Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK XV. * - The Chinese Classics: Vol. 1. The Life and Teachings of Confucius (Analects, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean)
Return to Title Page for The Chinese Classics: Vol. 1. The Life and Teachings of Confucius (Analects, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
BOOK XV. * - Confucius, The Chinese Classics: Vol. 1. The Life and Teachings of Confucius (Analects, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean) 
The Chinese Classics: Translated into English with Preliminary Essays and Explanatory Notes by James Legge. Vol. 1. The Life and Teachings of Confucius. Second Edition (London: N. Trübner, 1869).
Part of: The Chinese Classics
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ChapterI.1. The Duke Ling of Wei asked Confucius about tactics. Confucius replied, “I have heard all about sacrificial vessels, but I have not learned military matters.” On this, he took his departure the next day.
2. When he was in Ch‘in, their provisions were exhausted, and his followers became so ill that they were unable to rise.
3. Tsze-loo, with evident dissatisfaction, said, “Has the superior man likewise to endure in this way?” The Master said, “The superior man may indeed have to endure want, but the mean man, when he is in want, gives way to unbridled license.”
II.1. The Master said, “Ts‘ze, you think, I suppose, that I am one who learns many things and keeps them in memory?”
2. Tsze-kung replied, “Yes,—but perhaps it is not so?”
3. “No,” was the answer; “I seek a unity all-pervading.”
III. The Master said, “Yew, those who know virtue are few.”
IV. The Master said, “May not Shun be instanced as having governed efficiently without exertion? What did he do? He did nothing but gravely and reverently occupy his imperial seat.”
V.1. Tsze-chang asked how a man might conduct himself, so as to be everywhere appreciated.
2. The Master said, “Let his words be sincere and truthful, and his actions honourable and careful;—such conduct may be practised among the rude tribes of the South or the North. If his words be not sincere and truthful, and his actions not honourable and careful, will he, with such conduct, be appreciated, even in his neighbourhood?
3. “When he is standing, let him see those two things, as it were fronting him. When he is in a carriage, let him see them attached to the yoke. Then may he subsequently carry them into practice.”
4. Tsze-chang wrote these counsels on the end of his sash.
VI.1. The Master said, “Truly straightforward was the historiographer Yu. When good government prevailed in his state, he was like an arrow. When bad government prevailed, he was like an arrow.
2. “A superior man indeed is Keu Pih-yuh! When good government prevails in his state, he is to be found in office. When bad government prevails, he can roll his principles up, and keep them in his breast.”
VII. The Master said, “When a man may be spoken with, not to speak to him is err in reference to the man. When a man may not be spoken with, to speak to him is to err in reference to our words. The wise err neither in regard to their man nor to their words.”
VIII. The Master said, “The determined scholar and the man of virtue will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete.”
IX. Tsze-kung asked about the practice of virtue. The Master said, “The mechanic, who wishes to do his work well, must first sharpen his tools. When you are living in any state, take service with the most worthy among its great officers, and make friends of the most virtuous among its scholars.”
X.1. Yen Yuen asked how the government of a country should be administered.
2. The Master said, “Follow the seasons of Hea.
3. “Ride in the state carriage of Yin.
4. “Wear the ceremonial cap of Chow.
5. “Let the music be the Shaou with its pantomimes.
6. “Banish the songs of Ch‘ing, and keep far from specious talkers. The songs of Ch‘ing are licentious; specious talkers are dangerous.”
XI. The Master said, “If a man take no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.”
XII. The Master said, “It is all over! I have not seen one who loves virtue as he loves beauty.”
XIII. The Master said, “Was not Tsang Wăn like one who had stolen his situation? He knew the virtue and the talents of Hwuy of Lew-hea, and yet did not procure that he should stand with him in court.”
XIV. The Master said, “He who requires much from himself and little from others, will keep himself from being the object of resentment.”
XV. The Master said, “When a man is not in the habit of saying—‘What shall I think of this? What shall I think of this?’ I can indeed do nothing with him!”
XVI. The Master said, “When a number of people are together, for a whole day, without their conversation turning on righteousness, and when they are fond of carrying out the suggestions of a small shrewdness,—theirs is indeed a hard case.”
XVII. The Master said, “The superior man in everything considers righteousness to be essential. He performs it according to the rules of propriety. He brings it forth in humility. He completes it with sincerity. This is indeed a superior man.”
XVIII. The Master said, “The superior man is distressed by his want of ability. He is not distressed by men’s not knowing him.”
XIX. The Master said, “The superior man dislikes the thought of his name not being mentioned after his death.”
XX. The Master said, “What the superior man seeks, is in himself. What the mean man seeks, is in others.”
XXI. The Master said, “The superior man is dignified, but does not wrangle. He is sociable, but not a partizan.”
XXII. The Master said, “The superior man does not promote a man simply on account of his words, nor does he put aside good words because of the man.”
XXIII. Tsze-kung asked, saying, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
XXIV.1. The Master said, “In my writing or speaking of men, whose evil do I blame, whose goodness do I praise, beyond what is proper? If I do sometimes exceed in praise, there must be ground for it in my examination of the individual.
2. “This people supplied the ground why the founders of the three dynasties pursued the path of straightforwardness.”
XXV. The Master said, “Even in my early days, a historiographer would leave a blank in his text, and he who had a horse would lend him to another to ride. Now, alas! there are no such things.”
XXVI. The Master said, “Specious words confound virtue. Want of forbearance in small matters confounds great plans.”
XXVII. The Master said, “When the multitude hate a man, it is necessary to examine into the case. When the multitude like a man, it is necessary to examine into the case.”
XXVIII. The Master said, “A man can enlarge the principles which he follows; those principles do not enlarge the man.”
XXIX. The Master said, “To have faults and not to reform them,—this, indeed, should be pronounced having faults.”
XXX. The Master said, “I have been the whole day without eating, and the whole night without sleeping:—occupied with thinking. It was of no use. The better plan is to learn.”
XXXI. The Master said, “The object of the superior man is truth. Food is not his object. There is ploughing;—even in that there is sometimes want. So with learning;—emolument may be found in it. The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth; he is not anxious lest poverty should come upon him.”
XXXII.1. The Master said, “When a man’s knowledge is sufficient to attain, and his virtue is not sufficient to enable him to hold, whatever he may have gained, he will lose again.
2. “When his knowledge is sufficient to attain, and he has virtue enough to hold fast, if he cannot govern with dignity, the people will not respect him.
3. “When his knowledge is sufficient to attain, and he has virtue enough to hold fast; when he governs also with dignity, yet if he try to move the people contrary to the rules of propriety:—full excellence is not reached.”
XXXIII. The Master said, “The superior man cannot be known in little matters; but he may be intrusted with great concerns. The small man may not be intrusted with great concerns, but he may be known in little matters.”
XXXIV. The Master said, “Virtue is more to man than either water or fire. I have seen men die from treading on water and fire, but I have never seen a man die from treading the course of virtue.”
XXXV. The Master said, “Let every man consider virtue as what devolves on himself. He may not yield the performance of it even to his teacher.”
XXXVI. The Master said, “The superior man is correctly firm, and not firm merely.”
XXXVII. The Master said, “A minister, in serving his prince, reverently discharges his duties, and makes his emolument a secondary consideration.”
XXXVIII. The Master said, “There being instruction, there will be no distinction of classes.”
XXXIX. The Master said, “Those whose courses are different cannot lay plans for one another.”
XL. The Master said, “In language it is simply required that it convey the meaning.”
XLI.1. The Music-master, Meën, having called upon him, when they came to the steps, The Master said, “Here are the steps.” When they came to the mat for the guest to sit upon, he said, “Here is the mat.” When all were seated, the Master informed him, saying, “So and so is here; so and so is here.”
2. The Music-master, Meen, having gone out, Tsze-chang asked, saying, “Is it the rule to tell those things to the Music-masters?”
3. The Master said, “Yes. This is certainly the rule for those who lead the blind.”
[* ]Heading and subjects of this book. “The duke, Ling, of Wei.” The contents of the Book, contained in forty chapters, are as miscellaneous as those of the former. Rather they are more so, some chapters bearing on the public administration of government, several being occupied with the superior man, and others containing lessons of practical wisdom. “All the subjects,” says Hing Ping, “illustrate the feeling of the sense of shame and consequent pursuit of the correct course, and therefore the Book immediately follows the preceding one.”
[1. ]Confucius refuses to talk on military affairs. In the midst of distress, he shows the disciples how the superior man is above distress. 1. “About sacrificial vessels” is literally, “about the ‘cho’ and ‘tow,’ ” vessels with which Confucius, when a boy, was fond of playing. He wished, by his reply and departure, to teach the duke that the rules of propriety, and not war, were essential to the government of a State. 2. From Wei Confucius proceeded to Ch‘in. and there met with the distress here mentioned. It is probably the same which is referred to in XI. ii. 1, though there is some chronological difficulty about the subject.
[2. ]How Confucius aimed at the knowledge of an all pervading unity. This chapter is to be compared with IV. xv.; only, says Choo He “that is spoken with reference to practice and this with reference to knowledge.” But the design of Confucius was probably the same in them both; and I understand the first paragraph here as meaning—“Tsze, do you think that I am aiming, by the exercise of memory, to acquire a varied and extensive knowledge?” Then the third paragraph is equivalent to:—“I am not doing this. My aim is to know myself,—the mind which embraces all knowledge, and regulates all practice.”
[3. ]Few really know virtue. This is understood as spoken with reference to the dissatisfaction manifested by Tsze-loo in chapter I. If he had possessed a right knowledge of virtue, he would not have been so affected by distress.
[4. ]How Shun was able to govern without personal effort. “Made himself reverent” and “He gravely and reverently occupied his imperial seat” is literally, “he correctly adjusted his southward face,” see VI. i. Shun succeeding Yaou, there were many ministers of great virtue and ability, to occupy all the offices of the government. All that Shun did, was by his grave and sage example. This is the lesson—the influence of a ruler’s personal character.
[5. ]Conduct that will be appreciated in all parts of the world. 1. We must supply a good deal to bring out the meaning here. Choo He compares the question with that other of Tsze-chang about the scholar who may be called “distinguished,” see XII. xx.
[6. ]The admirable characters of Tsze-yu and Keu Pih-yuh. 1. Tsze-yu was the historiographer of Wei. On his death-bed, he left a message for his prince, and gave orders that his body should be laid out in a place and manner likely to attract his attention when he paid the visit of condolence. It was so, and the message then delivered had the desired effect. Perhaps it was on hearing this that Confucius made this remark. 2. Keu Pih-yuh,—see XIV. xxvi. Commentators say that Tsze-yu’s uniform straightforwardness was not equal to Pih-yuh’s rightly adapting himself to circumstances.
[7. ]There are men with whom to speak, and men with whom to keep silence. The wise know them.
[8. ]High natures value virtue more than life. “They will sacrifice their lives” may be translated—“They will kill themselves.” No doubt suicide is included in the expression (see the amplification of Ho An’s commentary), and Confucius here justifies that act, as in certain cases expressive of high virtue.
[9. ]How intercourse with the good aids the practice of virtue. Compare Proverbs xxvii. 17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
[10. ]Certain rules exemplified in the ancient dynasties, to be followed in governing:—a reply to Yen Yuen. 1. The disciple modestly put his question with reference to the government of a State, but the Master answers it according to the disciple’s ability, as if it had been about the ruling of the empire. 2. The three great ancient dynasties began the year at different times. According to an ancient tradition, “Heaven was opened at the time tsze; Earth appeared at the time ch‘ow; and Man was born at the time yin. Tsze commences in our December, at the winter solstice; ch‘ow a month later; and yin a month after ch‘ow. The Chow dynasty began its year with tsze; the Shang with ch‘ow; and the Hea with yin. As human life then commenced, the year in reference to human labours, naturally proceeds from the spring, and Confucius approved the rule of the Hea dynasty. His decision has been the law of all dynasties since the Ts‘in. See the “Discours Préliminaire, Chapter I.,” in Gaubil’s Shoo King. 3. The state carriage of the Yin dynasty was plain and substantial, which Confucius preferred to the more ornamented ones of Chow. 4. Yet he does not object to the more elegant cap of that dynasty, “the cap,” says Choo He, “being a small thing, and placed over all the body.” 5. The shaou was the music of Shun; see III. xxv., the “dancers,” or “pantomimes,” kept time to the music. See the Shoo-king II. Bk II. 21. 6. “The sounds of Ch‘ing,” meaning both the songs of Ch‘ing and the appropriate music to which they were sung. Those songs form the seventh book of the first division of the She-king, and are here characterized justly.
[11. ]The necessity of forethought and precaution.
[12. ]The rarity of a true love of virtue. “It is all over,”—see V. xxvi.; the rest is a repetition of IX. xvii., said to have been spoken by Confucius when he was in Wei, and saw the duke riding out openly in the same carriage with Nan-tsze.
[13. ]Against jealousy of others’ talents;—the case of Tsang Wăn, and Hwuy of Lew-hea. Tsang Wăn-chung,—see V. xvii. Tsang Wăn would not recommend Hwuy, because he was an abler and better man than himself. Hwuy is a famous name in China. He was an officer of Loo, styled Hwuy after death, and derived his revenue from a town called Lew-hea, though some say that it was a lew or willow tree, overhanging his house, which made him to be known as Lew-hea Hwuy—“Hwuy that lived under the willow tree.” See Mencius II. Bk. I. ix.
[14. ]The way to ward off resentments.
[15. ]Nothing can be made of people who take things easily, not giving themselves the trouble to think. Compare VII. viii.
[16. ]Against frivolous talkers and superficial speculators. “A hard case,” i. e., they will make nothing out, and nothing can be made of them.
[17. ]The conduct of the superior man is righteous, courteous, humble, and sincere.
[18. ]Our own incompetency, and not our reputation, the proper business of concern to us. See XIV. xxxii., et al.
[19. ]The superior man wishes to be had in remembrance. Not, say the commentators, that the superior man cares about fame, but fame is the invariable concomitant of merit. He can’t have been the superior man, if he be not remembered.
[20. ]His own approbation is the superior man’s rule. The approbation of others is the mean man’s. Compare XIV. xxv.
[21. ]The superior man is dignified and affable without the faults to which those qualities oftln lead. Compare II. xiv., and VII. xxx.
[22. ]The superior man is discriminating in his employment of men and judging of statements.
[23. ]The great principle of reciprocity is the rule of life. Compare V. xi. It is singular that Tsze-kung professes there to act on the principle here recommended to him.
[24. ]Confucius showed his respect for men by strict truthfulness in awarding praise or censure. The meaning of this chapter seems to be this:—First, Confucius was very careful in according praise or blame. If he ever seemed to go beyond the truth, it was on the side of praise, and even then he saw something in the individual which made him believe that his praise of him would in the future be justified. Second, In this matter, Confucius acted as the founders of the three great dynasties had done. Third, Those founders and himself were equally influenced by a regard to the truth-approving nature of man. This was the rule for the former in their institutions, and for him in his judgments.
[25. ]Instances of the degeneracy of Confucius times. The appointment of the historiographer is referred to Hwang-te or “The Yellow emperor,” the inventor of the cycle. The statutes of Chow mention no fewer than five classes of such officers. They were attached also to the fendal courts, and what Confucius says, is, that, in his early days, a historiographer, on any point about which he was not sure, would leave a blank; so careful were they to record only the truth. This second sentence is explained in Ho An:—“If any one had a horse which he could not tame, he would lend it to another to ride and exercise it!”—The commentator Hoo says well that the meaning of the chapter must be left in uncertainty.
[26. ]The danger of specious words and of impatience. The subject of the second sentence is not “a little impatience,” but impatience in little things; “the hastiness,” it is said, “of women and small people.”
[27. ]In judging of a man we must not be guided by his being generally liked or disliked. Compare XIII. xxiv.
[28. ]Principles of duty an instrument in the hand of man. This sentence is quite mystical in its sententiousness. One writer says—“The subject here is the path of duty, which all men, in their various relations, have to pursue, and man has the three virtues of knowledge, benevolence, and fortitude, wherewith to pursue that path, and so he enlarges it. That virtue, remote, occupying an empty place, cannot enlarge man, needs not to be said.” That writer’s account of the subject here is probably correct, and “duty unapprehended,” “in an empty place,” can have no effect on any man; but this is a mere truism. Duty apprehended is constantly enlarging, elevating, and energizing multitudes who had previously been uncognizant of it. The first clause of the chapter may be granted but the second is not in accordance with truth.
[29. ]The culpability of not reforming known faults. Compare I. viii. Choo He’s commentary appears to make the meaning somewhat different. He say:—“If one having faults can change them, he comes back to the condition of having no faults. But if he do not change them, then they go on to their completion, and will never come to be changed.”
[30. ]The fruitlessness of thinking without reading. Compare II. xv., where the dependence of acquisition and reflection on each other is set forth.—Many commentators say that Confucius merely transfers the things which he here mentions to himself for the sake of others, not that it ever was really thus with himself.
[31. ]The superior man should not be mercenary, but have truth for his object. “Want may be in the midst of ploughing,”—i. e., husbandry is the way to plenty, and yet despite the labours of the husbandman, a famine or scarcity sometimes occurs. The application of this to the case of learning, however, is not very apt. Is the emolument that sometimes comes with learning a calamity like famine?—Ch‘ing K‘ang-shing’s view is:—“Although a man may plough, yet, not learning, he will come to hunger. If he learn, he will get emolument, and though he do not plough, he will not be in want. This is advising men to learn!”
[32. ]How knowledge without virtue is not lasting, and to knowledge and virtue a ruler should add dignity and the rules of propriety.
[33. ]How to know the superior man and the mean man and their capacities. Choo He says, “The knowing here is our knowing the individuals.” The “little matters” are ingenious but trifling arts and accomplishments, in which a really great man may sometimes be deficient while a small man will be familiar with them. The “knowing” is not, that the parties are keun-tsze and small men, but what attainments they have, and for what they are fit. The difficulty, on this view, is with the conclusion. Ho An gives the view of Wang Shuh:—“The way of the keun-tsze is profound and far-reaching. He may not let his knowledge be small, and he may receive what is great. The way of the seaou-jin is shallow and near. He may let his knowledge be small, and he may not receive what is great.”
[34. ]Virtue more to man than water or fire, and never hurtful to him. “The people’s relation to, or dependence on, virtue.” The case is easily conceivable of men’s suffering death on account of their virtue. There have been martyrs for their loyalty and other virtues, as well as for their religious faith. Choo He provides for this difference in his remarks:—“The want of fire and water is hurtful only to man’s body, but to be without virtue is to lose one’s mind (the higher nature), and so it is more to him than water or fire.” See on IV. viii.
[35. ]Virtue personal and obligatory on every man.
[36. ]The superior man’s firmness is based on right.
[37. ]The faithful minister.
[38. ]The effect of teaching. Choo He says on this:—“The nature of all men is good, but we find among them the different classes of good and bad. This is the effect of physical constitution and of practice. The superior man, in consequence, employs his teaching and all may be brought back to the state of good, and there is no necessity of speaking any more of the badness of some.” This is very extravagant. Teaching is not so omnipotent:—The old interpretation is simply that in teaching there should be no distinction of classes.
[39. ]Agreement in principle necessary to concord in plans.
[40. ]Perspicuity the chief virtue of language.
[41. ]Consideration of Confucius for the blind. Anciently, the blind were employed in the offices of music, partly because their sense of hearing was more than ordinarily acute, and partly that they might be made of some use in the world. Meen had come to Confucius’ house, under the care of a guide, but the sage met him, and undertook the care of him himself.