The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

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Chapter XI - Giving Way to Grief

1. The Master said, Savages! the men that first went into courtesy and music! Gentlemen! those that went into them later! My use is to follow the first lead in both.

2. The Master said, Not one of my followers in Ch'en or Ts'ai comes any more to my door! Yen Yüan, Min Tzu-ch'ien, Jan Po-niu and Chung-kung were men of noble life; Tsai Wo and Tzu-kung were the talkers; Jan Yu and Chi-lu were statesmen; Tzu-yu and Tzu-hsia, men of arts and learning.

3. The Master said, I get no help from Hui.[89] No word I say but delights him!

4. The Master said, How good a son is Min Tzu-ch'ien! No one finds fault with anything that his father, or his mother, or his brethren say of him.

5. Nan Jung would thrice repeat The Sceptre White.[90] Confucius gave him his brother's daughter for wife.

6. Chi K'ang asked which disciples loved learning. Confucius answered, There was Yen Hui[91] loved learning. Alas! his mission was short, he died. Now there is no one.


7. When Yen Yüan died, Yen Lu[92] asked for the Master's carriage to furnish an outer coffin.

The Master said, Brains or no brains, each of us speaks of his son. When Li[93] died he had an inner but not an outer coffin: I would not go on foot to furnish an outer coffin. As I follow in the wake of the ministers I cannot go on foot.

8. When Yen Yüan died the Master said, Woe is me! Heaven has undone me! Heaven has undone me!

9. When Yen Yüan died the Master gave way to grief.

His followers said, Sir, ye are giving way.

The Master said, Am I giving way? If I did not give way for this man, for whom should I give way to grief?

10. When Yen Yüan died the disciples wished to bury him in pomp.

The Master said, This must not be.

The disciples buried him in pomp.

The Master said, Hui treated me as his father. I have failed to treat him as a son. No, not I; but ye, my two-three boys.

11. Chi-lu[94] asked what is due to the ghosts of the dead?

The Master said, When we cannot do our duty to the living, how can we do it to the dead?

He dared to ask about death.

We know not life, said the Master, how can we know death?


12. Seeing the disciple Min standing at his side with winning looks, Tzu-lu with warlike front, Jan Yu and Tzu-kung frank and free, the Master's heart was glad.

A man like Yu,[95] he said, dies before his day.

13. The men of Lu were building the Long Treasury.

Min Tzu-ch'ien said, Would not the old one do? Why must it be rebuilt?

The Master said, That man does not talk, but when he speaks he hits the mark.

14. The Master said, What has the lute of Yu[96] to do, twanging at my door?

But when the disciples looked down on Tzu-lu, the Master said, Yu has come up into hall, but he has not yet entered the inner rooms.

15. Tzu-kung asked, Which is the better, Shih[97] or Shang[98]?

The Master said, Shih goes too far, Shang not far enough.

Then is Shih the better? said Tzu-kung.

Too far, said the Master, is no nearer than not far enough.

16. The Chi was richer than the Duke of Chou; yet Ch'iu[99] became his tax-gatherer and made him still richer.


He is no disciple of mine, said the Master. My little children, ye may beat your drums and make war on him.

17. Ch'ai[100] is simple, Shen[101] is dull, Shih[102] is smooth, Yu[103] is coarse.

18. The Master said, Hui[104] is almost faultless, and he is often empty. Tz'u[105] will not bow to the Bidding, and he heaps up riches; but his views are often sound.

19. Tzu-chang asked, What is the way of a good man?

The Master said, He does not tread the beaten track; and yet he does not enter the inner rooms.

20. The Master said, Commend a man for plain speaking: he may prove a gentleman, or else but seeming honest.

21. Tzu-lu said, Shall I do all I am taught?

The Master said, Whilst thy father and elder brothers live, how canst thou do all thou art taught?

Jan Yu asked, Shall I do all I am taught?

The Master said, Do all thou art taught.

Kung-hsi Hua said, Yu[106] asked, Shall I do all I am taught? and ye said, Sir, Whilst thy father and elder brothers live. Ch'iu[107] asked, Shall I do all I am taught? and ye said, Sir, Do all thou art taught. I am in doubt, and dare to ask you, Sir.


The Master said, Ch'iu is bashful, so I egged him on; Yu is twice a man, so I held him back.

22. When the Master was in fear in K'uang, Yen Yüan fell behind.

The Master said, I held thee for dead.

He answered, Whilst my Master lives how should I dare to die?

23. Chi Tzu-jan[108] asked whether Chung Yu[109] or Jan Ch'iu[110] could be called a great minister.

The Master said, I thought ye would ask me a riddle, Sir, and ye ask about Yu[109] and Ch'iu.[110] He that holds to the Way in serving his lord and leaves when he cannot do so, we call a great minister. Now Yu and Ch'iu I should call tools.

Who are just followers then?

Nor would they follow, said the Master, if told to kill their lord or father.

24. Tzu-lu made Tzu-kao governor of Pi.

The Master said, Thou art undoing a man's son.

Tzu-lu said, What with the people and the spirits of earth and corn, must a man read books to become learned?

The Master said, This is why I hate a glib tongue.

25. The Master said to Tzu-lu, Tseng Hsi,[111] Jan Yu and Kung-hsi Hua as they sat beside him, I may be a day older than you, but forget that. Ye are wont to say, I am unknown. Well, if ye were known, what would ye do?


Tzu-lu answered lightly. Give me a land of a thousand chariots, crushed between great neighbours, overrun by soldiers and searched by famine, and within three years I could put courage into it and high purpose.

The Master smiled.

What wouldst thou do, Ch'iu[112]? he said.

He answered, Give me a land of sixty or seventy, or fifty or sixty square miles, and within three years I could give the people plenty. As for courtesy and music, they would wait the coming of a gentleman.

And what wouldst thou do, Ch'ih[113]?

He answered, I do not speak of what I can do, but of what I should like to learn. At services in the Ancestral Temple, or at the Grand Audience, I should like to fill a small part.

And what wouldst thou do, Tien[114]?

Tien stopped playing, pushed his still sounding lute aside, rose and answered, My choice would be unlike those of the other three.

What harm in that? said the Master. Each but spake his mind.

In the last days of spring, all clad for the springtime, with five or six young men and six or seven lads, I would bathe in the Yi, be fanned by the wind in the Rain God's glade, and go back home singing.

The Master said with a sigh, I side with Tien.

Tseng Hsi stayed after the other three had left, and said, What did ye think, Sir, of what the three disciples said?


Each but spake his mind, said the Master.

Why did ye smile at Yu,[115] Sir?

Lands are swayed by courtesy, but what he said was not modest. That was why I smiled. Yet did not Ch'iu speak of a state? Where would sixty or seventy, or fifty or sixty, square miles be found that are not a state? And did not Ch'ih too speak of a state? Who but great vassals are there in the Ancestral Temple, or at the Grand Audience? But if Ch'ih were to take a small part, who could fill a big one?


[89] Yen Yüan.

[90] The verse runs—

A flaw can be ground From a sceptre white; A slip of the tongue No man can right. [91] Yen Yüan.

[92] The father of Yen Yüan.

[93] The Master's son.

[94] Tzu-lu.

[95] Tzu-lu. This prophecy came true. Tzu-lu and Tzu-kao were officers of Wei when troubles arose. Tzu-lu hastened to the help of his master. He met Tzu-kao withdrawing from the danger, and was advised to do the same. But Tzu-lu would not desert the man whose pay he drew. He plunged into the fight and was killed.

[96] Tzu-lu.

[97] The disciple Tzu-chang.

[98] The disciple Tzu-hsia.

[99] The disciple Jan Yu.

[100] The disciple Kao Ch'ai

[101] The disciple Tseng-tzu.

[102] The disciple Tzu-chang.

[103] The disciple Tzu-lu.

[104] The disciple Yen Yüan.

[105] The disciple Tzu-kung.

[106] Tzu-lu.

[107] Jan Yu.

[108] The younger brother of Chi Huan, the head of the Chi clan.

[109] Tzu-lu. He and Jan Yu had taken office under the Chi.

[110] Jan Yu.

[111] A disciple: the father of Tseng-tzu.

[112] Jan Yu.

[113] Kung-hsi Hua.

[114] Tseng Hsi.

[115] Tzu-lu.


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