The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Book II - Think No Evil

1. The Master said, He that rules by mind is like the north star, steady in his seat, whilst the stars all bend to him.

2. The Master said, The three hundred poems are summed up in the one line, Think no evil.

3. The Master said, Guide the people by law, aline them by punishment; they may shun crime, but they will want shame. Guide them by mind, aline them by courtesy; they will learn shame and grow good.

4. The Master said, At fifteen, I had the will to learn; at thirty, I could stand; at forty, I had no doubts; at fifty, I understood the heavenly Bidding; at sixty, my ears were opened[9]; at seventy, I could do as my heart lusted without trespassing from the square.

5. Meng Yi asked the duty of a son.

The Master said, Not to transgress.

As Fan Chi'ih[10] was driving him, the Master said, Meng-sun[11] asked me the duty of a son; I answered, Not to transgress.

What did ye mean? said Fan Chi'ih.

To serve our father and mother with courtesy whilst they live; to bury them with courtesy when they die, and to worship them with courtesy.

6. Meng Wu asked the duty of a son.


The Master said, He should not grieve his father and mother by anything but illness.

7. Tzu-yu[12] asked the duty of a son.

The Master said, He that can feed his parents is now called a good son. But both dogs and horses are fed, and unless we honour our parents, what is the difference?

8. Tzu-hsia[13] asked the duty of a son.

The Master said, Our manner is the hard part. For the young to be a stay in toil and leave the wine and food to their elders, is this to fulfil their duty?

9. The Master said, If I talk all day to Hui,[14] like a dullard, he never differs from me. But when he is gone, if I watch him when alone, he can carry out what I taught. No, Hui is no dullard!

10. The Master said, See what he does; watch what moves him; search what pleases him: can the man lie hidden? Can the man lie hidden?

11. The Master said, To keep old knowledge warm and get new makes the teacher.

12. The Master said, A gentleman is not a vessel.

13. Tzu-kung[15] asked, What is a gentleman?

The Master said, He puts words into deeds first, and follows these up with words.

14. The Master said, A gentleman is broad and fair; the small man takes sides and is narrow.

15. The Master said, Learning without thought is naught; thought without learning is dangerous.


16. The Master said, To fight strange doctrines does harm.

17. The Master said, Yu,[16] shall I teach thee what is wisdom? To know what we know, and know what we do not know, is wisdom.

18. Tsu-chang[17] learned with an eye to pay.

The Master said, Hear much, leave all that is doubtful alone, speak warily of everything else, and few will be offended. See much, leave all that is dangerous alone, deal warily with everything else, and thou wilt have little to rue. If thy words seldom give offence, and thy deeds leave little to rue, pay will follow.

19. Duke Ai[18] asked, What should I do to win the people?

Confucius answered, Lift up the straight, put away the crooked; and the people will be won. Lift up the crooked, put away the straight; and the people will not be won.

20. Chi K'ang[19] asked how to make the people lowly, faithful and painstaking.

The Master said, Meet them with dignity, they will be lowly; be a good son and merciful, they will be faithful; lift up the good and teach the unskilled, and they will take pains.

21. One said to Confucius, Why do ye not govern, Sir?

The Master said, What does the Book[20] say of a good son? 'To be a good son and a friend to thy [7]brothers is to show how to govern.' This, too, is to govern. Must one be in office to govern?

22. The Master said, A man without truth, I know not what good he is! A cart without a crosspole, a carriage without a yoke, how can they be moved?

23. Tzu-chang[21] asked whether we can know what is to be ten generations hence.

The Master said, The Yin[22] took over the manners of the Hsia; the harm and the good that they did them can be known. The Chou took over the manners of the Yin; the harm and the good that they did them can be known. And we may know what shall be, even an hundred generations hence, whoever follows Chou.

24. The Master said, To worship the ghosts of men not akin to us is fawning. To see the right and not do it is want of courage.


[9] Lit., obedient.

[10] A disciple.

[11] Meng Yi.

[12] A disciple.

[13] A disciple.

[14] The disciple Yen Yüan.

[15] A disciple.

[16] The disciple Tzu-lu.

[17] A disciple.

[18] Of Lu.

[19] The head of the Chi clan.

[20] The Book of History.

[21] A disciple.

[22] Up to the time of Confucius, China had been ruled by three lines of kings. First the T'ang, next the Yin or Shang, then the Chou.


Return to the The Sayings of Confucius Summary Return to the Confucius Library

© 2022