The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Book III - A Man Without Love

1. Of the Chi having eight rows of dancers[23] in his courtyard, Confucius said, If this is to be borne, what is not to be borne?

2. When the sacrifice was ended, the Three Clans had the Yung hymn sung.

The Master said,

Princes and dukes assist.
Solemn is the Son of heaven;

what meaning has this in the courtyard of the Three Clans?

3. The Master said, A man without love, what is courtesy to him? A man without love, what is music to him?

4. Lin Fang asked what good form is at root.

The Master said, A big question! At high-tides, thrift is better than waste; at burials, grief is worth more than nicety.

5. The Master said, Every wild tribe has its lord, whereas the lands of Hsia[24] have none!

6. The Chi sacrificed to Mount T'ai.[25]

The Master said to Jan Yu,[26] Canst thou not stop this?

He answered, I cannot.

Alas! said the Master; dost thou think Mount T'ai less wise than Lin Fang?


7. The Master said, A gentleman never strives with others. Or must he, perhaps, in shooting? But then, as he bows and makes way in going up or steps down to drink,[27] his strife is that of a gentleman.

8. Tzu-hsia asked, What is the meaning of:

Her cunning smiles, Her dimples light, Her lovely eyes, So clear and bright, All unadorned, The background white. Colouring, said the Master, is second to the plain ground.

Then good form is second, said Tzu-hsia.

Shang,[28] said the Master, thou hast hit my meaning! Now I can talk of poetry to thee.

9. The Master said, I can speak of the manners of Hsia; but as proof of them Chi[29] is not enough. I can speak of the manners of Yin; but as proof of them Sung is not enough. This is due to their dearth of books and great men. If there were enough of these, I could use them as proofs.

10. The Master said, After the drink offering at the Great Sacrifice, I have no wish to see more.

11. One asked the meaning of the Great Sacrifice.

The Master said, I do not know. He that knew the meaning would overlook all below heaven as I do this—and he pointed to his palm.


12. He worshipped as if those whom he worshipped were before him; he worshipped the spirits as if they were before him.

The Master said: For me, to take no part in the sacrifice is the same as not sacrificing.

13. Wang-sun Chia[30] said, What is the meaning of, It is better to court the hearth-god than the god of the home?

Not so, said the Master. A sin against Heaven leaves no room for prayer.

14. The Master said, Chou[31] looks back on two lines of kings. How rich, how rich it is in art! I follow Chou.

15. On going into the Great Temple the Master asked about everything.

One said, Who says that the Tsou man's son knows the rites? On going into the Great Temple he asked about everything.

When he heard this, the Master said, Such is the rite.

16. The Master said, In shooting, the arrow need not go right through the target, for men are not the same in strength. This was the old rule.

17. Tzu-kung wished to do away with the sheep offering at the new moon.

The Master said, Thou lovest the sheep, Tz'u: I love the rite.


18. The Master said: Serve the king with all courtesy, men call it fawning.

19. Duke Ting asked how a lord should treat his lieges, and how lieges should serve their lord.

Confucius answered, The lord should treat his lieges with courtesy; lieges should serve their lord faithfully.

20. The Master said, The poem The Osprey is glad, but not wanton; it is sad, but not morbid.

21. Duke Ai asked Tsai Wo about the earth-altars.

Tsai Wo answered, The Emperors of the house of Hsia grew firs round them; the men of Yin grew cypress; the men of Chou grew chestnut, which was to say, Let the people tremble.[32]

On hearing this, the Master said, I do not speak of what is ended, chide what is settled, or find fault with what is past.[33]

22. The Master said, How shallow was Kuan Chung!

But, said one, was not Kuan Chung thrifty?

The Kuan, said the Master, owned San Kuei, and no one of his household held two posts: was that thrift?

At least Kuan Chung knew good form.

The Master said, Kings screen their gates with trees; the Kuan, too, had trees to screen his gate. When two kings are carousing, they have a stand for [12]the turned-down cups; the Kuan had a turned-down cup-stand, too! If the Kuan knew good form, who does not know good form?[34]

23. The Master said to the Great Master[35] of Lu, We can learn how to play music; at first each part in unison; then a swell of harmony, each part distinct, rolling on to the finish.

24. The warden of Yi asked to see Confucius, saying, No gentleman has ever come here whom I have failed to see.

The followers took him in.

On leaving he said, My two-three boys, why lament your fall? The Way has long been lost below heaven! Now Heaven shall make the Master into a warning bell.

25. The Master said of the music of Shao, It is thoroughly beautiful, and thoroughly good, too. Of the music of Wu, he said, It is thoroughly beautiful, but not thoroughly good.

26. The Master said, Rank without beauty; ceremony without reverence; mourning without grief, why should I cast them a glance?


[23] An Imperial prerogative.

[24] China.

[25] A prerogative of the Duke of Lu.

[26] A disciple in the service of the Chi.

[27] The loser had to drink a cup of wine.

[28] Tzu-hsia.

[29] Chi was the homeland of the House of Hsia, Sung that of the House of Yin.

[30] Wang-sun Chia was minister of Wei, and had more influence than his master. The hearth-god ranks below the god of the home (the Roman lares), but since he sees all that goes on in the house, and ascends to heaven at the end of the year to report what has happened, it is well to be on good terms with him.

[31] The royal house of Chou, which was then ruling China.

[32] Tremble and chestnut have the same sound in Chinese.

[33] In old times men had been sacrificed at the earth-altars, and Tsai Wo's answer might seem to approve the practice.

[34] Kuan Chung (+ 645 b.c.), a famous man in his day, was chief minister to the Duke of Ch'i, whom he raised to such wealth and power that he became the leading prince of the empire. His chief merit lay in taming the barbarous frontier tribes. The rest of his work was built upon sand and died with him.

[35] Of music.


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

© 2022