virtue,
but his actions are opposed to it, and he rests in this character
without any doubts about himself. Such a man will be heard of in the
country; he will be heard of in the clan."
Fan Ch'ih rambling with the Master under the trees about the rain
altars, said, "I venture to ask how to exalt virtue, to correct
cherished evil, and to discover delusions."
The Master said, "Truly a good question!
"If doing what is to be done be made the first business, and success
a secondary consideration:-is not this the way to exalt virtue? To
assail one's own wickedness and not assail that of others;-is not this
the way to correct cherished evil? For a morning's anger to
disregard one's own life, and involve that of his parents;-is not this
a case of delusion?"
Fan Ch'ih asked about benevolence. The Master said, "It is to love
all men." He asked about knowledge. The Master said, "It is to know
all men."
Fan Ch'ih did not immediately understand these answers.
The Master said, "Employ the upright and put aside all the
crooked; in this way the crooked can be made to be upright."
Fan Ch'ih retired, and, seeing Tsze-hsia, he said to him, "A
Little while ago, I had an interview with our Master, and asked him
about knowledge. He said, 'Employ the upright, and put aside all the
crooked;-in this way, the crooked will be made to be upright.' What
did he mean?"
Tsze-hsia said, "Truly rich is his saying!
"Shun, being in possession of the kingdom, selected from among all
the people, and employed Kai-yao-on which all who were devoid of
virtue disappeared. T'ang, being in possession of the kingdom,
selected from among all the people, and employed I Yin-and an who were
devoid of virtue disappeared."
Tsze-kung asked about friendship. The Master said, "Faithfully
admonish your friend, and skillfully lead him on. If you find him
impracticable, stop. Do not disgrace yourself."
The philosopher Tsang said, "The superior man on grounds of
culture meets with his friends, and by friendship helps his virtue."