The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

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Book VII - Make The Most of One's Mind

1. The Master said, A teller and not a maker, one that trusts and loves the past; I might liken myself to our old P'eng.[64]

2. The Master said, To think things over in silence, to learn and be always hungry, to teach and never weary; is any of these mine?

3. The Master said, Not making the most of my mind, want of thoroughness in learning, failure to do the right when told it, lack of strength to overcome faults; these are my sorrows.

4. In his free moments the Master was easy and cheerful.

5. The Master said, How deep is my decay! It is long since I saw the Duke of Chou[65] in a dream.

6. The Master said, Keep thy will on the Way, lean on mind, rest in love, move in art.

7. The Master said, From the man that paid in dried meat upwards, I have withheld teaching from no one.

8. The Master said, Only to those fumbling do I open, only for those stammering do I find the word.


If I lift one corner and the other three are left unturned, I say no more.

9. When eating beside a mourner the Master never ate his fill. On days when he had been wailing, he did not sing.

10. The Master said to Yen Yüan, To go forward when in office and lie quiet when not; only I and thou can do that.

Tzu-lu said, If ye had to lead three armies, Sir, whom would ye have with you?

No man, said the Master, that would face a tiger bare-fisted, or plunge into a river and die without a qualm; but one, indeed, who, fearing what may come, lays his plans well and carries them through.

11. The Master said, If shouldering a whip were a sure road to riches I should turn carter; but since there is no sure road, I tread the path I love.

12. The Master gave heed to abstinence, war and sickness.

13. When he was in Ch'i, for three months after hearing the Shao played, the Master knew not the taste of flesh.

I did not suppose, he said, that music could reach such heights.

14. Jan Yu said, Is the Master for the lord of Wei?[66]

I shall ask him, said Tzu-kung.


He went in, and said, What kind of men were Po-yi[67] and Shu-ch'i?

Worthy men of yore, said the Master.

Did they rue the past?

They sought love and found it; what had they to rue?

Tzu-kung went out, and said, The Master is not for him.

15. The Master said, Eating coarse rice and drinking water, with bent arm for pillow, we may be merry; but ill-gotten wealth and honours are to me a wandering cloud.

16. The Master said, Given a few more years, making fifty for learning the Yi,[68] I might be freed from gross faults.

17. The Master liked to talk of poetry, history, and the upkeep of courtesy. Of all these he liked to talk.

18. The Duke of She asked Tzu-lu about Confucius.

Tzu-lu did not answer.

The Master said, Why didst thou not say, He is a man that forgets to eat in his eagerness, whose sorrows are forgotten in gladness, who knows not that age draws near?

19. The Master said, I was not born to wisdom: I loved the past, and sought it earnestly there.

20. The Master never talked of goblins, strength, disorder, or spirits.

21. The Master said, Walking three together I am [30]sure of teachers. I pick out the good and follow it; I see the bad and shun it.

22. The Master said, Heaven begat the mind in me; what can Huan T'ui[69] do to me?

23. The Master said, My two-three boys, do ye think I hide things? I hide nothing from you. I am a man that keeps none of his doings from his two-three boys.

24. The Master taught four things: art, conduct, faithfulness and truth.

25. The Master said, A holy man I shall not live to see; enough could I find a gentleman! A good man I shall not live to see; enough could I find a steadfast one! But when nothing poses as something, cloud as substance and want as riches, it is hard indeed to be steadfast!

26. The Master angled, but he did not fish with a net; he shot, but not at birds sitting.

27. The Master said, There may be men that do things without knowing why. I do not. To hear much, pick out the good and follow it; to see much and think it over; this comes next to wisdom.

28. To talk to the Hu village was hard. When a lad was seen by the Master, the disciples doubted.

The Master said, I allow his coming, not what he does later. Why be so harsh? If a man cleans himself to come in, I admit his cleanness, but do not warrant his past.


29. The Master said, Is love so far a thing? I long for love, and lo! love is come.

30. A judge of Ch'en asked whether Duke Chao[70] knew good form.

Confucius answered, He knew good form.

After Confucius had left, the judge beckoned Wu-ma Ch'i[71] to him, and said, I had heard that gentlemen are of no party, but do they, too, take sides? This lord married a Wu, whose name was the same as his, and called her Miss Tzu of Wu: if he knew good form, who does not know good form?

When Wu-ma Ch'i told the Master this he said, How lucky I am! If I go wrong, men are sure to know it!

31. When anyone sang to the Master, and sang well, he made him sing it again and joined in.

32. The Master said, I have no more reading than others; to live as a gentleman is not yet mine.

33. The Master said, How dare I lay claim to holiness or love? A man of endless craving, who never tires of teaching, I might be called, but that is all.

That is just what we disciples cannot learn, said Kung-hsi Hua.

34. When the Master was very ill, Tzu-lu asked leave to pray.

Is it done? said the Master.


It is, answered Tzu-lu. The Memorials say, Pray to the spirits above and to the Earth below.

The Master said, Long-lasting has my prayer been.

35. The Master said, Waste makes men unruly, thrift makes them mean; but they are better mean than unruly.

36. The Master said, A gentleman is calm and spacious; the small man is always fretting.

37. The Master's manner was warm yet dignified. He was stern, but not fierce; humble, yet easy.


[64] We should be glad to know more of old P'eng, but nothing is known of him.

[65] Died 1105 b.c. He was the younger brother of King Wu, the founder of the Chou dynasty, as great in peace as the King in war. He was so bent on carrying out the old principles of government that 'if anything did not tally with them, he looked up and thought, till day passed into night, and if by luck he found the answer he sat and waited for the dawn' (Mencius, Book VIII, chapter 20).

[66] The grandson of Duke Ling, the husband of Nan-tzu. His father had been driven from the country for plotting to kill Nan-tzu. When Duke Ling died, he was succeeded by his grandson, who opposed by force his father's attempts to seize the throne.

[67] See Book V, § 22.

[68] An abstruse, ancient classic, usually called the Book of Changes.

[69] In 495 b.c., during Confucius's wanderings, Huan T'ui sent a band of men to kill him; but why he did so is not known.

[70] Duke Chao of Lu (+ 510 b.c.) was the duke that first employed Confucius. It is against Chinese custom for a man to marry a girl whose surname is the same as his.

[71] A disciple of Confucius.


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