The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

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Chapter XII - What Is Love?

1. Yen Yüan asked, What is love?

The Master said, Love is to conquer self and turn to courtesy. If we could conquer self and turn to courtesy for one day, all below heaven would turn to love. Does love flow from within, or does it flow from others?

Yen Yüan said, May I ask what are its signs?

The Master said, To be always courteous of eye and courteous of ear; to be always courteous in word and courteous in deed.

Yen Yüan said, Though I am not clever, I hope to live by these words.

2. Chung-kung asked, What is love?

The Master said, Without the door to behave as though a great guest were come; to treat the people as though we tendered the great sacrifice; not to do unto others what we would not they should do unto us; to breed no wrongs in the state and breed no wrongs in the home.

Chung-kung said, Though I am not clever, I hope to live by these words.

3. Ssu-ma Niu[116] asked, What is love?

The Master said, Love is slow to speak.

To be slow to speak! Can that be called love?

The Master said, Can that which is hard to do be lightly spoken?


4. Ssu-ma Niu asked, What is a gentleman?

The Master said, A gentleman knows neither sorrow nor fear.

No sorrow and no fear! Can that be called a gentleman?

The Master said. He searches his heart: it is blameless; so why should he sorrow, what should he fear?

5. Ssu-ma Niu cried sadly, All men have brothers, I alone have none!

Tzu-hsia said, I have heard that life and death are allotted, that wealth and honours are in Heaven's hand. A gentleman is careful and does not trip; he is humble towards others and courteous. All within the four seas are brethren; how can a gentleman lament that he has none?

6. Tzu-chang asked, What is insight?

The Master said, Not to be moved by lap and wash of slander, or by plaints that pierce to the quick, may be called insight. Yea, whom lap and wash of slander, or plaints that pierce to the quick cannot move may be called far-sighted.

7. Tzu-kung asked, What is kingcraft?

The Master said, Food enough, troops enough, and the trust of the people.

Tzu-kung said, If it had to be done, which could best be spared of the three?

Troops, said the Master.

And if we had to, which could better be spared of the other two?[56]

Food, said the Master. From of old all men die, but without trust a people cannot stand.

8. Chi Tzu-ch'eng[117] said, It is the stuff alone that makes a gentleman; what can art do for him?

Alas! my lord, said Tzu-kung, how ye speak of a gentleman! No team overtakes the tongue! The art is no less than the stuff, the stuff is no less than the art. Without the fur, a tiger or a leopard's hide is no better than the hide of a dog or a goat.

9. Duke Ai said to Yu Jo,[118] In this year of dearth I have not enough for my wants; what should be done?

Ye might tithe the people, answered Yu Jo.

A fifth is not enough, said the Duke, how could I do with a tenth?

When all his folk have enough, answered Yu Jo, shall the lord alone not have enough? When none of his folk have enough, shall the lord alone have enough?

10. Tzu-chang asked how to raise the mind and scatter delusions.

The Master said, Put faithfulness and truth first, and follow the right; the mind will be raised. We wish life to what we love and death to what we hate. To wish it both life and death is a delusion.

Whether prompted by wealth, or not, Yet ye made a distinction. [57]

11. Ching,[119] Duke of Ch'i, asked Confucius, What is kingcraft?

Confucius answered. For the lord to be lord and the liege, liege, the father to be father and the son, son.

True indeed! said the Duke. If the lord were no lord and the liege no liege, the father no father and the son no son, though the grain were there, could I get anything to eat?

12. The Master said, To stint a quarrel with half a word Yu[120] is the man.

Tzu-lu never slept over a promise.

13. The Master said, At hearing lawsuits I am no better than others. What is needed is to stop lawsuits.

14. Tzu-chang asked, What is kingcraft?

The Master said, To be tireless of thought and faithful in doing.

15. The Master said, Breadth of reading and the ties of courtesy will keep us, too, from false paths.

16. The Master said, A gentleman shapes the good in man, he does not shape the bad in him. The small man does the contrary.

17. Chi K'ang[121] asked Confucius how to rule.

Confucius answered, To rule is to set straight. If ye give a straight lead, Sir, who will dare not go straight?


18. Chi K'ang being troubled by robbers asked Confucius about it.

Confucius answered, If ye did not wish it, Sir, though ye rewarded him no man would steal.

19. Chi K'ang, speaking of kingcraft to Confucius, said, To help those that follow the Way, should we kill the men that will not?

Confucius answered, Sir, what need has a ruler to kill? If ye wished for goodness, Sir, the people would be good. The gentleman's mind is the wind, and grass are the minds of small men: as the wind blows, so must the grass bend.

20. Tzu-chang asked, What must a knight be, for him to be called eminent?

The Master said, What dost thou mean by eminence?

Tzu-chang answered, To be famous in the state and famous in his home.

That is fame, not eminence, said the Master. The eminent man is plain and straight, and loves right. He weighs words and scans looks; he takes pains to come down to men. And he shall be eminent in the state and eminent in his house. The famous man wears a mask of love, but his deeds belie it. Self-confident and free from doubts, fame will be his in the state and fame be his in his home.

21. Whilst walking with the Master in the Rain God's glade Fan Ch'ih said to him, May I ask how to raise the mind, amend evil and scatter errors?

Well asked! said the Master. Rank thy work[59] above success, will not the mind be raised? Fight the bad in thee, not the bad in other men, will not evil be mended? One angry morning to forget both self and kin, is that no error?

22. Fan Ch'ih asked, What is love?

The Master said, To love men.

He asked, What is wisdom?

The Master said, To know men.

Fan Ch'ih did not understand.

The Master said, Lift up the straight, put by the crooked, and crooked men will grow straight.

Fan Ch'ih withdrew, and seeing Tzu-hsia, said to him, The Master saw me and I asked him what wisdom is. He answered, Lift up the straight, put by the crooked, and crooked men will grow straight. What did he mean?

How rich a saying! said Tzu-hsia. When Shun[122] had all below heaven he chose Kao-yao from the many, lifted him up, and the men without love fled. When T'ang[123] had all below heaven, he chose Yi-yin[124] [60]from the many, lifted him up, and the men without love fled.

23. Tzu-kung asked about friends.

The Master said, Talk faithfully to them, and guide them well. If this is no good, stop. Do not bring shame upon thee.

24. Tseng-tzu said, A gentleman gathers friends by culture, and stays love with friendship.


[116] A disciple.

[117] Minister of Wei.

[118] A disciple of Confucius.

[119] Confucius was in Ch'i in 517 b.c. The duke was over-shadowed by his ministers and thought of setting aside his eldest son.

[120] Tzu-lu.

[121] On the death of Chi Huan, his brother Chi K'ang set aside Chi Huan's small son and made himself head of the clan.

[122] An emperor of the golden age.

[123] The founder of the Shang, or Yin, dynasty.

[124] T'ang's chief minister. Yi-yin said, Whomsoever I serve, is he not my lord? Whomsoever I rule, are they not my people? He came in when there was order, and came in too when there were tumults. He said, When Heaven begat the people, the man that first understood was sent to waken those slow to understand, and the man that first woke was sent to waken those slow to wake. I am he that woke first among Heaven's people. With the help of the Way, I shall wake the people! For man or wife, of all the people below heaven, to have missed the blessings of Yao and Shun was the same, he thought, as if he himself had pushed him into the ditch. The burden he shouldered was the weight of all below heaven. (Mencius, Book X, chapter 1.)


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