The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

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Chapter XIX - Choosing The Way

1. Tzu-chang said, The knight that stakes his life when he sees danger, who in sight of gain thinks of right, and whose thoughts are reverent at worship, and sad when he is in mourning, will do.

2. Tzu-hsia said, Goodness, clutched too narrowly; a belief in the Way which is not honest; can they be said to be, or said not to be?

3. The disciples of Tzu-hsia asked Tzu-chang whom we should choose as our companions.

Tzu-chang said. What does Tzu-hsia say?

They answered, Tzu-hsia says, If the men be well for thee, go with them; if they be not well, push them off.

Tzu-chang said. This is not the same as what I had heard. A gentleman honours worth and bears with the many. He applauds goodness and pities weakness. If I were a man of great worth, what could I not bear with in others? If I am without worth, men will push me off: why should I push other men off?

4. Tzu-hsia said, Though there must be things worth seeing along small ways, a gentleman does not follow them, for fear of being left at last in the mire.

5. Tzu-hsia said, He that each day remembers his failings and each month forgets nothing won may be said to love learning indeed![97]

6. Tzu-hsia said, By wide learning and singleness of will, by keen questions and home thinking we reach love.

7. Tzu-hsia said, To master the hundred trades, apprentices work in a shop; by learning, a gentleman finds his way.

8. Tzu-hsia said, The small man must always gloss his faults.

9. Tzu-hsia said, A gentleman changes thrice. Looking up to him he seems stern; as we draw near, he warms; but his speech, when we hear it, is sharp.

10. Tzu-hsia said, Until they trust him, a gentleman lays no burdens on his people. If they do not trust him, they will think it cruel. Until they trust him, he does not chide them. Unless they trust him, it will seem fault-finding.

11. Tzu-hsia said, If we keep within the bounds of honour, we can step to and fro through propriety.

12. Tzu-yu said, The disciples, the little sons of Tzu-hsia, can sprinkle and sweep, attend and answer, come in and go out; but what can come of twigs without roots?

When Tzu-hsia heard this, he said, Yen Yu[173] is wrong. If we teach one thing in the way of a gentleman first, shall we tire before reaching the next? Thus plants and trees differ in size. Should the way of a gentleman bewilder him? To learn it, first and last, none but the holy are fit.

13. Tzu-hsia said, A servant of the crown should [98]give his spare strength to learning. With his spare strength a scholar should serve the crown.

14. Tzu-yu said, Mourning should stretch to grief, and stop there.

15. Tzu-yu said, Our friend Chang[174] can do hard things, but love is not yet his.

16. Tseng-tzu said, Chang is so spacious, so lordly, that at his side it is hard to do what love bids.

17. Tseng-tzu said, I have heard the Master say, Man never shows what is in him unless it be in mourning those dear to him.

18. Tseng-tzu said, I have heard the Master say, In all else we may be as good a son as Meng Chuang, but in not changing his father's ministers, or his father's rule, he is hard to match.

19. The Meng[175] made Yang Fu[176] Chief Knight,[177] who spake to Tseng-tzu about it.

Tseng-tzu said, Those above have lost their way, the people have long been astray. When thou dost get at the truth, be moved to pity, not puffed with joy.

20. Tzu-kung said, Chou[178] was not so very wicked! Thus a gentleman hates to live in a hollow, down into which runs all that is foul below heaven.

21. Tzu-kung said, A gentleman's faults are like the eating of sun or moon.[179] All men see them, and when he mends all men look up to him.


22. Kung-sun Ch'ao of Wei asked Tzu-kung, From whom did Chung-ni[180] learn?

Tzu-kung said, The Way of Wen and Wu[181] has not fallen into ruin. It lives in men: the big in big men, the small in small men. In none of them is the Way of Wen and Wu missing. How should the Master not learn it? What need had he for a set teacher?

23. In talk with the great men of the court Shu-sun Wu-shu[182] said, Tzu-kung is worthier than Chung-ni.

Tzu-fu Ching-po told this to Tzu-kung.

Tzu-kung said, This is like the palace wall. My wall reaches to the shoulder: peeping over you see the good home within. The Master's wall is several fathoms high: no one can see the beauty of the Ancestral Temple and the wealth of its hundred officers, unless he gets in by the gate. And if only a few men find the gate, may not my lord have spoken the truth?

24. Shu-sun Wu-shu cried down Chung-ni.

Tzu-kung said, It is labour lost. Chung-ni cannot be cried down. The greatness of other men is a hummock, over which we can still leap. Chung-ni is the sun or moon, which no one can overleap. Though the man were willing to kill himself, how could he hurt the sun or moon? That he does not know his own measure would only be seen the better!

25. Ch'en Tzu-ch'in[183] said to Tzu-kung, Ye humble yourself, Sir. In what is Chung-ni your better?


Tzu-kung said, By one word a gentleman shows wisdom, by one word want of wisdom. Words must not be lightly spoken. No one can come up to the Master, as heaven is not to be climbed by steps. If the Master had power in a kingdom, or a clan, the saying would come true, 'What he sets up stands; he shows the way and men go it, he brings peace and they come, he stirs them and they are at one. Honoured in life, he is mourned when dead!' Who can come up to him?


[173] Tzu-yu.

[174] Tzu-chang.

[175] The chief of the Meng clan, powerful in Lu.

[176] A disciple of Tseng-tzu.

[177] Or criminal judge.

[178] The tyrant that ended the Yin dynasty.

[179] An eclipse.

[180] Confucius.

[181] See Introduction.

[182] Head of the Meng clan.

[183] A disciple of Tzu-kung.


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