The Analects by Confucius

I am A Man of Letters. I’ve been reading lately, and I have found some words I would like to share. Today, selections from The Analects of Confucius. Confucius was born in 551 BC and died in 479 BC. He was a teacher and a philosopher. The Analects were compiled within a century of the death of Confucius.

Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him? […]

Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue. […]

To rule a country of a thousand chariots, there must be reverent attention to business, and sincerity; economy in expenditure, and love for men; and the employment of the people at the proper seasons.

A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in polite studies.

If the scholar be not grave, he will not call forth any veneration, and his learning will not be solid. Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Have no friends not equal to yourself. When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them. […]

While a man’s father is alive, look at the bent of his will; when his father is dead, look at his conduct. If for three years he does not alter from the way of his father, he may be called filial. […]

He who aims to be a man of complete virtue in his food does not seek to gratify his appetite, nor in his dwelling place does he seek the appliances of ease; he is earnest in what he is doing, and careful in his speech; he frequents the company of men of principle that he may be rectified: such a person may be said indeed to love to learn. […]

I will not be afflicted at men’s not knowing me; I will be afflicted that I do not know men.

He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.

In the Book of Poetry are three hundred pieces, but the design of them all may be embraced in one sentence- “Having no depraved thoughts.”

If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.

At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. 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 truth. At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right. […]

I have talked with Hui for a whole day, and he has not made any objection to anything I said – as if he were stupid. He has retired, and I have examined his conduct when away from me, and found him able to illustrate my teachings. Hui – He is not stupid.

See what a man does. Mark his motives. Examine in what things he rests. How can a man conceal his character?

If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge, so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.

The accomplished scholar is not a utensil.

Tsze-kung asked what constituted the superior man. The Master said, ‘He acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions.’

The superior man is catholic and no partisan. The mean man is partisan and not catholic.

Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.

The study of strange doctrines is injurious indeed!

[Shall] I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge. […]

Hear much and put aside the points of which you stand in doubt, while you speak cautiously at the same time of the others – then you will afford few occasions for blame. See much and put aside the things which seem perilous, while you are cautious at the same time in carrying the others into practice – then you will have few occasions for repentance. When one gives few occasions for blame in his words, and few occasions for repentance in his conduct, he is in the way to get emolument.

The Duke Ai asked, saying, ‘What should be done in order to secure the submission of the people?’ Confucius replied, ‘Advance the upright and set aside the crooked, then the people will submit. Advance the crooked and set aside the upright, then the people will not submit.’

Chi K’ang asked how to cause the people to reverence their ruler, to be faithful to him, and to go on to nerve themselves to virtue. The Master said, ‘Let him preside over them with gravity – then they will reverence him. Let him be filial and kind to all – then they will be faithful to him. Let him advance the good and teach the incompetent – then they will eagerly seek to be virtuous.’

Some one addressed Confucius, saying, ‘Sir, why are you not engaged in the government?’ The Master said, ‘What does the Shu-ching say of filial piety? “You are filial, you discharge your brotherly duties. These qualities are displayed in government.” This then also constitutes the exercise of government. Why must there be THAT – making one be in the government?’

I do not know how a man without truthfulness is to get on. How can a large carriage be made to go without the cross-bar for yoking the oxen to, or a small carriage without the arrangement for yoking the horses? […]

For a man to sacrifice to a spirit which does not belong to him is flattery. To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage. […]

If a man be without the virtues proper to humanity, what has he to do with the rites of propriety? If a man be without the virtues proper to humanity, what has he to do with music?

Lin Fang asked what was the first thing to be attended to in ceremonies. The Master said, ‘A great question indeed! In festive ceremonies, it is better to be sparing than extravagant. In the ceremonies of mourning, it is better that there be deep sorrow than a minute attention to observances.’

The rude tribes of the East and North have their Princes, and are not like the States of our great land which are without them. […]

At the great sacrifice, after the pouring out of the libation, I have no wish to look on. Some one asked the meaning of the great sacrifice. The Master said, ‘I do not know. He who knew its meaning would find it as easy to govern the kingdom as to look on this’ – and The Master pointed to his palm.

He sacrificed to the dead, as if they were present. He sacrificed to the spirits, as if the spirits were present. The Master said, ‘I consider my not being present at the sacrifice, as if I did not sacrifice.’ [… ]

In archery it is not going through the leather which is the principal thing – because people’s strength is not equal. This was the old way.

Tsze-kung wished to do away with the offering of a sheep connected with the inauguration of the first day of each month. The Master said, ‘Ts’ze, you love the sheep; I love the ceremony.’

The full observance of the rules of propriety in serving one’s Prince is accounted by people to be flattery.

The Duke Ting asked how a Prince should employ his Ministers, and how Ministers should serve their Prince. Confucius replied, ‘A Prince should employ his Minister according to the rules of propriety; Ministers should serve their Prince with faithfulness.’ [… ]

Things that are done, it is needless to speak about; things that have had their course, it is needless to remonstrate about; things that are past, it is needless to blame. […]

How to play music may be known. At the commencement of the piece, all the parts should sound together. As it proceeds, they should be in harmony while severally distinct and flowing without break, and thus on to the conclusion. […]

High station filled without indulgent generosity; ceremonies performed without reverence; mourning conducted without sorrow – wherewith should I contemplate such ways?

Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read and the music to follow, please visit A Man of Letters.

Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.

Hans Bund – Tanzfieber (Telefunken A 1654 1938)

Episode 1530