The Sayings of Confucius

by Confucius

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Chapter XVI - Making War

1. The Chi was about to make war on Chuan-yü.[141]

When Confucius saw Jan Yu and Chi-lu,[142] they said to him, The Chi is going to deal with Chuan-yü.

Confucius said, After all, Ch'iu,[143] art thou not in the wrong? The kings of old made Chuan-yü lord of Tung Meng.[144] Moreover, as Chuan-yü is inside our borders it is the liege of the spirits of earth and corn of our land; so how can ye make war upon it?

Jan Yu said, Our master wishes it. Tzu-lu and I, his two ministers, do not, either of us, wish it.

Confucius said, Ch'iu, Chou Jen used to say, 'He that can put forth his strength takes his place in the line; he that cannot stands back.' Who would take to help him a man that is no stay in danger and no support in falling? Moreover, what thou sayest is wrong. If a tiger or a buffalo escapes from his pen, if tortoiseshell or jade is broken in its case, who is to blame?

Jan Yu said, But Chuan-yü is now strong, and it is near to Pi[145]; if it is not taken now, in days [82]to come it will bring sorrow on our sons and grandsons.

Ch'iu, said Confucius, instead of saying 'I want it,' a gentleman hates to plead that he needs must. I have heard that fewness of men does not vex a king or a chief, but unlikeness of lot vexes him. Poverty does not vex him, but want of peace vexes him. For if wealth were even, no one would be poor. In harmony is number; peace prevents a fall. Thus, if far off tribes will not submit, bring them in by encouraging mind and art, and when they come in give them peace. But now, when far off tribes will not submit, ye two, helpers of your lord, cannot bring them in. The kingdom is split and falling, and ye cannot save it. Yet inside our land ye plot to move spear and shield! The sorrows of Chi's grandsons will not rise in Chuan-yü, I fear: they will rise within the palace wall.

2. Confucius said, When the Way is kept below heaven, courtesy, music and punitive wars flow from the Son of heaven. When the Way is lost below heaven, courtesy, music and punitive wars flow from the great vassals. When they flow from the great vassals they will rarely last for ten generations. When they flow from the great ministers they will rarely last for five generations. When underlings sway the country's fate they will rarely last for three generations. When the Way is kept below heaven power does not lie with the great ministers. When the Way is kept below heaven common folk do not argue.[83]

3. Confucius said, For five generations its income has passed from the ducal house;[146] for four generations power has lain with the great ministers: and humbled, therefore, are the sons and grandsons of the three Huan.

4. Confucius said, There are three friends that help us, and three that do us harm. The friends that help us are a straight friend, an outspoken friend, and a friend that has heard much. The friends that harm us are plausible friends, friends that like to flatter, and friends with a glib tongue.

5. Confucius said, There are three delights that do good, and three that do us harm. Those that do good are delight in dissecting good form and music, delight in speaking of the good in men, and delight in having many worthy friends. Those that do harm are proud delights, delight in idle roving, and delight in the joys of the feast.

6. Confucius said. Men that wait upon lords fall into three mistakes. To speak before the time has come is rashness. Not to speak when the time has come is secrecy. To speak heedless of looks is blindness.

7. Confucius said, A gentleman has three things to guard against.

In the days of thy youth, ere thy strength is steady, beware of lust. When manhood is reached, in the fulness of strength, beware of strife. In old age, when thy strength is broken, beware of greed.

8. Confucius said, A gentleman holds three things [84]in awe. He is in awe of the Bidding of Heaven; he is in awe of great men; and he is awed by the words of the holy.

The small man knows not the Bidding of Heaven, and holds it not in awe. He is saucy towards the great; he makes game of holy men's words.

9. Confucius said, The best men are born wise. Next come those that grow wise by learning; then those that learn from toil. Those that do not learn from toil are the lowest of the people.

10. Confucius said, A gentleman has nine aims. To see clearly; to understand what he hears; to be warm in manner, dignified in bearing, faithful of speech, keen at work; to ask when in doubt; in anger to think of difficulties; and in sight of gain to think of right.

11. Confucius said, In sight of good to be filled with longing; to look on evil as scalding to the touch: I have seen such men, I have heard such words.

To live apart and search thy will; to achieve thy Way, by doing right: I have heard these words, but I have seen no such men.

12. Ching, Duke of Ch'i, had a thousand teams of horses; but the people, on his death day, found no good in him to praise. Po-yi[147] and Shu-ch'i[148] starved at the foot of Shou-yang, and to this day the people still praise them.

Is not this the clue to that?


13. Ch'en K'ang[149] asked Po-yü,[150] Apart from us, have ye heard anything, Sir?

He answered, No: once as my father stood alone and I sped across the hall, he said to me, Art thou learning poetry? I answered, No. He that does not learn poetry, he said, has no hold on words. I withdrew and learned poetry.

Another day, when he again stood alone and I sped across the hall, he said to me, Art thou learning courtesy? I answered, No. He that does not learn courtesy, he said, has no foothold. I withdrew and learned courtesy. These two things I have heard.

Ch'en K'ang withdrew, and cried gladly, I asked one thing, and I get three! I hear of poetry; I hear of courtesy; and I hear too that a gentleman stands aloof from his son.

14. A king speaks of his wife as 'my wife.' She calls herself 'handmaid.' Her subjects speak of her as 'our lord's wife,' but when they speak to foreigners, they say 'our little queen.' Foreigners speak of her, too, as 'the lord's wife.'


[141] A small feudatory state of Lu.

[142] Tzu-lu. He and Jan Yu were in the service of the Chi.

[143] Jan Yu.

[144] A mountain in Chuan-yü. Since the Emperor had given the ruler of Chuan-yü the right to sacrifice to its mountains, that state had some measure of independence, though it was feudatory to Lu, and within its borders.

[145] A town belonging to the Chi.

[146] Of Lu.

[147] See note to Book V, § 22.

[148] See note to Book V, § 22.

[149] The disciple Tzu-ch'in.

[150] The son of Confucius.


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