Asian Pacific American Heritage: Confucius, Sayings (document)

  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12

[Confucius, the fifth-century B.C. sage, founded the philosophical system that has dominated Chinese social and political life for most of Chinese history. The fragment here is from a nineteenth-century translation.]

[1] The Master said: "Love makes a spot beautiful: who chooses not to dwell in love, has he got wisdom?"

[2] The Master said: "Loveless men cannot bear need long, they cannot bear fortune long. Loving hearts find peace in love; clever heads find profit in it."

[3] The Master said: "Love can alone love others, or hate others."

[4] The Master said: "A heart set on love will do no wrong."

[5] The Master said: "Wealth and honors are what men desire; but abide not in them by help of wrong. Lowliness and want are hated of men; but forsake them not by help of wrong.

"Shorn of love, is a gentleman worthy the name? Not for one moment may a gentleman sin against love; not in flurry and haste, nor yet in utter overthrow."

[6] The Master said: "A friend to love, a foe to evil, I have yet to meet. A friend to love will set nothing higher. In love's service, a foe to evil will let no evil touch him. Were a man to give himself to love, but for one day, I have seen no one whose strength would fail him. Such men there may be, but I have not seen one."

[7] The Master said: "A man and his faults are of a piece. By watching his faults we learn whether love be his."

[8] The Master said: "To learn the truth at daybreak and die at eve were enough."

[9] The Master said: "A scholar in search of truth who is ashamed of poor clothes and poor food it is idle talking to."

[10] The Master said: "A gentleman has no likes and no dislikes below heaven. He follows right."

[11] The Master said: "Gentlemen cherish worth; the vulgar cherish dirt. Gentlemen trust in justice; the vulgar trust in favor."

[12] The Master said: "The chase of gain is rich in hate."

[13] The Master said: "What is it to sway a kingdom by courteous yielding? Who cannot by courteous yielding sway a kingdom, what can he know of courtesy?"

[14] The Master said: "Be not concerned at want of place; be concerned that thou stand thyself. Sorrow not at being unknown, but seek to be worthy of note."

[15] The Master said: "One thread, Shen, runs through all my teaching."

"Yes," said Tseng-tzu.

After the Master had left, the disciples asked what was meant.

Tseng-tzu said: "The Master's teaching all hangs on faithfulness and fellow-feeling."

[16] The Master said: "A gentleman considers what is right; the vulgar consider what will pay."

[17] The Master said: "At sight of worth, think to grow like it. When evil meets thee, search thine own heart."

[18] The Master said: "A father or mother may be gently chidden. If they will not bend, be the more lowly, but persevere; nor murmur if trouble follow."

[19] The Master said: "Whilst thy father and mother live, do not wander afar. If thou must travel, hold a set course."

[20] The Master said: "If for three years a son do not forsake his father's ways, he may be called dutiful."

[21] The Master said: "A father's and a mother's age must be borne in mind; with joy on the one hand, fear on the other."

[22] The Master said: "Men of old were loth to speak; lest a word that they could not make good should shame them."

[23] The Master said: "Who contains himself goes seldom wrong."

[24] The Master said: "A gentleman wishes to be slow to speak and quick to act."

[25] The Master said: "Good is no hermit. It has ever neighbors."

[26] Tzu-yu said: "Preaching to princes brings disgrace, nagging at friends estrangement."

[1] 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."

[2] The Master said: "A silent communer, an ever hungry learner, a still unflagging teacher; am I any of these?"

[3] 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."

[4] In his free moments the Master was easy and cheerful.

[5] The Master said: "How deep is my decay! It is long since I saw the Duke of Chou in a dream."

[6] The Master said: "Will the right; hold to good won; rest in love; move in art."

[7] The Master said: "From the man who paid in dried meat upwards, I have withheld teaching from no one."

[8] 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."

[9] When eating beside a mourner the Master never ate his fill. On days when he had been wailing, the Master did not sing.

[10] The Master said to Yen Yuan: "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."

[11] 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."

[12] The Master gave heed to devotions, war, and sickness.

[13] 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."

[14] 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."

[15] The Master said: "Living on coarse rice and water, with bent arm for pillow, mirth may be ours; but ill-gotten wealth and honors are to me a wandering cloud."

[16] The Master said: "Given a few more years, making fifty for the study of the Yi, I might be purged from gross sin."

[17] The Master liked to talk of poetry, history, and the upkeep of courtesy. Of all these he was fond of talking.

[18] 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'?"

[19] The Master said: "I was not born to understanding. I loved the past, and questioned it earnestly."

[20] The Master never spake of ghosts or strength, crime or spirits.

[21] 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."

[22] The Master said: "Heaven planted worth in me; what harm can come of Huan T'ui?"

[23] 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."

[24] The four things the Master taught were culture, conduct, faithfulness, and truth.

[25] 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."

[26] The Master angled, but did not fish with a net; he shot, but not at birds sitting.

[27] 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."

[28] 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."

[29] The Master said: "Is love so far a thing? I yearn for love, and lo! love is come."

[30] A judge of Ch'en asked whether the 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!"

[31] When any one sang to the Master, and sang well, he would make him repeat it and join in.

[32] The Master said: "I have no more culture than others: to live as a gentleman is not yet mine."

[33] 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.

[34] 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."

[35] The Master said: "Waste begets self-will; thrift begets meanness: but better be mean than self-willed."

[36] The Master said: "A gentleman is calm and spacious: the vulgar are always fretting."

[37] The Master was friendly, yet dignified; he inspired awe, but not fear; he was respectful, yet easy.

  • Subjects:
    Asian and Asian American

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