The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Book V - Forsaken Is The Way

1. Of Kung-yeh Ch'ang the Master said, A girl might be wedded to him. Though he has been in fetters that was not his crime.

He gave him his daughter to wed.

Of Nan Jung the Master said, When the land keeps the Way he will not be neglected; and if the land loses the Way he will escape punishment and death.

He gave him his brother's daughter to wed.

2. Of Tzu-chien[38] the Master said, What a gentleman he is! But if there were no gentlemen in Lu, where could he have picked it up?

3. Tzu-kung asked, And what of me?

Thou art a vessel, said the Master.

What kind of vessel?

A rich temple vessel.

4. One said, Yung[39] has love, but he is not glib.

The Master said, What is the good of being glib? Fighting men with tongue-craft mostly makes men hate you. Whether love be his I do not know, but what is the good of being glib?

5. The Master moved Ch'i-tiao K'ai to take office.

He answered, For this I want confidence.

The Master was pleased.

6. The Master said, Forsaken is the Way! I must [17]take ship and stem the seas; and Yu[40] shall go with me.

When Tzu-lu heard this he was glad.

The Master said, Yu loves daring more than I do, but he is at a loss how to take things.

7. Meng Wu asked whether Tzu-lu had love.

I do not know, said the Master.

He asked again.

A land of a thousand chariots might give Yu charge of its levies; but whether love be his I do not know.

And how about Ch'iu?[41]

A town of a thousand households, a clan of an hundred chariots might make Ch'iu governor; but whether love be his I do not know.

And how about Ch'ih?[42]

Standing in the court, girt with his sash, Ch'ih might entertain the guests; but whether love be his I do not know.

8. The Master said to Tzu-kung, Which is the better man, thou or Hui[43]?

He answered, How dare I look as high as Hui? When Hui hears one thing, he understands ten; when I hear one thing I understand two.

The Master said, Thou art not his like. Neither art thou his like, nor am I.

9. Tsai Yü[44] slept in the daytime.

The Master said, Rotten wood cannot be carved, [18]nor are dung walls plastered. Why chide with Yü?

The Master said, When I first met men I listened to their words and took their deeds on trust. When I meet them now, I listen to their words and watch their deeds. I righted this on Yü.

10. The Master said, I have met no firm man.

One answered, Shen Ch'ang.

The Master said, Ch'ang is passionate; how can he be firm?

11. Tzu-kung said, What I do not wish done to me, I likewise wish not to do to others.

The Master said, That is still beyond thee, Tz'u.

12. Tzu-kung said, To hear the Master on his art and precepts is granted us; but to hear him on man's nature and the Way of Heaven is not.

13. Until Tzu-lu could do what he had heard, his only fear was to hear more.

14. Tzu-kung asked, Why was K'ung-wen called cultured?

The Master said, He was quick and loved learning; he was not ashamed to ask those beneath him: that is why he was called cultured.

15. The Master said, Of the ways of a gentleman Tzu-ch'an had four. His life was modest; he honoured those that he served. He was kind in feeding the people, and he was just in his calls upon them.

16. The Master said, Yen P'ing was a good friend. The longer he knew you, the more attentive he grew.

17. The Master said, Tsang Wen lodged his tortoise[19] with hills on the pillars and reeds on the uprights: was this his wisdom?

18. Tzu-chang said, The chief minister, Tzu-wen, was thrice made minister without showing gladness, thrice he left office with unmoved looks. He always told the new ministers how the old ones had governed: how was that?

He was faithful, said the Master.

But was it love?

I do not know, said the Master: how should this amount to love?

When Ts'ui murdered the lord of Ch'i, Ch'en Wen threw up ten teams of horses and left the land. On coming to another kingdom he said, 'Like my lord Ts'ui,' and left it. On coming to a second kingdom he said again, 'Like my lord Ts'ui,' and left it: how was that?

He was clean, said the Master.

But was it love?

I do not know, said the Master: how should this amount to love?

19. Chi Wen thought thrice before acting.

On hearing this the Master said, Twice is enough.

20. The Master said, Whilst the land kept the Way Ning Wu showed wisdom; when his land lost the Way he grew simple. His wisdom we may come up to; such simplicity is beyond us.[45]


21. When he was in Ch'en the Master said, Home, I must go home! Zealous, or rash, or finished scholars, my young sons at home do not know what pruning they still need!

22. The Master said, Because Po-yi and Shu-ch'i never remembered old wickedness they made few enemies.[46]

23. The Master said, Who can call Wei-sheng Kao straight? A man begged him for vinegar: he begged it of a neighbour, and gave it.

24. The Master said, Smooth words, fawning looks, and overdone humility, Tso Ch'iu-ming thought shameful, and so do I. He thought it shameful to hide ill-will and ape friendship, and so do I.

25. As Yen Yüan and Chi-lu[47] were sitting with him, the Master said, Why not each of you tell me thy wishes?

Tzu-lu said, I should like carriages and horses, [21]and clothes of light fur to share with my friends, and, if they spoiled them, not to get angry.

Yen Yüan said, I should like to make no boast of talent or show or merit.

Tzu-lu said, We should like to hear your wishes, Sir.

The Master said, To give the old folk peace, to be true to friends, and to have a heart for the young.

26. The Master said, It is finished! I have met no one that can see his own faults and arraign himself within.

27. The Master said, In a hamlet of ten houses there must be men that are as faithful and true men as I, but they do not love learning as I do.


[38] A disciple born in Lu.

[39] The disciple Chung-kung.

[40] Tzu-lu.

[41] The disciple Jan Yu.

[42] The disciple Kung-hsi Hua.

[43] The disciple Yen Yüan.

[44] The disciple Tsai Wo.

[45] Ning Wu was minister of the Duke of Wei in the middle of the seventh century b.c. The duke was driven from his throne and deserted by the wise and prudent; but Ning Wu, in his simplicity, stuck to his master and finally effected his restoration.

[46] Po-yi and Shu-ch'i were sons of the King of Ku-chu. Their father left the throne to the younger of the two; but he would not supplant the elder, nor would the elder go against his father's wishes. So they both retired into obscurity. When King Wu overthrew the tyrant Chou (1122 b.c.), they starved to death, rather than live under a new dynasty. Of Po-yi Mencius tells us (Book X, chapter 1): 'His eyes would not look on an evil face, his ears would not listen to an evil sound. He served none but his own lord, he ruled none but his own people. He came in when there was order, and withdrew when tumults came. Where lawless rule showed, or lawless people stayed, he could not bear to dwell. To be together with country folk he thought like sitting in court dress and court cap on dust and ashes. In Chou's time he dwelt by the North Sea shore, waiting for all below heaven to grow clean. So, hearing the ways of Po-yi, the fool grows honest, and the weakling's purpose stands.'

[47] Tzu-lu.


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

© 2022