The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

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Chapter XV - What Is The Line of Battle?

1. Ling, Duke of Wei, asked Confucius about the line of battle.

Confucius answered. Of the ritual of dish and platter[136] I have heard somewhat: I have not learnt warfare.

He left the next day.

In Ch'en grain ran out. His followers were too ill to rise. Tzu-lu showed that he was put out.

Has a gentleman to face want too? he said.

Gentlemen have indeed to face want, said the Master. The small man, when he is in want, runs to excess.

2. The Master said, Tz'u,[137] dost thou not take me for a man that has learnt much and thought it over?

Yes, he answered: is it not so?

No, said the Master. I string all into one.

3. The Master said, Yu,[138] how few men know great-heartedness!

4. The Master said, To rule doing nothing, was what Shun did. For what is there to do? Self-respect and to set the face to rule, is all.

5. Tzu-chang asked how to get on.

The Master said, Be faithful and true of word, plain and lowly in thy walk; thou wilt get on even in tribal lands. If thy words be not faithful and [76]true, thy walk not plain and lowly, wilt thou get on even in thine own town? Standing, see these words ranged before thee; driving, see them written upon the yoke. Then thou wilt get on.

Tzu-chang wrote them on his girdle.

6. The Master said, Straight indeed was the historian Yü! Like an arrow whilst the land kept the Way; and like an arrow when it lost the Way! What a gentleman was Ch'ü Po-yü! Whilst the land kept the Way he took office, and when the land had lost the Way he rolled himself up in thought.

7. The Master said, Not to speak to him that has ears to hear is to spill the man. To speak to a man without ears to hear is to spill thy words. Wisdom spills neither man nor words.

8. The Master said, A high will, or a loving heart, will not seek life at cost of love. To fulfil love they will kill the body.

9. Tzu-kung asked how to attain to love.

The Master said, A workman bent on good work must first sharpen his tools. In the land that is thy home, serve those that are worthy among the great and make friends with loving knights.

10. Yen Yüan asked how to rule a kingdom.

The Master said, Follow the Hsia seasons, drive in the chariot of Yin, wear the head-dress of Chou, take for music the Shao and its dance. Banish the strains of Cheng and flee men that are glib; for the strains of Cheng are wanton and glib speakers are dangerous.[77]

11. The Master said. Without thought for far off things, there shall be trouble near at hand.

12. The Master said, All is ended! I have seen no one that loves mind as he loves looks!

13. The Master said, Did not Tsang Wen filch his post? He knew the worth of Liu-hsia Hui,[139] and did not stand by him.

14. The Master said, By asking much of self and little of other men ill feeling is banished.

15. The Master said, Unless a man say, Would this do? Would that do? I can do nothing for him.

16. The Master said, When all day long there is no talk of right, and little wiles find favour, the company is in hard case.

17. The Master said, Right is the stuff of which a gentleman is made. Done with courtesy, spoken with humility, rounded with truth, right makes a gentleman.

18. The Master said, His shortcomings trouble a gentleman; to be unknown does not trouble him.

19. The Master said, A gentleman fears that his name shall be no more heard when life is done.


20. The Master said, A gentleman asks of himself, the small man asks of others.

21. The Master said, A gentleman is firm, not quarrelsome; a friend, not a partisan.

22. The Master said, A gentleman does not raise a man for his words, nor spurn the speech for the man.

23. Tzu-kung said, Is there one word by which we may walk till life ends?

The Master said, Fellow-feeling, perhaps. Do not do unto others what thou wouldst not have done to thee.

24. The Master said, Of the men that I meet, whom do I cry down, whom do I overpraise? Or, if I overpraise them, it is after testing them. It was owing to this people that the three lines of kings went the straight way.

25. The Master said, I have still known historians that would leave a gap in their text, and men that would lend a horse to another to ride. Now it is so no more.

26. The Master said, Cunning words confound the mind; petty impatience confounds great projects.

27. The Master said, The hatred of the many must be looked into; the love of the many must be looked into.

28. The Master said, The man can exalt the Way: it is not the Way that exalts the man.

29. The Master said, The fault is to cleave to a fault.

30. The Master said, I have spent whole days[79] without food and whole nights without sleep, thinking, and gained nothing by it. Learning is better.

31. The Master said, A gentleman thinks of the Way; he does not think of food. Sow, and famine may follow; learn, and pay may come; but a gentleman grieves for the Way; to be poor does not grieve him.

32. The Master said, What wisdom has got will be lost again, unless love hold it fast. Wisdom to get and love to hold fast, without dignity of bearing, will not be honoured among men. Wisdom to get, love to hold fast and dignity of bearing, without courteous ways are not enough.

33. The Master said, A gentleman has no small knowledge, but he can carry out big things: the small man can carry out nothing big, but he may be knowing in small things.

34. The Master said, Love is more to the people than fire and water. I have seen men come to their death by fire and water: I have seen no man that love brought to his death.

35. The Master said, When love is at stake yield not to an army.

36. The Master said, A gentleman is consistent, not changeless.

37. The Master said, A servant of the king honours his work, and puts food after it.

38. The Master said, Learning knows no rank.

39. The Master said, Mingle not in projects with a man whose way is not thine.[80]

40. The Master said, The whole end of speech is to be understood.

41. When he saw the music-master Mien, the Master said, as they came to the steps, Here are the steps. On coming to the mat, he said, Here is the mat. When all were seated, the Master told him, He and he are here.

After the music-master had gone, Tzu-chang said, Is this the way to speak to a music-master?

The Master said, Surely it is the way to help a music-master.[140]


[136] For sacrifice.

[137] Tzu-kung.

[138] Tzu-lu: probably said to him on the occasion mentioned in § I.

[139] Another of these seigneurs du temps jadis that is more to us than a dim shadow, for he still lives in the pages of Mencius, who tells us that, He was not ashamed of a foul lord, and did not refuse a small post. On coming in he did not hide his worth, but held his own way. Neglected and idle, he did not grumble; straitened and poor, he did not mope. When brought together with country folk he was quite at his ease and could not bear to leave them. Thou art thou, he said, and I am I: standing beside me with thy coat off, or thy body naked, how canst thou defile me? (Book X, chapter 1). He stopped if a hand was raised to stop him, for he did not care whether he went or no (Book III, chapter 9).

[140] The man being blind, as so many musicians are in the East.


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