Confucius (551-479 BCE), according to Chinese tradition, was a thinker, political figure, educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought. His teachings, preserved in the Lunyu or Analects, form the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such an individual should live his life and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate. Fung Yu-lan, one of the great 20thcentury authorities on the history of Chinese thought, compares Confucius’ influence in Chinese history with that of Socrates in the West.
Confucius, in his village, looked simple and sincere, and as if he were not able to speak.
When he was in the prince’s ancestral temple, or in the court, he spoke minutely on every point, but cautiously. When he was waiting at court, in speaking with the great officers of the lower grade, he spoke freely, but in a straightforward manner; in speaking with those of the higher grade, he did so blandly, but precisely.
When the ruler was present, his manner displayed respectful uneasiness; it was grave, but self-possessed.
When the prince called him to employ him in the reception of a visitor, his countenance appeared to change, and his legs to move forward with difficulty.
He inclined himself to the other officers among whom he stood, moving his left or right arm, as their position required, but keeping the skirts of his robe before and behind evenly adjusted.
He hastened forward, with his arms like the wings of a bird.When the guest had retired, he would report to the prince, “The visitor is not turning round any more.”
When he entered the palace gate, he seemed to bend his body, as if it were not sufficient to admit him.When he was standing, he did not occupy the middle of the gateway; when he passed in or out, he did not tread upon the threshold.
When he was passing the vacant place of the prince, his countenance appeared to change, and his legs to bend under him, and his words came as if he hardly had breath to utter them.
He ascended the reception hall, holding up his robe with both his hands, and his body bent; holding in his breath also, as if he dared not breathe.
When he came out from the audience, as soon as he had descended one step, he began to relax his countenance, and had a satisfied look. When he had got the bottom of the steps, he advanced rapidly to his place, with his arms like wings, and on occupying it, his manner still showed respectful uneasiness.
When he was carrying the scepter of his ruler, he seemed to bend his body, as if he were not able to bear its weight. He did not hold it higher than the position of the hands in making a bow, nor lower than their position in giving anything to another. His countenance seemed to change, and look apprehensive, and he dragged his feet along as if they were held by something to the ground.
In presenting the presents with which he was charged, he wore a placid appearance. At his private audience, he looked highly pleased.
The superior man did not use a deep purple, or a puce color, in the ornaments of his dress.
Even in his undress, he did not wear anything of a red or reddish color. In warm weather, he had a single garment either of coarse or fine texture, but he wore it displayed over an inner garment.
Over lamb’s fur he wore a garment of black; over fawn’s fur one of white;
and over fox’s fur one of yellow. The fur robe of his undress was long, with the right sleeve short. He required his sleeping dress to be half as long again as his body.
When staying at home, he used thick furs of the fox or the badger.
When he put off mourning, he wore all the appendages of the girdle.
His undergarment, except when it was required to be of the curtain shape,
was made of silk cut narrow above and wide below. He did not wear lamb’s fur or a black cap on a visit of condolence. On the first day of the month he put on his court robes, and presented himself at court.
When fasting, he thought it necessary to have his clothes brightly clean and
made of linen cloth. When fasting, he thought it necessary to change his food, and also to change the place where he commonly sat in the apartment.
He did not dislike to have his rice finely cleaned, nor to have his mince meat cut quite small.
He did not eat rice which had been injured by heat or damp and turned sour, nor fish or flesh which was gone. He did not eat what was discolored, or what was of a bad flavor, nor anything which was ill-cooked, or was not in season.
He did not eat meat which was not cut properly, nor what was served without its proper sauce.
Though there might be a large quantity of meat, he would not allow what he took to exceed the due proportion for the rice. It was only in wine that he laid down no limit for himself, but he did not allow himself to be confused by it.
He did not partake of wine and dried meat bought in the market. He was never without ginger when he ate. He did not eat much.
When he had been assisting at the prince’s sacrifice, he did not keep the flesh which he received overnight. The flesh of his family sacrifice he did not keep over three days. If kept over three days, people could not eat it.
When eating, he did not converse. When in bed, he did not speak.Although his food might be coarse rice and vegetable soup, he would offer a
little of it in sacrifice with a grave, respectful air.
If his mat was not straight, he did not sit on it.
When the villagers were drinking together, upon those who carried staffs going out, he also went out immediately after. When the villagers were going through their ceremonies to drive away pestilential influences, he put on his court robes and stood on the eastern steps.
When he was sending complimentary inquiries to any one in another state, he bowed twice as he escorted the messenger away.Chi K’ang having sent him a present of physic, he bowed and received it,
saying, “I do not know it. I dare not taste it.”
The stable being burned down, when he was at court, on his return he said,
“Has any man been hurt?” He did not ask about the horses.
When the he would adjust his mat, first taste it, and then give it away to others. When the prince sent him a gift of undressed meat, he would have it cooked, and offer it to the spirits of his ancestors.
When the prince sent him a gift of a living animal, he would keep it alive. When he was in attendance on the prince and joining in the entertainment, the prince only sacrificed. He first tasted everything. When he was ill and the prince came to visit him, he had his head to the east, made his court robes be spread over him, and drew his girdle across them. When the prince’s order called him, without waiting for his carriage to be yoked, he went at once.
When he entered the ancestral temple of the state, he asked about everything.
When any of his friends died, if he had no relations offices, he would say, “I will bury him.”When a friend sent him a present, though it might be a carriage and horses, he did not bow.The only present for which he bowed was that of the flesh of sacrifice.
In bed, he did not lie like a corpse. At home, he did not put on any formal deportment. When he saw any one in a mourning dress, though it might be an acquaintance, he would change countenance; when he saw any one wearing the cap of full dress, or a blind person, though he might be in his undress, he would salute him in a ceremonious manner. To any person in mourning he bowed forward to the crossbar of his carriage; he bowed in the same way to any one bearing the tables of population. When he was at an entertainment where there was an abundance of provisions set before him, he would change countenance and rise up. On a sudden clap of thunder, or a violent wind, he would change countenance.
When he was about to mount his carriage, he would stand straight, holding the cord.When he was in the carriage, he did not turn his head quite round, he did not talk hastily, he did not point with his hands.
Seeing the countenance, it instantly rises. It flies round, and by and by
settles. The Master said, “There is the hen-pheasant on the hill bridge. At its
season! At its season!” Tsze-lu made a motion to it. Thrice it smelt him and
The Master said, “The men of former times in the matters of ceremonies and music were rustics, it is said, while the men of these latter times, in ceremonies and music, are accomplished gentlemen.”If I have occasion to use those things, I follow the men of former times.”
The Master said, “Of those who were with me in Ch’an and Ts’ai, there are none to be found to enter my door.”
Distinguished for their virtuous principles and practice, there were Yen Yuan, Min Tsze-ch’ien, Zan Po-niu, and Chung-kung; for their ability in speech, Tsai Wo and Tsze-kung; for their administrative talents, Zan Yu and Chi Lu; for their literary acquirements, Tsze-yu and Tsze-hsia.
The Master said, “Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight.”
The Master said, “Filial indeed is Min Tsze-ch’ien! Other people say nothing of him different from the report of his parents and brothers.”
Nan Yung was frequently repeating the lines about a white scepter stone. Confucius gave him the daughter of his elder brother to wife.
Chi K’ang asked which of the disciples loved to learn. Confucius replied to him, “There was Yen Hui; he loved to learn. Unfortunately his appointed time was short, and he died. Now there is no one who loves to learn, as he did.”
When Yen Yuan died, Yen Lu begged the carriage of the Master to sell and get
an outer shell for his son’s coffin.
The Master said, “Every one calls his son his son, whether he has talents or has not talents. There was Li; when he died, he had a coffin but no outer shell. I would not walk on foot to get a shell for him, because, having followed in the rear of the great officers, it was not proper that I should walk on foot.”
When Yen Yuan died, the Master said, “Alas! Heaven is destroying me! Heaven
is destroying me!”
When Yen Yuan died, the Master bewailed him exceedingly, and the disciples who were with him said, “Master, your grief is excessive!””Is it excessive?” said he. “If I am not to mourn bitterly for this man, for whom should I mourn?”
When Yen Yuan died, the disciples wished to give him a great funeral, and the Master said, “You may not do so.”The disciples did bury him in great style. The Master said, “Hui behaved towards me as his father. I have not been able to treat him as my son. The fault is not mine; it belongs to you, O disciples.”
Chi Lu asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said, “While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?” Chi Lu added, “I venture to ask about death?” He was answered, “While you do not know life, how can you know about death?”
The disciple Min was standing by his side, looking bland and precise; Tsze-lu, looking bold and soldierly; Zan Yu and Tsze-kung, with a free and straightforward manner. The Master was pleased. He said, “Yu, there!-he will not die a natural death.”
Some parties in Lu were going to take down and rebuild the Long Treasury.Min Tsze-ch’ien said, “Suppose it were to be repaired after its old style;-why must it be altered and made anew?”The Master said, “This man seldom speaks; when he does, he is sure to hit the point.”
The Master said, “What has the lute of Yu to do in my door?”
The other disciples began not to respect Tszelu. The Master said, “Yu has ascended to the hall, though he has not yet passed into the inner apartments.”
Tsze-kung asked which of the two, Shih or Shang, was the superior. The Master said, “Shih goes beyond the due mean, and Shang does not come up to it.” “Then,” said Tsze-kung, “the superiority is with Shih, I suppose.” The Master said, “To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.”
The head of the Chi family was richer than the duke of Chau had been, and yet Ch’iu collected his imposts for him, and increased his wealth. The Master said, “He is no disciple of mine. My little children, beat the drum and assail him.”
Ch’ai is simple. Shan is dull. Shih is specious. Yu is coarse. The Master said, “There is Hui! He has nearly attained to perfect virtue. He is often in want.
“Ts’ze does not acquiesce in the appointments of Heaven, and his goods are
increased by him. Yet his judgments are often correct.”
Tsze-chang asked what were the characteristics of the good man. The Master said, “He does not tread in the footsteps of others, but moreover, he does not enter the chamber of the sage.”
The Master said, “If, because a man’s discourse appears solid and sincere,
we allow him to be a good man, is he really a superior man? or is his gravity
only in appearance?”
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.”
The Master was put in fear in K’wang and Yen Yuan fell behind. The Master, on his rejoining him, said, “I thought you had died.” Hui replied, “While you were alive, how should I presume to die?”
Chi Tsze-zan asked whether Chung Yu and Zan Ch’iu could be called great
The Master said, “I thought you would ask about some extraordinary individuals, and you only ask about Yu and Ch’iu!
“What is called a great minister, is one who serves his prince according to what is right, and when he finds he cannot do so, retires.
“Now, as to Yu and Ch’iu, they may be called ordinary ministers.”
Tsze-zan said, “Then they will always follow their chief;-win they?”
The Master said, “In an act of parricide or regicide, they would not follow him.”
Tsze-lu got Tsze-kao appointed governor of Pi.
The Master said, “You are injuring a man’s son.”
Tsze-lu said, “There are, there, common people and officers; there are the altars of the spirits of the land and grain. Why must one read books before he can be considered to have learned?”
The Master said, “It is on this account that I hate your glib-tongued people.”
Tsze-lu, Tsang Hsi, Zan Yu, and Kunghsi Hwa were sitting by the Master.
He said to them, “Though I am a day or so older than you, do not think of
“From day to day you are saying, ‘We are not known.’ If some ruler were to
know you, what would you like to do?”
Tsze-lu hastily and lightly replied, “Suppose the case of a state of ten thousand chariots; let it be straitened between other large cities; let it be suffering from invading armies; and to this let there be added a famine in corn and in all vegetables:-if I were intrusted with the government of it, in three years’ time I could make the people to be bold, and to recognize the rules of righteous conduct.” The Master smiled at him.
Turning to Yen Yu, he said, “Ch’iu, what are your wishes?” Ch’iu replied, “Suppose a state of sixty or seventy li square, or one of fifty or sixty, and let me have the government of it;-in three years’ time, I could make plenty to abound among the people. As to teaching them the principles of propriety, and music, I must wait for the rise of a superior man to do that.”
“What are your wishes, Ch’ih,” said the Master next to Kung-hsi Hwa. Ch’ih replied, “I do not say that my ability extends to these things, but I should wish to learn them. At the services of the ancestral temple, and at the audiences of the princes with the sovereign, I should like, dressed in the dark square-made robe and the black linen cap, to act as a small assistant.”
Last of all, the Master asked Tsang Hsi, “Tien, what are your wishes?” Tien, pausing as he was playing on his lute, while it was yet twanging, laid the instrument aside, and “My wishes,” he said, “are different from the cherished purposes of these three gentlemen.” “What harm is there in that?” said the Master; “do you also, as well as they, speak out your wishes.” Tien then said, “In this, the last month of spring, with the dress of the season all complete, along with five or six young men who have assumed the cap, and six or seven boys, I would wash in the I, enjoy the breeze among the rain altars, and return home singing.” The Master heaved a sigh and said, “I give my approval to Tien.”
The three others having gone out, Tsang Hsi remained behind, and said, “What
do you think of the words of these three friends?” The Master replied, “They simply told each one his wishes.”
Hsi pursued, “Master, why did you smile at Yu?”
He was answered, “The management of a state demands the rules of propriety. His words were not humble; therefore I smiled at him.”
Hsi again said, “But was it not a state which Ch’iu proposed for himself?” The reply was, “Yes; did you ever see a territory of sixty or seventy li or one of fifty or sixty, which was not a state?”
Once more, Hsi inquired, “And was it not a state which Ch’ih proposed for himself?” The Master again replied, “Yes; who but princes have to do with ancestral temples, and with audiences but the sovereign? If Ch’ih were to be a small assistant in these services, who could be a great one?